Saturday, September 30, 2006

Tuesday 1st August: Flying home and some reflections

On Monday I tried to pack. Which in the end amounted to deciding what was going to get forwarded to New England for September to save carrying it home and bringing it out again............

Plus I wrote the provisional summary of all the posts for the trip. (Since then, I've been updating this so that it includes links to all the correct titles for all the finalised versions of posts relating to this trip.)

So.........on the morning of Tuesday 1st August I drove myself to San Diego airport in good time for my flight, had a quiet panic (it was very nearly a loud panic!) when I couldn't find the car rental place and then sat around watching planes - and sketching (see above!) - before flying home.

So time for some reflection (both then and since) - what did I learn on this trip?

  • I probably produced more work within a three week period than I've ever done before (albeit much smaller than I normally work).
    • Having a travel sketchbook to complete is a great incentive for pulling out the pen and pencils!
    • I found that working in a large Moleskine sketchbook with pen and ink and coloured pencils meant that I could sketch quickly more or less anywhere - and is much quicker for me compared to other media
  • Trying to sketch every day for three weeks is difficult - and I didn't achieve it. However, I made up for it by regularly producing more than one sketch a day. As a result, I'm now much more impressed by those artists who produce drawings and paintings every day. That's takes hard graft to keep up day after day after day without fail. I'd done so much staring during the three weeks that when I got home I felt like I didn't want to look at anything much and was quite pleased to be preoccupied sorting out work for two exhibitions instead!
  • I didn't get much 'bigger work' done. My normal art holiday would involve me aiming to start a painting in the morning and another in the afternoon - and I'd often complete at least one. Typical 'daily paintings' done on holiday in the past included large (19.5" x 25.5") plein air pastel paintings done in around 3-4 hours (see my website for examples) on an abrasive pastel support. BUT then I opted for the smaller suitcase which transports more easily and hence I couldn't get this size of support I might need to rethink suitcases!
  • I discovered it's possible to sketch while travelling in the front seat of a car. This partly depends on the scenery staying pretty similar for some distance - but it is possible and probably easier in somewhere like the USA than some other countries because of the nature of the landscape. If you sometimes do long distance trips with somebody else driving it's well worth giving this a go - it makes the time pass ever so quickly as well.
  • The art shops I visited in the USA were consistently very much better than the ones in the UK - period! I am so envious!
Travelling in the USA
  • Landscapes (like a lot of things in in the USA) can be astounding and monumental - and subtle and small - and all on the same day! All the different places I visited certainly gave me a lot of food for thought in terms of how to portray different kinds of landscapes - and I'll be interested to see how this progresses into more finished work over the winter.
  • Always respect the heat and watch out for the impact of marine inversions! (Perhaps influenced by the fact that I was there during one of the hottest spells ever on record in the USA. I experienced a number of days when the temperature exceeded 100 degrees.)
  • Travelling with a full set of pastels is not easy when you're away for three weeks and also visiting a lot of different places. In the end there was just no room for the pastels on the Albuquerque trip and they had to stay in California. However I found that bags which compress the air out of your clothes enabled me to have a bit of choice over what I wore with the space I had left. They're also a great option for packing a car boot if the only alternative is a bag which is too big for the space available.
  • Travelling with companions can be perfectly delightful for many different reasons. Plus I learned a lot of new ways to pack my stuff into smaller more flexible containers (see above) so that four adults, their luggage for a week plus their art materials (plus my chair!) plus drink/food supplies could actually all be contained within a saloon car! However, being respectful of the need to get a journey completed and what other people want to do and see can also mean this limits my scope to spend time in the places I would like to stay longer. It's not a moan - just recognising a fact of life. The upside is that it cost me a lot less to see some of the places I did because I was travelling with other people
  • I was really glad that I had the security of cover offered by new membership of AAA and my new american cell phone. As a result I didn't worry about what might happen if anything happened while I was travelling on my own.
  • Finally - I came to the inevitable conclusion that I actually did far too much travelling - about 10,000 miles of which around 3,000 miles was on the ground. Don't get me wrong - I was really glad to have been to as many places as I did but I also really regretted that some of the time spent in places was so short - or that I was so tired when I got there I couldn't really appreciate it as much as I would have liked. In particular, I under-estimated how many miles I could drive in a day without getting overtired (I must be getting older! ;) ) However, from a more positive perspective I now have a much better idea of which places I want to go back to and how much time I need to leave for travelling in certain areas. As a result I planned that on the next trip in September to New England I should:
    • plan to have enough rest days (no travelling)
    • plan on complete days just for painting (no companions)
    • avoid driving long distances on successive days.
So finally I arrived find that yet again my 'plein air' chair, which has travelled all over the world with me without a problem, had gone astray for the second time on this trip!!! It was safely returned the next day and where it got to this time I have no idea - but it's now officially much better travelled than I am!

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