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Adrian McMurchie: On board for St Kilda

By on October 2, 2015
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Adrian McMurchie, the Glasgow artist and illustrator behind the Dead Famous Cities designs, journeyed far from the dusty urban streets for his latest work, featured now by the National Trust for Scotland in their autumn magazine.

The NTS commissioned McMurchie to capture the essence of life on board during one of their cultural cruises, which meant setting sail earlier this year on the Pearl II for a spectacular crossing to St Kilda.

McMurchie, who spent five days on board, had an adventurous start to his commission.

He said: “I joined the cruise at Tobermory. I went via the ferry from Oban to Mull and then took the bus round to the harbour. But there was quite a swell and the boat couldn’t get in, so then it was a dinghy out to the Pearl II.

“There were around 450 people on the boat, including crew and NTS staff. It was a very relaxed vibe and that was part of what I wanted to reflect. I wasn’t given a strict brief so I created several spreads just showing different aspects of the trip.

“One illustration shows people on deck just chilling out, reading books or watching the seabirds. Another is actually of St Kilda and there is one of a gannet in flight. But mostly the illustrations show people enjoying the cruise. It was a bit different from the work I usually do but I really enjoyed it.”

McMurchie first qualified as a graphic designer before becoming an artist and illustrator. His work is featured in many Scottish and UK publications and his panoramic cityscapes can be seen in a number of public buildings.

The main focus for his work, usually produced in pen and ink, has been architecture. Life at sea with NTS, while a rather different subject matter, was created in a similar style.

The Pearl II illustrations have a timeless quality, in tune not just with the get-away-from-it-all purpose of a cruise but also the haunting story surrounding the destination, the dramatic and isolated St Kilda.

Of course, the depictions of passengers wearing woolly hats or waterproof jackets and carrying binoculars are also a clear reminder this is no meander down the Nile or around the Mediterranean …

However, McMurchie insists in many ways, this cruise was enjoyed like any other.

He added: “It’s a friendly atmosphere, with plenty to do. There is a library on board, performances of folk and classical music, including from the Royal Conservatoire of Scotland, and events like whisky tastings as well as the usual routines of the restaurants and bars.”

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