Creating anywhere is an exciting notion. The real question is, can you?
That is the question I sought out to explore when Keith and I took a spontaneous road trip to the Grand Canyon from Chicago last week. So I packed 2 sketchbooks, a large canvas, black paint pens, brushes and to also accommodate my freelance work, Keith and I purchased a hotspot for our car.
Our plan was to drive as much as possible the first day, and try to make it to the Grand Canyon in 25 hours. I think somewhere in New Mexico, around 2am we decided to stop and sleep at a very scary looking abandoned gas station.
We woke up early the next day and by then the hotspot in the car had lost signal, so any computer work was put on hold. Drawing in cars has never been my favorite, mainly because I can't seem to get a perfect line for my work, which led me to my first realization of working on the road: if you're looking for perfect, you'll never make anything.
Perfect was my problem and it was limiting me. I wasn't in my quiet, safe, calm studio and unless I embraced my surroundings and pushed past the uncomfortable I would never flex my creative muscles anywhere else. So I began embracing the squiggles and bumps that come with driving on dirt roads, looking at it as a fun challenge to just incorporate it into the drawing. The car started to become a vehicle to help silence the perfectionist.
We arrived at the Grand Canyon by noon, only to find that all the campsites at the first come first serve area were full, and we were advised to try again early the next day. So we ended up walking part of the rim with our dog Indie, and staying in a pet friendly hotel in the next town over.
The next day, we were on a mission to get a camp spot. We woke up early, headed back the canyon, and were victorious! Our spot was gorgeous, perfectly nestled in the woods with baby cacti here and there. It was such an interesting landscape, and I was so excited to take in the views, textures, and patterns that I started to feel pulled in two different directions: a need to explore vs. need to create.
In the past, my explorer would have won the battle and my artist would have gone back to the car waiting to go home. I realized that if I was going to merge these two together, I not only needed to forget perfection and push past discomfort, I needed to change the scale of my work to accommodate the explorer.
So I didn't touch the big canvas, and I didn't beat myself up over it.
Instead I used my tiny moleskin sketch pad as my canvas on the go. It was small enough that it fit into my Ona camera bag and light enough to pack for hikes. I could also easily finish a sketch in 5 - 10 minutes. Sometimes I even set a timer for myself using my phone to keep the work flowing regardless of how perfect or imperfect it was.
So, the artist creates. The explorer keeps on explorin.
I think that's the key. Satisfying our need to explore the new wonderful place we have traveled to, while also still feeling connected to our craft. I stopped expecting large elaborate works and started just making....anything. No drawing was too small or too rough. Drawing things that caught my attention, and captured the essence of where I was, who I was meeting, what I was eating etc.
I wanted my drawings to act as a database of pattern and memory I could search later when I was home in my studio.
After several days of camping we packed up and started making our way back home. We made an impromptu stop in Golden, Colorado to visit a dear friend who has started her own music therapy practice. It was incredible to hear her story of ebbs and flows in creating a business, and it gave me a little comfort knowing I'm not the only one figuring things out.
Our last stop before home was a small town of 66 people in Nebraska. We paid a visit to an old Marine buddy of Keith's who showed us his farm and cattle and talked to us about a completely different way of living. He saw me eyeing a cow skull he had lying around and gifted it to us before we left!
After a week of exploring we're home. I have such a new found appreciation for the beauty that lives within this country and also a better understanding of my own needs as an artist and an explorer. I know this trip will be a catalyst for more work that is inspired by sights, sounds, people and interactions.
When I returned to the studio I compiled a list of my favorite textures and memories and created this piece:
Thanks for traveling with me!