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The Dumfries House Residency: Mark Milroy
February 28, 2019 · Alumni, Travel Scholarships and Grants
As soon as I got word that I was accepted into the residency at The Dumfries House, I began to research the weather. From looking at Google Images of the nearest town, Auchinleck, it looked like if it wasn’t raining it already had or was about to. So I packed for cold and rain. I arrived to blue sky and sunshine. It rained just once out of the 30 days. I painted that day in the rain. I knew I would feel guilty if I didn’t. Nearly everywhere I went I was told how lucky I was and how rare this weather was. Even my travels to the highlands in Glencoe was warm and sunny. That’s not to say the weather didn’t change. Often it seemed as quickly as I would put my head down to mix more color on my palette I would look up at the landscape and the color would change.
The studio is situated in a pink stone building that houses 3 other studios. The building was once the laundromat. They are equipped with a generous amount of windows. It looks onto a grove of trees or a meadow where you might see sheep or cows. The upper studios have skylights and all the studios are equipped with kitchenettes. The studios are simply amazing. Easels are provided.There is a work table and a comfortable armchair. I felt at once at home and had a sense of urgency to fill the place up with pictures.
The living quarters are situated in an old carriage house atop the cafe. It is comfortable and lends itself to communal living; it is very homey. The estate is over 2,000 acres. There are woods, rolling paddocks, a walled garden, sheep and more sheep. And cows. Lost one day while I was hopping style after style, and walking through paddocks thinking I had a shortcut to town, I met a shepherd named Charlotte. It was magical in the way that reading the Alchemist for the first time was. I had never met a shepherdess before. There is a maze a walled garden and of course the Dumfries House itself. There is a working farm on the grounds and everywhere you turn there is another brilliant landscape to paint.
I highly recommend you travel while you’re there. From the estate it is just a short two mile walk to the ScotRail train. You can be in Glasgow for breakfast or Edinburgh for lunch. Or catch the bus at the end of the lane and you can be at the seaside town of Ayr in less than an hour. I did and I tried to track down the church where my great grandfather and great great grandfather were married in. On the other hand, the estate is so vast and there is something for everyone, so if you don’t wander off the grounds it is totally understandable.
I also made a 24 hr trip to Berlin to collaborate with a fashion designer where I painted red roses on a blouse and it brought to mind Robert Burns’ poem A Red, Red Rose. I felt I was lucky standing for days alongside the roads. Passerby’s would stop and say “hello.” I met two very enthusiastic members of the Robert Burns Society. I met young and old and I always engaged happily. It added to my experience and I think to my pictures. This short essay has been difficult to write because of just that. I find that words do not do justice to the landscape. The landscape, in particular the trees, hold a weight of history that I had not felt before. In particular the Scottish Pines and the Redwoods that are native to California, and that I had never seen before. The landscape re-ignited my love of working en plein air. I traveled there with my french easel and set out each day, once in the morning and once in the afternoon.
A great deal of my work focused on painting and drawing the landscape, beginning with the trees and moving to the stone walls that like the stone of the studio had a pink glow to them. Work that was made there continues into larger canvases in my Brooklyn studio today. I made friends that made my time even more special than I could have hoped: artists Gethen Evans, Emma Gargoyline, and Michele Cioccoloni, and Artist Residency Manager, Janet Casey. Thank you. The experience wouldn’t have been the same without you.