art for all

50. Travel and Art

March 07, 2022 Daniel Gregory and John Muir Laws Season 3 Episode 50
art for all
50. Travel and Art
Show Notes Transcript Chapter Markers

This week John and Danny discuss the relationship between travel and art and how they can both change our perspectives and influence the here and now of our everyday routines. 

From Season 3 of "art for all," the Sketchbook Skool podcast. Join artists/authors, Danny Gregory and John Muir Laws in rich discussions about the creative process.

Get your free ebook and essays at DannysEssays.com


Danny Gregory:

Hello, and welcome to art for all the schedule school podcast. I'm Danny Gregory. I am a founder of sketchbook school. I'm an artist, I'm a writer. I'm a co presenter of this podcast with my friend John mural was. John would you like to introduce yourself?

John Muir Laws:

Hi, I'm John Muir laws and I am a scientist with a sketchbook and I and I'm, Danny's, Danny's Danny's friend, even though we've never met in person. But we're getting to know each other and that's a ton of fun.

Danny Gregory:

Let's leave it that way. Well speak, actually, that, that break being, that brings me to our topic because what we do, if you've never listened to this podcast before what we do is we I'm in the middle of recording the podcast. Sorry. That was my my wife and my other sidekick bringing me some soup. Anyway, what we do is we. We pick a topic and then we try to adhere to it as closely as we can. And we've gotten pretty good at it. Pretty good at sticking on topic, but we'll see, see how we do today. So today's topic is travel, talking about travel and art. So what is the relationship between those two things? So have you, when was the last time you did any kind of traveling?

John Muir Laws:

Let's see. Well just with, does, does hopping in your car and going somewhere for a weekend count.

Danny Gregory:

I guess so,

John Muir Laws:

okay. Then this last weekend, we, my daughters had two days off from school and we went up to the point Reyes national seashore. And it was sort of one of those times where you went away for a little while and just, there's a perfect constellation of events that you, I, we, it just came back so peaceful and calm. It felt as if it had been one of those forever. But it was an absolutely beautiful time.

Danny Gregory:

Just a weekend or, wow. That was a powerful experience. Yeah, because I think, I think to me, travel is getting to see a new place or a different place. And then also coming back and sort of having your view of the regular world influenced by the fact that you were away from. And that you learn something and change your perspective by being away.

John Muir Laws:

Well, then by that definition, this was definitely travel. This is traveling. That was good. Yeah. The so before the, before the trip, I think I was in a little bit of in a depression and the just things felt so busy and full and brain felt cluttered and it was hard to kind of make progress on significant things. And I was thinking like, you know, I can't really do any of these things before I answer all those emails and well, where we went, there was no email connection and no internet connection. And coming back from it that it was just what I needed to kind of lift that. I think a combination of. So exercise. So we did a couple of really lovely eight mile hikes with my two little daughters and they were ditch just performed like champs on those. We went to

Danny Gregory:

for a kid eight miles,

John Muir Laws:

yeah. For eight miles for an eight year old, that's a lot of steps. And the so there was just get, got some exercise out in nature with people that love you. And also time to sit down and sketch. I filled a number of journal pages out there as we were rambling around and the, ah, that cloud just lifted. Cloud lifted and the places we went to I grew up really exploring the point Reyes national seashore, and we went to two places that I had never been to on these hikes. And so that also was kind of a part of your definition was that, you know, you're sort of exploring these new places. So physically we're in, in places that I had, although I would explore a point raised before it, I hadn't explored this port part of point rays. So there's, there were constantly new new experiences and you'd come over the next year and like, oh wow. You can see that from here. Look at that. Now there's a sea cave. Now there's a waterfall. And it was fine.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah. That sounds really good. I mean, I think, I think this, one of the biggest impacts at the this whole pandemic has had on me has been not traveling because I travel a huge amount. Usually. I travel internationally. I've gone on so many different trips and I'm just used to just traveling, even back and forth across the United States. I've, I've flown from New York to Los Angeles or to California has so many dozens and dozens of times that it was completely just second nature to me, to like, I know exactly how to like sit on a plane for five or six hours or something. I actually really look forward to, you know, to be other lock-in and, and to do some drawing. I've mean, I've, can't tell you how many times I've drawn the interior of a plane seat backs. You know, the little piece of somebody's head above the seat in front of me, all those kinds of things are drawing many airplane meals. I've drawn so many times in airports, right? When. You come to an airport and you're sitting around waiting for your flight and, you know, you see people on their phones or, you know, going through social media or reading some kind of fat, lousy novel that they bought at the at the airport stationary airport newsstand, right news. And th and then, but if you pull out your sketchbook, Even if you're drawing those people, right. Or I like to draw the plane that I'm going to go on, you know, it's really, you get a sense of like, I mean, planes are really cool to draw. They're sort of interesting challenge in terms of the shape and, and you know, the perspective on them, but then also drawing all the, the wheels and the pipes and stuff like that, that they're sticking into the plane as they're servicing it. And you get those little sort of assisting vehicles that are loading the SU the suitcases on, and The it's, I can't tell you how many times I've drawn the what's it called? The sort of accordioned the staircase thing that the jetway, it has that sort of accordion thing. All those things are just, I think part of the ritual to me of travel that process of kind of getting ready, thinking about your trip. I often like to keep a special, like, if I'm going on a trip that I know is going to be, say a week or longer, I'll bring a special sketchbook just for that. And the sketchbook will begin with, you know, I might do drawings of my suitcase. I might do drawings of the things that are going to go into it. And then I'll do drawings of the whole process on the airport. And at that particular stage of the trip, It's tedious and boring on one hand, but then it's also filled with anticipation. And so I'll use those first pages in my sketchbook too, to write about what we're going to do. And then to I'll often draw a map of what the flight is. Yeah.

