It’s unusual for two artists to share farming, gundog-handling and pothole-filling duties as well as a studio. Janet Menzies admires the work and lifestyle of Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park
Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park are sporting artists who don’t just share a studio. While one works, the other turns farmer and gundog-handler, allowing them to live the sporting life they paint.
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LESLIE MCGREGOR SCOTT-CLARK AND ROSEMARY PARK
Which came first: the subject or the art? It is sometimes the urge to communicate a political message or even, frankly, the objective of making money that leads some modern artists to pick up a paintbrush, liquid resin or spray can. But sporting and wildlife artists tend to be led into the profession primarily by their love of the subject. This is very much the case with Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park, his partner and painting colleague.
Scott-Clark explains, “I was brought up on a huge hill farm near Hawick in the Borders and I loved my life in the hills. When I started painting at 10 years old it was grouse I loved to paint. I didn’t consciously think, ‘I’m going to start painting’, I’ve always just done it. These days, along with the grouse I paint shooting generally and hunting and fishing. I love to paint the different salmon pools on our Scottish rivers.”
The work of both Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park is rooted in the landscape and animals around them, but Park’s has a slightly different emphasis: “Where Leslie is passionate about the moors and the grouse, for me it is people, but above anything else, hounds. I love their expressions and their movement and the depth of colours and texture of their coats.”
For Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park, painting has taken a back seat in both their lives at different stages. “I joined the Household Cavalry Life Guards which took me all over the world,” says Scott-Clark, “and it wasn’t until I left the Army that the paintings really took over and, of course, I moved back up here to the Borders – why would you live anywhere else? My great mentor in art was Leesa Sandys-Lumsdaine. We both lived in this very remote area and she had the same love for hunting. She was a wonderful artist and would lend me her studio.”
Which was how Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park originally met. Park remembers, “We kept coming across each other at Leesa’s studio and she was a big influence on both of us. But then I went off and got married and had children and that took priority over painting. It wasn’t until years later that I was ready to settle down to full-time painting and concentrate properly on my art and my dogs. And that coincided with Leslie and I meeting up again.”
It was by chance that Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park, who could so nearly have passed in the night, have now settled in together, even sharing a studio, though this is not plain sailing. “I like my own space,” explains Park: “I like to be organised and tidy and I will even tidy the house before I can settle down and start painting. Leslie is just too untidy for me and, besides, I hate anybody watching me while I am working.”
They compromise: one works in the studio, while the other turns farmer and gundog-handler. “Rosemary has been working on a life-size hound painting today,” says Scott-Clark, “while I have been busy repairing the kennels. We farm a 4,500-acre hill farm, so there’s always a hundred jobs to do. I don’t go up there while she’s working but then, when I’m painting, it’s her turn on the farm. I’ve been doing a big grouse painting all morning and Rosemary has been out laying scalpings in the potholes on our road.”
Can there be two more down-to-earth artists? And the close connection Leslie McGregor Scott-Clark and Rosemary Park have with the life of the land they live in is obvious in their work. The captured flight of Scott-Clark’s grouse is the result of a lifetime of watching grouse every day. Park’s life-size hounds are full of energy and expression. It’s easy to imagine them making a cast for the line or even nicking a sausage roll at the meet. And this is something both of them find very satisfying. Asked about their future artistic plans Park says, “That will be decided by the season, we follow nature really. In the autumn and into the winter we are busy with shooting and hunting subjects but as the spring comes in it will be the fishing and we will get down to the river. The only quiet time really is the high summer; when everything here is just a mass of green it’s hard to find a subject.”
So a good time to put down the paintbrush and pick up the creosote roller. Both artists’ work can be viewed and bought at www.artgallery.co.uk.