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  • Writer's pictureLeslie McCrea, artist

Six Tips for the Traveling Artist

Travel plans are underway for next May, and I cannot wait! I love to travel, maybe even more than painting. I've always loved travel, and I know I'm not unique in that, but I even like just visiting the airport. I think it is the potential for adventure that I love. I've been waiting in an airport for someone to arrive and caught myself thinking, "All I would have to do is buy a ticket, and I could go any where in the world." What a time to live, right?

I ran across this quote today that sums up much of how I feel about travel:

"We travel, initially, to lose ourselves; and we travel, next to find ourselves. We travel to open our hearts and eyes and learn more about the world than our newspapers will accommodate. We travel to bring what little we can, in our ignorance and knowledge, to those parts of the globe whose riches are differently dispersed. And we travel, in essence, to become young fools again- to slow time down and get taken in, and fall in love once more." Pico Iyer

It seems a natural thing for me to now combine my two loves, travel and art. I've spent the past summer sketch hunting with my art community to record my own city. Drawing my city has slowed me down, let me really see the place I live, and let me meet some interesting people. Travel slows me down; drawing and painting slows me down; I'm sensing a pattern here. We don't have to be "on the go" when we travel. We only have to be present and observant--true of both travel and art.

So, I have some art journey travel tips for you:

1. Pack light. I know. Everyone says that, but seriously, the less you bring the happier you'll be. I take a carry-on-size backpack with rollers, no matter how long the trip. I also carry a smaller bag (also a backpack) that goes with me everywhere and holds my art supplies and anything I want in-flight (tablet, passport, headphones, sketchbook, etc.) Keep supplies small: paint, pen, paper, a brush, and something to mix on (I use the lid from my palette.) Pretty much all you need. Save the cup from your morning yogurt for water. Grab an extra napkin at lunch and you're ready.

2. Draw whatever YOU notice. Don't draw only the "scenic" places like cathedrals, statues, and landscapes. In my sketchbook, I included things like what I ate for lunch (draw fast if you want to eat it hot!) and the red mail boxes that are everywhere in the U.K. Include the things you notice: the crowd on the street under the paper lanterns, the laundry hung between buildings in Italy, the old guys in the park playing chess, the painting on the couch in the second-hand store. Whatever you notice, even the mundane. Isn't that what artists do, notice the ordinary and show others its beauty?

3. Be comfortable. Be prepared for people to watch you. At first it can be unnerving, but with practice you get used to it, and it is a great way to meet people, even other artists. In cafes, I try to find a table with my back to the wall, so that I can observe without being obvious. It is also fine to ask someone if it is okay if you draw them. I haven't had anyone say "no" yet. The only place I still find it hard to draw is on the subway. It's too close. I might be able to get a photo and then draw later in that case. Nothing is impossible, but I try to be polite and not make others uncomfortable.

4. Make art time for yourself. If I'm traveling with others who are not so keen to wait while I draw a scene, I just take a photo and then draw and paint when I have some down time. I also plan walks in wee hours of the morning, when I can be alone and the light is fantastic. This trip I'm going to try to paint at night, too. I haven't painted night scenes, but I want to try. Obviously, extra caution is needed, but it isn't impossible to do. You always find a way when you really want to do something.

5. Make time to meet up with other artists. Instagram is a great way to find artists in the places to which you'll be traveling. Plan ahead to take a workshop, or ask at a local art supply store if any classes are offered while you're visiting. Visit a local gallery, or art fair, and talk to the artists. I learn so much from finding out about their processes and interests.

6. Take and leave art as souvenirs. I like to visit an art supply store to pick up a souvenir. It's small, easy to carry, and useful. I don't need another magnet. I also like to leave a drawing for any host I stay with as a thank you. Just a small gesture but much appreciated! This trip, I'm also taking small loose paper to make ink and wash drawings to give as souvenirs for my family, when I return. It is the easiest thing to carry and it fits with my first tip--pack light!

So that's it. I hope you have a chance to travel and try out some of these tips. I'm headed to Wales and London in May. It is a trip offered exclusively to students of Jana L. Bussanich Art Studio Contact her if you're interested in classes and the trip!

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