Elizabeth Briel, Travel Artist

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Have Easel, Will Travel

Visiting Artists - Vicchio, Italy
Modeling for a group of touring amateur painters in Tuscany, 2000. I prefer to be behind the camera/easel to being in front of it.

At the end of the year we look to the past and the future as we sketch out 2010. I’m reminded of a woman I encountered ten years ago who combined the discipline and daring it took to live the life she chose. She was the first artist I’d met who was doing what I wanted to do with my life: she travelled and made a living as a professional painter. While her subject matter was different than mine – I painted architecture and figures in wax like this and she preferred landscapes in acrylic – I wanted to lead a life like hers someday. Little did I know I was halfway there. Every night I plied her with local wine and interrogated her about how she managed to combine art and travel and make a living at it.

We were in Tuscany. I was working as a sculpture apprentice for the summer. She was leading a group of a dozen demanding doctors’ wives on a two week Tuscan painting tour. I had daily goals, like making wax and plaster molds for an eccentric sculptor. She had daily painting goals for a mid-winter exhibition. I had a painting to finish that paid my way through an Alpine road trip and Miata sunburn. We had both studied art in university and most of our professors found our style too old-fashioned. But we continued to make work that reflected our travels and our vision.

As I plan out the next year: several months in a Bangkok studio, completion of my paper book, intensive work on two series of artwork, and a US book tour next fall, I realize that ten years ago I had the work habits required for the job of a professional artist. But I didn’t have anything to say that would last beyond my 20s. And I knew it: my images were mostly simplistic self-portraits. So I kept on travelling and experimenting with different painting and photography hybrids. Trying out different jobs and art/work/life balance recipes.

Now I have things to say with my brush and books. There are a few examples on my website. But there’s a lot more coming up in 2010, and I look forward to provoking discussions with the new paintings on my easel and walls. And with the blueprints I’ll print in Bangkok early next year.

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