Lockdown Painting Challenge: Piper Donald Legge, Black Watch

US painter Emily MacArthur has submitted this fine portrait for our Lockdown Challenege competition. It will now be forwarded to the judge Robert Mathieson for consideration along with the other entrants. There is still time to submit an artwork. Use the usual email address.

The painting is of Donald Legge, formerly a piper and dancer in the Black Watch (1970s). It is acrylic on canvas 48″ x 30″ and was painted over St Patrick’s Day lockdown weekend 2020.

Emily writes: ‘I live in Park Ridge, IL, a suburb of Chicago with my spouse, Quenton Quiney (who plays snare in my band), and our four year old cute/mischievous son, Douglas. My workplace is under quarantine, I’m working from home and trying to juggle painting, parenting and helping the psychosocial concerns of residents over the phone. Thank God I’ve got my pipes to diffuse all of my nervous energy.

‘I’ve been playing for 30 years, starting at age 12, and originally took lessons along with my dad every Friday night for a few years. Our teacher was a hack unfortunately and my progress to playing competently has been slow but steady all these years. Dad stopped playing when I left for college.

‘I wanted to learn after we started getting into our family history and went to a Highland games. I loved, and still love, the sound of good pipes. I earned a full tuition bagpipe scholarship to Monmouth College in Illinois where I taught pipes and played at the home football games with the rest of the band.

‘I took a painting class there for fun but ultimately graduated with a degree in economics. It was during this time that I met the piper Donald Legge whose portrait I eventually painted. After college, I went back to the Chicago area and had a variety of jobs ranging from selling computer equipment to working as a purchasing agent and draftsman.

Full size version of Emily’s painting

‘I played in a few different bands in Grade 4 – 2. I’ve been playing in the City of Chicago Pipe Band (currently in Grade 3) for about 15 years now. Under P/M Pat Lynch and D/M Andrew Hoinacki, we competed at the Worlds in 3A last year (8th place) and in 2018 (12th). We were looking forward to taking advantage of the exchange rate once again and coming back this year but, alas, we have the summer off.  

‘I kept painting as a second hobby and was primarily self-taught. When I was 30, I got divorced, and changed directions. I went to the School of the Art Institute of Chicago and earned a masters in Art Therapy. I took a few more painting classes. For the last five years, I’ve been working as an art therapist at Mather Place, an independent senior living community in the northern suburbs of Chicago.

Emily in her studio

‘Last Fall, there was an Andy Warhol exhibition at the Art Institute and I took a busload of residents. I was inspired and started painting loads and loads of portraits. I’ve painted 62 residents of Mather Place since December and then started painting friends, family and legacy portraits. I have a friend, Melody Legge, who is the daughter of the man in the painting. Interesting tangent: Donald was on tour here with the Black Watch in the 70s. He was a piper and a dancer.

‘Melody’s mom spotted him somewhere in Illinois (I think the Rosemont Horizon). They got married; he moved to Peoria and had a daughter. They lived out his life serving the US Army but died months after retirement of cancer. It broke his daughter’s heart. She became very attached to all things Black Watch and went to Scotland for some kind of BW reunion in place of her late father. There she met a retired BW soldier who swept her off her feet. She got her British citizenship and moved to Inverness.’

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