John Muir Laws:

So you were saying that a map, not of the destination, but of the flight itself of the flight

Danny Gregory:

itself. Yeah. So a map that shows you know, where we are traveling and, you know, and a lot of times when you're on the plane, there's a channel that just has the map. Right. So you could sit there and just draw that map. But it's just interesting to me to fill that time with anticipation planning, thinking about the experience rather than escaping from it. Yeah.

John Muir Laws:

That, that was what was, I was thinking about when you were describing that experience of, you know, just being there in the airport. I think that that tendency is that people sort of think of that as that's the time where you were just going to shut off and tune out. It's something that you have to do, and it is not part of your travel experience. You're going to, the experience would be like, when you get there and then it's gonna open up, but you're, you're starting that when you're opening up your suitcase, you're aware of those moments as you're having them. And that just sounds like another level of, of richness in the experience. Yeah. I mean,

Danny Gregory:

look, when I was a kid, people used to get dressed up to go on planes. All right. You would wear, I mean, I remember wearing like a little jacket and a tie to go on a plane. It was like a big deal to go on a plane. And you think about people, the whole family would come to take you to the airport or to pick you up from the airport. Right. There would be nowadays. It's like, you just get off the plane and you find a camp, but it used to be that they, your whole family would be waiting for you. And you think about even going back a generation earlier when people would go on, on steamships, right. When you would go on an ocean liner and they would have a thing where people would come on the, on the, on, on board with you and they would have cocktails and stuff like that on the, on the boat. And then they would, you know, ma they blow the thing and everybody would get off it. It was like, it was, that was part of the trip was like the preparation for it. Like, why shouldn't it be big if you think about when you travel. Long distance, you might spend two days of your vacation going and coming back. Right. So why shouldn't that be part of it is, is, and it can be something that you need to anesthetize yourself through where you just say, I just got to get over this. It's horrible. Or you can say it's sort of interesting. And I have to say, I don't find air travel particularly interesting. I've traveled so many times on it, but I can make myself think it's interesting as part of a, kind of a discipline of saying, why can't everything be interesting? This is my wife right now. This is my present. Yes. This is my program

John Muir Laws:

right now. Absolutely. And so that what you're doing is you're sort of reclaiming those moments there in the airport as a, as a time to be alive. And so for some people, it's like, I'm going to pay attention when I get to Venice. Right, right. Once I'm there then. Okay. I'm now there's going to be something opening up for me. But why not choose to you? Can, you can I have a friend named funeral globally who will say the more interested you are, the more interesting things become. And so you can make that experience of sitting there in the airport. You can make that really interesting. There are all of these, these processes and, and procedures going on that most of the time work. And you think about that logistical feat that's, that's huge. And the fact that like, I, I, I have a rudimentary understanding of Lyft. But still, it feels kinda like magic when that airplane goes into the air. There you're, you are, you are riding a machine into the air and, and it works. But, but because we've seen a lot of airplanes that that wonder is just sort of becomes commonplace, but what you're doing there is you are you're, you're giving yourself permission to in the, the mechanics of the experience, or just sort of finding something that you connect within the human condition of those people who are sitting around you.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah. I mean, I think flying is something we take for granted because we do it quite a lot and it has become more and more mundane and more and more uncomfortable, but it is still part of the experience. And recently we were watching on a PBS, they had a new version of around the world in 80 days. And. So much of that story is about the process of moving from one place to the other, right? Whether you're going by camel or by ocean liner over by hot air balloon, you know, that the excitement of the travel is the actual moving of it, the process of moving, you know, now we take that more and more for, for granted, but why not kind of take that back and make something out of it. And I think your sketchbook is the way to do that because, because, because it is a way of being present. And I think it's also that when you go on a vacation, you spend a lot of money, right? If you go, if you go to Europe for a couple of weeks, you're spending thousands of dollars and why not get your money's worth at every step of the way. But also another thing is when you're drawing in your sketchbook or your travel journaling, you're also creating. Record a journal a thing that you can come back to later on, right? You can come back to this experience. You can relive it by reliving the intense, I mean, we've talked about this before on this podcast about the intense way that a drawing makes you feel and how you create memories in a much more detailed way when you're doing a drawing. And so if you think about your experience of going on this trip, it's not just for the two weeks that you're on the trip, but it's for all the memories that you're going to be creating, that you're going to be able to come back and revisit. And when you create a, when you have a travel journal, along with you, you're intensifying those memories, you're noticing details. You're getting something out of even the most unpleasant experiences because you're recording them on your page. I I'm a huge fan of that. And I think about, well, I wrote a book called an illustrated journey, which is a collection of people's travel journals. And I wrote this story, this little anecdote at the beginning something that has always stuck with me about travel when I was 15, I went for the summer to France and there were a whole bunch of us who were on this trip and, you know, we kind of traveled together. Then we stayed with our various families and then we traveled a bit more together as a group. And a lot of kids had little Institute, had little Instamatic cameras, or they had disposable cameras and they would take snapshots of wherever we were. Right. So we were going to Paris, taking a picture of the Eiffel tower, taking a picture of Luke, whatever it was and snapping these pictures. I decided that at any one of these locations that we went to, there was always a postcard rack that had way better pictures of the Eiffel tower, way, better pictures of the loo, and you could just buy them. So I decided, and it's probably because I was like a wizened Heimer, a teenager. I was like, well, I'm not going to take a lousy photograph with an Instagram somatic camera. I'm going to buy a professionally, made photograph this thing. So I ended up with a stack of postcards and that was my memory from this trip. I didn't mail them or anything like that. And years later, it just, when I started to draw and I thought back on that, I thought, yeah, it's like in a lot of ways, like the, the pictures that we take when we're on a trip and now that we have camera phones, we do it even more intensely. They're not really real memories of this experience. Certainly not by comparison to. Yeah, to have a bunch of snapshots and nobody else really wants to see your snapshots and even future versions of you don't particularly want to see them either. So, but everybody would like to see your drawings. That's how lousy they are. Just as a, as a way of experiencing and deepening your, your, your process.

