Someone asked me recently if I made time to paint while on vacation. Vacations are supposed to be filled with one’s favorite activities, so, yes, I paint when I travel! I have two different travel paint sets and a variety of brushes, as well as a pencil and a set of pens that are always in my travel tote. With the pressures of everyday life left behind, inspiration often appears when I’m in vacation mode. The real magic is in keeping that creativity flowing after I’m home.
“Paint”–Graphite and Watercolor
Any seasoned traveler can perform ‘travel math’ computations. ‘Florida summer weather pattern‘ plus ‘late night flight‘ equals ‘travel delay‘. Luckily, I had my sketchbook and pen with me to help pass the time. While my flight was delayed, I had the opportunity to sketch other people making connections.
Connecting with an iPhone
While I have journeyed outside the United States on multiple occasions, my passport remains unstamped. Its blank pages reflect a total lack of travel. When I leave the United States, it’s always by cruise ship. I’ve sailed throughout the Eastern and Western Caribbean, through the Mexican Riviera, and up into Canada. In 2008, when the cruise industry was planning to require passports for travel, I rushed out to apply for mine. That change never took place, and while I do travel with my passport for identification, it doesn’t have a single stamp. There are no official records of my destinations, but I do have the memories, the stories, and volumes of photographs. The sea turtles can surely relate, as their journeys are undocumented, too. Though they travel thousands of miles in a lifetime, there are no proud stamps to boast of their destinations. While it would be nice to have a colorful passport, it’s really all about the journey, and not a little stamp.
“World Traveler”–Watercolor on Board with Swarovski crystals–Who needs a colorful passport when you’ve got a little bling?
I am the first person to cry foul when I think a photograph in a magazine was touched up, photo shopped, or softened with a filter. If you looked at my shots of the ocean in the Bahamas, you might think the photos were altered. They weren’t. The water really does shift from amazing shades of blue into surreal greens, to an almost crystal clear. I could stare at that water for hours on end. That’s just one of the many reasons Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay, is my happy place. I love to lounge on the sugar white sands of the beach while a balmy breeze dials down the hot Bahamian sun from scorching to ‘just right’. I didn’t have the correct hues in my travel palette to capture the captivating colors of the sea, so I had to work with what I brought. I hope Mother Nature will forgive me.
“Bahama Mama”–Watercolor–from my sketchbook
I love to travel. I’m always thrilled to experience exciting new cities, posh hotels, and amazing restaurants. I usually find myself saying “I wish I could stay one more day” at the end of every trip. Last weekend, things didn’t go quite so well. When I stepped off the plane in Charlotte, I was enveloped in a thick blanket of foreign pollen that inflamed my sinuses and set my throat on fire. Things went from bad to worse when I arrived at the hotel. The queen-size bed felt more like a double, the thermostat wasn’t cooperative which caused me to oscillate between freezing and sweating, the GPS in the rental car routed me through congested construction zones, and something from the hotel’s breakfast buffet left me in desperate need of Pepto-Bismol. It was the perfect travel storm, and I was a fish out of water—floundering on the dock. I was less than 24 hours into my trip and all I could say was “I wanna go home!” I couldn’t wait to get back to my own king-size bed and my kitchen, which is stocked with organic goodness—and Pepto-Bismol. When I finally made it home, my inner artist needed solace, too. I pulled out my watercolor tubes and brushes. And to me, that’s just as comforting as a warm blanket and a grilled cheese sandwich. It’s good to be home.
“Fish out of Water”–Pen and Watercolor on Arches Aquarelle
If I were going to be stranded on a desert island and could only take one item with me, I would leave behind my beloved lip gloss and mascara, and grab my sketchbook. When I have access to my sketchbook, I can create. Whether it’s a doodle, sketch, or gesture, putting pen to paper makes time fly. I keep a sketchbook on the kitchen table, and one in my studio, but my favorite sketchbook is portable, fits in my tote bag, and accompanies me on all of my journeys–including any unplanned future trips to desert islands.
Today, my sketchbook is keeping me company in the airport. Crying babies, restless children, and angry travelers make for an interesting experience at the gate. I’m recording impatient people, uncomfortable chairs, luggage, and my own hand, which is always available for posing. We are facing long delays, but that’s okay. I won’t be bored. I have my sketchbook.
