We often talk about getting lost in the landscape. The idea is to go out and lose oneself, and I get that. You lose all those society-laden elements that burden you. But losing is only half the story. The other is about what you find out about yourself when you are away from all that.
Here are a selection of photos I have taken over the years that visualize the lost and the found.
A woman named Nancy at the Del Mar Motel who has 3 kids and Dolce & Gabbana sunglasses & always reads the sports section because her dad was a high school football coach who talked about her son with ADHD & Tourette Syndrome whom they adopted from the next town over in Orange County and took to Hawaii on his 6th birthday and hoped he didn’t think he would always get trips like that and who is trying to think ahead about real estate for her kids’ future.
I like to think of myself as mostly being in the traveler category. But I am also a tourist and go to tourist spots, especially when I am new to a location and I like that. They are popular spots for a reason and I want to see them just like most other people. What puts me primarily in the traveler category isn’t where I go as much as it is how I am looking at the places I go. I look with the artistic eye I have always had and I think that makes the difference.
Doing the Act
As an artist I am doing two things when I travel that others may not be doing. One, I am actually creating my art. Both times I have gone to Europe (and other places) I have spent each morning up early at a cafe drawing. My wife and daughters were sleeping still and I used the time to observe and create. I drew at other times as well, when going from one place to another. I have drawn in trains, planes, and automobiles.
Observation of the Juxtaposition
The other thing I do is look for the artistic moment according to my aesthetic and artistic inclination. This of course is different with each person, artist or not. I tend to see that artistic moment when I see a juxtaposition between two or more things. I don’t see it so much in a depiction of one thing, like the Eiffel Tower, though an image of that can be pretty. I instead will be looking primarily for the Eiffel Tower in relationship to a person. Someone at the Tower. Not posing, but being and acting. I have my eye and my camera ready when I am in a place like that to find that moment.
The drawing above illustrates that idea. I would be the one seeing the Eiffel Tower tattoo on the back of the woman looking at the Eiffel Tower and wanting to capture that. It’s not that I don’t like pictures of the Eiffel Tower, I tried to get a number of classic shots. It’s just that the really compelling images, the ones I truly love and am excited to have captured, show more than a place. It shows a relationship between that place and someone or something else.
Here are two photos I took during my recent trip to Europe. Both are good in my estimation, but the second one is the one that moves me. It’s the one that makes me feel like I really captured the essence of the Eiffel Tower in it’s affect on a real person.
This one is all about the tower. It’s pretty. It might be a postcard or a stock photo. It tells someone it is a beautiful site. It’s me as a tourist trying to get a great photo of an iconic site.
This is about the affect the tower has on someone. It is telling the hint of a story and that draws me to her and what she is thinking and feeling. It’s the one that stays with me. It’s me as a traveler finding out about the people of the world.
Which are you?
What do you all think? How are you a tourist and/or a traveler when you go some place new? What do you see that you think others may miss when they are in a new place?
I have started to Periscope myself drawing my napkins and sketchbook drawings. This one ended with a really cool revelation that I want to tell you about.
I drew the quote and the tree with the snake first. It was to be about travel since I had just gotten back from our London/Paris adventure. One of the people watching suggested I have the quote go around in a circle and I adapted that idea to have the first half go across the top and down the side. But then I decided to make the second have a more traditional bubble so it would be easier to read.
My Thought Process
I came back 2 days later and, while scoping, talked about how to illustrate the quote. I thought of what would symbolize ‘the end’ and the idea of a hammock, the ultimate resting spot, would be cool to bracket the bottom. I have an actual hammock in my backyard so I decided to draw in stripes as mine has, plus they would help create the bottom curve holding the image in. The hammock would be empty since the quote is about the journey is what matters in the end, not the end, right?
I decided to draw someone walking, perhaps just having gotten up from the hammock. She was naked at first. I drew the path up to a mountain and then was a bit stuck. What was going to happen behind her? The idea came to me that maybe the path could be never ending, leading off behind her to perhaps the same place she will find going forward.
Breaking out of a Pattern
Right about then someone said maybe the middle area between the path could be a body of water. One of the things I like about Periscoping is that people through out their ideas and it sort of breaks me out of my typical drawing response. I have the type of water I draw, the type of mountains, of people etc. So it’s fun when someone suggests something that makes me view the possibilities a bit different. So, that is what I did, I drew the middle area being a body of water, like a bay or lagoon.
All this was done before any coloring took place (except the tree and snake on the side).
Conscious Choices, Unconscious Results
Once I had the stripes on the hammock the idea came to me to make it a rainbow. This wasn’t hard to come up with since the marriage equality ruling had just come down from the Supreme Court the day before.