John Muir Laws:

Well, and the, and the snapshots themselves actually impair your memory of the experience. So there's, there's research on where you put people into to an a, to an art museum and have them take photographs of the pieces that are moving to them, and then ask them about those later. Their memories of those pieces of art are worse than people who did not take photos. And once you kind of, the camera goes, click, you'll see people then turn their back to whatever phenomenon they were orienting towards whatever kind of drew them, because you've got this feeling. Okay, now I've got it. And it's there on the film. The, if you're making a sketch of something, you have to look again and look again and look again, and you have to pay attention. And the act, the part of your brain that pays attention is the same part of your brain that is encoding memories. So if you pay attention to things more, you are going to remember things better and more vividly. And you're also going to have this anchor on your memory. Just documentation of this is, this is actually what I saw. There were blue flags there because there's blue flags in my picture. And human memories are very creative, constructive things. They are not, they're not records of our past experience experiences more than they're more of a kind of consistent story that we stitched together. That gives us a version of the experience that I think that feels consistent to us, but they're not accurate, but your journal entries, you're creating a primary source of that experience that is more reliable than your.

Danny Gregory:

That makes a lot of sense, because if you think about it, if you're not paying particular attention, and then you think back to that moment, what was it like when I was standing by the Eiffel tower, I kind of, at the time wasn't really paying attention. I was distracted. I was hungry. I was this and that your memory, when you go back to it, you'll fill in those details that are missing your makeup, your makeup stuff. You'll make up stuff. You're populated with like, oh, stuff I've seen from a movie or whatever, or the way it should have been. And so it's not an actual memory. It's a, it's a kind of ambulation.

John Muir Laws:

Yeah. Confabulation is your brain filling in all the blank pieces seamlessly. And you cannot tell the difference between anything that is a shred of a memory and the confabulation. And that is, is humbling, but also just sort of says again of that, you know The of the importance of both paying attention when you are in the place and attention is hard to pay. There's a cost to paying attention and our body will fight that if you've given the option just to sit there and zone out, your, your brain will take that, that route. If you put somebody in front of a painting and put a helmet on them that tracks their eyeball movements, you'll see their eyes will look to about, you know, four or five different parts of that painting. And then just start in a rumination loop, kind of looking around that picture again and again and again and again, and again and again and again and again and again, but you have the subjective experience of really taking it all in, but really your brain has just found a little shortcut. It doesn't take a lot of calories, but if you are making a sketch of that, painting your eyes actually are moving all over that or a sketch of a real expense. You're you, you're looking at all the kind of key focal points, but because you're also making a sketch, your brain has to then also look at those things between the things that you noticed, if you were only using writing. And we're talking here about sketching a lot, but I think also part of really wonderful, the travel journals become even richer when they are annotated. The, if you're only using the written annotations, you get sort of these key moments, but with the sketch, you also get the things that in the interstitial spaces, the things between the things that you're looking at. So if you were looking at the shape of the wheel of the airplane and the airplane, you also now have to get that crazy springy jointed weird thing that is connecting them.

