Every time I talk to Joyce Howell she is coming back from an exciting trip like flyfishing in Alaska with her daughter to her most recent trip of traveling around India. Artists are constantly looking for inspiration and I wanted to see how Joyce’s trips inspire the colors in her abstract paintings. Also India is on my bucket list and I am extremely jealous of her photos so I wanted to share this upclose and personal blog about one of our top selling artists!
I live in Kingsland, Texas, a small town in the Texas Hill Country, on the bank of the Colorado River. My studio overlooks the water and I work with that view over my shoulder. Depending on the time of day the water can be silver, blue, black or pink. When the wind blows I get the texture of moving water and the dappled sunshine moves across the windows and yard. That being said, painting, even in the midst of a beautiful natural setting, is a solitary, often lonesome activity.
I spend hours and days alone in my studio making paintings. At least once a year, sometimes twice a year, I buy a plane ticket and go somewhere to recharge. I take tons of photos, eat everything that looks good, wander, poke and prod, and absorb.
I went back to India in January, my second trip there and I love it so much I’ll probably go again. It’s a country of contrast. It’s a country that offers the best and worst, the most holy and the most horrible on the same platter and I live on sensory overload the whole time I’m there. I love the saris, the vegetable markets, the cows that sleep in the street, the food, the crush of people, the temples and the belief system that recognizes the presence of God in everything.
I started the trip in Chennai, on the Eastern coast of India. Dipped my feet in the cold water of the Bay of Bengal. Proceeded South to Pondicherry and Tanjore. Continued on to Madurai, Periyar (the mountain region), moved up the western coast to Cochin (a wonderful art Biennale there – fabulous international exhibition), Mysore, Bangalore, Goa, then finished up the trip in Mumbai.
It would take days to tell you everything I did and saw. Sightseeing at the wonderful temples, perused many vegetable markets, ate Indian breakfast, lunch and dinner, drank a lot of Kingfisher beer.
I had a wonderful guide who took us along back roads into small villages and schools. Saw some fabulous roadside temples – they are everywhere!!! Our guide told me that when you live in India you need God every 100 yards or so…
We stopped at every festival along the way. The pilgrims were fabulous – many men dressed in black dhoti with bundles on their heads – loved them.
Stopped to watch farmers putting their grain in the middle of the road to let traffic grind it for them. Everytime a vehicle or an oxcart passed by, they would sweep it back up into the pile. Dodged camels, cows, stepped over and around many dogs – all of whom liked napping in the street.
Watched parades of people carrying the God of the village through the streets. I guess you don’t have to go to church – they will bring God to you. Saw beautiful children. Watched India bring in the new year and saw mandalas that were painted on stoops and streets in celebration of the new year.
I had a love/hate relationship with the traffic. I was fascinated by the chaos that amazingly did not end in daily carnage. There is a white stripe in the middle of the road, but I think that’s merely a suggestion. Traveling is one big game of chicken with semi’s, buses, cars, vespas (thousand of those), oxcarts, bicycles, sheep and pedestrians all claiming the road.
Each town had a central vegetable/flower market, but people sold produce and goods on the street everywhere. The flower stalls were beautiful. Big market for strung flowers to drape around your religious statue, your home or business altar or to drape across the top of your front door.
Found a silk cocoon market where cocoons arrive daily and are auctioned off.
Lastly I wandered into a beautiful marigold field.
There’s a line in the movie Best Exotic Marigold Hotel that says, “Everything will be alright in the end. If everything is not alright, then it’s not the end.” I love that saying. I find it very reassuring. And that’s the feeling I get amidst all the chaos that comprises that beautiful confusing country. I come home calm, recharged and ready to go in the studio and close the door.