Blog / 2021 / Getting Some Quality Input after a Whole Lot of Output

August 7, 2021

photo by David

I spent the first two months of summer like this: outdoors and somewhere in the US that is not New Jersey. After months indoors, self-isolating to help with the ongoing group project of not making the pandemic worse, my fully vaccinated partner and I went on an extended camping and road trip.

a silly picture of the forty year old baby of the family
photo by David

The impetus for our vacation was, in part, my fortieth birthday. (This photo was actually my father’s idea, though I’m guessing he regretted it as soon as I climbed onto his lap. To explain: I’m supposed to look like a squalling newborn, because I’m my parents’ youngest child.)

photo by David

But celebrating my official you-can’t-deny-it-anymore adulthood with my parents in Oregon wasn’t the only motive for the trip.

tumbleweed and Devil’s Garden, Utah
photos by Gwenn
(tumbleweed image prints available here)

After over a year of being locked away in my studio and painting obsessively as a way to self-soothe, I needed to do some inputting.

Cane Cholla cactus flower, Arizona
photo by Gwenn
(cactus blossom image prints available here)

Because that’s the thing about being a prolific artist: all that output doesn’t come from a vacuum. I need books, chats with friends, long walks, and plenty of adventure to keep painting, and that last form of fuel has been sorely lacking in a pandemical world.

lizard and Crater Lake panorama
photos by Gwenn and David

Our travels took us to deserts and mountains alike, from the intensely empty sky of the Southwest to the rainy Pacific Northwest and back through the strangely familiar Upper Peninsula on the way home to the Atlantic Seabord.

Petrified Forest in Arizona
photos by Gwenn

We visited the Petrified Forest, a fitting sequel to my thirtieth birthday spent at the Ancient Bristlecone Pine Forest—David thought I’d feel young surrounded by trees that’ve been around for thousands of years. I’m a little afraid of where he’ll take me to celebrate fifty!

Devil’s Tower in Wyoming
photo by David

Unlike a typical trip where we would probably concentrate more on cities and museums, this time we kept mainly to outdoor wonders as a way to stay COVID-safe.

algae in the Yellowstone springs, abstract photo
photo by Gwenn

We saw so many amazing vistas, but it was details like this growth in a thermal spring in Yellowstone that made it so clear to me that I need more adventure in my life. Only you will see what you will see, so going yourself is completely worth it.

cinder Craters of the Moon in Idaho
photo by David

It’s like with the volcanic rock at the Craters of the Moon in Idaho. I was a tiny bit obsessed with the rainbows shining out of the cinder.

the most beautiful person I know
photo by Gwenn

Plus, it was at Craters of the Moon that I discovered this stunning creature in one of the lava tube caves!

old newspaper graduation photos
photo by Gwenn

In the UP, we were visiting my dad’s childhood. It was pretty neat to find this photo of him in the local paper on the occasion of his graduation from high school in May 1942.

best friends
photos by Christine and David

We saw just a couple of old friends along the way, including one of my favorite people I met in college and one of the very best people I ever met through my art.

man and chihuahua, woman with a Santa statue
photos by Gwenn and David

But mostly we made a lot of new friends and, ideally, the sort of friends we couldn’t give our germs to and vice versa.

giving prairie dogs a drink of water
photos by Gwenn

In particular, there was an encounter with some thirsty prairie dogs. This meeting was probably the most amazing part of an unforgettable trip—well, this meeting and our incredible luck. Our seven weeks on the road matched up nicely with that blissful little window after half of USAian adults were fully vaccinated and before COVID went full delta in the United States.

Gwenn Seemel in a tree and at the Badlands in South Dakota
photos by David

Now that we’re home again, our trip is percolating nicely through our systems. My partner is editing a video diary of our travels and, inspired by him, I’m making some art about the parks we visited. It may be a long while before we can fill up our adventure-tanks again, so I want to make something special from this input.


October 16, 2021

Gwenn Seemel American landscape paintings
COVID across America collection

This is the full series of paintings from our travels! It includes Devil’s Tower, Old Faithful, Bryce Canyon, a prairie dog party, a Grand Prismatic bison, Multnomah Falls, Devil’s Garden, the Badlands, a firefly encounter, and a moon chipmunk.

Maybe this post made you think of something you want to share with me? Or perhaps you have a question about my art? I’d love to hear from you!


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