Danny Gregory:

Right. Exactly. I mean, I think, I think that that's, that's why we travel. Also, we travel to have new experiences. We travel to notice things, right. We traveled to have adventures, not to just sort of slip through based on what we think it's going to be like. Right. We want, we want, we want to be observant. I mean, where else, why bother? You know, if we kind of know what, what the Eiffel tower looks like, then why bother? But I think, yeah, we want to be surprised by it. We want, yeah, we want to have, we want to get the little details that you can only get by being there. And those and drawing really helps you to zone in on those things. And, and also here's a, I think a really important point. It doesn't matter how good your drawings. Right,

John Muir Laws:

right. Yes. You

Danny Gregory:

might as well. You could talk to them in a track. Yeah, because you're drawing is a bad drawing. What is a bad drawing you could say in this case, a bad drawing might be something that isn't well observed because you were distracted. Does it matter whether it's a good drawing of the Eiffel tower? Of course not. What matters is you really saw the Eiffel tower and you could toss it into the French trashcan right there, but it would have done its work already, which is, you know, the drawing is in a way, the husk of the experience, it is not the meat or the experience immediately experience has happened in your brain when you were doing, when you were going through this. Yeah.

John Muir Laws:

So if you notice something that you otherwise would not have noticed because you made that little sketch, that drawing. If or the, the, the sort of the scientist in me is also kind of extend the Stu. Like if you you know, slowed down enough to kind of come up with a co a question find it found a little mystery that you otherwise wouldn't have seen, then that sketch is successful. So it's, if it helps you document and record an observation, whether or not it's a pretty picture or not, it is successful because it's, it's, I think reframing it from, I want to God, we've got to go make a, a pretty picture too. I want to create something that is going to be useful as a tool to bringing in, helping me engage with this experience more richly. Right. And it doesn't really matter if that is a pretty picture or not. I'm using it as, as a tool. And if it, and if it helped me observe, if it helped me Remember, if it helped me wonder then the tool was successful. It worked.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah. I think it's like drawing a map. If you draw a map that lets somebody get to where they need to get to. And it's a good map. Yes. And if you draw a beautiful map, that's like the, you know, it has all these incredible visual qualities to it that are gorgeous, but it's inaccurate. Well, then it's a failure. Right. So, and I, I was thinking about like, I mean, for you as a, as a, as a scientist, journaling is about creating an accurate record right. Of your observations, the journalist data. I think this is exactly the same thing. I think this as a traveler, you're doing the same thing, you know? You're trying to. Creed just a record of what it is not an aesthetic end result necessarily. Although it may turn out to me because often and authentic OBS observation is beautiful to look at too.

John Muir Laws:

And it's something that is you know, sort of in my journaling, I'm finding myself doing now more and more is I used to just sort of record sort of what scientifically is objectively relevant to me. Now I've got also all these little doodles of the little goofy thing that my daughter did. And you know, I've, I've, I've got little sort of storyboards or icons of Oh, my, my daughter's bouncing on a bed to being bed anacondas there anacondas and they were, they were kind of kissing and trying to, to, to wrap each other and they were having a great time bouncing around on a bed in a motel six. And so this is a little diagram in my, my, my journal. And it's not I wouldn't say particularly scientifically relevant, but, but it's personally resonates with me and brings back the experience and the goofiness and the things that were going on. And

Danny Gregory:

and a memory of that trip that that will be important memory of that trip as much as many of the other things that happened. That's right.

John Muir Laws:

It's my, my old ammo would be like, I'm, I'm, I'm going to draw, like, there's, there's a condor, I'm going to draw the condor, right. Because that's this biological thing and it's going to be significant. And now also kind of giving me myself permission to what are the, what, what has resonance for me and those, those, those family moments. And you know, you, you know, sort of talking about the, you know, if you know anything that interests you, like, if you can get you by, by observing the the airplane food that came to you. You can make yourself, you can find something interesting about this, like, Hmm. I wonder why this way and look at that while it is still hot or there you can using this tool, you can also find that things are, that are interesting, that you normally would not have cared about.

Danny Gregory:

Right? I mean, I, one of my favorite travel journals I did was when my wife and I drove from New York to Los Angeles over the course of 10 or 11 days. And, you know, we didn't go to famous places, particularly, you know, we drove to. Yeah, we drove on the highway, but we went to small towns and generally what we would do is we would get, we would get to a place and we would, we never had hotel reservations. We just said, okay, we're going to drive this length. And then we're going to see what we see and we'll find a place to stay. And we'll kind of figure out what's going on here. And if we like it, maybe we'll stay an extra day. But generally we didn't. I think there's only one city town. Marfa, Texas was the only place we stayed two nights, but. That journal was full of so many weird, interesting memories and things and drawing like highway signs and food trucks and street, roadkill and motel, and just, you know, writing about, you know, I drew the whole interior of the dashboard of the car. I think twice I did drawing of the car showing like all the different things that we were carrying in it I drew multiple maps. It was a really rich thing. And and I think that that's an important thing. It's a lot of times the most important memories that you'll have from a trip. Weren't the big moments, you know, it wasn't the Eiffel tower, but it might've been, you know what I mean? I remember drawing a new stand in Rome. And it was fascinating, you know, like what's on a Roman newsstand and what do they look like? They're actually like really beautiful, interesting, intricate kind of pieces of architecture and all the different kinds of snacks that they had there. And all the newspapers magazine, just, I spent a couple of hours, I think, drawing this new stand just because it was different. Right. And it was different and it was important. I mean, a new standard is an important part of, of life there. I drew a lot of roofs and neon signs in Rome. I drew food or there's just so many parts of the trip that were fantastic.

