For the past 5 years the Illustration department has organised a 4 day field trip for its students to Oban, ‘Gateway to the Highlands’.
Our annual field trip to Oban has become an opportunity to focus on collecting and recording within one’s immediate surroundings, often with a lasting impact on the way our students approach drawing and research.
This year the travel group consisted of a mix of 45 second and fourth year students as well as 3 members of staff.
During the 4 days students carried out various activities to help them gain an in-depth understanding of the place. Activities included the random choosing of a location on the map while blind-folded, and then spending a certain amount of time researching this spot. Being directed to residential areas allowed some students to meet locals while others found themselves in the middle of a forrest. In a series of group crits in the hostel students got to present their findings and experience of the day to the rest of the group.
After returning to their ECA studios students were asked to continue developing their chosen line of inquiry as part of a set brief. The outcomes were risograph printed zines for second years and song lyric related work for fourth years, all of which were exhibited at ‘Shaping the View’.
We asked a number of students from both year groups to reflect on their experience of travelling to Oban:
Craig Ewan, 2nd year Illustration
“I had heard a lot of great things about Oban before going there and hoped it would be as exciting a place as I’d imagined. Luckily it was much better than that, I really loved my time Oban. The whole town has such a warm, festive feeling about it that just made me want to draw everything.
The spot I ended up picking at random on the map couldn’t have been better for me. I love nature and peaceful areas so to realise that I had to travel to the top of the hills in the middle of the forest was just perfect. There was so much to capture there and I would recommend this spot to anyone looking for inspiration. I love creating stories and being in the right environment gives me all the tools I need to do this. The forest had some beautiful scenery, wonderful views and incredibly dark areas that I can see being of great influence not only in this project but for future projects as well. I plan to showcase one of the stories that unfolded around me and to perhaps go over this in greater detail when the time is right.
Katrine Lyck, 2nd year Illustration
“The bus ride to Oban already gives you a hint of what awaits you upon your arrival. Golden autumn hills, or ordinary mountains seen through a pair of Danish eyes, with little streams, waterfalls and an old train bridge of stone taken right out of a scene from Harry Potter. Reaching Oban at the shore makes you realise this is not the end of a journey, but a place from which to take several boats to the islands in the distance.
Oban is a friendly little town and I got to chat to a few of the locals. An old widow living in the beautiful former church manse gave me a tour around her overgrown and wild garden, let me draw from her brick-a-brack and gave me flowers to press and feathers from her two regular visiting seagulls.
To explore the islands is a must if in Oban so I left one morning at 6:30am and saw the sunrise from a boat to Staffa. Fingal’s cave which forms part of the island is like a hall of black pillars and its square shapes make perfect seats to draw from. On the boat back we watched the sunset and were quite happy with it all.
Following my research from Oban I’m beginning to form a narrative in my head about the woman I met and her home and how I could combine this with the concept of living in a cave with all of one’s belongings.”
Sarah Parker, 2nd year Illustration
“I’ve never really been one for observational drawing. To me, making art has always been an exercise in escapism, thriving off the flotsam and jetsam that washes up into my mind’s eye from a simple snatch of daydreaming or in the moments just before falling asleep. I’ve never found comfort in taking down what’s in front of me in such an involved way, or even in just sitting and stopping too long. I’m a restless person; I fidget and need to be walking. The drive to move has helped motivate me into becoming an avid runner, but as far as my emotional health goes it does not let me relax.
Holidays are primarily a shift in landscape and routine, but they are also a shift in perspective. They let us discover familiarity in something new, and help us rediscover what excites us about familiarity: people become both entirely themselves and entirely fresh when seen in a different context. Friendship is strengthened when you watch someone brush their teeth and then pick up a book before bed. A beach is beautiful to walk on alone, but combing it with other people, talking and learning about each other, forming memories, is an entirely different experience. Something is heightened.
Observation becomes a communal experience, something to be shared. I’m no longer disillusioned with drawing what I see, because I understand now that it’s a journalistic process, and a companionable one. You don’t have to draw only from your own perspective, you can learn to record someone else’s, and that is often more valuable.”
“Despite what our non art school peers might think, an illustration degree is not all drawing. We spend a lot of time coming up with ideas, storyboarding, researching and making careful considerations about audience and client. For me Oban was opportunity to leave all that in the studio and get down to some good old fashioned sketching!
Swapping the same static desk and four walls for the outdoors, where there is constant movement and constant unpredictability, gave a much needed looseness to my drawings. You had to be quick to capture the mood of the sea at a particular time or to sketch a ferry, tootling back and forth. If you were looking the wrong way you might miss a lone goat exploring the beach, or a pensioner riding down the seafront on a bmx (both happened.) On top of this there is the constant risk of a downpour of rain that could put an abrupt end to your drawing at any moment. Far more exciting than working from a photograph!
The town of Oban with its bustling harbour, terrible signage and charming museum, is nestled amongst layers of remote islands that fade back into the horizon. It is known for its Oban whisky (tried and approved) as well its brief moment of viral fame when it’s 30 minute firework display turned into a one minute extravaganza when they were accidentally all set off at once. It’s classic Scottish landscape, wild and exciting and an absolute perfect reminder of how lucky we are to be living in Scotland.”
“Oban is a place worth visiting for those who keep a sketchbook/ journal and for those who want/ need a reason to switch off and just draw, paint, photograph and reflect. Staying in the quaint and unusual seaside town of Oban was a calming escape experience and has inspired me to journey into the highlands more often – photos definitely underestimate the beauty the highlands have, and it’s all so easy to access when staying in Edinburgh/ Glasgow and other northern cities. Being in Oban allowed easy travel to the surrounding islands, right out into the Outer Hebrides and all it’s natural phenomena and points of historical interest. Oban has frequent ferries from it’s terminal to the unusual Isle of Mull with many points places worth a visit within and beyond. Close surrounding islands and castles are easily accessed via small boats and rafts. If you’re lucky and it’s the right time of year there’s a chance to see basking sharks, whales, puffins and seals. I decided to take a trip out to Staffa – to witness and make work in response to the basalt cave (Fingal’s Cave), the experience of travel was great fun, the tours that are arranged weren’t standard tourist traps at all. The drawing trip being in Oban was an opportunity to do all this with fellow students over a short space of time, would urge anyone to go visit Oban.”