Travels of artist Joshua Lance
Bucks County Magazine, Summer 2019
by Michele Malinchak
If a trip overseas isn’t in the cards this year, there’s an alternative. Want to see the sun-drenched coast of Italy or visit an Irish fishing village? Or perhaps meet a Portuguese flower dancer? Then let your eyes take you on a visual trip through the paintings of Joshua Lance
Finding inspiration in faraway lands, he loves exploring the world and reporting back what he sees. “My travels have allowed me to paint unique work that I couldn’t have done without experiencing different cultures,” he said.
Often he’ll just go to paint, while other times he teaches English as a Second Language (ESL) in addition to painting. He’s taught abroad since 2012 which enables him to see the world while providing an endless supply of subjects. Using art as a universal language, he often has his students draw to help them learn English.
Josh has painted seriously since he was 19 and is best known as a street painter. Inspired by the Positano painters on Italy’s Amalfi coast, he paints and sells his art directly from his easel. With no middleman or gallery fee, he keeps his prices affordable and enjoys telling clients the stories behind his art. He comes equipped with postcards to hand out and uses his cell phone to show where people can sign up for his newsletter on his website.
He’s even devised a way to transport everything he needs to paint outdoors. Using a dolly, he totes his French easel (made in Paris so it’s really French) and baskets containing his art. Also in tow is a backpack and a black umbrella to shield himself from the sun or rain. The dolly doubles as a mobile gallery on which he hangs a few of his framed pieces. It takes him 10-15 minutes both to set up and break it down, and everything is held together with bungee cords.
Immersing himself in public settings has its pros and cons. The subjective nature of art appreciation draws favorable and unfavorable comments from onlookers and Josh tries to take it all in stride.
Because he travels frequently, his paintings are typically small for ease of transporting, ranging in size from 8 x 10 inches to 16 x 20. He paints mostly on wooden/MDF surfaces with some covered in canvas.
Josh has painted in watercolor, acrylic and pastel but has focused on oils for the past 10 years. His brush strokes are loose and much of his impressionist work is done in impasto. He likes using a simplified palette of primary colors which he mixes to get variations, like making his own black by combining Van Dyke brown and ultramarine blue.
Color and composition are the most important elements when he paints. Simplifying shapes and colors, he saves details until the very end. In a recent interview for the Nueve Fine Art Marketing Blog, he said, “I also tend to paint quirky and not always technically perfect, but the essence and emotion of a subject are important for me to achieve my vision.”
“Most of the time I have no idea what I want to paint until the very last moment,” he said. “I just bring my easel to a place and then hunt for a scene.” He’s inspired by artists like French impressionist Claude Monet and American painter Robert Henri but stated, “I’m not here to be a clone of someone else.”
Last year in Italy he completed a series of landscapes including many cathedrals, structures that he said are works of art in themselves. They appealed to him as subjects because, he said, “We are all looking for sanctuaries in life.”
The portrait of the young woman, “Kyota” pictured here, was someone he met while hiking in Kyoto, Japan. She barely spoke English and Josh never learned her name, so he gave her a name based on the city.
He painted another portrait, “Chinese Baby of Woyang Village,” when he volunteered in 2016 to help high school students in rural China paint a mural at their school. The child is painted in warm reds and yellows, with a face that could melt anyone’s heart. Josh said, “She seemed to embody the spirit of the place. I’ll never forget her.”
He also likes painting animals and believes they are the intermediary between the natural world and the human world. In his painting, “The Shy One,” horses in Iceland were painted from a photograph. Their shaggy manes and tails create a striking composition against a backdrop of rolling hills complete with geysers.
Before traveling abroad, Josh spent several years in Santa Fe, New Mexico pursuing his art career. There he worked at a high-end gallery but found himself unemployed after the 2008 recession hit. He traveled throughout the Southwest doing art shows but in 2011 decided that he wanted to live and teach ESL in Asia.
He remembers the total cultural shock when he landed in Seoul, Korea for his first teaching assignment. “You don’t really learn about the world until you get out of your comfort zone,” he said.
After teaching in Korea he went to Taiwan where he lived and taught for the next four years, also studying Buddhism and art from a Taiwanese master. When he returned to the U.S. in 2017 he lived briefly in Ft. Collins, Colorado before embarking on a trip to Portugal where he taught ESL and painted for a year.
Then onward to Ireland where he participated in an international art show, the Art in the Open Festival in Wexford where nearly 200 painters converged in the summer of 2018.
Shortly afterward he moved back to Lambertville, NJ, his old hometown. “I have a lot of history here,” he said, living there when he was eight years old and then later in his 20’s. He’s a familiar sight now along the canal towpath in Lambertville and New Hope where he often paints. Referring to all the places he’s lived, “There’s not one place that’s totally home for me,” he said. “It’s like your children—you can’t just pick one as a favorite.”
To support himself he’s worked at many different jobs over the years, not all of them fulfilling. “I’ve had a million bad jobs,” he claims in a video on his web site. He recalled once working as a waiter at a cowboy-themed restaurant in NJ where he had to dress up like one, complete with hat and boots. “Those boots were so uncomfortable, I didn’t last there very long.”
He also taught as a substitute teacher at an elementary school in New Jersey and for 15 years worked at various frame shops and galleries, including one in the Oxford Valley Mall.
Born in Hempstead, NY and raised in NJ, his parents moved to Waterbury, CT when he was three. There he attended a Montessori school that taught children of all nationalities, instilling in him a lifelong appreciation of diversity.
Later he attended Mercer County Community College in West Windsor, NJ and eventually transferred to Montclair State University in NJ, earning art degrees from both. At Montclair, he began taking courses in accounting and hospitality management but later switched back to art. After taking a summer drawing class with instructor Mel Lipzig, “I was hooked,” he said.
At one point he thought he wanted to be an art therapist and studied briefly at Hahnemann University in Philadelphia. He always liked psychology and believed in the healing power of art, but it wasn’t what he thought and he left after a year.
After painting, music is his second love. Josh plays piano and composes his own music. He’s also involved in making videos, online art demos and writing a blog for his web site. In addition, he continues to teach ESL online and said, “I taught in China this morning!”
He enjoys living in the moment and painting what he calls the Zen of life. In his 40s now, he’s still trying to find his voice, a stronger one. Though he’s never really given too much thought to the future, he would like to paint more portraits and commissioned work. He’s also open to giving lessons and hopes to have his own studio and living space someday. And he’d like to return to Japan to paint.
As he travels around the world, Josh finds there is more that unites us than not. Similar to how Norman Rockwell painted scenes from American life, Josh hopes to portray different cultures in a meaningful way.
Always a student of life, he views his artistic journey as humbling and gratifying. “Art is like a religion, a spiritual path in itself.” The one piece of advice he offers: “Just go out there and see the world. There’s so much more out there than you’d ever imagine.”
If you don’t catch him on the streets, you can visit his web site, joshualance.com. His work is also shown at the Art Gallery of New Hope, 2A Stockton Ave, New Hope, PA
Michele Malinchak is a freelance writer from Quakertown, PA who writes about gardening and art.