Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Watercolor Musings: More Than a Painting Trip

Watercolor Musings: More Than a Painting Trip: A typical fruit stand in Western Samoa
In May 2000, I traveled with another artist to Western Samoa. It was to be a 2 week trip ...

More Than a Painting Trip

A typical fruit stand in Western Samoa
 In May 2000, I traveled with another artist to Western Samoa. It was to be a 2 week trip but my artist friend, Lucy, had to return home since her house had sold and she needed to attend to necessary business. That meant that I was alone the second week as there was not an airline seat available and only two flights a week go to Apia, the capital.

Being by myself meant that I did more visiting with the people there and I learned some very interesting things – about my own country.

During that first week we met Ray, a taxi driver, who took us to those areas out of our walking range. So for the second week, I set up several days so Ray could take me to some of the more out of the way places. One day we drove around the entire island and we had time for a long visit.

Ray was a very ambitious man. He had 3 taxis, a rental business in machinery and was getting ready to expand his rental business to party supply. In contrast, a young man who visited with us when we first arrived was trying to find a way to gather more money in addition to his regular job. He had asked Lucy for a loan and when she asked him what he could do to earn some extra he said he could fish. Well, everyone fishes there and fish are available all over the island.

The home or fale (fall-ay) of the matai on tiny Monono Island. 
Ray was a huge contrast to that line of thought, looking for ways to provide a service that was unusual and needed. He told me that his ideas were as a result of living in Hawaii and Los Angeles for a few years. That exposure to entrepreneurship in the United States was the catalyst for his work back in Samoa. He was so successful that his father-in-law asked him to assume the title of Matai or high chief of the large extended family. That was a huge compliment as the Matai is handed down to either a man or woman according to the family line and they are responsible for the financial health of the family and well as the one to mete out necessary discipline. That discipline even extends to being sure that the family members take good care of their property.  Ray told me he was flattered but wanted to do for his own family before he took on the responsibility for the whole extended family.

I realized how much we take for granted because of our childhood environment. Perhaps we may be too critical when judging other cultures because of our assumption that they have the same opportunities. I had two examples of young men - one with a limited view on how to achieve his goals and the other who because of his travel had a clear idea of his path to financial independence.

This was one of the more fascinating and unusual painting trips I have taken. 

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Travel Journals

 Taking a sketchbook along on travels, near and far, is a super way to build powerful memories. Added to that is your ability to be entrtained and patient when the inevitable interruptions occur. Here are pages selected from journals going back over 25 years. 

Moorea, French Polynesia
Moorea - Included are a recipe for bread and a sketch of the bouquet on our table.
I got elected to keep a journal of a trip to several islands in French Polynesia with 5 other artists in 1985. At the beginning I made the pages more writing and less drawing. That changed over the course of the trip. As is somewhat common, this sketchbook has a recipe included. Food has a way of creeping into my journals. 

Barcelona, Spain
The Ramblas in  Barcelona was full of both images and information. 
It was hot so my husband and I took shelter beneath the spreading trees on Las Ramblas and had a cold drink.  Several of the pages in this sketchbook were as a result of a stop to rest, get hydrated or other needs. We were in Barcelona for the Olympic Games in 1992. Most drawings are more like a snapshot than any sort of a complete watercolor sketch. I kept ticket stubs and have photos but this is my favorite way to remember. 

The view from my room in Puebla - 2009

Sometimes just looking out the window is the prompt for a page in your journal. The bell tower and a Talavera tile from our room was enough for this page. Journals have room for interesting bits of information gathered along the way. There were a group of people from a small village sitting together in protest about their bishop. Apparently they had been locked out of there church and they wanted to be heard. I would have forgotten that had it not been for this journal. 

Tlaxcala is near Puebla and this was the second city we visited. 
The tile roof of the dome and negative space created by the building in the foreground were what interested me here. This page is more about that than the written part.

San Miguel Allende and the reason we left early
We left San Miguel early due to an accident in one of our hotel rooms. As my friend entered her room after breakfast, the door closing caused a portion of the ceiling to fall onto her bed. We cut our visit short to this city. 

Charleston, South Carolina
Spreading Live Oak tree and leaves

Most of my journals are done on trips with fellow artists or family. In this case it was a group from college in 2007 and I was one of eleven and the only artist. One of the group had a friend who did tours in Charleston so while he gave us history (the written part of this page), I drew the live oak tree which fascinated me. You have to be on the lookout for ways to keep your journal if you are with others who do not share your passion. 

 Carpenteria, California
Hollyhock Cottage which has no hollyhocks
One double page from a watercolor journal kept on a 4-day ramble up the California coast to Napa in 2006. I was enroute to a workshop in Napa, CA with Brenda Swenson and we had the luxury of taking our sweet time on the trip. It amused me that the name of this building was Hollyhock Cottage when there were no hollyhocks in the garden.

 North Carolina

Valle Crucis NC Tin Roof
A trip to the northeast part of North Carolina in 2009 was a plunge into the world of green. This scene was an accidental find when we were on our way to find an historical Episcopal Church. We promptly settled down to get a sketch and were happy we lost our way. 

Upper Ojai, California
Stormy day and  brilliant mustard fields in Upper Ojai - 2011
Not much written on this page...it was done from the front seat of the car on a rainy, stormy day. That somber light was part of the reason that the mustard was so bright. The sketching trip with my friend Brenda Swenson turned into an exercise in painting in spite of the weather. We painted in the car, in our room and even in a mall. Now that is desperate! But then we do that. We've also painted in 110 degree heat. 

So the next time you go off to take a respite, grab a sketchbook. It can be mostly words, mostly drawings, mostly ephemera, or mostly photos. The method you use is a reflection of what interests you at that particular moment.