When Christiane Palpant was a child, she and her family played a board game called “Masterpiece.” The game mimicked an art auction, and Palpant fondly recalls playing as the character “Millicent Friendly.” This name stuck in her mind as she grew up and pursued both her career in financial services and her passion for painting. Now, Palpant has decided to embark on a new journey: a yearlong drive across the United States in a Sprinter Van, which she aptly named Millicent in tribute to these art-centric memories with her family. Palpant plans to begin by driving to Florida. She will then venture west through the Mississippi delta, north along the Pacific coast, and in the springtime, she will tackle the Midwest and Northeast.
While her financial career has already taken her to all 50 states, she is thrilled to experience them through a new lens, as she will dedicate her experience to drawing inspiration from each state’s unique tapestry of landscape and people. Christiane Palpant endeavors to meet five goals during her journey. The first is, of course, to paint in all 50 states. The second is to interview women who, as a result of dramatic life changes, have made decisions that changed their life trajectories. The third is to write a book and channel the creative energy of her paintings into the written word. The fourth is to continue teaching her Principles of Professional Sales course online at Georgia State University. Fifth and finally, she would like to connect with friends and family, and is excited to reach out to the people she knows in 47 of the 50 states.
Palpant is not afraid of the unknown she will inevitably encounter on her expedition. Instead, she is excited for what’s to come, writing, “I feel like a cowboy in an old Western movie who climbed a fence to dramatically jump on the nearby galloping horse for a ride into the sunset.” She will jump on this horse come this February, and you can follow her adventure soon via Instagram takeovers on Agora Gallery’s Instagram page. Palpant’s route can also be tracked on her Instagram, @christiane.palpant, and via the hashtags, #PalpantArt and #MillieVanMasterpiece, and her artworks available for sale are on her ARTmine page.
Before she hits the road, while making the last arrangements, we talked with Christiane about her trip.
What is your first memory of artistic/creative expression and how has that influenced/impacted the art you make today?
My mother was the professional artist of the family and I always marveled at her talent, but when I was a child, I didn’t realize I too had art running through my veins. My earliest forms of expression were on the stage rather than on the canvas. Although, as a young person I was captivated by family trips to The Art Institute of Chicago and The Louvre in Paris. These were early art lessons with my mother, even though I did not realize it at the time.
Do you find that your career in financial services ever intertwines or compliments your passion for painting or would you say these are two separate identities?
My financial services career required a lot of creativity from a marketing perspective, but it mostly drew on my left brain. In the evenings and on the weekends, I would retreat to my art studio for a little balance with my artistic, creative right brain. It was just the catharsis I needed.
In the year that you were on bed rest, you painted 60 paintings. Where did that fire come from and how was it maintained?
Because I was on bed rest and dealt with a lot of pain, I found that painting was my relief, and I dove into it headfirst. In the beginning, I didn’t realize I could physically paint while on bedrest because I saw the example of my mother who always stood while painting and I knew I didn’t have the stamina to do that. Once I realized I could paint while sitting I started producing at a rapid rate. Even though I am physically much better now, I still sit while painting. That method is in my DNA now.
Do you experience the same type of creative drive today, or is it different? How so?
I absolutely do feel the same type of creative drive now! Each moment of every day I think about painting. I find myself studying clouds, colors, light, emotions, and I quiz myself about how I would express those on a canvas. If I were to offer a word picture of my creativity, I feel like it’s a gushing fountain and I am eager to capture every drop. I don’t allow my mind to consider negativity or fear while I am painting because I believe that those emotions would transcend to the canvas.
You have a journey ahead of you. In February 2022, you will begin a road trip visiting all 50 states. In each of these states, you plan to make a new painting by drawing inspiration from their unique landscapes and people. Additionally, as a child, you played the board game “Masterpiece” with your family. The game’s character “Millicent Friendly” stuck with you so much that you’ve named the vehicle you’ll drive on this journey, “Millicent”. You will be documenting your experience with Millicent on both your own and Agora Gallery’s social media pages. What do you think viewers can expect to see from your perspective?
I have already traveled to all 50 states several times, due to my career in financial services. This time I will remove the pressed suit and grab a paintbrush to capture the beauty and unique character of each state. My van is custom built and there are three locations for painting inside and around the vehicle. It will be a studio on wheels! Additionally, I will have a camera in hand and enjoy meeting people wherever I go. There will be a multitude of valuable spontaneous moments.
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You have a route set, but are there some specific locations in which you plan to visit and paint, or do you expect inspiration to come when witnessing the unexpected on the road?
I have a copy of the 2022 Rand McNally physical road map and I have traced my route in red pen. (Yes, I have a modern digital copy too, but there is something exciting about seeing it on paper.) Because the van will be ready in February, to avoid snowstorms I will drive from Cincinnati, Ohio, where the van is currently located, straight south to Florida. The next leg of my journey will be to head west to southern California and north to Washington State. The final leg of my journey will be to head east to Maine and then south to Atlanta, Georgia where my home is located. The specific artistic inspiration points will be spontaneous. I plan to photograph the sunrise and the sunset each day and I will also capture the view each morning as I exit the van. The unexpected is the exciting part of the adventure.
There are 5 goals you’d like to complete while on this trip. One of which is meeting and interviewing women who as a result of trauma or dramatic change, have made decisions that changed the trajectory of their lives. What is the origin of this goal and does it have personal meaning to you?
I’ve had my own shocking health crisis and healing journey. I have realized there are millions of brave women whose stories have never been told. Those powerful journeys can give listeners peace, comfort, and hope, especially during this long pandemic.
You also plan to donate a portion of the paintings’ proceeds to organizations/charities. Could you talk a little bit about the specifics of these organizations and what their causes are?
I am talking with several charities and will narrow it down to one. More to come on this topic.
Another goal of yours within the upcoming year is transferring your creative energies into a book. Have you any idea what the contents of this book will beーif so, do you care to share?
Yes, I have three book ideas and it’s a matter of focusing on one at a time. The first is a young adult fiction book based on Millicent the van. The second is centered on the interviews with courageous women. Additionally, I teach on the college level, and the third book is a business book built on the principles of a successful career trajectory.
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What other plans do you have?
I’m always brewing plans. My mother quips that I’ve never been bored a day in my life. Fall of 2022 I have a pending exciting job offer that I may pursue. As a result, I need to hit the road and make this art journey with Millicent count. The customization of Millicent didn’t go as planned due to supply chain delays. We’ve all needed to become very flexible in this new world in which we live! Great need builds even greater creativity.