A woman in a beautiful red dress squeezes down the narrow aisle of a small Air Botswana plane. Anne McCullough’s hand instinctively reaches for her sketchbook, already halfway filled. To her disappointment, the woman takes a seat right behind her. McCullough knows she has to start sketching before she forgets, taking several sneaky glances back to capture the colors and patterns of the woman’s dress and matching hat.
McCullough, BS ’60, turns the page to another painting, and then to another, recounting memory after memory. She can’t count the countries she’s visited. She only knows that she has approximately 30 sketchbooks, many of which cover multiple countries.
The adventures began right after graduation, when she went to study art history in Vienna, Austria for a semester. She roomed with another Longhorn during her time there, initiating a lifelong habit of meeting alumni around the world.
“When you take a picture you just snap and it’s done, but when you’re painting you have to pay more attention. You have to look at the lights, the reflections, and the colors.”
McCullough has been traveling since the early ’70s, but she didn’t start making the sketchbooks until the late ’90s. She says she inherited a love of traveling from her adventurous father, but it wasn’t until later in life when she discovered her love of painting.
McCullough majored in interior design at UT, which introduced her to architecture and art. After nearly a decade, she started taking a studio watercolor class at night and discovered a hidden talent. She eventually visited UT-Pan American and inquired about its art program.
“I realized that art was where I should have been all along,” she says.
With three children and an hourlong commute, it took McCullough three years to finish the program. Now, as a seasoned veteran of the Flying Longhorns, McCullough takes those skills on the road, across the sea, and up in the air.
To keep pace with group tours, McCullough usually creates a quick sketch first, or grabs a photo or postcard. Then, when the group settles in for the night, she’ll paint with watercolors.
“You have to look at things more carefully when you’re drawing them,” she says. “When you take a picture you just snap and it’s done, but when you’re painting you have to pay more attention. You have to look at the lights, the reflections, and the colors.”
For McCullough, it’s usually more important to capture the feeling of a place than the exact details. Her favorite subject is architecture—she’s worked on a church facade series for several years—and sometimes she will take multiple photos and postcards, using different angles for inspiration.
On Flying Longhorns trips, she often meets travelers from her graduating class. One of her favorite experiences was a trip to China when the group stopped in Beijing, Shanghai, and Hong Kong to have dinner parties with Texas alumni.
“It’s really important for us to stay connected to UT,” McCullough says, “and we’ve met some really interesting people this way, some that we are still in contact with now.”
At this time in her life, McCullough has no plans of slowing down her travel schedule anytime soon. And of course, there will be more sketchbooks.
“When you’re an artist,” McCullough says, “you can’t stand to not be creating art.”
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