Try an odyssey

Dear Artist, Odysseus, in Homer’s Odyssey, is ten years getting back to Ithaca from the Trojan Wars. All kinds of crap and corruption take place while he’s gone, including interference with his wife Penelope. Our odysseys need not be so traumatic, and regular little ones can invigorate. I recommend three- and four-hour car-sorties. In our family we call it “mosey driving.” Unlike your regular trip to Costco, you move around so you can look and see and perhaps record. Your mind needs to slow down and drop into a visually aware trance so you can access your latent “appreciation mode.” A lot of good stuff can probably be found just blocks from your home. Because of the “click and go” habit, a camera can be counter-productive. You need a journaling pad or sketchbook. I often use small stretched canvases hooked over the steering wheel. To mosey in foreign lands, with no particular itinerary, is my idea of artist’s heaven. Starting this September, my friend Don Getz of Peninsula, Ohio, is planning a year-long coast-to-coast US odyssey of watercolour journaling. Don has chosen to be in selected small towns and villages on certain dates, and he’s giving two- and three-day workshops in many of them. A lifetime of commercial art and obsessive sketching make Don the “King of the Journaling Instructors,” and anyone who has seen his work will know why. Don’s system is to draw the perimeter first, then, without benefit of pencil, using a permanent laundry marker called Identi-pen, he commits his lines in ink. “Ink gives confidence and a deadly eye,” says Don. After the drawing is more or less the way he wants it, he comes in with watercolour washes. The idea is to keep the work understated, fresh and lively. Don’s journals are not pretentious; they are the passing stations of a lifelong odyssey. Best regards, Robert PS: “With journal sketching a great deal of work can be accomplished in a rather short period of time. Speed is key, and speed comes from practice.” (Don Getz) Esoterica: I was in a narrow Breton lane moving slowly beside a decaying church. Passing a stone wall with an open gate, I glimpsed several artists at their easels. Entering quietly on foot, I saw the object of their attention was a tall, auburn-haired and naked young woman with skin like ivory. She was posing on an old fountain that burped an intermittent stream around her delicate feet. Flashing my sketchbook to a young man, I tried to imply the camaraderie of a fellow traveller. “S’il vous plaît monsieur, pas de photos,” he quietly warned in a gesture of welcome before a quick return to his painting. I could be wrong, but even in France blessings like this never happen up on the National Autoroute.   Steering wheel easel

Screws driven into the back at an angle latch over the steering wheel. Tape screws to protect wheel from damage.


Steering wheel as easel. A remarkably quick and comfortable system. Don’t do this while driving.

              Don Getz

Don Getz


“Baskets Galore”
watercolour on gesso


“Adirondack Moment”
acrylic painting


“Old Gorge Road – Early Mornings”
watercolour painting


“Taos Square”
watercolour on gesso


“Monhegan Cliffs”
acrylic painting

          You can find out about the Don Getz Watercolour Journaling experience here.   Car painting on rainy days by Susan L Rump, Vermont, USA Our weekly plein air group Odanaksis — an Abenaki word for “little community” — opts occasionally for what we’ve termed “car painting” when the weather is inclement or temperatures low, but the urge to paint and the need for a new venue are great. We’re located in a beautiful New England valley where paintables are many — painters, too — but sales infrequent, yet one of my car paintings begun onsite and tweaked minimally in the studio later, has just sold. Most of us are constrained by life circumstances from painting as much as we’d like, but if we practice often and build our efficiency then we can enjoy a smidgen of the art life even amidst the hubbub of the daily grind.   Time capsules by Alfonso Tejada, Vancouver, BC, Canada  

watercolour sketch
by Alfonso Tejada

It is always refreshing to see the work of fellow artists like Don Getz and their approach. Many of us enjoy traveling and recording places, objects and moments in time. I consider these sketches/paintings to be time capsules embedded in our inner lives and the source of inspiration to keep learning to see and capture the essence of the subject of our interest. In my travels and teaching workshops I encourage this approach to my students as a discipline to work harder in order to capture in their mind and with their senses the most basic elements of their painting. They are more than thumbnail sketches. Although related in their approach they become solely time capsules of their work and the joy of having been there. There is 1 comment for Time capsules by Alfonso Tejada
From: Rene Lynch — Jun 01, 2012

What a beautiful painting.

