The part of California that I struggle with is the driving, but luckily I got to ride in the back of the van the whole way and take pictures of trees out the window.
I went on a lot of car trips growing up, and I think a lot of my work stems in watching the trees and landscape as we drove back and forth to California and southern Utah. I pay a lot more attention to trees than that stuff than I used to, but I noticed that the trees and sky in California look so much different than they do in Utah. Utah is full of trees standing out in the middle of nowhere by themselves, or huge dead trees. They’re very gnarly looking. Everything in northern Utah is very jagged and sharp. We’ve got the Rocky Mountains and the trees are…sharp-looking I guess. The trees in California are much more serpentine. The San Gabriel Mountains are hilly and round rather than rocky. All the trees had their leaves, and as far as I know, most of them don’t lose them.
As I snapped pictures of trees by the freeway, I wondered how my art would change if I still lived in California, or if I go back. I was actually born in Pasedena and we lived there until I was almost five, but I remember it very vividly. Every time I go back, some part of me feels at home. There’s a California girl in me somewhere. Not the part of me that has to drive, but some part. My husband is an animator, so we may very well live in California at some point. He certainly wants to. What would that do to my art? Would my trees get more snakey-looking? Would my skies get flatter, because the sky in California mostly seems to vary between blue and brownish-gray? There’s the beach though. I could get into that. There are palm trees, and all kinds of flowers.
It’s an interesting thought. Though my work really isn’t realistic or representational, the Utah landscape is a huge source of inspiration for me. I think my art will always have some Utah in it, but it will probably change to reflect wherever I’m living at the time. I may try to incorporate a little of my California girl into some art this summer. I’ve been playing with some ideas all winter while I was pining for the sun.
I’ll probably live in California again someday, as well as other places. My art will change right along with my surroundings, because my surroundings are part of me. I project myself into the landscape.
I grew up in Ogden, Utah. More specifically, on the outskirts in a little town called West Haven. 17 years I lived here, from when we moved from Pasedena when I was five, to when I moved away at 22. I miss it every day. I miss the monthly gallery stroll on 25th street, the wide-open fields of cows and horses, the canal behind my parents’ house where I probably spent half of my childhood. The foothills trails and the duck park where I used to walk, my favorite restaurant that serves the most amazing stuffed pastas and infused oils with dippy bread, the salvage grocery store where I shopped in college, and the university campus where I struggled and thrived.
I visit my family here at least once a month, and I try to visit my old haunts as well. I miss Ogden every day, (especially in the height of Orem rush hour) but this weekend I realized that I don’t belong here anymore. My creativity feels stagnant. It’s too comfortable, too familiar, too loaded with memories, old patterns and energy that clouds my creativity now. I know that there are plenty of places around here that I haven’t been. There’s always more to explore, but I know these streets too well. I’ve tried every restaurant around here that I care to try. I can walk down any of the main streets like a tour guide.
“That’s where I had my first date with my ex-boyfriend who now hates my guts. I showed my first collage at that gallery. I used to think that building was haunted. That burger joint has the most amazing fry sauce. My car spun into that yard when they didn’t plow the roads one day.” On and on and on.
I’m a nostalgic person. I love reminiscing and mining my memories for inspiration, but I feel like my hometown has reached a saturation point. I can’t look at it with fresh, curious eyes anymore. My current town is still new to me. I’m in the sweet spot, where I have my favorite places, a close friend and I can find my way around, but I’m still exploring. The landscape is still different. I couldn’t draw the shapes of the mountains in my sleep. My new town has just the right balance of memory and mystery.
I can’t be stagnant. I’ve always suspected that I’d move around a lot once I grew up, but now I realize why. I need fresh places and things to explore. I need new trees to look at; a blank canvas, an empty page. Staying in the same place for too long is like trying to draw in a full sketchbook, erasing the old drawings or drawing right over the top of them. There’s a saturation point where you can’t make any new marks because they get lost in the old ones.
That’s when it’s time to get a new sketchbook, a new landscape, a new mindset.
If y0u feel stagnant, find something new.