John Muir Laws:

Well, they're, they're these things that you feel that you're supposed to pay attention to because they are on the post. The, the, the travel bureau of Rome has sent out this brochure and they've got seven glossy photos of things that you're supposed to see. And I think that we often think that like, so you better get that in your journal. But really your experience is made up of those new stance. And if you know how to look at a newsstand, you, the world opens up in a profoundly different way. And that makes me kind of want to sort of think of shifting the definition of this, of, of travel as. Perhaps, what we're doing is we're giving ourselves an experience to to kind of find novelty. And one way you can do that is to go to someplace new. And then there's this novel experience and that our brain really orients to novelty when something is new, the brain is kind of quickly, you know, like, is this just the threat assessment? And then like, is this a resource for me? It's new then? Like, how can I understand this? How can I fit this in once your brain has got those things kind of figured out about something your brain tends to pay a little bit less attention. So when you are in the new place, you are often more kind of hyper aware, but. It's that awareness and that being alive and that paying attention to somebody who lives in Rome may never look twice at the newsstand because it is just the new stamp, but you coming to it, you see this beautiful, beautiful new stamp, but here's the news flash is that the newsstand that is outside your door is a wonder to someone from Rome. And the challenge then is how can you, how can you find that also that same wonder and beauty in the newsstand that is right in your own town to it's it's to find the novel in the familiar. And I think about your, your, your dashboard in front of you, like the dashboard of your car, the little diagram of, you know, your car, that's something that it wasn't it wasn't a novel thing, but you made it this novel experience by the kind of attention that you brought to it. And you found levels of intricacy and beauty and respect and appreciation, and you're alive. They're looking at your dashboard. I mean, something that we've stared at a million times, every time I get in the car, I'm in one way or another looking at that dashboard, but I haven't really paid attention to it. And so how can you get, you know, thinking about sort of finding the novel in the familiar is a way of. That maybe traveling it's less about the place and so much, not so much where you look, but how you look right.

Danny Gregory:

It's, it's travel. I think points out one of the, one of the things that when we're not traveling is we tend into patterns. We tend into habits and we tend to, you know, eat the same food and go to the same places and observe less and less. Right. Cause we've kind of gotten ourselves into a program where we, you know, I can drive to work, you know, taking the same road every time we see the same people, it's just, life is on this loop and we go, we travel because we want to break that and we want to break habits and we want to have new experiences and try new things. That's ideally the reason, I mean, I'm always amazed when you go. To a foreign city and you see Americans eating in a McDonald's right. Or you'll see, like, you'll see, like, you'll see like a hard rock hotel, you know, or, you know TGI F's, you know, in I've. I mean, I've seen that kind of thing, like in the most amazing places and he say, okay, here you are, you're in Prague. And you've decided to go to a T G I F Y

John Muir Laws:

you just couldn't get the familiar. Yeah.

Danny Gregory:

So you can have, you know, you can have a a burger and fries, just like they make back home. And obviously. If you think about, again, the money that you're spending to be in this place, you really want to have unfamiliar experiences, not familiar ones, because you know, you could have that burger back home for a lot less money and it would probably be even better. So what we do when we travel, as we try to force, we try to push past our habits and we try and we try to open our eyes to new experiences. And the stranger, the things that we noticed, right. Travelers are always saying like, I can't believe that they do such and such. Like if you go to a supermarket in another country, you can't believe the way the supermarkets are. You can't believe the packaging. You can't believe what kind of food they sell. You can't believe the way that they organize it. You know, it's all different. Everything is different. And that's ideally the pleasure for it. I mean, there's some people who. Don't get pleasure from it. And they're just sort of, you know, filled with anxiety at the fact that things are different, but ideally you travel because you want things to be different, but then when you come home, you start to see your life, not from that habitual point of view, but you start to see it fresh. And you start to say, as you said, never noticed the newsstand. I never noticed the things that I've taken for granted so much. And so your life becomes richer when you've returned from travel, right? Because you're now seeing it more as it is rather than seeing it through the veil of, of regularity.

John Muir Laws:

I like that thought. So that. That, that mindset of look at this, this, this news, this newsstand look at the architecture in this place. I mean, how often do we really notice the architecture in the city where we live in the, but w we're we're experiencing a specific place in, in time. And if, if we were to be transported into the same place where we are right now, 50 years ago, we'd be wandering around finding all these amazing kind of wonderful differences. But because we're just because we're just sort of so used to it now, it it's, it's the familiar, we don't realize that the person's. From 50 years ago, coming here would be amazed by what they saw the person from 50 years ahead of us coming back here now looking at the same spot, they would be amazed by what they're seeing. Just like, look at the bumper on that car, look at the bumper of that car. Right. And and, but we getting to be in this moment. Don't don't appreciate it. So how can we how can we be a tourist or a a novice a naive eye in our own familiar place in our own. City in our own, in the own, in the time period that we're we're in. So in place and time, how can we get ourselves to experience what is exceptional and miraculous about that? So hard to do, but the journal, I think, is your, is probably the key tool to kind of bringing you into that.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah, I think it's, it forces you to stop and slow down and see objectively the things that you've programmed yourself to skip over because we try and live efficient lines. Right? You can't, you can't walk around with your, like with your jaw dropped, you know, when you go to the, your regular grocery store, you can't be like, oh my gosh, everything here is so incredible. You know, you, you, you couldn't function. You would just be exhausted by all that. So, so instead, you know, we mask our reality and we, and, you know, we dull our senses in order to survive, but travel allows us to kind of pull back that veil and see see what is, and, but drawing does that every day, drawing that dress does it by allowing you to, you know, do a drawing of your shoe and see your shoe. For the first time, you know, to do a self portrait and see your own face, which you may have, you know, shaved every day or put lipstick on every day, but never really noticed your bone construction or never really noticed, you know, the way that your hair grows around your ears, whatever it is, there's a million things that we just don't see. And that's the key to drawing is, is to see it as a way of opening your eyes and living your life more richly, rather than living it by rote and program, you know,

John Muir Laws:

which is your eyes, live your life, more richly, get rid of that, that wrote program. And, but those are, those are things that we can do right now, stepping out our own doorway. If we're intentional about, you know, how can I break my routine? My routines are totally shattered when I go to a different place. I have to eat different things. I have to you know the, the, the timing of when I'm, I'm, I'm, I'm up down and getting dressed, everything is, is, is different.

Danny Gregory:

Deliberately you're living deliberately. You have to think about everything that you're doing, because, you know, you might say, I need toothpaste. Well, where do you actually buy toothpaste? If you're in China, you know, you have to think about every single step of the way. And so, you know, that's, that's why in a way, travel is absolutely exhausting, you know, because you ha you having to think and decide every step of the way. So your,

John Muir Laws:

so what if we go on just w if we, we I'm, I'm still kind of fixated on this idea of going, traveling in my own backyard and. My own city, my own town, but what I need to do is to, to go the way that is less efficient to go the way that is not the way that my, my parents, I grew up in the city of San Francisco and my parents, when they would drive from one side of the town to the other, they would always take the same route. And I remember when at one point they got a GPS system, one of those early GPS systems, and they said, well, let's go. Let's say, you know, when they plugged in where they were, the destination where they're going, and they knew where the destination was and the thing started taking them. A different way across town and machine. And at first it was that, but then it became really neat. Like, wow, like, look, we never went this way. Alright. You know, here's here's this, but, but what if we kind of give ourselves, what if we kind of be our own broken GPS and go away that is not efficient and give ourselves permission to dally, to, to investigate something familiar that we know really well until it too begins to give up its secrets.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah. I remember one time we were going to go on vacation and for some reason it got canceled. We couldn't go, but we still had the time blocked out. So we decided to spend the week having a staycation in New York. And my logic was, you know what? People come from all over the world. To New York group. I mean, I see New York because that's where we were living PA. So people come from all over the world to New York to see these things. And a lot of them, we've never seen, we've lived here for, you know, decades. We've never been to the statue of Liberty, never been to all these things. The tourists, you know, come from around the world to see. So we decided to spend that week being tourists in New York and going to all these places and keeping an illustrated journal about it. And my son was, he was about seven or eight and he kept his journal and my wife and I each keep our, kept our own journals. And then we would talk about it at the end of the day. And you know, the only rule was that we would sleep at our house, but other than that, we were tourists in New York and it was fun. Phenomenal, new York's a great place. Wow. It was really cool to visit it after having lived there for like 35 years. So, so that was to me, really eyeopening, which was to say, you know, what is it like? I mean, I'm going through this experience here. I live here in Phoenix. We were dumped into Phoenix at the beginning of the pandemic, kind of by accident. And I've lived here now for two years. I really don't know this place very well, because for much of the time we couldn't go anywhere. So I knew like our house in a couple of blocks around here, but I had no intuitive sense of the city. Like I couldn't have, I couldn't have drawn you a map. I didn't know which direction was, which I'd really kind of didn't know what do people come and see when they're here. And I've sort of tried to make a deliberate effort to do that, even though the pandemic of course screwed everything up and made it a weird version of that. But, but you know, so many experiences here for me where even though this is the place I live now, I was, it was really new to me to go to a big supermarket. Like in New York, supermarkets are tiny and everything's on top of each other. And there isn't really very much inventory. Most Americans who have markets are gigantic and they have huge numbers of things. It was a completely new thing to me. I wasn't used to driving places. I'm used to walking everywhere and suddenly it was like, okay, everywhere you go, you drive there. And then you park, and then you go into the place that, you know, even though I live in Los Angeles for a year, I could not get used to that as a way of going to places. I was used to kind of going to a, a general area and then just walking around it and carrying bags of stuff around with me everywhere. So just these kind of very mechanical parts of living in a place are really, really different. And then when you go to. Rome where in Rome, people don't really go to the supermarket. They have these amazing markets, outdoor markets, and you do the shopping for that day only, which you do in New York as well. Whereas in most of the rest of this country, you go to Costco and you fill your garage with like huge, powerful stuff. Right. Whereas in Rome you go and you buy three tomatoes and you know a chicken and you know, a handful of little things, and that's what you do. And they're brand new and they're fresh and it's a complete. So when, when you come back to New York, after being in Rome, you say, how can I live more like that here? You know, can I, what can I do to adopt what I thought were the best things about that life and put them in here. So that's, what's so great about travel. That's also what I really missed.