  Sunday soirees by Patricia Shaer, Lakeland, FL, USA   Fifty years ago, more or less, my sister and her family had a weekly “odyssey.” Sunday was for going to church, have a big breakfast and then drive off for the day taking unknown highways and byways. It was not an odd result that usually they’d end up in the most northern reaches of VT, NH, or ME from central CT. They were even known to end up in Montreal. They’d stop for a great meal, take the boys’ tricycles out of the trunk to let them ride along a back road, or whatever. And they had such great stories about what they saw and great photos of the unusual spots they found. I caught the bug as well. When my family moved from place to place, the first thing I’d do is get a map (for safety’s sake) and just drive around using the sun as my guide. People couldn’t get over how quickly and well I’d know the area. In two weeks, I return home to New England to visit and to take advantage of new odysseys. Thanks for the reminder that I’m not as nuts as some think I am!   Around town by Catherine Robertson, White Rock, BC, Canada  

original painting
by Catherine Robertson

I like to go on short “mosey” walks around my home town. It’s amazing what might be found around the next corner or, sometimes, right at your feet! I have to draw fast though as I’m always afraid someone will come by and stare which makes my pencil screech to a halt. Silly, I know. I can, therefore, lose accuracy but, again, sometimes, that can make a more interesting drawing. (RG note) Thanks, Catherine. If you have a plain ordinary closed car, you can go to busy places and no one pays attention to your fiddling behind the wheel. They think you are a salesman or someone planning your next call. A car also makes a good “bird blind.” For some reason birds do not as readily fly away from cars as they do from people standing alone in a field.     Investing in artists by Jackie Knott, Fischer, TX, USA  

oil painting
by Jackie Knott

A forum member recently commented about artists not investing in other artists. That comment was jarring and struck home. I am as guilty as the next artist of frequenting galleries, evaluating the competition and smiling at the gallery owner as I leave. I am armed with knowledge but I never purchase a painting or sculpture that would propel our industry. After all, I’m an artist as well, right? Oh, I can do that, maybe even better! It appears the conundrum is universal — we defeat each other. I wonder of past greats… did Monet, Vermeer, Van Gogh, Nevelson, Warhol, O’Keeffe… did they collect their contemporaries’ art? Did their estates boast collections of the masters? Did they collect their competition and their colleagues’ art? I have to answer, no, and that is equally distressing… I consider my (soon-to-be-acquired extracted income outside art) expendable income and wonder do I invest in the stock market or art? My observation of the stock market is: no control, no input, no studied investment — only suspect speculation. I did nothing and I either benefit or lose on someone else’s whim or inside trading. Why on earth would I invest in the stock market when I have some knowledge of art, some knowledge of the mechanism that drives the market, and some knowledge of quality? It is an easy decision for me… I will soon walk into galleries as a patron, not as an artist. That realization is revolutionary. Do you collect other artists? Your observations? (RG note) Thanks, Jackie. I do. But I also collect investments via the stock market. I collect other stuff too. Diversification. There are 6 comments for Investing in artists by Jackie Knott
From: Michael McDevitt — May 31, 2012

Nice light and expression!

From: Ron Ruble — Jun 01, 2012

Diversification is a good suggestion. But a little money and alot of ingenuity can be rewarding. Collecting other artists work can be both educational and rewarding, not to mention fun. Youwill also get to know many wonderful artists. They are quite friendly to their collectors. See a small sample of the fun I have had over the last 50 years, buying, trading and finding fine art on a shoestring budget. Also, each item I have collected has a wonderful story and memory to it. Sheer plesure! Enjoy!

From: Marsha Hamby Savage — Jun 01, 2012

There are 27 different artist’s paintings hung or displayed in my living room / dining room area of my home … and only two of my own. And, five of those artists have at least two each. I have quite a few more in other areas of my home, especially the studio…and a few waiting to be framed. I have always bought or traded for artist work that I admire, teachers I have taken from, and my friends. Why wouldn’d we do this? I am continually inspired by these works.

