When is a vacation an escape from work and when is it an inspiration to work? In the digital age, many people lucky enough to get a vacation have to struggle to keep work at a distance while on holiday. For me, it’s sometimes a tough call, whether to try to capture the experience or just take it all in.
For the busy professional artist, taking time to just observe and absorb can pay off in renewed inspiration. When I was a kid, every summer we would pack up the boat (30’ gaff-rigged cutter Galatea, built by my dad) and take off for two weeks of sailing around Chesapeake Bay. After intensely working in the studio all year, my dad was happy to take a break from painting, only occasionally pulling out his sketchbook. And his father, my grandfather Bjorn Egeli, had a similar approach. Supposedly, the painter Dwight William Tryon (1849-1925) would only fish and sail all summer long, then paint in his studio the rest of the year. There is something to be said for taking the time to simply look and listen and experience.
But the urge to capture some of the magic of vacation is a strong one. I find the process of sketching makes me observe more closely and helps me note some of the feeling of a particular place. Even a quick little doodle in Indonesia lets me bring more of Indonesia home with me than a photo does.
Painters think of the design of things in terms of positive spaces and negative spaces, and this is often how I view my life as a professional artist. The way we spend our non-painting time fits perfectly with the way we spend our working time to create the whole design of a creative life. It’s important that we value both aspects of the artist’s life.