Humans have been painting pictures since roughly 15,000 to 17,000 years ago. How do we know? The oldest known paintings were found on the walls of a cave near Lascaux, France, by in 1940 (by a dog named "robot" who led four boys into the cave). These extraordinary cave paintings (of very large animals: horses, bulls and stags), were tested through carbon dating and determined to have been done in Paleolithic times. Here are photos of the oldest paintings:
What's the lure? Why do so many people paint in their leisure time?
Painting for leisure was just the right medicine for one of the most celebrated and respected leaders in the history of England, Sir Winston Churchill. While most of the Western world's educated citizens are aware of Churchill's intellect, wit, diplomatic greatness and uncompromising resilience during World War II - especially after Hitler's Nazis had seized most of Europe and were bombing England mercilessly - few know he was an accomplished painter. "Painting is complete as a distraction," Churchill wrote in his book, Painting as a Pastime (Churchill, 1950). "I know of nothing which, without exhausting the body, more entirely absorbs the mind. Whatever the worries of the hour or the threats of the future, once the picture has begun to flow along, there is no room for them in the mental screen." Moreover, the former Prime Minister of Great Britain wrote, "Even if you cannot portray" the scene you are painting, "as you see it, you feel it, you know it, and you admire it for ever."
For readers interested in learning more about the subject, another internationally renowned celebrity offers some valuable insights into the wonder of painting for leisure; he is Leonardo da Vinci, and his words are published in a book called Leonardo on Painting (Kemp, 1989). "If the painter wishes...to produce places or deserts, or shady and cool spots in hot weather, he can depict them...[and] if he seeks valleys, if he wants to disclose great expanses of countryside from the summits of high mountains, and if he subsequently wishes to see the horizon of the sea, he is lord of them..."
Globalization of travel opportunities for painting enthusiasts
Although since September 11, 2001, the travel industry has slumped in the United States - and to a lesser degree in Europe - there are signs that travelers are getting back into the air and going places again without the same intense paranoia toward potential terrorism as most felt two years ago at this time. Meantime, painting enthusiasts who are on the lookout for good deals at great locations - and are not shy about hopping on board a jetliner to Europe - could certainly gain a lot of painting experience near Bordeaux, France, at the "Les Peupliers" resort. And since the oldest known paintings are located in France, it would be appropriate to paint in France. The opportunity provided by the group calling itself "painting-photography-france.com" (www.painting-photography-france.com) is a wonderful excursion not only into the Bordeaux wine country, with his rolling hills of verdant greens and two large rivers converging, but into the world of relaxed leisure painting.
The typical week's stay for a traveler/painter is not overly expensive: in May, the cost is around $643; in June, it's $776; July moves up to $804; and August, a busy month for tourism in France, the cost per person is $931 per week. Of course, one pays in Euro, but it's not hard to convert dollars into Euro: for example, the May weekly fee at Les Peupliers is 560 Euro, or $643. Getting there from the U.S. isn't very expensive, either. American Airlines offers a round trip flight from Dallas, Texas, to Paris, France, for $499 (as of 9/27/03), and that is a non-stop flight. Connecting flights from Paris to Bordeaux are abundant and inexpensive, and the Les Peupliers' staff offer free taxi service from Bordeaux (or nearby train stations) to the resort.
Painting enthusiasts will stay in a 200-year-old brick farmhouse, which has a nice swimming pool and spacious grounds - and each guest room has full shower facilities and a patio (when traveling in Europe, one does not always have private bath and shower so this is luxury). Arriving on a Saturday, visiting painters get a day to unwind and de-jet-lag, and then on Sunday there is orientation and a walk along a canal. Monday it's down to business with a trip to nearby mountains for landscape painting instructions and opportunities. Tuesday, more landscapes in the country; Wednesday, it's "townscapes" and "architecture" in French towns nearby; Thursday, more landscapes - with emphasis on the two large rivers near the resort. Friday morning "live portraiture" painting is offered, and in the afternoon it's "live drawing" again. For the weekly rates described above, the Les Peupliers people provide breakfast, a picnic lunch, and five evening meals.
