John Kinross Scholar in 1993
Mhairi McGregor, Pisa Baptistery
How did the experience affect you as an individual?
The RSA Kinross Scholarship was an important point in my development. It came at the end of four years at the Glasgow School of Art and marked my transition from student to full-time, professional artist. The Kinross Scholarship gave me the opportunity to experiment, to synthesize all my ideas against the backdrop of a wonderful city.
What was the impact on your practice?
I love the heat, but even so, Florence necessitated early starts.
Getting up early and sketching in and around the city in the cooler mornings, I would then take the sketches back to my flat overlooking the Arno and turn them into finished pieces in the afternoons. If the finished pieces didn’t work, they were discarded. I would meet up with a fellow Kinross scholar for dinner and ice-cream in the evening, and take a walk, scouting for possible subject matter and planning what I was going to do the next day.
What would you say the long-term impact has been on yourself and you work?
The Kinross Scholarship moulded a work ethic I have carried with me ever since. I have maintained the same fairly strict routine, which has served me well over twenty-five years as a full-time, professional artist. I walk to my studio, work from sketches painted while travelling, keep or discard work as appropriate and always end by planning the next painting.
Perhaps the biggest thing I learned was to keep working every day, even (or especially!) when it’s not going well. Something good will come out at the end. Also I learned to be ruthless. If I’m not completely happy with something, it has to go.
My time in Florence taught me persistence and gave me a clearer focus and a love of travel and new countries.
Coincidentally, I recently returned to Florence for the first time since those Kinross days and took great pleasure in painting some of my old favourites as well as many new ones.
The scholarship led to my first solo show in a commercial gallery after finishing at Glasgow. Following on from a successful degree show, the John Kinross Scholarship helped to put me on the kind of firm, financial footing which meant I could, then as now, concentrate solely on my art.
It allowed me to follow my dream. Thank you.