I really recommend traveling for a long period of time, or if that’s not possible, at least slowly. When I took a week hiatus from Sweden, I spent the entire week in Barcelona, as opposed to a few of my friends who “did” 9 countries in 10 days. Not to say that there’s anything wrong with it, but it’s not for me. I realize that because North Americans work so much and only get 2 weeks vacation per year (assuming they have a semi-decent job – otherwise you get none), we want vacations that cram in as much as possible in the short time we have off. Over time I realized that it’s not the “must-see” sights or museums that that you necessarily remember (although I did see some fantastic ones in Barcelona that changed my views), but the people you meet, and the conversations you had.
Even better, I highly recommend living in another country from your own (for Canadians, I would say besides the US, since we already know so much of their culture and are very similar in many ways). I remarked earlier about Australia the culture shock I felt was sometimes greater than in China or India because my expectation was that Australia (or any other western country) would be the same as Canada. I was constantly surprised and shocked every time I found out that Sweden did things in a different way than Canada.
Living in another country makes you realize that the way you think is just a product of the environment and country you were raised in. I wish I could take credit for this nugget, but it was Mikey who made me realize this during our travels in Bangladesh and India. Actually, I learned a lot from Mikey, and looking back now, I feel like I could have learned a lot more had I asked him more questions and been more open. (I think I need to send him a thank you letter.)
I feel that travel opens you up to new ideas, attitudes, experiences, and ways of doing things, but living in another place opens you up to new values and ways of thinking that you may never have considered. I kind of wish I could do my year off all over again, as I would do things much differently. Now that I’ve been drawing again, being older this time around, I see a lot more in the act of doing art. When drawing, after stepping back and looking a second time, I see and notice where I went wrong. And in noticing this, if I were to restart the drawing again, I would approach it differently.
Every week I look forward to my figure drawing class. No matter how tired I was, I would get a second wind in class, and come home barely able to sleep because I was excited to show my drawings to Per. I had no idea I would enjoy the class as much as I do! I enjoy it so much that I’m signing up again for the next set of sessions next month. I’m psyched to try out and experiment with some different techniques I’ve been learning about. I’ve taken out drawing instruction and art history books from the library and have been reading furiously. Certain drawing books excite me more than others – not so much the ones that are less “step-by-step” on how to draw a dog, but ones that suggest how to develop your creativity.
I’ve discovered some artists that I’m nuts over, and I can’t wait to try copying their style.
Liu Ye, an artist from Beijing:
I love his paintings – bold, innocent yet dark, and an east /west mix. He studied industrial design in China, and then painting in Germany and the Netherlands. His father was a children’s book illustrator when he was growing up and he discovered his father’s secret stash of (banned in China) children’s books of fairy tales and books on drawing the female form. I would love to own a painting by him, but his latest paintings sold in Hong Kong for $500,000 to $1.5 M. Doh!
Looking at his work, it looks so fresh and contemporary, yet these were done just after the turn of the century (the last one – not this one 😉 ).I love how he uses just a few contour lines (rather than a lot of shading) to express the figure. Apparently he died very young too at 28 years old. His wife died of the flu, and then he died of the same flu 4 days later, back in 1918!! Gee… He sure developed his talent and accomplished a lot in a short period of time. Wish I had his talent at my age, though guess I have the rest of my life ahead of my still!
I feel recharged and itching to get back on the road again… In some ways, I’ve fallen back into my old patterns of doing things, though I think what I need to get out of my year off is that I don’t NEED a change in scenery to create new and fulfilling experiences for myself… It’s just more difficult (for me) to do so when the surroundings are familiar.