“For Artists, Travel is Research”

My friend and kindred spirit Gwyn Lewis recently made this comment on Facebook.  It was in response to my drawing “Spanish Spices”, which I drew from a photo I snapped in Spain a few years ago.  Her quote has stuck in my mind.  It’s so true!  If I hadn’t made that trip, I wouldn’t have happened upon the scene, and it wouldn’t have become a drawing which was recently accepted for the 2011 Colored Pencil Society of America International Exhibition.

While one’s studio can be a refuge from the distractions of the world, one has to be careful not to let it become a hermit cave, self-limiting by its four walls and demotivating by its monotony.  Not only is travel–with camera or sketchbook in hand–a great source of images for future artwork, it also inspires and refreshes those creative juices. It doesn’t have to be somewhere new or exotic–although that can be very exciting.  Since I returned to my art, I see everything with “fresh eyes” now even when merely visiting my family in Missouri.  Every creature, every cloud, every ray of light through a leaf is a possibility, as long as I remain aware.  When I later work from photos that I took myself of these encounters, the finished artwork is truly 100% original by me.

The current economy makes it difficult to afford much travel, let alone to faraway countries with exotic cultures.  Working from photos from magazines or the internet is an iffy alternative–not only are you working from someone else’s concept of subject, composition and color, but copyright infringement is a tricky issue.  Unless you’re creating artwork only for yourself, it’s best to avoid these sources or else use your “artistic license” to change them so that they bear little resemblance to the original photos.

If you’re an artist and travel provides your inspirational material, you can at least partly justify it as a work-related expense.  “For artists, travel is research”!

Now if I can use that thought to convince my husband to book a trip to Madagascar….

One thought on ““For Artists, Travel is Research”

  1. You don’t even have to travel far. My planned return to Paris got shot down by the economy BUT I discovered that minutes from me are wonderful things; extinct volcanoes, animals and plants in zoos from places I cannot afford (and would need a series of shots) to visit, the bird refuge behind my house…

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