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How Travel Influences Art by Alyssa Hamilton Art

I have never held still well. For as long as I can remember,  I’ve wanted to see new places, experience new, foreign things and meet the people whose lives are entirely different from my own. I feel better in a state of transit - in a car on a long ass road trip, on a plane, in airports; I fucking love airports. I feel like you see people for who they really are when they travel; when they’re trying to get to a destination while navigating somewhere they’ve never been. Do their eyes light up? Do they laugh more? Can you see them visibly relax into the movement of things? Or are they wound up, anxious, and trying to get through the experience as fast as possible? I’ve always been attracted to people who travel well.

I know routine is good, in theory. I know it helps calm anxiety (I’ve heard) and helps productivity (if you say so.) But I’ve got to tell you, routine isn’t great for my creativity. When I relax too much into a person, a place, or a thing, it is harder to see it with new eyes. I see comfort, but I don’t see adventure. I see stability, but I don’t see excitement. Travel is always calling to me because travel is never predictable, even if you’ve been to a place before. You can plan all you want but you’re always going to see unexpected landscapes and witness new ways of doing old things.

Because of this I took 2018 and made it my year. I traveled, alone (sometimes with my dog, Sebi) to places I’ve never been. I went international for the first time to Vancouver, CA, my favorite place in the world. Then, I went on a ten day road trip to Carmel-By-The-Sea, California and introduced Sebi to the ocean. I went to places nearby my home of Cedar Rapids, Iowa; Chicago and St. Louis; and finally I flew across the ocean where I experienced the wonder of Rome, Italy, staying in the cutest airbnb by myself for five days.

I got a flat tire on my rental car within the first ten hours of landing in Vancouver. And, although I was quite aware of this conundrum, a canadian man legitimately hung his entire upper body out of his wife’s fiat to let me know. It all worked out okay, because there was a little repair shop right next to Granville Island, the pier I was going to visit. We’ll come back to that.

I still remember the muted blue of the water the bright white of the boats tied to the dock and the gorgeous rainboot yellow of the restaurant sitting on the pier. I remember the intermittent red of the brick buildings that held the specialty boutiques and the forest green that dotted the northwestern landscape. I remember wanting to put these colors in my pocket and keep them forever. This is the first thing travel influences directly: color schemes.

I would not have found these colors at home. Iowa is a brown and light green place with light blue skies and off white houses. People here are practical, a bright yellow building would never fly.

Seeing how other people and places mix colors is one of the most interesting and understated parts of traveling.

Now, back to my flat tire. This is where I first realized canadians really say “eh.” I rolled down the window and the mechanic says, “ well that sucks, eh?” I just stared at her for a fraction of a second before I recovered. I hope I didn’t look too amused. I walked into Tremblay Motors and explained my situation. While I was waiting, having the best conversation with the owner’s son, he asked me what my plans were. “Exploring,” I answered, obviously - because that is 100% a plan. He asked me if I’d ever heard of Whistler Mountain or the road to get there. While I wasn’t planning on doing any skiing this trip, I decided it was too coincidental not to follow through. And that is how I found myself driving the the sea-to-sky highway; the most beautiful few hours I’ve ever experienced.

As an artist, beauty is my life. I look for pretty moments in the ordinary, I look for extreme beauty in the extraordinary. I try to find ways to relate what I’ve seen to what I’m creating. This drive was overwhelming. If you’ve ever seen beautiful scenes in movies and wanted them to happen to you, you have an idea of how I felt that day. I was completely immersed in the ocean on one side and mountains on the other. I could see where the two met on the horizon and the sea beyond. To this day, this is my favorite place in the entire world. I’m so thankful for that flat tire.

This is the second way travel influence art. It reminds you to let other people show you where they find beauty. To the young Mr. Tremblay, this was “normal” to me, this was mind blowing. Don’t underestimate a new set of eyes when it comes to you work. I used to let my roommate pick out my color scheme for the day - this resulted in some of my favorite pieces, in colors I never would have picked myself.

Taking Sebi to the ocean is one of my favorite memories of all time. He loved it. He took off running the minute we parked, beat me down the beach in thirty seconds, and splashed, played, and smile more than I’ve ever seen him, and he does these things all the time. The ocean is gorgeous, the color scheme there is muted and beautiful. It radiates calmness and strength in a way that’s hard to describe. What I remember most in terms of art from this trip isn’t the ocean, like I had planned, but one of the states I drove through to get there - Utah.

Utah is the land that time forgot. In the best way. On my way west, I drove through southern Utah. A place of heat and loneliness. Nothing prepares you for how brilliantly peaceful and large a dessert is. The rusty reds and unassuming browns stuck out to me so prominently that they still show up consistently in my work. This state also showed me another two elements that I immediately started to implement in my work: form and texture. When I got home, I finished one of my favorite pieces to date, “ daydreams [2], ( daydreams [1] existed, for a short time, before I painted over it. ) In this piece, I recreated what I saw in the desert. The idea that although the colors all seem to bleed together after spending so long there, The forms on the landscape, and the way the texture varied from the sand to the canyon walls and the clouds in the sky, showed me what an impact form and texture have visually. This roadtrip had an enormous impact on me as an artist, in ways I didn’t see coming.

2018 was also the year I finally flew across the ocean. I have always been intrigued (okay, obsessed) with history and the idea of walking the same streets as the gladiators meant I couldn’t resist the plane ticket.

So, I did it. I expected the classy, beautiful architecture. I expected the loud, busy, streets. Here’s what I did not expect of Rome: everything is art. Everyone that lives there intentionally curates their wardrobes, the businesses know exactly what they’re trying to convey with their signs, and there is street art everywhere. Italians also have this unique way of saying exactly what they want to say. There’s no fluff, it just is. Rome influenced my art in a way I’m still trying to perfect.  It showed me to be beautiful, and intentional, and bold. Everyone in Rome was unapologetic about who they are and what they wanted. Rome taught me to create exactly what I want without any attachment to how it is received. This quiet revelation is something that’s almost hard to grasp and something I consistently work toward.

If there was one thing I could recommend to artists it would be to travel. And then, to pay attention. Your inspiration won’t come from the places you expect, but it will always come, just keep your eyes open.

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