Road Trip

I am not sure what is so funny about waking up at five in the morning to start a road trip to Indiana, but a few people wanted to hear about my trip so here it goes.  We are talking about a 16-hour solo drive through the Smoky Mountains with a KIA loaded with 122 paintings. Some are stretched. Some are even framed. But most of them are rolled up. That is what you can do with linen and cotton fabric.  I love the flexibility.

As soon as I wake up I start  thinking about the hotel I plan to stay at tonight. I never make reservations because I don’t know how far I am going to get. As you know, traffic and weather are unpredictable forces. I decide to aim for a hotel in Bowling Green, in Kentucky, a four-hour drive from Indianapolis.

I have been driving this road now for almost twenty years. I take I 75 North to Atlanta where I go west on I24 to Chattanooga and drive through the mountains, a highlight in summer and winter alike. The road curls around majestic mountains and eye-catching scenery frames both sides of almost empty stretches of asphalt. The mountains stretch all the way from Canada along the East Coast  into Tennessee. They are called Smoky Mountains because when you look at them you see fog that looks like plumes of smoke.

The first big city after the Smoky Mountains is Nashville, with Louisville, KY, next. Then you keep heading  north until you see the Chase Tower in downtown Indianapolis. The land is flat and you can see cornfields reaching the horizon, their brown dried-up leaves cracking in the wind. It’s hard to believe that just two hours further North and you are in Chicago.

Why do I already think about bed before the trip starts? Maybe, because I want to sleep just a little longer; maybe it is because when I visualize the end of the day, I feel that nothing bad will happen to me on the road. Either way, the thought of pristine white cotton towels, a bathtub, crispy white feather down comforters and absolute quiet fills me with uplifting thoughts. It bridges the boredom of miles and miles of roads, flanked by hundreds of billboards.

With my goal in mind I head to the ATM first, because somebody needs to pay for the hotel and the gas. It’s not easy finding a bank on the road, and I know my way in Englewood. Happily, a client from Holland purchased a painting and on the morning of my departure allowing me to withdraw money from an ATM using my Dutch credit card. This money, a maximum of $500 per day, is paying for the trip. I found my way around how banks like to do business, thus avoiding the three-day wait for international transactions and at least $45 in fees. 

I deposited the $500 in a bank in Georgia, coincidentally located next to a gas station, and transferred it to my American Express Card. This way I can pay my hotel bill the next morning. Credit cards are the way to go in America, because it is proof of payment and American Express will dispute fees if I have a problem or unacceptable service.

Gas was only $1.92 per gallon. Just for my Dutch readers, this compares to 50 dollarcents per liter, which equals 40 euro cents. I think people in Holland pay close to $8 for a liter of fuel today. Think about the difference. The whole 16- hour drive to Indiana will cost me about $65 or 50 euros. More about that drive next time.

Home Again

20x24 inches, 50x60cm, oil on linen
20×24 inches, 50x60cm, oil on linen

The artists’s way

This is the life of an artist. You work for a show. You make sure that the paintings have a similar theme. You sell a couple of pieces during the show and when it’s over, you take it all home again. I haven’t known many artists who sold everything in a show.

What that means is we are left with a variety of artwork that doesn’t go together. Picasso changed styles and I am inclined to do the same, simply because I don’t want to get bored with my own work. Sometimes I change the technique but not the subject. Sometimes I change the subject. I do whatever I want. That is not a good marketing strategy, it is not a strategy at all, it is just fun.

Five years later

After five years of prolific painting, it came to me that I had enough work for an auction. So I thought, “Why not have the auction in Indianapolis where a lot of the works were painted.” My friends Chris Blice and Jon Edwards offered to lend me their studio, which looked like a little warehouse and sent out invitations to their clients. The idea was when there were enough people we would try to get them to bid as they would in an auction. Unfortunately, there were never enough people at once, but  sales went on continuously.

12x16 inches, 30x40 cm, oil on canvas.
12×16 inches, 30×40 cm, oil on canvas.

Get out of the comfort zone

I was excited about the trip. I always enjoy leaving my own boring routine to see what others are doing, or what I might be able to do under different circumstances. Just getting a glance of different worlds, different possibilities, is enough to get me moving to a different groove. Stretching myself, my horizons and my habits and checking boundaries is always refreshing and inspiring.

Once the exhibition was over and paintings were sold, the unknown had become known and I was done. A strange feeling that I was back walking an old familiar path made me uncomfortable. I suddenly wanted to go home, and every hour that desire became bigger and bigger. I did not want to pick up more business or resume old friendships again. The whole reason I left Indianapolis in the first place, was to build a new life, not to keep coming back and trying old ways of thinking that would not work for me.

Indianapolis is a beautiful city with old colonial buildings, majestic lawns and wide porches. Having lived close to Meridian Hills was great. The tall Maple trees were still green although you could see a bit of yellow starting to peak through in places. After a short rain the earth smelled like autumn. The White River was still there, patiently following its course through Broadripple, as my friend I walked along the Monon and did some fun girly things. There were many things to love about a life in the Midwest, but I was more excited when I got an invitation to give a presentation in Miami.

Still in my pajamas, I drove home as if the devil was trying to catch up with me. Rain splashed the windows clean, storms everywhere caused trouble and I was caught in more than one traffic jam caused by an overthrown tractor-trailer. The Smokey Mountains were “smoking” and there was thick fog. The leaving was not as easy as the going had been. The weather finally cleared up at the border of Georgia and Florida.

12x16 inches, 30x40 cm, oil on canvas.
12×16 inches, 30×40 cm, oil on canvas.

Writing about a trip

What was I thinking? Should I write about the trip? There are no quaint little villages, bakeries or other landmarks worth noting. There are the billboards that advertise everything from fireworks, whiskeys,  carpets, and strip clubs to the finger-pointing Jesus saying that abortion is a sin. Then all you see are big signs with happy grey-haired couples on the golf course. I think that says it all. I am home.