Throughout history, artists would often travel widely to study with a master artist, to gain inspiration from new surroundings and/or explore a particular technique. Vincent Van Gogh moved to Paris, Paul Gaugin sailed to French Polynesia. But what about today? As part of my Ask the Artists series, I wondered where today’s artists would go if anything were possible and money was no object. Who would they seek out as mentors, if any? What would they hope to learn?
When artists dream of travel, the voyage is never mundane…….
“For too long I have been an armchair traveler in the dens of science. My voyage would be a scuba dive in a coral reef where I would be surrounded by what I once painted, brain coral. It would be animated by its own tendrils seeking food and miniscule shrimp-like creatures living in its crevasses. Small fish, flecks of color, would flip by. And in every direction I would be surrounded by wonder. I once invented “mountain ranges from the air” that fooled geologists. I did this by crumpling paper and spray painting it, light colors from one angle, and shadows from the other, then flattening it. I want to fly over mountains of my own choosing, where the continental plates slide forcefully together to create the Andes, or a great river delta, intertwined with crazy, serpentine meanderings. Yes, you and I have a mental picture of Saturn, but a curtain of disbelief exists between us and the reality. This dropped when I saw Saturn through a telescope! I want to drop the curtain everywhere. Next, the stars!”
Painting on acrylic plastic
“Wayne Thiebaud would be a great companion for traveling around the United States. I moved to the U.S. only three years ago and I would want him to show me the America of his childhood. To me, his paintings embody America. I would love to hear about his childhood memories and learn his way of catching those memories and bringing them to life on canvas. Wayne’s way of using color is absolutely fascinating: thick oil paint in bright pastel colors. Wayne would have to teach me how to mix those magnificent colors. He apparently plans all of his paintings very precisely; he always makes studies in black & white before he starts with color. I would like to watch him paint and have him show me his technique from the first pencil line to the finished painting. I would like to learn his way of looking at simple consumer goods. Wayne’s work evokes a feeling of nostalgia and happiness in me. His paintings show a world that is simple and perfect. I wish I lived during the time when those bakery counters existed……”
Susanne Kasielke, Washington, DC
“I am always drawn to the ocean and have dreamed my whole life of a light-filled studio overlooking the sea. I’ve heard of an arts foundation on the Greek island of Skopelos (the island where “Mama Mia” was filmed) that has printmaking facilities and have been thinking and dreaming, for several years now, about wanting to spend time making monoprints there, imagining what it would be like to have uninterrupted time and the luxury of being surrounded by such intensity of color and light. I’d also like to return to Naoshima someday, an island in the middle of the Sea of Japan. It’s an incredible and visually inspiring place that I visited two years ago. The whole island, spectacularly beautiful and pristine, is devoted to the integration of nature, ecology and art. There are three museums on the island, one of which is a hotel, all are filled with contemporary art (as well as a room filled with Monet’s ‘Water Lilies’), and an old fishing village where dilapidated houses have been turned into art pieces. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful place to be able to stay and paint!”
Mary Ann Leff, California
Painting, drawing, collage, monotypes
Mary Ann Leff
“If I would have the chance to travel anywhere, I would certainly visit Mexico and study with Frida Kahlo. Frida is the ‘picture’ of being powerful through her pain, which is also what I am trying to do with my own paintings. I would also like to see France, especially Paris, and discover the reason why almost every artist’s aim is to go there and study. It’s hard to put a limit on where to travel, because I believe that traveling and discovering different countries provides inspiration for any artist’s work, it expands your art world. So probably after visiting the countries I mentioned, I would travel wherever I could to discover more new inspiration.”
Merve Arslan, Turkey (currently in Poland)
Painting, drawing, photography
“I would travel back in time to study under Jan van Eyck, the greatest Flemish painter and said to be the inventor of oil painting. It would have to be during the years that he was working on the ‘Ghent Altarpiece.’ Even if I could only be a ghost in his studio, I would revel at the opportunity to observe his practices. How does he mix his paints exactly? How long does he take to complete a work? Does he stick his brush in his mouth, as so many artists do? Can this type of genius be seen on his face? I could learn a great deal just from observation. I think that I would be so enamored that I would not even be able to speak! And I’d want to know what Jan thinks of female painters!”