One-minute gestures from my sketchbook–Orlando International Airport
I am a sun-loving native Floridian who shivers uncontrollably when the temperature drops below seventy degrees, so it’s no wonder my friends and family scoffed after hearing that I was traveling to The Big Apple during the month of December. My friends who grew up in New York had one word of advice for me: Layer. In Florida, ‘layering’ means throwing a cardigan over your shoulders, or wearing a light jacket over your t-shirt, but this trip called for hard core layering. Knowing how much I loathe the cold, I vowed to be comfortable during my weekend in the big city, and that meant being prepared.
I purchased a packable puffer coat and a purse-sized umbrella since the forecast called for not only cold temperatures, but a 90% chance of rain. I packed jeans, sweaters, jackets, heavy socks, gloves, and my first pair of Uggs. And while it was cold, damp, and rainy, I was warm and dry because I was prepared for the harsh elements–not only physically, but also mentally.
On my Artist’s Journey, I am sometimes faced with less than favorable conditions, too. And while layers of clothing can’t protect me from harsh criticism and frigid reviews, I can build up layers of confidence that will guard my Inner Artist who tends to shiver when her soul is exposed to the elements. So my words of advice to my Inner Artist are simple–hold your head high, pile on the layers, and be prepared.
“Bundled” –a quick self-portrait in graphite from my travel sketchbook
Last night, I was sitting in my hotel room, checking my email on my phone, and marveling at the ability to stay connected through a device small enough to hold in the palm of my hand. With a few taps of the screen, I was able to call my brother, email my dad, post a photo on my Facebook page, and visit my blog on WordPress. The younger generations may take this incredible device for granted, but I grew up in the era of typewriters, corded phones, and busy signals. I was around for the birth of the answering machine, the cell phone, the digital camera, the personal computer, and the internet. I have great respect for technology and the gift of ‘connection’ it provides as I travel. While I can’t predict what the future of technology holds, I know it will surely keep me connected to my friends, my loved ones, my art, my life.
“Connection”–a quick doodle in my travel sketchbook–ink pen and watercolor
Even though I have absolutely nothing to hide, I get a little nervous every time I go through security at the airport. I’ve followed all the rules: my shoes are in the bin, all my liquids–under 3 oz. each–are labeled and stashed in a quart-size Ziploc bag, my laptop is out of my tote, and my boarding pass and ID are in hand, ready to be inspected. Still, it’s an uncomfortable experience. I hold my breath as I watch my carry-on travel down the conveyor belt into the x-ray eyes of the TSA agents. There’s always that gut-wrenching fear that I’ve inadvertently done something wrong, and the realization that I could be singled out–pulled from the security line and publicly frisked like a common criminal. I try to make eye contact with the TSA agent to assure him I’m a good person. Should I smile? Engage in a little small talk? Toss around some witty banter? But in the end, I make the wise decision to remain stoic while total strangers analyze and evaluate me. They glare, grimace, whisper, and point as they scrutinize my personal possessions. On my Artist’s Journey, this same degrading experience is known as a ‘critique’.
Just like security, the ‘critique’ is a necessary evil to ensure a safe and successful journey. It keeps us in line, lets us know if we’re on track, and helps us see issues with our work. In the studio, we don’t have TSA agents, conveyor belts, or x-ray machines, but we do have a large wall where we display our work while our classmates and professor critique it with trained eyes. My work is always completed on time. It’s neat and as accurate as I can manage. I make sure to use the assigned medium and materials. I have invested time, effort, and heart in my work, and it’s hard to see it judged. I wince as my fellow artists dissect my color choices, technique, and style. Some make harsh criticisms, while others make honest assessments. Sometimes there is dead silence, and other times, there are genuine, heartfelt compliments.
Like any seasoned traveler, I follow the rules. I show up on time, pin my work to the wall, and hope to sail through the critique so I can continue on my journey. Just like in the security line, I resist the urge to soften any upcoming blows with conversation or a smile. I stand tall, knowing I’ve done my personal best. And if a few stinging criticisms and sideways glances are tossed in among a sprinkling of sincere compliments, it isn’t so bad. Besides, there’s only one way to get on the plane that will carry me to my next destination, and that means going through security. Even when there’s a long line, a quibbling TSA agent, or a problem with my luggage, I will survive the experience and get beyond the critique wall–for I know there’s an amazing adventure waiting on the other side.
My most recent series on the critique wall in the studio at Valencia College