The Artist in Transit
Traveling isn't always easy. For a student, it's tough to find the time, and for an art student, it's tougher to find the money. However, when you're afforded with the opportunity to fly across the Atlantic and live in Italy for an extended length of time, you'd better find a way to make the best of it.
That's how I felt glaring down the month long winter break during my time at the Siena Art Institute. How could I travel the cheapest? How could I make the most of my limited time and even more limited funds? And maybe most importantly, how could I continue to make work during my period of (realistically) homelessness?
An example of my typical lodging during my trip. Athens, Greece
I'm a painter by training, someone who is always drawing in his sketchbook. But for my trip I was limited. No longer did I have the grand studio in the historic Siena Art Institute building, with huge white walls just begging for work to be taped, stapled, or nailed into them. I simply had a camping backpack with a week's worth of clothes and my sketchbook.
I met an artist in residence at the Siena Art Institute, a Greek man named Alexandros Georgiou. He has made his entire practice one of travel, simply taking photos, drawing on them, and writing on them, transforming an experience into a postcard. It's beautifully humble work, but there is an air of seriousness about it. Simply writing a "hello, thinking about you in Naples" is just not enough. His practice is incredibly focused, and it shows.
I decided to apply this philosophy to my own work. Yes, all I had was a pocket sized travel sketchbook and whatever I could pick up off the ground to draw with, but that shouldn't stop me from applying myself and making a serious drawing. After all, traveling through Italy and Greece, Spain and France, even a stop in Berlin... I'd be surrounding myself with works of art and it's so important to learn and respond. Once I got over the fact that standing and drawing for two hours in a public museum may draw some strange looks and comments, I fell into the swing. I was able to practice, and I transformed that little sketchbook into an artwork in itself, intentionally.
Tuning out the shutter sounds in the Vatican museums, one of the several times I made a study of the Belvedere torso
Traveling to Siena has been a learning experience for me, the most important of the lessons being adaptability. I've learned to live in a new place. I've learned to work with new materials, in unfamiliar territory. I've learned to be comfortable sleeping on three couch cuscions with a sheet draped over them!
You can always practice. You can always work and create. When you make a serious effort every day, it's no longer a matter of motivation, but scheduling.
And it helps when you're satisfied with the results!
Siena Art Institute Post-Baccleaurate Student