A few years ago we anticipated a big snow. While others made last minute trips to the grocery store, I ran out to the art supply store and my studio to ensure I had enough projects to work on should we be snowed in for a few days.
It’s the same for me when I travel. There are two parts to my packing, the usual: Clothes, toiletries, bug spray, sunscreen. Then there’s my art bag: sketchbook, pen and pencil, watercolors and maybe some scraps for collage. How much is enough? Will I want a crochet hook, any small unfinished projects I should bring along? I usually have to pack and unpack several times to get down to just what’s essential.
I feel a bit the same way as I prepare for my first summer as Artist-in-Residence for Art Camp. I’ve been collecting ideas and researching supplies since staff training in June. I want there to be a variety of medial and choice so young artists can find something that really excites them. I want to have just the “right” thing for each artist.
As I reflect on my own process, I am reminded that once the journey begins, it’s as much about improvisation and preparation.
On one family trip, I feel in love with the light on trees and fields along the road and began painting small watercolors in the front seat of the car as my husband drove. I used my water bottle for water and put the paintings to dry on the dash board in the sun. This ended up very different from imagining myself sitting in the woods painting but invited working quickly as I would try to capture colors just as they slipped from view in the moving car.
On a train trip last summer, I had trouble defining shapes with watercolor as the train moved along. I switched to collage but noted the paper I brought was lacking greens. This was a chance to use my paints to create a palette of papers that I then tore to make the collages.
In both of these cases, my excitement to make something and record what I saw overcame the worry of having the “right” materials.
Packing for art camp I’m reminded of this. I want to invite improvisation and surprise and to remember that as much and I put into preparation, there real invitation to create comes with limitations and sometimes those limitations are the greatest gift. I can’t wait to see what we will need next week that I haven’t thought of and to see how we will improvise to make it work.