When I came back from my honeymoon last month, I started to work on a short and simple seven piece watercolor series of flowers I saw during our trip. I’ve always been drawn to botanical paintings and it seemed like the perfect way to honor the time my husband and I spent together. All of these flowers weren’t wildflowers either, some were found in planters along Chicago streets, and one was inspired by a bundle of flowers from which a man was handing single stems out to people in Salt Lake City.
That last moment is a particular favorite of mine.
My husband and I were wandering around Salt Lake City before heading to the airport. It was the end of our trip, so bittersweet, but we were also thoroughly exhausted from hiking. We sat for awhile in an outdoor mall area where they had some beautiful fountains. I watched as an elderly man carrying carnations handed some out to the little girls and their moms playing in the water.
And it was at that moment that I remembered just how important it is for artists to travel.
I do believe it is a crucial life experience for all human beings to travel, but when you’re an artist there is something particularly necessary about getting out to see the world. It’s what teaches you to appreciate the beauty around us and fuels the creative spirit inside. Maybe you can’t afford a grand tour of Europe or to live for weeks in a secluded cabin off in the woods (I know I can’t!), but even taking the time to drive farther than usual from your house to a new park can be beneficial.
The point of traveling as an artist is to see and experience new people, new places and new ideas. Travel, even just to a different state that’s nearby, can broaden your mind if you let it. When my husband and I took the train we met all kinds of people on board. Even though we hadn’t ventured far from home yet, and some of these people were from Pennsylvania like us, we took the time to talk to them. This was an opportunity to learn about someone else and see the world a little differently.
When we were in Utah, we spent a majority of our time outside hiking and taking in sights you’ll never find on the East coast. We didn’t pay for a single outing (besides like $10 to drive onto Antelope Island). I want artists to know that you can travel on a budget. Ours was super tight, but neither of us wanted to pass up an opportunity to travel. Going to these new places helped create all these new wonderful ideas for landscape paintings, and also gave me a better appreciation for the art I’ve seen based on Western America. I honestly hadn’t really thought about the beauty of deserts and plains, until we were riding the train through it and then later taking in the Great Salt Lake surrounded by wild bison.
By the time we finished our week long trip I had a wide array of new ideas for paintings, a refreshed soul and a greater appreciation for my husband. All these are essential to a happy life as an artist (the last one doesn’t apply to all of course).
If you’re an artist (or anybody) reading this and going, but I can’t afford to travel Chelsea, then I just want you to remember that moment I discussed earlier. Yes, I paid to travel to Salt Lake City, but I didn’t pay to take the time to slow down and appreciate my surroundings and that is ultimately the key to any successful trip. So if you can’t afford a plane or train ticket, then look around for cool or interesting areas that are just a little bit farther than you normally drive. Grab some friends and make it a “one day” road trip. And when you go, talk to some strangers! Eat new foods and take it all in. Look for the little moments.