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17 Days on the road with Diane French

Diane French is a painter,but instead of using brushesshe rubs pinches of raw,powdered pigments ontopaper and wood. Based inSt. Augustine Beach, Fla., she’s been takingher beautiful, luminous pieces to 23 to26 shows every year. Her nomadic life hasits challenges, but she wouldn’t have it anyother way.“I love my being on the road,” she says.“Staying home would be like prison forme.”Here are excerpts from a journal shekept while traveling last summer:June 25I’m in Evanston, Ill., for the Fountain Square Art Festival.Shared a hotel room last night and a great dinner withtwo artist friends doing a show nearby in Highland Park.Went for tea this morning with my show neighbor whilewaiting for the stormy weather to pass. Since it threatenedrain, I called my sister and parents, who live in Chicago,and told them not to bother coming. A few hourslater the sun was shining and everyone showed up.Stayed with mom and dad overnight.June 26Drove to Sheila’s in north central Michigan. Stayed in thelog house she built in the woods, paradise!June 27Bad news — Sheila received a call that our very dearfriend, an artist, Dale Walters, died in a car accident thenight before. We cried.June 28Drove to Peninsula, Ohio, for Boston Mills show. Saw photosof the flood and its aftermath from the previous weekend.Awful, but at least no lives were lost. Welcomed myhotel roommate from Kentucky. So glad to see her.June 29Went to finish setting up in the morning. Shared the sadnews about Dale with the many artists from all over thecountry who knew him. Preview reception for the showwas beautiful.June 30Nice show. After closing met up with Chris, Leslie andothers for a hike in the National Park nearby. Leslie prepareda vegetarian picnic for after the hike — we triedto be polite as we fought over the last cheese bread!July 1Show is great. Saw many old clients and met some newones. At the end of the day, friends from Kent State cameby. After they made their art purchases, I followed themto Hudson to dine at Vue. Excellent meal, excellent conversation.I think we solved some world problems. Theremay have been wine involved.July 2Final day of the show. Longtime friend and client broughta grad school pal of mine. We reminisced about our firstshared waitressing job. Easy teardown after the show,shower and dinner and a movie with roommate. Greatweekend.July 3 and 4Breakfast and goodbye to my roommate Mary. I delivera huge landscape on wood to new clients in Cleveland.They also want the large nude for the master bath.It looks fabulous there. Order art supplies on the phoneas I drive to the family lake house at Eagle Lake in southernMichigan. Celebrate the Fourth of July with sistersand families, boating, swimming, fabulous food and fireworks!Called my own kids to wish them a happy IndependenceDay.July 5 and 6Holiday over, everyone goes home except me. I stay,spending most of my time entering client data on mylaptop. I’m only a year and a half behind! Rollerbladearound the lake, make plane reservationsfor August, using frequentflyermiles, to see son in Oregon betweenshows.July 7Drive to St. Joseph, Mich., for theKrasl Art Fair. It’s been a few yearssince I was here. Easy setup, thenwe feast on local wines and cuisineat artists reception ... wow!July 8Perfect weather, lovely audience. Have dinner with greatwomen artists. We laugh, share stories and camaraderie,appreciating our lives, our friends, and our time togetherand remembering those who are gone.July 9Weather threatens rain, and then clears up, and we geta beautiful day. More sales. My friend Holly has hurt herwrist and I loan her my Rollerblading wrist guard. Wemeet after teardown, have dinner, and I invite her tostay at the lake house an hour away instead of drivingall night.July 10Holly and I had breakfast together before she took off.But then my van starts making a grinding metal noise. Insteadof leaving for Minneapolis she follows me to car mechanicwho can’t look at it rightaway. I had been planning topark the van at the nearby SouthBend Indiana airport while I flewhome for a week to make morework and check on my houseand home-from-college workingson. My flight was due to leavein a couple of hours! We leavethe van with the mechanic (firstemptying out the cooler, UGH!),and Holly drives me back to the lake house for a quickpack and then to the airport. She drops me off, and I findthat my flight has been cancelled. The clerk tells me Imight get the last seat on an alternate flight and I decideto try my luck. Meanwhile the mechanic calls, the van isready. The repairs were not too expensive — he just hadto repack wheel bearings on one side. Get a seat, arrangefor the van to remain at the garage. Going through security,I’m selected for the complete shakedown. My lastminutepacking mixes underwear with paperwork. Finallyget to Florida. One hour later it’s home sweet home.July 11Deposit money. Wonder if I should concentrate on commissionsor replace sold work? Will celebrate a friend’sbirthday with dinner tonight. My son’s financial-aid paperworkneeds immediate attention. I need a haircut.Can I afford a pedicure? The massage chair there wouldsure be nice. Maybe a nap … t

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