Then I had to decide whether to keep the walker naked or not. It really made no sense given the quote and the image so I drew in shoes, shorts and a top. I wanted her to pop so I made her shorts red. I had a lot of green and blue in the background so I was trying to figure out the top, considering purple. But in the end I thought a darker blue would still stand out and colored it in.
Then I had to decide what color to make the walker. I put the drawing up for the periscopers to see and when I did that, and was able to see it on the screen it hit me. The walker was red, white and blue. And what is coming up this week? 4th of July. At that moment the whole drawing changed. It wasn’t just a walker journeying. It was an American. And it was the American journey into and beyond Marriage equality.
Good Art is More than the Artist Intends
I had no intention AT ALL for it to be about that. None of my choices were consciously leading to that. But I went with the unconscious flow, my creative choice flow and it came out to be something I believe in but didn’t intend.
I love that about art.
You can find me on Periscope daily. I am @thenapkindad there and on twitter.
Quote by Earnest Hemingway, 1899-1961, American author
We have moved on to Paris in our epic adventure. We are staying in an Airbnb apartment, just like we did in London. This apartment is on the Rue de Dames, right off of Place de Clichy. There is a cafe right at Place de Clichy called Le Petit Poucet. I sat there two mornings and drew the scene I had in front of me.
As it says, the story is made up. I have no idea who either of them are in reality but that is the fun of storytelling. I catch glimpses of things and build them into a tale that makes some sort of sense to me at the time.
Here is a photo of the women and the space. The woman on the right is obscured by the man but he left before I started drawing.
Le Petit Poucet, Place de Clichy, Paris
This one was fun because the woman eating in the background noticed me drawing and came over. She introduced herself and as I was periscoping, introduced herself to all my followers as well.
Here are the 2 edited periscope videos I did of drawing this scene. Each one is about 7 minutes. The second one is where she comes over.
Here is the photo I took of her and myself.
Train from Versailles
On the way home from Versailles (not the best experience, too crowded) we relaxed on the train. Caitlin was trying to find WiFi access on her phone and I took advantage of the rest time to draw her. We changed seats right in the middle of the drawing due to Linda not wanting to listen to two vapid girls next to us closing the window and talking about stupid stuff. I had been set to draw this one person behind my daughter but we moved so I drew this Japanese girl instead. She was at a different angle, farther away from Caitlin than the person at the earlier location so I moved her a bit closer so I could get her in. That is why they don’t look like they are facing the same direction on the train. That doesn’t really matter but I thought you might like to see my decision-making process in action.
Charles De Gaulle Airport
I drew her after we arrived at our gate at De Gaulle Airport for our journey home. I knew I had to draw her fast since our plane would be boarding any minute. She looked elegant and refined and I wanted to capture that with a simple line. We talked and I gave her and her friend my card so she could connect later to see the drawing if she wanted to.
We never talked about what she was doing in Paris so when it came time to tell the story I imagined a romantic scenario for her. Part of it was based on a kind man that helped us in the train station in Britain. I just imagined her being the person who met him and what might have happened.
Most people, by the way, never end up contacting me. Many do though and I like to think they enjoy seeing themselves in a drawing published on a blog. I often wonder about those I draw, if they ever wonder about
This week we have been on vacation in Europe. We just finished 5 days in London and are now on the EuroStar train to Paris for another 5 days.
During the international portion of our flight to London I sat next to this woman. She was frenetic pack rat who made her nest in the seat next to mine. It was pretty humorous. I felt like I was watching a Discovery Channel documentary on the odd nesting habits of humans.
We stayed at an Airbnb apartment in the Lavender Hill area of London. Each morning before my wife and daughter were awake I went to a little coffee shop, Il Molino, had a Caffe Mocha, a pastry and drew the people around me.
The Barista Libusa
The first drawing I did was of a customer ordering something from the barista. A bit later I showed the barista the drawing that I had done of her. She was very happy seeing the drawing. The barista’s name was Libusa. This was at the same time I ordered tea and croissants to bring back to the apartment for Linda and Caitlin. I tried to pay, but couldn’t due to having forgot my wallet back at the apartment. I offered to leave my iPad with Libusa to guarantee I would come back but she was fine with me going to get it without doing that.
Here is an edited Periscope video that shows me doing the drawing.
The Dreamer Giada
When I returned with my wallet I drew a young woman eating her oatmeal at a table nearby. She finished up and left and I continued to draw the rest of the scene.
While I drew I Periscoped live. Periscoping is live video broadcasting with texting interaction. In other words while I am on the air people can watch me draw, I can talk to them, and they can text comments, questions, etc. to me (and each other). The texts scroll up the screen and slowly disappear.
