This summer I took myself to Europe for three weeks. My intention was an art immersion, old and new, and to return with fresh ideas for my own work. It was liberating to spend day after day following my muse, no set agenda. Here are a couple observations I took home from my travels.

The Street Art Tour

During my time in London I took a guided tour of the street art in Shoreditch, a formerly working class neighborhood that became an epicenter of the street art movement. It’s now a very trendy place to live and work. (Art can do that to a place.) Street art is typically unsanctioned “guerilla art” created with spray paint. The artists paint under creative pseudonyms, sneaking around at odd hours to avoid getting caught. According to the tour guide there is a pecking order of sorts in the street art world, and it is definietly uncool to tag someone elses tag. If you do that, the other street artists will gang up on you and deface your work. Sounds like it can get messy.

Here is my takeaway: I love street art that is well executed, that integrates uniquely with the environment, when it brings an arresting message or some arc of beauty to a neglected urban space. It’s an act of generosity and can become a source of pride in the community, or at least spark conversation. But street art can quickly slide into distracting self promotion. There is lot of grey area, but I think intent and net gain for the community key. If the ostensible purpose is grabbing public space to gain notoriety without leaving a work of art that adds value for the community, it defaces public spaces, and frankly it pisses me off. The street art in Shoreditch covered the spectrum. Here are a few of my highlights from the street art mural tour:

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No discussion or tour of street art is complete without mention of Banksy. He is at the top of the street art world. Banksy is why street art is becoming celebrated and more mainstream. He’s is a singular voice, a solo rogue marketing campaign against the absurdity of war, and the craziness of modern life. His artwork pokes fun at the art establishment, before someone quickly excavates the section of wall he tagged and sells it for half a million dollars at Sotheby’s. I think he is brilliant. We passed by three Banksy murals on the tour, one under plexiglass, and two under boards, the building owners were “protecting” their assets by hiding the public art. There is local controversy around letting a Banksy tag stay but a tag by a different street artist gets painted over because there is no established market value. It certainly add a new dimension to the “What is art?” debate.

The Museum Tour

I set off each day to simply find things that were interesting to me, without a sense of obligation of what I “should” see. In Copenhagen I skipped the museums and spend a lot of time in the bakeries. Often what I thought I would like, I didn’t, and unexpected detours became the highlights. The Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam was too crowded to be enjoyable. I don’t usually favor modern art museums but the near vacant Stedlijk, next door to the Van Gogh museum, was brilliantly curated and presented, I found it all fascinating, I loved discovering the Bernadette Corporation and Avery Singer. And I had the two Van Gogh’s in the collection all to myself. A block from the Stedlijk, at the Moco Museum, I visited the first ever exhibition of Bansky artwork in a museum. I was in heaven. They had Warhol exhibit downstairs; I didn’t even take a peek. I noticed on this trip I can be ruthless about how I spend my time when I don’t have to be polite about what interests me and what doesn’t.

In Stockholm, I happened upon the Nobel museum, and it was a delight. The curation how they shared the stories of Nobel peace prize winners moved me to tears. I left with the question why there is not a Nobel prize for the arts besides literature? Can’t visual arts also make huge contribution to the benefit of humanity? Hmmm. Another Stockholm surprise highlight: The photography museum. In my next life I want to be a photographer. One of the exhibits was by Bryan Adams, the well known singer of love songs in the 80’s and 90’s. Wow. I was in awe of his eye, his talent. Maybe I should start spending more time with my camera…

The Trompe L’Oeil Workshop

For the final lap of my trip I spent a week in Suffolk, near Cambridge, where I took a workshop from trompe l’oeil master Graham Rust. Sort of. As it turns out it was actually taught by his partner while Graham worked on his projects, but it did take place in a studio at his house. One take away for me was that creating high illusion realism takes a lot of time. A single commission might take Mr. Rust years. His most famous work at Ragley Hall: 14 years. He was a year in to his current project with no end in sight. This kind of attention to detail is a feat in itself, but in all honesty is ill suited to my temperament. 15 hours in to the project we were still just refining the lines of our drawings. I realized that I have developed a process opposite to standard art cannon: color comes first and then find the edges. Rather than starting with all the shapes known, my process is carving backwards the shapes out of fields of color, more like a sculptor subtracts from the raw materials.

Here is a few photo highlights from my time (and wanderings) in Suffolk:

mural image

Maybe I’m too young to get stuck in my ways, but attending the workshop made me realize how much I enjoy, start to finish, my own idiosyncratic creation process. And perhaps the biggest takeaway from the entire trip was that the life of art I have built in the Bay Area is my own personal Goldilocks zone. My work style is too loose and unorthodox for classic trompe l’oeil and too natural and traditional for the rattle can street art scene, but for me it is juuuust right. I am so grateful to have built a small niche where I can make the kind of art that I love to make.

Here is the dove sculpture I designed and painted at the workshop, a.k.a my “take it easy” week in the English countryside. It is a Chimney board, a false front for the opening of a fireplace.

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Back Home

I loved my trip, and the best part of travel for me is always coming home, more grateful for my life than when I left. I jumped right back into work, newly inspired and back in my comfort zone on a larger canvas. Here is what I painted in a private home the week after I returned from the trip:

Mural Above Bar at Private Residence
Mural Above Bar at Private Residence

And from the far side…

mural image

It’s so nice to be back in my “Goldilocks Zone”.

I hope you are enjoying your own summer adventures!

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Morgan Bricca
Morgan Bricca

Morgan Bricca is an accomplished mural artist known for her captivating and vibrant creations. With a background in graphic design and a passion for public art, Morgan has transformed numerous spaces into visually stunning masterpieces. Her meticulous attention to detail and ability to capture the essence of a subject bring her murals to life. Inspired by nature and human connection, Morgan's work has graced walls across the United States, leaving a lasting impression on all who encounter it. Through her art, Morgan continues to inspire and uplift communities, creating joy and beauty for all to enjoy.

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