Cairngorm Artist’s Map

3 years ago today I was working on my Cairngorm Artists’s Map and starting to rev up for the final push towards my degree show. Inspired by a research trip to the Cairngorms for a textile project I was working on, the map was a happy accident of sorts. I hadn’t planned on making a map but relished the experience.

I’d begun to really enjoy working with watercolours and was finding my way to a style for my illustrations. It was a joy to express the landscape of the Cairngorms on paper in my own way.

I ended up displaying the map alongside my Cairngorm textile project at my degree show and sold out of all the copies I’d made. The map included more than just the topographical lines and features of the land. It also featured wildlife, cafes and the incredibly busy Tesco in Aviemore among other things. In 3 years a lot has changed; The Potting Shed cafe at the Inshriach Nursery is now closed and I’ve bought quite a few more thermal tops, so I’m no longer limited to just wearing my bright pink matching ones when it’s chilly.

But on the flip side a lot hasn’t changed. The hills and lochs are still there, and a lot of my kit is the same. I’m still drawn to Cairngorms and enthralled by the vastness of the landscape. I’ve seen it in sunshine and in lashing rain. Sometimes going up small hills in weather so bad me and my friend could barely stand against the wind. Our efforts rewarded by the clouds clearing as we reached the summit.

It’s a landscape that fills you up. I’m always left feeling content even when I’m by myself in hills. Connected but self sufficient. Just me, my sketchbook and 360 views across the hills, mountains and lochs of the Cairngorms.

As I gear up for the beginning of a new chapter in my life, I find myself looking back at how far I’ve come in 3 years. I’ve graduated University with a degree in Illustration, I’ve started my first full time job as a graphic & 3D product designer, begun traveling again and bought my first car. Met new people and reconnected with old friends. And i’ve kept drawing and freelancing as much as possible. Looking back the Cairngorm Artists’s Map was probably the seed of all this. The blog, the travel illustration, getting back to drawing for fun, for pleasure. Telling stories and seeing new places. Gaining a sense of certainty and pride I what I do and create. And being fearless in the pursuit of what I want to do. Even if I’m not to sure where I’m going in the future, I know I’ve got the skills to make a decent map at the end of it.