I was showing them this drawing and asking what I should write about her in my little space I reserved for the story. One my followers, @VictoriajamesUK said she should be in love and be waiting for her lover to return. Later Victoria told us that her husband was away inn Scotland and she was waiting for him to return and that was why she said that. In honor of her I put the initials VJ on the model’s shirt.
A bit later I showed Libusa the drawing that I had done of the woman eating the oatmeal, and told her I didn’t get to show it to the woman because she left quickly. The second Barista standing behind the counter said,”Oh, that is ME! I didn”t leave, I just went behind the counter.” She was even more excited about having been drawn than Libusa was. Her name was Giada. I later took a photo of her with her drawings.
Here is an edited Periscope video of me doing the drawing.
The Customer with Crutches
The next morning I returned to Il Molino and drew again. This time their was a woman with a pair of crutches that caught my eye and I drew and periscoped until Linda and Caitlin came to pick me up before we headed out for a day of sightseeing. She left quickly and I wasn’t able to get her name. I wasn’t too pleased with the drawing and realized that even though I love to periscope as I draw I still need to keep my creative process intact and not get too distracted talking to others. It’s learning process no doubt!
The Periscoping Self-Portrait
On our final day in London I didn’t have anyone in the coffee shop to draw so I drew myself periscoping. I scope using my iPad. I prop it up far enough away so the drawing can be seen as I create it. I highly recommend you get and use the app for your phone or ipad. It’s fun and insightful. You can find me at @thenapkindad.
The Inanimate Wish
And finally I did a drawing that was only partially based on what I was seeing. I had the coffee and pastry in front of me but the bus was made up obviously. Just a fun goofy drawing, more like my napkins to end my time in London.
I am off on a travel adventure. I will post here, on twitter and FB. I will also be periscoping so if you have periscope find me at @thenpakindad and follow me, ok? Then try and figure out where I am, ok?
Remember, the first step in having an adventure is buying the ticket. Without investing, deciding, there won’t be any adventure. Second step? Get on the train! or the boat, or plane, or sled or whatever. Take the step, take the ride!
She was sitting across from the man, staring out at the planes landing and taking off. He observed her in between checking his email, an intriguing diversion from the drudgery of catching up with a week’s worth of business.
She was sunburnt head to toe, glowing a deep orange/red. Her hair swept back from her forehead in cornrows to an arc as if she had a headband on, but she didn’t. From there her hair fell in tight, sharp waves to her shoulders. Her top plunged low, revealing a long expanse of skin, mottled and pealing. It had that rich deep tone that said she’d spent many a day in the sun. There was the faintest view of a tanline at the edge of the blouse, but even that area was dark, as if she had taken her straps down every time she had laid out to sun.
She had on a colorful print top, bright blue jeans rolled up halfway up her calves. Her calves were well defined and she had on a new pair of running shoes. She sat upright but not stiff, holding her purse as it nestled on top of a woven basket bag that she had obviously bought while in Mexico.
I turned 60 last month and posted ’60 at 60′, a sort of list of things I want to do this year. One on the list was ‘visit 6 new places’ and I am at #1 on that list this week.
I am in Punta Mita, Mexico. It’s north of Puerto Vallarta by about 45 minutes. I was raised in San Diego, California as a young boy but surprisingly never went farther into Mexico than Tijuana. So this is my first time beyond the border.
I am here with my wife, her brother and sister, and their spouses. The 6 of us have wanted to do something like this for a while and two of us turning 60 was enough of an excuse to make it happen.
It’s an all-inclusive resort, Iberostar. I was a bit worried about that since my preference would be to experience Mexico more directly than through this filter. But it’s turned out to be better than expected and very easy, something a few our party really wanted.
The key for me so far has been to choose as authentic a direction among my choices as I can. This means that while the restaurants and buffets do have ‘American’ food they also have pretty amazing Mexican food choices as well. I continue to choose those.
We’ve been on one excursion so far, to Islas Mariettas, two islands off the coast of Punta Mita. One has a hidden beach you have to swim through a cave to get to. It really isn’t hidden, a lot of tourists go to it, but that’s ok, it was a cool experience and not that crowded in the morning.
So, Here’s an example of ‘authentic’. When we got off the boat I had to go to the bathroom and didn’t want to wait until after the bouncy drive back to the hotel. The little spot filled with fisherman and others, music, smells, carts, dogs, fishing nets and beer bottles. The bathroom was not going to be the sterilized American style, I knew that much. But it was the best smelling urinal I had been in in a long time due to their life hack of throwing their used limes into it to compensate for the smell. It’s been my favorite part of the trip so far.
Hello Napkin Kin! Here is the end of the road trip posts.
Today I leave Berkeley and head back home to Oklahoma. I am sad to leave so soon, having only spent less than 4 full days with Chelsea and her new family. But with a total of 6 days on the road, it makes for a long time away from home.
