Reading Carlson’s Guide to Landscape Painting the other day and I came across a passage where he describes the tourist painter. “Do not be a tourist-painter” John Carlson says. He encourages the beginning painter to eschew the bizarre or extraordinary and paint what one finds in their own backyard.
I would agree with the principal of this; finding your own voice describing your own life and times and locale. I do not think his argument was against traveling to paint interesting landscapes but that as artists we should find our own honest expression of what we see. Look for the sublime in the mundane as well looking beyond the typical tourist shots. This requires us to look deeper into our subject.
However I see no disadvantage as an artist/traveler. Traveling to paint can re-energize you work. Most of my plein air paintings are local and there is a familiarity with the subject that I like but I do think there are times we need to break out of our comfort zone and try something new. This is where a painting trip is beneficial. It is an intensive time spent painting; often artists with day jobs have scheduled this time to paint and find themselves at the easel more than they might ordinarily. Being on a schedule also forces you to grab a brush and stand before the canvas.
New experiences also breathe life into you and your work. We are enriched by our travels, by the people we meet, the architecture, the food and in some case the new languages or customs. So these experiences become more than just an exercise in painting, they broaden our horizons and open us up to new things. It is enriching not just for our paintings but our souls. This makes us better artists and a good painting is more than just paint on a canvas. It is the entire life experience of the artist who painted it.