From: Pesach ben Levi — Jun 01, 2012

The Impressionists were well known to purchase, trade, gift and collect each other’s works.

From: Tatjana M-P — Jun 01, 2012

Vincent Van Gogh and his brother have built a large collection by trading Vincent’s paintings with other artists. Trading is wonderful to get art around, but it doesn’t generate revenue. When an artists actually purchases a painting, there are some amazing lessons to be learned. You start evaluating your art differently after you wrote that cheque. Especially its presentation and finish.

From: chris may — Jun 02, 2012

I have just begun to collect other’s work. Its financially difficult but when I finally aquire my target, its deeply satisfying! usually its work by someone I’ve met or known personally, and that adds to the desire.

  Narrow vistas by Connie Nicholson, Lewisville, TX, USA  

“Embankment – Air Base”
oil painting
by Julie Bozzi

Your recent letter brings to mind the art of Julie Bozzi. “Julie Bozzi’s landscapes depict the spaces between the picturesque events others tend to seek out as they scan a panorama. What they lack in heroic impact, however, they make up for in their subconscious familiarity as American places. A resident of Texas since 1980, Bozzi often paints areas around Fort Worth and Dallas, along the Gulf Coast, and in the eastern Texas Piney Woods. Her approach involves sitting in her car near dusk in front of the chosen site and painting directly onto the canvas. The format of her works — narrow vistas — echoes the view through her car windshield.”   A writer’s odyssey by R. C. B. Lawrence   As a writer, the mosey-driving experience is highly valuable. Sights and sounds, even words on signs trigger thoughts and possibilities. I like to take notes and keep lists. For example, I might make a note of selected signs with an eye out for irony or incongruity. Even looking at dwellings and offices can trigger thoughts of “What’s going on in there?” which in turn triggers plots. The natural world is full of triggers, just as William Wordsworth walked over the fields to get his poetic inspiration. Our professors in university have encouraged us in this activity in order to get the imagination working.   Overcoming by giving by Bruce Wilcox, Denver, CO, USA  

art quilt
by Bruce Wilcox

It’s been an interesting and difficult 6 months and I’ve been somewhat withdrawn. My mother passed away on January 4th, her funeral was on the 21st, and I didn’t/couldn’t go because my finances have been flat for months with no possibility of affording travel expenses. One can’t go anywhere when the rent isn’t paid. I’m OK for the moment, I should be able to get through June, due to a commission and small inheritance, but that’s it. Then my sister was diagnosed with a terminal illness, so it appears I’ll outlive a sibling, something I thought would never happen. On Monday evening, August 13th, I’m giving a lecture titled ‘From Self Expression to Self Mastery’ at the FRCQ meeting held at the Westminster Community Center, 10455 Sheridan Blvd. Denver, Colorado. The meeting’s from 7 to 9 pm, and costs $10.00 for non-members but, hopefully, that won’t prevent you from coming. I’d certainly like to have a few of my friends/collectors present, as I’ll be showing my lifetime of work as an illustration of my evolutionary metaphysical life-mastery process. Because I have one.    

Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for Try an odyssey

From: Carol Morrison — May 29, 2012

I must try your steering wheel easel. My NSCAD advisor, Jerry Ferguson, was known for his non-representational work, but shortly before his death had a show of paintings he did from his car, using a technique he called “plein air en voiture.” I suspect this was similar to your method of painting!

From: Mystery Guest — May 29, 2012

I bicycle every day, and I see more than anyone from a car. I journal with a camera, and do all my work in studio — or on patio. It’s my way. I never liked “plain air”. (Yes, I know…gets to you, doesn’t it!)

From: Dagmar Rensel — May 29, 2012

Though it requires some technique to paint small, I keep a Guerilla Pocket Box (I think sometimes called a Go Box) in the car. The handy kit sports everything you need to produce 5×7 panels, and yet allow you and your vehicle to remain unpainted. The odyssey, then, can be anywhere and everywhere I go, sometimes to the chagrin of my sweetie.

