I am a Traveler
Cherryl has long been on my radar because of her excellent work as a book artist. More recently, I had a chance to meet her in Portland, ME where she was teaching at a Zentangle® conference. She offers her knowledge liberally with both wit and charm. I have donated my word count from my last two blogs of 2017 to Cherryl knowing you will be appreciative. We understand her spelling as she is Canadian, smile.
And now the page is hers.
I Am A Traveler
I am a traveler. I travel for fun. I travel for work. I travel to catch up to my husband who is an uber-traveler. Together we travel to take photographs (the photos in this blog were taken by my husband, and in a few rare instances by myself). We travel to eat great food and taste new wines. We travel to recharge.
As an artist, traveling gives me many rewards. I get to explore different cultures and aesthetics. Traveling keeps my work fresh and vital. In searching for a way to explain how travel does that, I’ve chosen to think about how my travels affect the way I stay aware of and use the basic elements of art: colour, form, line, shape, space, texture, and value.
Colour: When I travel, I experience things in a new light. Literally. I remember the morning of my first day in Europe when I was young and new to the world of travel. I had landed in Lyon in the dark and when I opened my draperies to look out at the city the next morning there was the sky that I had seen in countless paintings in the art galleries at home. I had always assumed that the artists had exaggerated the blues. They had not. The light in France is different than the light in Toronto. In fact, the light is different in Lyonnais than it is on in Normandy or the Riviera, or Alsace or Paris… And the different light makes so many things new again if you have the time to look. My husband loves to photograph sunsets. It is true that no two are alike but it is also true that a Muskoka sunset is totally different from a desert sunset or a tropical one. The sun in each place has its own perspective on the earth and we have a new perspective on it.
Form: From the shapes of buildings to the shapes of trees, traveling opens me up to seeing space organized in different ways. Although we are often in cities where churches and temples, skyscrapers and domestic housing catch the eye and inform my experience in new ways, my favourite trips take me to the country or seashore where I can see pastoral horizons and tree shapes, crashing waves, tide pools and seashells. I get re-energized by natural forms and those forms get used and re-imagined in my work when I get home.
Line: I am a calligrapher and letters are composed of lines. Traveling opens me up to new letterforms. I don’t need to be able to read the signs to be heavily influenced by them! I see new ways of combining strokes, of using thicks and thins, of using rivers of white space. Even nature finds ways of speaking to me.
Shape: As I work mostly with organic forms the shapes I am inspired by when I travel are the shapes of new-to-me flora and fauna. As a northerner when I travel in the winter and find myself in greener spaces I am like a thirsty traveler in the desert. I can’t get enough. I have thousands of photos of leaves in different forms of growth and decay. My collection of seashells and stones is legion. If I am looking for inspiration I scroll through my photos waiting to be reminded of something that made me go Ah!
Space: I’m a trekkie so when I think of space the first thing I hear in my head is “the final frontier.” And if you think about it that really helps with this concept. Work inspired by urban settings is more dense, has a different sense of personal space, almost no negative space. Work inspired by the country or the seashore needs more breathing room, there is more balance of negative and positive space, even in scenes captured with a macro lens. Work inspired by outer space is almost all negative space. Although I live in a city I have enough parkland near me to make it feel more natural. When I arrive in other big cities I am overwhelmed by the lack of sky and by the lack of quiet space. I feel a tightness and an immediacy that sends me looking for a botanical garden or a park and makes me more appreciative of the natural forms there. All of the uses of space inform my work, either in positive or negative ways.
Texture: I am a toucher. In antique stores, I hold my hands behind my back to keep from touching valuable things. I love to touch things when I travel and experience the feel of the materials they use to build. Old marble steps that have been worn down by a thousand years of use have a totally different feel and look than steps made in the new world that have hardly been used at all. Clay worked in the hands of Greek artisans both past and present feels different than the pottery of my local potters. Japanese silk is different than European silk. The bark of a plane tree in Maui is different than that of one in a botanical garden in Europe. The sand on one beach in Galapagos is different than that of an adjacent island. You only know this if you touch. And having touched, any fibre artist would then start to think about how that feeling could be translated into a quilt or a piece of beaded work. Even calligraphic lettering is inspired and influenced by a striving for texture on the page.
Value: One February morning we got up early to fly from Toronto to Maui. There was a blizzard. The airline still had our flight listed to go so against all odds we headed out and made it to the airport. The plane loaded late because they were struggling to move the luggage about on the tarmac because there was so much snow. We then sat in a line to deice for hours. The world outside the plane window was white, grey and greyer. We missed our connecting flight and landed in Maui a day late. We entered a world of green. Everywhere we looked there was green. Blue green, yellow green, light green, pale green, dark green, green shadows…too many greens to number because when you tried a puffy cloud move across the sun and they all changed again. Would I have been so energized by the colour green if I had left Canada in July? Maybe not. But ever since, I have been fascinated by green and by the myriad of ways there are to mix it. My favourite at the moment is yellow and black. Give that a try!
For me, travel is the gift that keeps on giving. You have the wonderful experiences and exhilaration that new foods and new sights bring to you. You return to your own home and studio with fresh eyes so that you can reap the benefits of seeing your own world and the inspirations it can bring. You have the touchstones you purchase or find that remind you of your wonderful experiences and you have the photos you took as you travel. It is win, win, win! all the way. Well, all except the packing and unpacking of course.
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