American painting road trip

The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Friday 10th October 2003
The Advocate, Baton Rouge, Friday 10th October 2003

In July 2003, I flew into the U.S.A for my first time, for a painting road trip across the States. On my arrival at LAX, I purchased an old ford from a smooth talking Hispanic used car salesman in Venice CA. I threw the easel and suitcase into the boot and headed off first to San Francisco. A few weeks and a few paintings later, it was back down along the West coast via Carmel and Big Sur to San Diego, painting a few seascapes along the way.

After a couple of interesting nights in San Diego I spent the next few days driving through the Arizona and New Mexico deserts then eventually through Texas, which in August can only be described as a huge dusty furnace. I begged the car not to break down and it obliged begrudgingly, carrying me to New Orleans where I settled into an old guest house in the Garden district, which in its day served as an orphanage.

I soon purchased a push bike and each morning cycled into the French Quarter with easel and pack to paint the narrow streets and laneways. After a days painting, it was off to the Half Moon bar for a well earned beer, out on the footpath.

From New Orleans, it was up to New York via St Augustine, Savannah and Charleston. I stayed around Greenwich Village at a budget hotel on the Hudson River, the rooms were so tiny and cell-like, there was only enough room for the small prison style bed and barely enough room for the suit case and easle.

After a glorious and sunny two weeks in New York, I drove the ol’ battered Ford up to Newport, Rhode Island, where I painted the cliff-top mansions and ocean views, then made a bee-line straight back down the East Coast to the south of Florida, ending up in Key West. I took up residence down near the Green Parrot and painted many of the old bars including Hemingway’s old haunt, Sloppy Joes.

After a fews weeks of sun and margaritas, it was straight back to my favourite, New Orleans, where I checked back into the same guest house. With my stay in the U.S. drawing to an end, I sold my trusty ol’ road companion to a modern day Bonnie and Clyde, whom I befriended and shared many a beer at the Half Moon bar. With the car now heading north with its new occupants, I decided to board a train to L.A., and fly home.

Looking out the train window as it slowly made its way through the Bayou toward Baton Rouge, I remember thinking how America was everything I thought it would be and everything I thought it wasn’t.