From: Bonnie Mandoe — May 29, 2012

I mosey too. It’s how I find my plein air spots. Some of my favorite car driven works are paintings done from photos I take while we’re rolling. It’s better if someone else is driving. I like the abstract design, the way the shadows define the land, and the blurry effect of the trees caused by the vehicle in motion. Sometimes none of the shots pan out, but other times I get lucky.

From: Dorothy Lorenze — May 29, 2012

Thanks for the journaling encouragement and all your good advice. You make it look so easy but plein air is daunting to me! Can you speak about your palette and how you carry wet paint? So much to consider outside of the studio.

From: Jan Macfarlane — May 29, 2012

I’m hoping Don will be somewhere near Knoxville, Tenn. I took a workshop with him years ago…it was excellent, and it’s time for another! An odyssey would be good too!

From: Norman Ridenour — May 29, 2012

We do not use the car. By train 30-40 minutes any direction, get off, and follow one of the spider web of trails and gawk. Instant sensory overload.

From: Shirley Erskine — May 29, 2012

In our household they are called “Gypsy Trips”. We just move from place to place with no time schedule or destination. We have made the most wonderful discoveries right here in Canada. Wineries and sketching sites being at the top of the list!

From: Marvin Humphrey — May 30, 2012

I’ve always enjoyed “mosey driving” by myself, even on a bicycle, stopping at random to look. But traffic is everywhere, even on remote back roads. it’s important to develop the habit of constantly checking the rear-view mirror.

From: Norm Revere — May 30, 2012

It’s the same principle in writing. You move around, make notes, think about what you are seeing, and plots and situations just fall into your lap.

From: Lindsay Bradley — May 30, 2012

Robert it would be interesting to see some visual art work done on the computer. That could be a topic for some of your readers to write about.

From: Renate M Reuter — May 30, 2012

Dear Robert, please write something positive for the oil painters. Please note that we serve to all media and oil painting is our very special traditional and special big ‘BABY.’

From: Sandra Bos — May 30, 2012

I wish more folks would ‘study’ more, before declaring to be an Artist. I agree; there’s TONS of canvas’s out there that aren’t ready to show. It’s too bad…and too sad for Art, with a capital “A”.”

From: Cameron Plewes — May 30, 2012

“Blessings like this never happen on the Autoroute,” — the Autobahn or the M1. Bravo!!! He who travels the shorter distance, and the slowest, sees the most. Bristol, UK.

From: Rodney — May 30, 2012

In a similar vein, I continue to run 26.2 mile marathons with cameras. The goal is to find one or more scenes that can become art. Scenes invisible to motorists. Aloha

From: Gert Hansen — May 30, 2012

Don’t forget bicycles. Bicycle use is up in most European countries. Here in Denmark where we are very proud of our greenness, bicycles are the main mode of transportation in the cities and villages. They prevent congestion and are easy to park. The bicycle uses no fossil fuel and is good for your health — not only that it is so easy to pause and enjoy the scenery.

From: Alan Seagrave — May 30, 2012

We are all guilty of this “click and go” problem. We think because we have clicked the shutter we have appreciated a scene, but we seldom do. The problem has become worse since the digitals arrived. We no longer think about wasting film. We just click away with the idea of sorting out later, and many never do. The camera click seems to add some sort of recognition and the stamp of collectability, but it is often too soon gone to be appreciated. For real appreciation, the camera can be a dangerous distraction.

    Featured Workshop: Donald Jurney 060112_robert-genn Donald Jurney will be holding a Plein Air workshop September 22-29, 2012 in the Scottish Highlands.   Check The Workshop Calendar for more information! 
The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order.

Pronghorn Prairie Watch

oil painting, 18 x 24 inches by Bruce Berry, Flagstaff, AZ, USA

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Geary Wootten who wrote, “Re: ‘Don’t use this while driving.’ Yes… that would be a hundred times worse than texting wouldn’t it?”    

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