Melanie Loew, Texas
“If anything were possible, I would be greedy and choose to spend time with three different artists. First would be Pablo Picasso. He’s been my favorite for so many years, because I am most attracted to the line in artwork and to me, his ‘line’ is unequaled in Western Art. My second choice would be Vincent Van Gogh. From him, I would like to learn to ‘see’ the world as he did, with the unrestrained eye of pure passion. If Vincent was unavailable, I could be very happy with Egon Scheile, though from him I would seek his ability to see deeply within and translate it to his vision of others. Third would be a master of classical Japanese art, like Hiroshige, Kuniyoshi, Utagawa; again, it is the line and how it is used that draws me. The efficiency of perfect line work coupled with a breathtaking sensitivity to understated balance dazzles me. These artists already have influenced me strongly; even though most of my painting is abstract, I strive to recapture and combine the feelings I get when viewing these masters. In my photography digital blends, I seek to capture a similar sense of mystery and intrigue found in all their works.”
Carol Everhart Roper, Pennsylvania
Mixed media, photography/photo-montage, painting
Carol Everhart Roper
“Master Artists are a great resource to begin any journey. How does one get into the head space or learn a technique from a Master who is not living, someone from another century? My personal journey has taken over ten years. It began in Canada, where the mainstay is always the Group of Seven and Emily Carr. I visited many sacred sites and studied native carvings and masks while on the West Coast. I was introduced to Morriseau originals on an invitation to a privately owned gallery. I discovered shamanism and native influenced art, which inspired my further travels to spiritual sites – to Sedona, Arizona with no particular artist in mind (a spiritual journey) and Southwest art galleries in Scottsdale. Then to New Mexico, where I learned of Maynard Dickson through an art restorer. I traveled throughout the entire state of California and then stumbled onto the famed architecture of Frank Lloyd Wright. I entered lands sacred to the Navajo and Apache people as greater influences. In Europe, I visited the Prada Museum in Spain to see the Dali collection, then flew from Madrid to Barcelona to see the waved buildings with my Picasso scarf around my head. Surreal.
Overall it is a journey within a journey, a story within a story as you move through every movement of art which inevitably influences your own work. One visit to Albright Knox and seeing a Pollock original influenced an original abstract of mine. The brush work on some of my paintings is similar to that of Van Gogh. I only briefly spent a few days in Amsterdam, Netherlands while many visit Holland to study Rembrandt lighting.
I spent an entire month in Prague to visit Impressionist painters influenced by the Masters such as Monet. Florence, Italy is the greatest place for classical art, frescoes and sculpture – to experience Michelangelo in the city of ‘David’. I happened to see the Caravaggio exhibit at the National Gallery in Ottawa, which prompted me to return to Florence, for further study. I visited the work of Gustav Klimt at The Gustav Klimt Museum in Vienna and I’ve been a guest artist in the the richest city in the world: Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates where I also met the Crown Prince. Doha has an exceptional museum. Middle Eastern art now has recognition with investment on the world stage due to globalization. Egypt has a lot to offer in ancient art and Africa is growing in development. India has a lot of growth recently in the arts and Kerala is beautiful as Nepal. New York City always has something going on 24-7. America’s unprecedented multicultural democracy is always interesting.
I am in awe every time I see the masterwork of an original in a collection. At some point it hits you that works of great artists travel thousands of miles. They took centuries to master, and then exhibit and later be curated into museum collections. There is so much history and never enough time to travel everywhere as an artist really needs a minimum of a month for each visit, just to get started. But to be a Contemporary we must travel beyond our own boundaries…..“
Karen Colville, Ontario, Canada
Painting, mixed media, textile, natural found object
Even if we could travel everywhere, there is never enough time to satisfy the insatiable curiosity of the artist. The world is vast and history is long and we must content ourselves with narrowing down our choices. If I had to pick only one destination, I’d be in the Caves of Lascaux, my hands covered with red mud and ochre…..
Subscribe by Email to Artful Vagabond: SUBSCRIBE
Share this Post: