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.
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
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.
by Alfonso Tejada, Vancouver, BC, Canada
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.
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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!
by Catherine Robertson, White Rock, BC, Canada
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
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.
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by Connie Nicholson, Lewisville, TX, USA
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
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.
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