needs change

The Journey

For the past 20 years my life has been spent in the car traveling between our home in Nova Scotia, my family home in Chicago, and work in Atlanta, Georgia. Over the years I have chronicled these trips with photographs taken as scenes quickly pass by the passenger seat.


With a desire to explore more of North America we purchased a VW Eurovan in 2018.

Our first van trips were short. Our maiden voyage took us from Birmingham to Selma, Alabama turning north to catch the Natchez Trace crossing the Trail of Tears, and into Nashville. We explored the South’s violent and messy history, finding heart wrenching stories, and amazing creativity rolled into complicated places.


Our longer trips started in 2019. We drove west across Canada to British Columbia, south crossing the border into Washington State and heading back east through the Northern United States. In 2020 we took advantage of the Maritime bubble and spent six weeks traveling PEI, Newfoundland, New Brunswick, and Nova Scotia. And, in 2021 we spent four months driving from Nova Scotia to Toronto, through the Midwestern US, to Atlanta, across the South to New Mexico, up through the Rockies, turning east in Montana and heading home to Nova Scotia.


In the past 3 years we have lived in the van for about 8 months and traveled 40,000 miles (64,000 kms). We have visited countless national, provincial, and state parks. We have slept in the van behind abandoned barns, in the middle of the desert, in a driveway in downtown Toronto, and everything in between. Along the way we got a dog, hiked forests and deserts, swam in ponds and lakes, laughed and argued, and broke down several times. Our new motto is: “No trip is complete without being towed at least once.” 


thumbnails, acrylic/photo transfers on watercolour paper, 4 x 6"

The Artwork

Most of any road trip consists of watching the scenery pass by. It is like a long film taken from a single vantage point with a consistent horizon line. Unlike our previous car trips the van offered a higher vantage point and large windows with a more expansive view.


With endless scenery and countless hours on the road, I again began photographing from my post in the passenger seat. The term “needs change” began to develop as the shell of an idea  about changing climate and our complicated relationship with oil, as I chronicled our journey, noticing places and things that either need changing or exemplify how our needs have changed.


We all take photos to document our travels in an effort to capture a piece of what it felt like to be in that spot, at that time. We post and store our photos then never look at them again. When I returned home from each of these extended journeys I wanted to re-experience the trips. I did this by exploring the photographs in different ways keeping in mind the words “needs change”. I started by culling them into a manageable amount of images, then editing them for content and aesthetics, moving next to printing them out and enhancing them with paint and pen. The final edit consists of 100 images presented in a 4x6” format on water colour paper. These are the result of the first exercise of re-examining what was seen from the passenger seat over the three years.


After editing the initial 100 images to 40 I took the exercise a step further,  In the second phase the images are enlarged to 9x13.5”, maintain the 2:3 ratio of a digital SLR, and keep the horizontal landscape format.  The 40 images on Terra Skin paper are photo transfers imbedded into layers of first acrylic and then oil paint.  The meticulous process of photo transfers creates a more tactile experience with the images expanding the re-experiencing from just visual to include touch.


In the final process I selected ten images from the 40 midsized paintings and enlarged the scale to eight - 24x36”, one - 32x40”, and one - 36x48” (not seen here). In addition to the photo transfer and paint process many of these incorporate collaged images from National Geographic magazines. The collaged images further add to the narrative of changing needs in our relationship to oil and its impact on our environment.

mock ups, acrylic/photo transfers on terraskin paper, 9 x 14"
oil/photo transfer on canvas, 24 x 36"
oil on canvas


selected artwork


art education