But in fact, when Ian Scott went back to North Ronaldsay in 1962, to work on the family croft at Antabreck and fish for lobsters, it was a step forward to enrich his art. The artist seeks forms in the world, going below the surface to find an essential line or swirl – and where better to find those forms that directly in the world of the sea and shore? That is where people might search, he wrote in 2005, for:
“Something which reminds them of the sea, a bird in flight, such as the forever gliding fulmar, or the graceful tern; sea shells and rock formations; the streamlined dogfish or the wonderfully engineered pincers of the sea-urchin; or curious-shaped seaweed, stone and broken shells that one finds every other fishing day in the lobster creel or along the shore.”
And to be out sowing a crop of oats or heading for the sea is to be directly immersed in natural forms, with the artist’s eyes seeing deeper amidst the wind and rain.
“I remember Egyptian sculpture with its monumental, simplified forms. I even remember days at sea – the artistry, if you like, of balancing in a small open boat against the moving waves with every fleeting view a work of art.”
He has reflected how the world of sea and land and sky shapes those who live and work among it.
“It seems to me that the work of the lobster fisherman, the dyke builder, farmer and wool knitter, writer, poet, musician and artist are all related. There is artistry in every kind of work we do.”
Over the years a substantial body of work has built up. There are commissioned sculptures, including the memorials to the Longhope and Fraserburgh lifeboatmen and to the Arctic explorer John Rae, heads of the artist Stanley Cursiter and the writer George Mackay Brown, and numerous exhibitions of oil paintings and watercolours of the island’s shore. And there is also the creative endeavour that he has put into the community itself, the way in which the Memorial Hall is brought alive with straw-work and greenery and lanterns for the Harvest Home, or the Community Centre transformed with red roses and candlelight for the Burns Supper, and the whole atmosphere of those events which draw back so many islanders and friends each year.