Another and very different painting travel experience is available at Peace of Selby Wilderness Lodge, north of the Arctic Circle, about 300 miles northwest of Fairbanks, Alaska. A "Painting Workshop" is given annually by Karen Austen, an Alaskan painter of portraits, florals, and landscapes. Karen has taught painting and drawing courses at the University of Alaska Fairbanks the past nine years; her work has been exhibited in galleries in San Francisco and Portland, Oregon. One stays in a large lodge ($1,900 per week per person) or in smaller cabins ($900 per person each week).
The itinerary goes like this: Saturday, "composition in space"; Sunday, "linear & atmospheric perspective"; Monday, "tonal value in nature"; Tuesday, "form and structure in nature"; Wednesday, "color and light in nature"; Thursday, "animals & people in nature"; and Friday is a "review and culmination of the week's lessons." Besides the fairly rigorous painting schedule (9:30 A.M. To 12:30 P.M. And 1:30 P.M. To 5:00 P.M.) each day, painting aficionados may enjoy extraordinary wilderness experiences by hiking or fishing (in Lake Selby) near the lodge; there are grizzly bears, moose, caribou, wolves, arctic birds, beaver, marten, and for the angler, plenty of trout, chum salmon, Northern Pike and grayling.
For the painting enthusiast who also enjoys - or wishes to learn and indulge in - yoga, the Il Chiostro Yoga & Painting workshop in Lake Garda, Italy, could be the trip of a lifetime. The one-week cost (not including airfare getting there, or lunches during the workshop) is $1,595 per person. For that, painters (and yoga folks) get a single or double room in a (former) Franciscan monastery (sink, toilet, bidet included), daily painting and yoga classes, a one-night's stay in a hotel in Milan, two meals per day provided by the workshop's private Italian chef, and an excursion to Mantova. The workshop is offered by artist Linda Novick, who has been painting and providing leadership at workshops for over 30 years; her watercolor paintings have been in numerous galleries in New York City and elsewhere. The region of Lake Garda (which is the largest lake in Italy, and was carved out of the Italian mountains by ancient glaciers) is rich with vineyards, olive groves, and orchards of citrus trees; snowcapped peaks dominate the distant horizon.
Commercialization and globalization in the "art" of leisure painting
Clearly, the above-mentioned opportunities for painters (who are just leisure artists and have no passion to attempt to emulate Van Gough or Cezanne) are but a very few of the programs being offered in concert with travel experiences. So, the commercialization of painting as a leisure pastime is out there for everyone to see - and tap into, if one has a desire to travel to France, Italy, Alaska, or other destinations offering painting classes and amateur opportunities.
And the commercialization doesn't end with tempting travel packages: the Pochade Boxes company (under the brand name TravelBox™) offers what appears to be a veritable painting studio in a box fit for travel. The product is called Guerrilla Painter ™ Notebook, and for $149.95, the traveling painter gets a 9X12-inch birch plywood box (no "rainforest woods" used) which holds 2 "wet panels," stretched canvas, watercolor blocks and pastel pads, plus a tripod, three large compartments, and a remarkably plentiful supply of accessories for oils, watermedia, pastels, and more.
Has there been a commercialization of leisure painting as a pastime? Most certainly, and this paper did not examine many domestic leisure painting projects and programs, nor did it examine local painting classes given by colleges and other schools, and no attempt was made to delve into the retail offerings of painting supplies and vital materials. Globalization? Yes, the leisure painting crowd now has plenty of commercial opportunities to travel and learn, and to paint in style from Alaska to France or to Italy and South America, if that is one's fancy. As to the "demographics" of leisure painters' travel activities, that is hard to pin down. As was pointed out earlier in the paper, air travel companies have suffered mightily since the terrorists struck on…