1/9/2013 11:51:00 AM Rice Lake lass takes artistic talents to Orkney
Pautsch explores 5,000 year old stone tomb
Ruth Erickson Chronotype staff
The highlight of 2012 for college student Jessie Pautsch of Rice Lake was a 6-week trip she took to Scotland with two fellow students and their UW-Eau Claire art professor. The trip, taken last July and August, was made possible by a grant from the Center for International Education. The students' first assignment was to pack light; each had a 44-pound limit because the plane from Glasglow to Kirkwall was a "puddle jumper" that could only hold so much. They stayed in Kirkwall, the county seat of Orkney, an archipelago of 70 islands. The county is located at sea level, with more oxygen in the air than the lasses from Wisconsin were used to. The climate was temperate, typically in the upper 50s in the day and mid-40s overnight. Pautsch's first impression was the age of the place, where castles, cathedrals, stones and ruins are still where they were 5,000 years ago. It also struck her that there were no billboards, and the buildings had no vinyl siding. Everything was made of stone because high wind is a daily occurrence. High waves are also the norm, sometimes breaking the top of 200 foot cliffs. While the students visited at the peak of summer, they saw nary a mosquito. Rather the sky was filled with birds, as Orkney is a major migratory stop. With fishing as a main industry in Orkney, the group ate a lot of seafood. They also enjoyed the ice cream and cheese made from the many farms that raised sheep or dairy cows. The daughter of Roger and Mary Pautsch is a first-year senior who hopes to do curatorial work at a museum after she graduates, with the ultimate dream of opening her own studio. Other students on the trip were Christine Manwiller of Turtle Lake, whose focus is art history/conservation; and Kelsey Temenson of Marshfield, who hopes to become an illustrator. They were led by printmaking professor Sandra Starck, who was first drawn to Orkney 25 years ago and to this day calls the place "the most inspirational muse in my life." Using en plein air oil pastels, which are the most portable medium, the students were surrounded in opportunities to work on site on color theory. As explained by Starck, "Oil pastels are deceptively challenging; they are drawing yet painting simultaneously and it is easy to fall into a host of pitfalls."
Rook's eye view Although she would have rather spent all her time exploring and drawing, Pautsch posted occasional updates on the group blog, "orkneydreamingmegalithic." A portion of a post from her first week in Scotland began, "Another seaswept morning in Kirkwall, foglets breaking and scattering in the sun before reconvening for another grey sky. "Far from gloomy, these darker days are everything I had dreamed Orkney to be-the wind off the water, great blackback gulls and rooks yelping in the air, the dreich sky lending intensity to the greenness of the ancient kirkyard and the red sandstone cathedral. We were all drawing out the window yesterday-the spire and gravestones of St. Magnus across the street, which looked quite properly a graveyard in the damp. A grey day feeds creative fires." A week later, Pautsch noted, "We were lucky enough to take the upper level tour of St. Magnus Cathedral in Kirkwall, originally built by St. Rongvald Kolsson to house the relics of his uncle, St. Magnus Erlendson. Earl Magnus and Earl Rongvald are hidden away in one of the great Romanesque piers of the nave, safely keeping a sandstone watch on the passing centuries since 1137." The tour included traveling along tight corridors of the clerestory, a look inside the bell tower and a spiral stair climb in the tower to the parapet. "We had perfect visibility for miles in all directions, enjoying a rook's eye view of the city," Pautsch said.
One posie, two posies One day in late July the lasses from Rice Lake and Turtle Lake took part in the Scottish Primrose count on the isle of Papa Westray. Manwiller posted this description: "For 6 hours we crawled on hands and knees looking for the illusive primrose which surprising to me is not that easy to find. I think we now can identify all kinds of bird and animal dropping as well. What an experience though. With the sea rushing below and the wind rushing across the hillside we were perched on, then that rush of excitement when you saw the promising bit of light green nestled amongst the heather with a small purple face raised to the promise of sun." She added, "Although our knees and wrists were complaining at about the fifth hour, being the tough Wisconsin girls we are, we carried on. There were 13 of us in all, and although the official count is not out yet, most of us counted about 600 primrose plants." Pautsch said it was a once-in-a-lifetime experience that she cares not to repeat. She said not only did they have to count full flowers but also those gone to seed and seedlings.
Other highlights One day in early August it was off to Balfour Castle on the island of Shapinsay. Pautsch posted, "Although it's currently a private estate, we were kindly given permission to work in the gardens and we passed several hours creeping through the perfectly fairytale paths and wooded plots. "Balfour's gardens are sunken into the ground around the house itself, sporting a low hedge maze in one and zen garden pools in the other pair, all surrounded by a perfect golf green lawn. Pautsch said enchanted castles don't pick up Wifi very well and no singing teapots or bewitched noblemen made any appearances. "It was a very enjoyable adventure through some seriously beautiful botany on a great historic location," she posted. A highlight in mid-August was attending the Kirkwall County Show, which Pautsch compared to the Barron County Fair with one exception-"When was the last time you had a fresh lobster sandwich at the county fair?" She posted, "Festivities included English showmanship and jumping for the larger horses, cattle and poultry judging, and even Shetland pony jumping just for giggles. A falconry expert brought her collection of hawks, vultures, owls and a golden eagle for demos around midday. Dancers from local schools performed both modern and traditional programs, and bands from the area played as well."
Beyond description From a bird-filled sky to the billowing sea, from ancient stones to the many archeological sites, the group of skilled artists from Wisconsin found summing up their adventures in Scotland beyond words or pictures. Pautsch said "Each of us goes home feeling the magic of Orkney follow-curlews still sing over Brodgar, the low sun shadows cows off Marwick head, the mist swirls down over Hoy in our hearts." On her last day in Scotland she posted, "It's been an incredible, magical experience being up here in the Isles for the last month and a half, getting to know these little green whales at the world's end. Orkney gets into your blood after just a little while. "The history here is still very much alive and vibrant, the people warm and welcoming, and the landscape beyond words. "Neither chaotic nor confused is Orkney; rather it's a seamless blend of the ancient and the new world turning, the same sea and farmland and sky that have been looked upon for the past 5,000 years by folks of all walks of life-Neolithic, Pict, Viking, Scot and this Wisconsin lass among them." Pautsch said the people of Orkney hold high regard for property of others as well as their own, so there is no need for barbed wire fences or 'no trespassing' signs. Property owners are viewed as caretakers of structures that will remain long after they are gone. The visitors found public transit to be excellent and were equally impressed that the vehicle they rented, a Peoguet, got 60 miles a gallon. With the car they were able to venture out into the countryside to visit the Neolithic, Bronze Age, Iron Age and Pictish archaeological wonders of Orkney. The professor posted, "Such peace, beauty and tranquility. The air is filled with sweet floral perfumes from the abundant wildflowers, the ever-present seas, an occasional whiff of cows and sheep, which Wisconsin girls are familiar with, and the continual bird calls and songs of curlews, oyster catchers, skylarks, gulls and more. A feast for the senses." The only unfortunate incident occurred on a ferry ride when Temenson got spat on by a fulmur. The fishy, oily substance that comes from their mouth smells as bad as being sprayed on by a skunk and is nearly impossible to wash off. The day before they left Scotland the group visited the Glasgow School of Art, a functioning art noveau structure designed by Charles Renie Macintosh. They also stopped at the Willows Tea Room, a fancy cafe. Pautsch commented, "It's great to travel outside your own country and realize how different, yet how similar, we really are."