Artist Packing List for Alaska Camping

I’m headed to the last frontier this week for a two week(ish) camping trip. I try to stay pretty minimal when camping but I find myself consistently inspired on these trips (who wouldn’t?) so I do bring some art supplies to manage when the need to create hits. I typically will do quick sketches for later in the studio so a sketchbook is all I need. Here is my packing list with a few other essentials for the artist on the go:

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  • Sketchbook (I prefer gridded paper)

  • Canon G10 with Battery Charger

  • Tripod

  • Yes, all 150 of my Prismacolors since my work primarily addresses color

  • Range of graphite pencils

  • To Buy: a pencil sharpener (have no idea where mine went)

And, that’s about it. Alaska sketch posts to come!

The Vanagon Residencies

“Mountains should be climbed with as little effort as possible and without desire. The reality of your own nature should determine the speed. If you become restless, speed up. If you become winded, slow down. You climb the mountain in an equilibrium between restlessness and exhaustion. Then, when you’re no longer thinking ahead, each footstep isn’t just a means to an end but a unique event in itself....To live only for some future goal is shallow. It’s the sides of the mountains which sustain life, not the top.”
― Robert M. Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance: An Inquiry Into Values
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We bought a 1983 Volkswagen Vanagon; a tin top, not a Westfalia. With this project, Mike had visions of engine rebuilds and interior design while, call it a quarter life crisis, I saw it as a potential escape route from the patterns and rhythms we had spent the last 2 years building. I follow a lot of traveling nomads and romanticize about living on the road, camping along the way, and immersing myself in my original inspiration—landscape.

Well, we have been working on the van for almost 2 years now. Mike is realizing his dream of really getting to know the mechanical intricacies of this vehicle, while also enrolling in a lesson on patience and generally keeping his shit together when something else fails. We are finally getting close; it is really starting to come together, and the reality of traveling in this thing is in sight.

Ultimately, I want to treat these road trips as an artist in residency opportunity, allowing my surroundings to inform new ideas and taking advantage of the slower pace to really let things marinate. I figure we can manage a little over a month, at most, in such a confined space together so the duration of these creative adventures will vary depending on location and time off. For now, I am really trying to look past the hot working days and tedious rebuild tasks and appreciate the process. In one of my all-time favorite novels, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, quality is defined as the relationship between human and machine. To really spend some time with something, to navigate the unavoidable ‘gumption traps’, is to create an authentic value. I always related to this in my own studio practice, placing more importance on the concept and process of art-making than the polished product. As much as I wanted to translate the flow of a good studio session into tuning an engine, as Mike will attest, my role in getting this van ready has been less than fifty percent. So, thanks to Mike, my residency program is almost reliably road worthy, or as reliable as you can call a ‘83 VW .

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Mike Proposed in Dublin...Old News

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A little over a year ago I went to Dublin with Mike. From Sherborne, England we traveled Northwest by train through the English countryside to Wales. Enjoying our sandwiches from M&S, we found two unexpected tour guides in the elderly friends from Wales. They pridefully pointed out notable landmarks, from markets to old castles, as the names of towns went from something we could easily read to the challenging tongue-twisters of the Welsh language.

From Wales we boarded a ferry to bring us to Dublin. Typically I am useless when it comes to documenting our travels through pictures yet, because of my attraction to water, I ended up with a quick video-clip memento of the Irish Sea on my cellphone. Like a Vija Celmins’ painting, space is both flattened and wide-reaching as the waves respond to the presence of our boat.

A few quick days of sightseeing and eating through Dublin ended with a happy proposal on the Fr. Mathew Bridge over the River Liffey, how appropriate. Mike and I, caught up in the rush of such a monumental step and equally useless at documenting such events in pictures, forgot to get a photo immediately after. The photo we did manage was taken by some Canadian passerby’s after the emotions had settled. In fact, we took a few photos in order to get at least one good one. Looking through the series of photos, each one only differing slightly, I landed on my favorite. In the commotion of simultaneously directing us and composing the image, our photographer must have accidentally captured her hand morphing into the city in a quick blur (one of those images you would typically delete).

The two images I left Dublin with contrast one another. One a thoughtful and artistic attempt to capture the essence of water (reserved for a potential future project), and one an obligatory quick and accidental snapshot to capture our happiness after agreeing to officially continue our life together. I have always felt that my creative personality has existed outside of my day-to-day life, they are separate, and the difference of these two images underline that feeling. In an attempt to marry two aspects of myself, I wanted to create a piece that somehow merged the snapshot of our proposal to my creative work. A humorous blur of skin-tones and blues, only valuable to the moment it attempted to capture, overlaid over a journey over water.