When I travel I like to pick up art, usually a watercolour or pencil drawing by a local artist. Many are hanging on the walls of my home. Too many still lie unframed but propped up against a mirror or atop a pile of books.
Last April I travelled to Ontario to visit my sister and surprise her for her birthday. While I was there, we drove a couple hours to have an overnight visit with our brother and his wife. On the way, we stopped for a snack and break from driving. The cafe happened to be owned by an artist whose work was displayed on the walls and is absolutely beautiful and perfectly captures the landscape of Northwestern Ontario. Her work was too large for me to carry back on the plane, so I sadly had to pass up purchasing anything. Plus, because they were larger, a bit out of my price range.
Driving back the next day we stopped again at the little lakeside cafe as it was the only place for a pit stop on the three and a half hour drive. This time I was able to chat with the artist about her paintings, as she was working on one right there in the cafe. I have been trying my hand at sketching and watercolour painting in the last couple years, so we talked about the work and craft of her artwork. I asked her if she had anything smaller that she could show me. She said that if she did it was somewhere upstairs in a bag. She seemed quite reluctant, possibly thinking I just wanted to look. I ended up telling her about my travels and how I like to purchase art from local artists, and how I didn’t have anything from the area, and please, please would she bring out some of her smaller pieces.
Well, I was rewarded and so was she because I purchased a lovely watercolour from her. So to all you artists out there who hesitate to haul stuff out when someone asks. Do it. It usually will mean a sale.
This lovely memory of my visit with family and surprising my sister, and of the region of Canada where I was born, sits on my dresser against the mirror, as yet unframed. But when it does get framed, it is going to be even more beautiful.
The artwork that has travelled home from foreign lands with me evokes so much more of a fuller memory than the photographs I have taken, When I look at my walls, I see the watercolour I bought from a lady on a cobbled street in Plovdiv, Bulgaria. I can still feel the cobbles under my feet, see her smile as I try to express, in my very limited Bulgarian, how much I appreciate her talent.
I see the watercolour of a white horse on a green field in Ireland, given to me by my dear friend Bridget, after one of my trips to visit. I can still hear her telling me the story of Tír na nÓg, in her lilting Irish brogue. (Read the legend here.)
I also have a painting of Mount Monganui in New Zealand. When I look at it, I remember the summer morning in January 2009, climbing to the top with my friend Christiena and later in the afternoon, swimming in the turquoise waters of the south Pacific at the Mount’s base. I was lucky enough to have found that painting around the corner from where we were staying for those few nights.
Then there is a wonderful brooding and dark painting of the Eiffel Tower from my last trip to Paris. I was only there for a weekend and had a wonderful two nights at a friend’s apartment. I was doing some research for one of my writing projects and Oliver was very generous in letting me stay at his apartment. He, Anna, his lovely Spanish girlfriend and I had a wonderful dinner one night at a little restaurant where we spent the evening speaking English, French and Spanish.
Sometimes I have spent a couple hundred dollars, other times, only a couple. It all depended on the dollar exchange of where I was visiting. I believe Mount Monganui was the most expensive so far. The least expensive was a beautiful watercolour of a Monastery, which I purchased from the artist in Moscow. I was in Russia in 1992, a very significant time of change considering the fall of the Iron Curtain was so recent. I was with a group of people and on our last day in Moscow before leaving the country we went to Arbat Street to do some shopping. I still remember sitting on the bus discussing with a friend who had also bought a watercolour, how much we had paid. I had paid 40 R and he had paid 50. The exchange rate was ridiculously good in our favour and it was only a difference of maybe four cents, but I still cheered at getting the better deal. A lot of people bought the Matryoshka dolls, or their very touristy take off of Gorbachev and other political leaders. My lovely watercolour hangs in my living room next to Tír na nÓg, I wonder where those dolls are that they brought home?
All of these wonderful memories and more hang on my walls, where I am reminded every day how blessed I have been in my many friendships and travels.