Traveling with an Artist’s Eyes…and Heart


Mexican paper flowers

Leave home, leave the country, leave the familiar. Only then can routine experience—buying bread, eating vegetables, even saying hello—become new all over again. – Anthony Doerr

So I did.  Left home, left country, left the familiar.  Okay, I only did it for a couple of days over Memorial Day weekend, and it wasn’t far from my front door to the border of Mexico, but it was more than I’d hoped for.  And it counts.

Doerr was right – every ordinary thing became something new.

A friend and I headed south for a jazz festival in Tijuana where the sun was warm, the music cool and the people we met delightfully entertaining and Old World gracious as they greeted potential customers on the sidewalks and hoped to usher us into their small shops.

Mario at the bar on the plaza waited for our return at the end of the day and had margaritas ready, really good margaritas.  I passed on the tequila shots, though I imagined they’d be as good as the margaritas.

But as an artist who loves color, the best part for me was the sense of being surrounded by color – the clothes, the artifacts, the bracelets, the signs, the buildings…even the meanest little cottages or shops had touches of bright colors. The paint might have been peeling, but the colors  carried the day.

I write about this today because my artist’s eyes and my ordinary woman’s heart were both opened over the weekend.  Something resonated in me as I walked the streets taking in the sights and sounds of a place I’d never been.  Travelers often write about this.  But I found myself there not so much as a traveler but as an artist. My artist’s mind couldn’t stop looking and listening. And didn’t want to.

Whether you’re able to travel to a foreign country or just to the next county, do it as an artist.  “Noticing” is the key.  And whether you paint landscapes or portraits or abstract paintings, notice what resonates for you wherever you go.  The sky, for instance, is not going to be quite the same over in the next county.  Neither will your paintings once you’ve seen that sky.

And that’s the point.  I love color, I paint color, I notice color.  I found color everywhere on my short excursion.  You’ll do the same. You’ll find whatever you love, whatever you paint, whatever you notice.

I was surprised by an  unexpected sense of “home” in Tijuana.  I’ve thought a lot about that since my trips on two single days over the weekend.  Tried to understand why that sense of home. Comfort.  Was it all the color?  The gracious shopkeepers? The margaritas?

My friend has gently suggested that I have a tendency to overanalyze things, and I know he’s right, so I’m just going to go with this – Tijuana touched my artist’s heart and that’s good enough for me.


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