John Muir Laws:

It really is just, you know, so many of the routines that, that also kind of reminds me of the disruption that happened in our daily routines because of COVID has made us think about that there were choices that we were making and how we lived our lives that were never deliberately made, but just by our, the nature of our routine happened and then COVID comes along and everything changes and

Danny Gregory:

every aspect of everything, what you hand, how you work everything,

John Muir Laws:

but then you realize that, wow, there were. A lot of things that I was assuming about the way that my life and my routines were supposed to be that it doesn't have to be that way. And so just in the same way that kind of, when you go to Rome, you realize that the sort of the pace of life here is different. There are there's living life. The way I am, that it is a choice. And I do have agency in this and I can choose to what aspects of this do I want to then also kind of embrace into my regular regular life. You know, travel can be a great disruptor that way. The in the, in the same way that the, the pandemic was, and then some of those choices we can then choose to choose to keep.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah, I think that's a really good point. It's like, it's, we've been on a trip for the last two years, a trip to a new and unfamiliar place that was awful in a lot of ways, but also has made us rethink every part of what we do. And that's why people are making such dramatic changes to their lives now. And I think I find a lot of people have discovered the value of art-making during the pandemic, right? Yes, they've. And I think it's in part because we have a new found appreciation for our lives. You know, we're just, we don't want to take things for granted. We want to be alive. We want to enjoy every day, as much as we can, even under these circumstances. And a lot of times it's people saying I put off making hard because I didn't think I had the time or I didn't think I was allowed to, or et cetera. But I think a lot of it has also been this need to, to slow down. It's new need to be. I dunno, more analog in a way to make things with our hands, right. To feel stuff to, to an end, to break routines. And when we break routines and we put them back together, we say, what do I actually want to spend time doing? And we're also, I think, more cognizant of how much time we have left. You know, we don't know how much time we have left, but, but we realized like if I keep going this way, you know, eventually I'll be dead. And I would've done a lot of the things that I wanted to do someday is never going to show up. This journey that we've been on has made us recalibrate and rethink through these things. And you know, I think it's the kind of thing that happens probably with wars, right? Cause war tends to disrupt culture and history and to recalibrate things. And I think that, you know, we, haven't gone through a big war in a long time, but this has forced us to do that. It's forced people to think about how they do business and what they want out of their days and how they relate to their friends and their family and where they want to live and what kind of jobs they want to have. It just, every part of it it's been stopped. The deck has been reshuffled and you know, and I think that art allows you to do that on a daily basis. If you can, if you can embrace this sort of perspective shifting thing that, that art making gives you cause you a times, a lot of times you'll come back from vacation, you know, I want to do more of this thing that I did on vacation. I want to do it at home now, you know, whether it's cooking a certain kind of food or going to a museum or spending more time reading a book or whatever it is,

John Muir Laws:

the and this idea of disruptions as, as, as being the place for growth, the place for change, the place for creativity and deliberate choices, because in the face of when you, when you realized you, you, you had a choice that you didn't realize was a choice. But these, these disruptions. Kind of the ecologist in me is sort of thinking about fire. You see, if you see fire in a forest as this, as this destructive force, you better not, you better suppress that with all your, with everything you can do. But now we're understanding that fires are these essential kind of change elements that come through the forest. And they either you know, hit the reset button or, or it puts, or I think more accurately puts just sort of, sort of sets things at, at a different, a different place. And from that fire comes all of this new growth and and life. Back into a system that was becoming increasingly stagnant. And so, so too, with our lives, if we look for, can we give ourselves some intentionally seek out and embrace little mini disruptions, as ways to bring change into our lives, into things that will break up our routines and help us see that we actually have much more agency in our life than we thought we did while we've been talking a a poem that was reminded of a, a poem. And I found I'd love to read it to you. Yeah, please do. It's a poem called a man lost by a river and it's by Michael Bloomberg. And he writes, there is a voice inside the body. There is a voice and a music, a throbbing, four chambered pair that wants to be heard that sits alone by the river with its mandolin. And it's torn coat and sings for whomever will listen. A song that no one wants to hear, but sometimes lost on his way to somewhere significant a man in a long coat, carrying a briefcase, wanders into the forest. He hears the voice in the mandolin and he sees the thresh in the dandelion and he feels the mist rise over the river. And his life is never the. For this haven't been lost for having strayed from the path of his routine for

Danny Gregory:

no good reason, a man with a briefcase. Interesting. That's a beautifully imaged. JAIC kind of poem feels like a little, little film.

