Traveling as a kid, we never thought about how everything got in our suitcase. It was one of those things taken for granted like clean clothes and supper on the table. The first time it became an issue was when I was a senior in high school going to Europe for the first time over spring break. My mother started obsessing about me filling the suitcase splayed open like an untrussed chicken on the spare bed in my room a month before it was time to leave. My adolescent irritation was finally squelched when she sat me down and revealed that she was going to the hospital days before I left for a mastectomy. It wasn’t just my crossing the ocean that was making her feel out of control.
When I started traveling as a young man, it was a fairly careless, last minute affair. Over the years it was always my dream to wake up one morning and decide to take off on the spur of the moment, sans souci. That changed when it was time to paint en plein air.It didn’t matter how far away the trip was taking me. One unseasonably lovelyFebruary day, I packed up and took of on a Northern Ohio artist’s pilgrimage to paint the historic covered bridge in Everett. Setting up my easel in the river bed, I was caught short when I realized that I had failed to pack a tube of white paint. Luckily home was only fifteen minutes away. Lesson learned.
When it was time to pack for my first painting trip to France, there was a new degree of caution and respect for the whole process. Although clothes weren’t a huge concern, it was necessary to have street clothes and painting clothes, including hat and apron. What really mattered was getting all the painting paraphernalia right: paints, brushes, cleaning rags, collapsible easel, umbrella, painting panels in portable wet boxes; everything but turpentine had to be there. Almost as important as a passport is a copy of the MSDA: materials safety data sheet to prove to the TSA that the oil colors are safe to board the plane.
Van der Rohe wasn’t exaggerating: God is in the details.