A Call to the Curious

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22 February 2008

Painting personally vs. painting for others

A Dutch art student named Siri Hol asked me a number of questions about travel drawings and journals for a project she was doing. "What is the reason you're drawing your travels?" she began. "Do you want to show other people what you've done, is it a personal thing, or is there a different reason? What is the function of your journals?"


Mainly it's personal but there is always the pleasure in new people seeing them and the way in which a drawing/watercolour is interpreted differently by each person who sees it. A travel sketch is an edited version of the reality I experienced, whereas a photograph captures everything in a scene and more or less gives every element equal weight. And the more sketchy and unfinished a watercolour is, the more room it leaves for the imagination of the viewer.

An interesting example of that involved the little watercolour of my wife Christine on the balcony of the Hotel Proven├žal in a town called Bormes-les-Mimosas on the Mediterranean in January, 1993. It had been very cold in the south of France for a couple of weeks, but the weather improved a bit and our hotel room had a narrow balcony facing south that was bathed in winter sunlight. So lunch went on practically forever, Christine sitting with the crossword puzzle from the International Herald-Tribune, the wine and water bottles still on the table ...

Anyway, the poet Susan Snively, who teaches at Amherst College in Massachusetts, was looking for a cover image for her book Skeptic Traveller, and saw in the image the same feelings as she'd put into her poems. That's the kind of synergy that I also hope to find between my work and work in other media.

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