I woke up to a beautiful and cool Berkeley morning. Another person was staying at the Airbnb that night and we had met the evening before. She was a runner so we had a great conversation about it, including a bit of coaching from me about injury recovery. She mentioned she was going to go on a run the next morning, up the the same park I had done my trail run the day before. I didn’t ask if she wanted a running partner because I didn’t think we knew each other well enough to get in the car together and go traipsing off into the woods. However, when she got back from her run she said she had decided to just skip the trip to the park and run right from the house. Then I wish I had gone on the run with her! Instead I toasted another runner who happened by as I was packing.
I said adios to Mr. Otis, telling him to take good care of his mama and daddy.
Then I took a selfie with Chelsea in the bright morning sun of Berkeley and said my goodbyes as I drove off into the sunrise!
On the Road Again
Photo courtesy of Airbnb and Denise (homeowner)
It took me most of the day to drive to Arizona. I rolled in to the Airbnb in Lake Havasu City and I had time to go see the famous London Bridge that they bought from London and transported piece by piece to Lake Havasu and reconstructed. I had dinner overlooking it. The home was a nice place on a golf course but they had large dogs that barked into the night, right outside my room, that made sleeping not so easy for a while. Luckily they either fell asleep or the owner brought them into his room and I eventually got a good night’s sleep.
I was out the door and ready to get rolling as the sun rose over the desert. I had a long way to go to get to my destination in Ruidoso, New Mexico.
Trinity and American Pie
I went a secondary route through much of Arizona and New Mexico, south of the usual Route 40 headed east. I was listening to a audio book and not paying much attention when I passed a sign that barely caught my eye. I stopped and did a u-turn to see if it was what I thought it was.
And it was. It was Trinity. The spot of the very first explosion of an atomic bomb. That is one of the most momentous moments in world history, as well as US war history. I just stood there and thought about how that moment changed the world in so many ways. It’s humbling to be in a spot like that, especially one that is so profoundly peaceful, quiet and serene, and realize the violence and unforeseen consequences that came from that moment.
I continued down the 2 lane highway for hours, seeing almost no traffic at all. But then, I turned a long sweeping arch and found myself smack dab in the middle of a party. Hundreds of cars and people parked on the side of the road in ‘Pie Town, New Mexico. I think the actual town consists of just this store, the ‘Pie-o-neer’.
It turns out there was a pie festival with contests and awards, pie making demos and more. I didn’t see much of that but I did walk among the booths and found a couple good things to bring home for Linda.
This lady, Cindy Yarmal, was selling veggies on the front porch of the pie shop while tourists mingled and a good ol’ boy band played some tunes on the other end of the porch. I asked her if I could take her photo and she obliged me. After I sat and enjoyed a slice of Blackberry pie as the world swirled around me.
I arrived at ‘The Snowcap Adobe’ just as the sun had set. I had contacted the owner, Susan, earlier in the day to let her know my time of arrival and she told me she had her best friend over and chili on the stove, asking if I would want some for dinner instead of having to find food before I arrived. That was a welcomed idea and I took her up on it!
Photo courtesy of Airbnb and Susan (homeowner)
Her home was amazing. It was built by her family many decades ago and she had updated it in recent years to make it a welcoming spot for travelers. It felt homey and warm. The three of us sat at her kitchen counter and she told me the story of her family and her home. Susan was a great story teller, especially about her grandfather, a well known artist in the mid-twentieth century regionalist tradition. She had even done her Ph.D. thesis on his use of symbolism in his art.
Photo courtesy of Airbnb and Susan (homeowner)
This was my bedroom for the night, comfortable and genuine New Mexico.
Day 9 – Headed Home
Finally I was on my last day. I once again left early, before Susan had awoke. This is an early morning view of her solarium that her mother tended while she was still alive. It is still filled with plants but Susan says she forgets to water them. There are a lot of plants, I probably would too.
I drove northeast through rural New Mexico and Texas until I reached Amarillo. During that stretch I found one last interesting place. Alanbeen, Texas was a gas station and a motel. That was it as far as I could tell. The station said it was the post office too so I think that pretty much says it all.
The gas station consisted of one pump. Surprisingly it did take credit cards. But I couldn’t pass up the chance to go into the convenience store so I let it run and went inside.
And good thing I did, because otherwise I would have missed this sexy Texas miss smiling at me! The place was a hoot, covered top to bottom with stuff, most old Texas memorabilia and trinkets.
And then was a beeline home. I arrived in time to have dinner and relax, hear about Linda’s bachelorette week and show her some photos of Mr. Otis!
And that’s the end of this road trip! Next stop will be the opposite coast to visit my OTHER grandchild, Vivian. Not sure when that will be but I will let you know.