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Study Abroad: Leipzig through the eyes of an artist

By on July 31, 2017 in Features with 0 Comments

“Leipzig is a vibrant city chock-full of exciting visual material. I think drawing is a great way to experience a place – to sit and absorb the ambience of a particular location. Leipzig was prime fodder for this! My goal was to fill a sketchbook during our time there with on-site drawings (as opposed to post-visit drawings from photos), and I almost did!”

Laura and Dan McGregor

McGregor led a group of ACU students on a Study Abroad semester to Germany, where they studied the language and culture, while exploring the ideas of famous philosophers, scholars and artists. Enjoy the scenes he captured through illustrations and water colors while he and his wife, Laura (Blake ’95), traveled in and around the 1,000-year-old German city known for its rich history, culture and architecture.

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Photo by Laura McGregor

ACU purchases historic villa

During his trip, McGregor received keys to the university’s newest property – a 144-year-old villa in the Music District of Leipzig that will become the hub of ACU’s Study Abroad program in Germany beginning in 2018. See photos and learn more about the villa. Though renovated in recent years, the villa retains its charm with 10-foot ceilings, original crown moldings and decorative woodwork.

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Dan McGregor featured in a Leipzig newspaper.

His artistic endeavors also drew the attention of a Leipzig newspaper: “I ran into a reporter while I was painting on the street, and she called her photographer and did a story – indicative of the sort of random things you run into in Leipzig!”

Read the back story behind each of McGregor’s illustrations below.

This is the first drawing of the semester. It’s a quirky elephant slide at a playground in Palmengarten Park. You basically climb up the elephant’s back, go through a hole in his head, and slide down a slick metal trough in his trunk. This drawing was done during a play break for my son. It was really cold, so I had to work quickly.


Fast forward to March, when it had warmed up enough to go to a local lake, Markkleeberger See. This is a good example of the random stuff that can accumulate on a single sketchbook page: a ghostly face from an aborted earlier drawing in the upper-left, a massive piece of abandoned coal mining equipment across the lake, and my son’s little balance bike (German kids are born riding bikes, so had some catch-up to do.). I started off working with a combo of ink and watercolor, and am still trying to decide how much I like mixing the two, compared to straight watercolor.


We spent a couple of nights in Delphi, Greece (of oracle fame). This is one of the buildings at the ancient Delphi site, the Treasury of the Athenians. I took the students in my Honors Drawing Colloquium there, and we drew as much as we could in two hours. This was done in water-soluble fountain pen and ink wash.


Here’s the picturesque Konig Albert Brücke over the Karl Heine Canal. It’s on what’s basically the San Antonio Riverwalk of Leipzig. This is more of a completed painting than the other stuff – I embedded my stool in a dirt embankment above the sidewalk and painted for a couple of hours.


One of my favorite little sketches from the semester: Plagwitz’s Felsenkeller building. It used to be some sort of rock cellar, and is now a performance venue. I feel like this has the sort of casual looseness that I like in on-site sketches, and that the inkwork and watercolor work together here better than in some of my other ink/watercolor drawings.

Look closely, and you’ll see something that I only noticed when I sat down for an hour to draw this: a fake stork stuck in the top of the chimney. This was a detail worthy of its own little drawing!


An overcast day in the lovely seaside town of Nafplion, Greece. Was drawing on the quay with the students (a little lesson in atmospheric perspective), and man, was it cold! A chill wind off the water hammered us. That’s one of the great things about drawing on-site; it’s an opportunity to lock in various physical memories of a place.


A snazzy building corner in the neighborhood where we housesat for our lovely friends the Wauers. I have to confess that all the little noodly embellishments on architecture aren’t my favorite things to draw, but I feel like this sketch does a decent job of fading watercolor into an ink drawing (something I can’t always pull off).


An ornament flanking the door of ACU’s new Leipzig villa.


Leipzig’s lovely Renaissance-era Altes Rathaus (Old Town Hall). It’s a polychromatic sentinel overlooking the market square. I wish I’d done this one without an ink underdrawing, but hopefully it’s not too obnoxious, and I like how the sky came out. While I was drawing this in ink, a kind German man stopped by and showed me his journal in which we wrote in old-school dip pen (showed me the pen, too). I’ve found that drawing on the street is one of the best ways to meet locals; I had countless people stop by and chat. 


Lutherkirche at sunset. Every night the bell tower would catch the sun’s last rays. This one’s special to me, because it was small, quick, and immediate, and because I didn’t paint much evening stuff. 

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About the Author

About the Author: After a 17-year career as a journalist, Robin Saylor returned to her alma mater in 2008, where she serves as director of content strategy and editor of ACU Today online.
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