A decade ago, when landscape painter Sherry Palmer '69, '75G traveled to the Isle of Skye, in the Inner Hebrides off the northwest coast of Scotland, she found the perfect catalyst to further her art. "I thought, the landscape, the light—I'm home," she says.
She returned each year to paint, but continued to work as a scientific illustrator in New Hampshire. The island's pull on the artist grew so strong that she eventually acquired an artist's visa and moved there in 1995. "I didn't want to wait until retirement to do what I feel I do best. I don't paint for money; I paint because I need to," she says. "It seemed like a huge risk to give up my job and financial security, but eventually I realized that the worst thing that could happen was that the money would run out in two years, and I'd have to return."
Working in oil and water colors, Palmer often painted six to nine hours a day, capturing the island's dramatic, almost theatrical light as it played on the rolling fields, the stark mountain ranges and the surrounding sea and sky. With rich, luminous colors, and simple yet striking compositions, Palmer's works reflect an elusive, ever-changing landscape that she says she could paint for a lifetime. "For me, painting is a way to respond to what I see in the landscape... I love being in the marsh, in the fields, in the hills," she says. "It is an ongoing challenge to me to simplify—to have nothing on the canvas that is not necessary."
While living on Skye, Palmer exhibited her paintings at the art center on the island, where she received a warm reception from the people and sold half her paintings. All too soon her money ran out, and she reluctantly returned to the United States.
"I felt yanked out. I wasn't done, " she says flatly. She was, however, glad to be able to show some of her remaining Skye paintings to her teacher and mentor, professor emeritus John W. Hatch, before his death last year.
Still, she yearns to return. "Somehow, under my feet, Hebrides is home."Return to UNH Magazine Alumni Profiles