Monte Dolack: Art and Travel

Publisher’s Note: A version of this blog first appeared in the Great Falls Tribune.


Sometimes you don’t have to travel far for a change of scene. Traveling, even close to home sheds new light, not only on the eye but into the mind and heart as well. These are among the important human organs for art making.

Traveling further afield and beyond one’s comfort zone challenges convictions and conventions. These challenges can become the adventure of a lifetime. As Mark Twain wrote in 1868, and I believe, remains just as true today,  “Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

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Jackson Glacier 2008

Whether a grand tour or a long weekend, a commitment and some resources will be required. Of course, there are more than the financial costs involved in travel. The intellectual and physical challenges of travel can be arduous, but if exploration is made a priority these obstacles can certainly be conquered. Travel is work, but it can be really good work.

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Venetian Seagulls 2008

The pleasure of anticipation, preparing and planning for travel can be almost as exhilarating as the trip itself. Thorough planning and research can save time and maximize one’s experience. It can be the kick-starter for sprucing up your neglected French or the catalyst to finally putting together a really good traveling art kit. There are decisions of what and how much to take. My friend Aubrey used to say, “Bring half as much baggage and twice as much money”.

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Burgundy Chapel 2009

For an artist making paintings, crafting objects and making photographs, traveling in new areas, instead of working out of familiar surroundings are a demanding but ultimately, a very rewarding challenge. New sights are stimulating to the visual mind. However, these same sources of inspiration can be overwhelming, especially in a country with a different language and climate. Not only are you widening your view of the world and people, but making an effort to record it at the same time. A traveling artist from another land can sometimes observe and paint things that the locals have, over time began to take for granted.

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Crossing the Nile 2010

Views from the airplane window, bus or rail car can be inspirational as well. I try and get a window seat and enjoy and record the sights. The view from these machines conveying us to our destination can offer unusual perspectives and should be taken advantage of. A little relaxing time in a local café is handy for sketching and observation, as well as sampling the local cuisine.

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Bonnieux Fields 2011

Upon the return, working on paintings from journal entries, sketches and photographs from travel is mesmerizing. This pursuit, at least for me, extends and renews the travel experience, which can quickly evaporate when meeting the demands of built up messages, unpaid bills and neglected social obligations. A return to routine can quickly bury the splendor of a recent travel experience. Working on home ground in the studio can be somewhat like an add-on extension to the trip, which stimulates memory and experience. At the drawing table or easel, I find myself remembering and savoring the forgotten nuances from the journey.

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Springtime on Loch Etive 2012

A travel experience can become a quest that will enrich your life. That quest begins with each traveler finding one’s own area of passion and interest. Whether visiting the world’s great museums, seeing the ruins of past civilizations or encountering exotic landscapes and people, travel can bring new freshness into one’s life. The art and travel experience will always open new areas of subject matter and inspiration. To combine the art making process with travel is a celebration of being alive.


To see more of Monte Dolack’s artwork, visit his Gallery or check out his website.


A native of Great Falls, Monte Dolack grew up surrounded by the same sweeping vistas and big sky that inspired Charlie Russell. His love of Montana and passion for the West’s diverse landscapes and wildlife are evident in the images he creates and the commissions he undertakes.

His best known early works – wild animals wreaking havoc in human homes – comprise his “Invaders Series,” exploring the myths of the West and how we view our relationship with our environment. The irresistible appeal of these images helped build Monte’s national reputation and continues to attract collectors.

A love of the natural world, combined with his exuberant curiosity and travel experiences, has shaped the content of Monte’s imagery.  Blending mythology, technology, and elements from nature and the landscape, his work is infused with a sense of humor and irony.