Art Passport #5: Inspiring Portraits from Scotland- Part 2

Art Passport #5: Inspiring Portraits from Scotland- Part 2

By Barbara K. Stump, MA

Last week, we looked at two of the most famous historical heroes in Scotland, Robert the Bruce and William Wallace. Not really surprising, but rugged Scots going to battle provides great material to be romanticized by artists and writers. Have you read or seen the television series Outlander? I’ll have to admit, I’ve watched all of the series available on Netflix, and several of my friends have as well. If you are not familiar with this series, the series is based on the historical fiction books written by Diana Gabaldon. The main characters are Jamie Fraser and Claire Randall Fraser. In short, Claire is a British nurse who time travels from the 20th-century to 17th-century Scotland. She immediately finds herself in danger when she is transported to 1743 in Scotland. As fate would have it, she finds love and protection from Jamie Fraser, a strong and attractive Highland warrior. Together they face adventures during  a very turbulent time in Scotland. Below are pictures from Lallybroch, the estate belonging to the Frasers as shown in the popular series, and also the Scottish Highlands. To me, the highlands were both breathtaking and eerie to behold. Considering the vast space and wilderness surrounding the Highlands, it was easy to imagine the battles taking place long ago between clans, and also in England.

Another very popular and imaginative book that was created in Scotland, is Harry Potter, written by J.K. Rowling. It was in Edinburgh that the idea for Harry Potter manifested for the writer. Rowling has said her topic chose her—it just came to mind one day. She also had a self-imposed deadline to complete her first book. At the time of writing it, she was a single parent, recently divorced, very broke, and she needed to finish it before she was to start teacher training to support herself. It’s interesting to note, Rowling was rejected by 12 publishers before getting her first book published. She was desperate, and while trying to get her first book published she had to use her initials to hide her gender. She was told by  publishers her book would appeal more to boys. I wonder if this would be suggested today? Anyhow, the author’s full name is Joanne Kathleen Rowling.  She was also told she would be writing for 9-year-olds, but she feels she is writing for everyone. Rowling has said she wrote what she thought was funny and scary without a regard for what others thought. “The Dream of my life is writing and I’m writing and I’m getting paid for it.” 

A few highlights from my Harry Potter days include: the Elephant House, where Rowling wrote large sections of the series for Harry Potter; the inspiration for the magical game of chess from the National Museum of Scotland; Diagon Alley, aka Victoria Street; and a United Kingdom copy of Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkabon, which has a different cover design and illustration  than what we are able to purchase in the United States.

As I was learning about this country and some of the portraits of its courageous people, three central questions came to mind:

  1. Who are you?
  2. What do you want for your life? 
  3. What do you need to do to make these ideas for your life happen? 

We all have had points in our lives where we may have had to conquer a fear, or obstacle—perhaps not as extreme as these Scots. However, we have had to find the inner strength to move onward and forward. Perhaps you are currently going through a challenging time, and it is difficult to even get up and get dressed. Sometimes, just being able to do that is enough! Then one day, or week, you are able to add another step, or goal, for yourself. You may have to set some self-imposed deadlines, and “if at first you don’t succeed, try try again!” J.K. Rowlings said during a television interview in 1998 (The Rowling Library), “My highest ambition would be that long after everyone has forgotten I was a single mother, and I was poor, and wrote in cafe’s, people are still reading about Harry Potter. That is my highest ambition.” So on those rainy days—and there are plenty in Scotland—carry a bright umbrella and keep moving forward, one step at a time!

Barb is an art education consultant and G3 contributing writer.