Journal of a Peripatetic Painter

Hey Artiphans,

John Littleboy here, Artiphany's Artist-in-Chief.

In the past 8 months, I’ve set up my work desk in Paris (Les Batignolles 17 Arr.), Tunisia (4 locations including Mahdia and Tunis), Portugal (Aveiro, Lisbon), Boston (Somerville, Milton, Back Bay, Cambridge), Philadelphia, New York, and California (Sunnyvale, Mt View, Los Altos Hills).

One bag with my paints, laptop, a scanner, and some clothes was all I wanted to carry. I hadn't intended to go to many places or stay away so long but after untethering myself from the familiar, I realized how much I missed wandering.

It all began, this year of travel, because a great friend of mine and his wife had been urging me to visit them in Tunisia. I told them I would come eventually and that it was not an empty promise. That the invitation came from Alec in his exotic location was the echo of a seminal event from long ago when we first met.

I got this as a birthday gift awhile ago from Alec. A bronze spear point he found as a kid when his family lived in Iran. The only person I know who would give me a gift from the first century BC. I doubt I’ll ever get a better present.

I found Alec sitting next to me in an English class when we were twelve years old and eventually was invited for dinner at his house in the hills above my suburban neighborhood. My experience in the larger world was small and specifically located within 6 blocks or so. Alec's family had lived in Persia and clearly their home was in the wider world. Beautiful rugs on the floor, strange foods in the fridge, ancient bronze spear points in a glass enclosure on the wall were not part of the way I lived with my family. Alec did then and still does.

I finally arranged a 30-day vacation and ended up staying for 4 months spending most of the time in Tunis. I had to keep working and stay in contact with my team so I set up my desk at Alec's house in a corner of the living room. 

My work station soon took a familiar landscape: just like my place back home, there were papers everywhere, two or three coffee cups, a screen with a larger monitor, and a small plate to mix my paints.

I resumed work on a children's book project and pasted the pictures up on the wall as I finished them.

The basic story is about a young dog who sets out for Paris in 1906 to become an artist. His Uncle Jules sponsors him at a fancy art school for pedigreed dogs. He's miserable there until his cousin Celeste rescues him and takes him to Montparnasse where he meets the demimonde of mongrels and mutts. 


Having someone unexpected in the house all day while the family was at work made me good company for an assortment of cats. I assured them that my story, though mostly about dogs, had a few felines appearing in the narrative flow.

My cat companion in Tunisia
When I changed locations from Tunis to Mahdia and then to Lisbon, New York and Boston, I peeled the pages off the wall and took my story with me to tape it up again on another wall and resume Luca's journey and my own.
Forty-five years or so years before I put Luca on a train to Paris, I drove my father's 1968 Ford Mustang from California to Providence, Rhode Island to go to the Rhode Island School of Design for the summer. For both of us, it was a first declaration of independence. 
My current location is on a working farm in this little cabin back in California. Not more than 20 minutes away from the mania of Silicon Valley but worlds away when I listen to the creek below the cabin.
blue jay
My neighbors are up earlier than I am so I let them wake me up.
Coffee and a short commute from the bed to the desk and back at it. Despite all the change of locations, one place is constant and the bridge to that specific port of entry is always the same. I engage my imagination at the end of a pencil.
My first draft isn't yet finished for my book about Luca and the ending at this point is uncertain.
I guess that puts us on the same path still.