What are the benefits of travel? Other than to fulfill our urge to see famous sites, what can we gain? Many desire to travel and some include art as part of their travels as a workshop or Plein air painting excursion. Most everyone, even non artists, visit the major cultural and art attractions. As humans we seemed to be called to wander and explore our world. We revel in walking in our ancestors footsteps. It is obvious just by looking at the amount of time and money spent on travel. So how does travel benefit the artist, beyond the obvious museums and galleries?
Travel gets you out of your comfort zone. You are forced to eat food that is unfamiliar and interact with people who are different from yourself. We must also learn how to accept these differences and enjoy them. As artists we are constantly pushing ourselves artistically, to move beyond our comfort zone. Travel offers another way to accomplish this outside of the studio. What we encounter while traveling informs our art and provides a breadth of knowledge we may draw upon. Our experiences traveling enrich our lives and therefore enrich our art.
Museums seem to be an obvious reason for the artist to travel but don’t think of them as just a collection of famous works. Think of every museum as your school, a place where the Old Masters are providing a course in art daily. This requires more than just a casual walk through the Louvre or Prado. It requires a strategic plan to focus on an artist or period. You must spend time with the paintings to soak in all they can teach you and even then you will always find more. It is even possible to paint from Old Master works with special permission in some museums. Plan ahead; it sometimes takes months to get the proper clearances. Don’t neglect the small museums. One of my best museum experiences was staring at a Rubens study in The Academy of Fine Arts Museum in Vienna. It was after several hours that the light bulb came on and I began to figure out this painting and understand some of Rubens’ technique.
Let us not forget why we travel, paint or sculpt… INSPIRATION! Travel inspires us. Whether walking down the Boulevard in Paris or the moors of Scotland we are inspired by our surroundings, the sites and the people we encounter. Everything we experience becomes part of us and is infused into our art. We also become reinvigorated. Travel can be an excellent way to overcome inertia in our painting. Every experience has made an impact on my art. In Germany and France, I became enamored with Rubens and Delacroix. In London, I was moved by Sargent, Whistler and Turner. It was in New Zealand that I became interested in Plein Air and decided to make landscapes the focus of my work. Travel offers a time for us to be students again and to see the world with new eyes if we allow ourselves.