Friday, November 13, 2015

Artist En Route by Janet Strayer

I'd like to share the following posting with you, as a contributing member of the Art Saturna community. Currently, I am and will be  writing a series of articles for Art Avenue magazine this year, based upon my travels and life in Europe that began this September. (You can also check for additional photos and related material at my personal blog:

Here's what it was like for me just before I left for the grand trip: 

Artist En Route: Anticipation

As a creative person, imagine yourself faced with the reality of leaving your home in Canada for an 8-month adventure in Europe: an art-life exploration.
Bye to my magical Saturna Island studio!  Photo taken just before leaving for grand trip. 

Are you thoroughly delighted with this prospect of nearly a year in Europe? A bit overwhelmed? A little unsure about leaving the familiar context of your studio, workplace, friends, your familiar work routines, even your local sources of inspiration or diversion? What about missing the round of local art shows, including those in which you typically participate, for example? No longer rooted in your usual activities, and leaving your familiar sights to travel and live in different places with few expectations but much anticipation, you become an artist-en-route.  
Our opportunities, choices, and goals may differ, yet we are all en route in our lives, each an artist in his or her own life. The particular artist en route this time is me, and it's a very real journey. In mid September I approached my imminent departure from Canada with a mixture of excitement and anxiety rolled into one overarching feeling of anticipation: keen, eager, hopeful, and a bit worried.

My orienting goal on this journey is to be open and attentive to the incitements of the places and lifestyles encountered. Personally, I know that such life travels broaden, deepen, and break, if needed, current perspectives on what one thinks is known or familiar. Welcoming the less familiar and less known, even the apparently familiar takes new shape. 

My guiding principle is to hold lightly what I currently value so that it doesn't predetermine what I'm ready to see, hear, experience, and share. I believe this to be an essential kernel of the creative process. This column, though idiosyncratically selective by necessity, hopefully will resonate with you, as fellow travelers: each of us, in a sense, willing to see the world a bit anew from the often useful perspective of  'a stranger in a strange land' .

Some of the art materials to pack in airplane suitcases.

I'm pleased to think you might come along with me on some of my European travels and art experiences. I'll be sharing them with you in this column. Not quite sure what we'll encounter. The plan is to have an adventure in creative living -- however and wherever we find it ... and make it!

We'll be living primarily in France and Italy, with excursions south to Sicily and east as far as the Adriatic (maybe even across it).  Here's our general itinerary.

We start with an overnight in London. Then Provence for several months, that beautiful area of southern France, birthplace of Cézanne and nurturing grounds for Picasso, Van Gogh, and so many wonderful artists. Next, a month in Sicily, that sun-baked crossroads of culture, art, and bad repute. Then, for a longer period, we'll live in Umbria, near Piero della Francesca. Nearly every village in Italy has its famous art hero. We'll spend a few weeks near the Adriatic, exploring less tourist-trekked regions, like Le Marche and the art of perhaps less-known masters of the region, like Corelli.

I expect we'll find some new treasures while appreciating the old ones. And we'll meet some living artists too, as we take in contemporary art exhibits and explore our new settings. What's it like for local artists? Do they face similar challenge to those we might face? How much is what you're inspired to paint rooted in the ground you walk, the sights and experiences you have, the cultural climate you breathe? Is your technique or the content of your work changed by your milieu?

Wherever I go, and whatever I find, I'll do my best to convey what might be interesting to fellow travellers on routes of their own making. Keep your anticipation up!