John Muir Laws:

I, I like that. So there's this, there's this, this, this music inside you that you're, you're not listening to. And then there's this disruption event the man becomes lost in this forest. And that opens up things that have been there all along that He was not attending to who was not, he was not connecting with, but he sees this and it changes the world forever. Because he, he got away from those routines and the world opened up because of that. But you can, you can also stray from those routines, but if you're not mindful, if you're not attentive, then it doesn't have that impact. But if you pay attention then you hear the voice and the mandolin and you see the thresh and the dandelion, and you feel the mist rise over the river and your life has never. But that I think the tool of the journal, again, it's, it's that, it's one of those amazing devices that allows us to experience and to feel, and to remember, and to incorporate into our, our being in our thinking in a profoundly different way.

Danny Gregory:

It's just an observed life, right? It's a life that we're paying attention to we're living, but we're also being, and seeing, and the end understanding and questioning and just living a life that, that breaks this routine that makes us comfortable. And you know, it's, it's easy for your life to hit a plateau and. To have worked out all the kinks to, to have made it as efficient as possible to make life that works really smoothly and is perfect, perfectly calibrated to your circumstances. And then your circumstances changed cause they inevitably will, you know, they might be changed by a pandemic. They might be changed by a death of a spouse. They might be changed by a disease that you get. They might be changed by some economic downturn, you know, all kinds of things can happen. And if you've calibrated your life perfectly for this set of circumstances and you're not agile and, and able to react and able to, to rethink it, you know, you're, if you're S if you're so mired and locked down into all of your possessions and your routines and your. Opinions and all these other things, you are so destroyed by change, but change is so inevitable. And instead we have to be, we have to be flexible and reactive. And I think that art making has helped me to do that. I think that I came to art making because I was at a time in my life where I thought I had everything set and then my life was profoundly disrupted. And art showed me that it's a process. Life is a process. Art making is a process. It's not about an end that you get to it's it's not about a perfect equilibrium. It's not about perfectionism. It's about. Re, you know, being able to respond, being creative, being a problem solver and being open to change at all times because you've had such broad experiences. And because you trust yourself to know that you can survive change, you don't need to be locked into routine to survive. You don't, you can, you can be nimble if you cultivate that in yourself. So, and I think travel does that too, right? Travel travel opens your mind. Travel shows you all the different ways that people live shows you all the different puts you into new and threatening circumstances. That was the nice thing about watching around the world in 80 days is you have a guy who spent 20 years sitting in an armchair in a gentleman's club, reading the newspaper and fantasizing, and then suddenly he's thrown into this. Crazy world where he has to respond and he has to improvise and he has to be resilient. And he comes back changed. That's what we want to have. Right. We want to have every one of our little adventures be an opportunity to change, not just to sit on a deck chair and read a best seller, but to live a little dangerously and a, to, to grow and change because of it. So right now you're making me want to go on vacation,

John Muir Laws:

but I think it's, do you have some final thoughts for us? I guess just to kind of riff on your, your last that last set of ideas journaling brings you into the moment. That you cannot a journal without, you know, doing the doing here in now. So all this, these meditation practices that try to get us to be here. Now, if you get out your pen, you get out that notebook and you look up and then you put the first mark on the page. You have to be here now. And when you do that, you realize that this moment is a special moment. It is a beautiful moment. It never has happened before. It will never happen again. And that there is that this is, this is you're alive and here and connecting with this place through the medium of your journal. You mentioned before about how the idea of trying to lock in. A moment and kind of get your, your life perfectly tuned and then trying to do everything you can to keep it that way. The idea is there that like, if I could just keep it, if I could just stay like this forever, then everything's going to be okay. But of course that is, that's a fantasy change is the one constant in the universe. And I don't know if that's necessarily true, but it sounded good. But the through the journaling, you have an opportunity to see that and this moment and this moment, and this moment to be present in the real life that you are living, instead of trying to get an optimum routine, That is going to perfect, safe routine. So I, I love the idea of travel as, as a, as a vehicle for disruption for change. And, but also the mindset of that traveler can be applied even by the new stand in our own are, are just down the street from you.

Danny Gregory:

Yeah. Traveling is a set of skills to be a good traveler is, is you have certain skills, but those skills can be useful even when you're not traveling observation, resilience, responsiveness, openness, curiosity, all those things make you have a better life. Embrace them and all right. Well, I think we've, I think we've explored this idea of fairly well. It's interesting as usually is it didn't go at all where I thought we were going to go, but it was interesting than the less, so much for expectations and how foolish I was to clean to them. So. All right. I'm going to play our outro music. Yes. Go ahead. Tell me,

John Muir Laws:

I was just saying, I really enjoyed bouncing these ideas around with you this afternoon.

Danny Gregory:

It was fun. It was fun. And who knows what? Maybe one day we'll be able to go traveling to see each other or traveling together or something. We'll see. Alright, thanks very much. We'll see you again next week until then this has been art for all. Bye-bye.

Intro
What is travel?
The psychological benefits of travel
Preparing for travel with your sketchbook
Photos as travel souvenirs
Bad photos work just as well
All experiences are interesting to draw when traveling
Travel observation shows you how to look at life
You see differently when you come home
Opening your eyes to see the everyday
Covid and rethinking routine
Be here now