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Travel Art Made at Home

Art Dioramas to Paint from Observation 

Travel Art Dioramas by Toronto Artist Rachael Grad

In 2020 during lockdown in Toronto, I became more nostalgic for travel. While I usually enjoy painting and drawing from life, when stuck at home I came up with a new system for observational art making. For some recent paintings, I set up a diorama scene incorporating my original travel photographs from past trips abroad. I collaged my photos with used palette paper, and painting scraps in the background and on the walls and floor, along with dollhouse furniture from my childhood. The objects and elements are personal ones that I either created, captured or experienced. Pieces of the dollhouse furniture were made by me in my teens so the objects and images in this diorama and painting are very personal ones. I then painted from observation of the diorama, slowly building up thin layers of paint on wood panel. Below are photographs of two art dioramas I created in 2020, along with the resulting paintings from observing them.

Venice, Italy Art Diorama

The first diorama is composed of photographs taken while studying art in Venice, Italy in 2010 and 2011. During those two summers I was in NYU's Master of Studio Art program. As a tourist and art student, I took thousands of photographs and filled many sketchbooks with drawings, paintings and art ideas. A specific orange cat and the many happy, off-leash animals in Venice, Italy were an endless source of enjoyment and art inspiration. 

Art diorama by Toronto Artist Rachael Grad

Middle East and Dollhouse Art Diorama

The second art diorama shown here is composed of photographs I took in Israel in October 2019, along with used palette paper, studio scraps and my children's toys. Dollhouse furniture, train set pieces, Russian matryoshka dolls and paper aiplanes were moving pieces in this collage diorama. At some points, I even added my favourite friendly Venetian tabby cat into the diorama and my paintings. 

art diorama of toys and mixed media by Toronto artist Rachael Grad

Travel Photographs and Memories in Art

Even before Toronto went into lockdown in March 2020, I regularly revisited my travel photography, drawings and paintings and used them to create new artwork. This way of painting allows me to revisit memories and spark my imagination by combining my travel photographs, sketches, memories and childhood mementos with a carefully controlled and idealized version of a living space. I've been missing travel but have thousands of travel photos, sketches and painting from which to work. 

Relooking at my travel photographs, creating a new world in a diorama collage, and painting from my moving setup has been a way for me to travel without leaving home. Creating movable dioramas of my own photography and paintings has been really exciting and stimulating for my creativity. This has allowed me to design my own little worlds of memories and images from which I can observe and paint at home. The process is allowing me to revel in my daydreams and memories and also to relive wonderful travel experiences while creating new artwork.

Venice Italy Alley Painting

My goal in these Venetian-inspired paintings was to capture the light and atmosphere of a specific places like a dead-end alley (“calle” in Venetian dialect) in the height of summer heat and humidity. The humans and animals (house cats and dogs) moved more slowly and lazily in the stifling height of a summer heat wave. The painting plays with the scale and placement of the figures in different views of the Venetian alley. In this space, I got to know a friendly neighbourhood orange tabby cat, who appears in my art diorama and paintings.

In these recent Venice, Italy paintings I worked on various size canvases and panels with colors taken from the specific location and painting traditions of the city. To capture the light and feel of Venice in summer, I painted with a traditional Venetian palette of mars black, titanium white, yellow ochre, raw umbre, and Venetian/Indian red colors. 

Italy as Art Inspiration

Italy and the art I made while studying, travelling and living there is a continuing source of artistic inspiration for me. With so many different places to visit in one country, a rich history of art and culture, Italy is always at the top of my travel bucket list. I’ve never travelled to Sicily or seen the mosaics in Ravenna, and I have a long list of other foreign places I’ve never visited and would to experience...after we're COVID-19 vaccinated and traveling is easier! 

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 Travel Art Dioramas by Canadian Artist Rachael Grad

Travel Paintings Created at Home in Toronto

Travel paintings made at home in Toronto by Canadian Artist Rachael Grad