Iceland, or Why it's Important to (Force Yourself to) Go Places.

by Cory Godbey

I am a reluctant traveler.

Like many artists before me (and some of you, readers, I suspect) I'm something of a hermit. 

I'm in my element when I'm in my studio working. I like quiet. I like drawing. I like not being in an airplane.

I'm a reluctant traveler, yes, but I don't mind being somewhere. It's that whole messy business of getting to that somewhere that keeps me in my studio more often than not. None of this "it's the journey" for me. Unless you're literally driving around Iceland (more on that in moment) the journey is mostly tedious.

Above: Oh fine, maybe not that reluctant of a traveler.
When I am compelled to leave my lair, best case scenario is for exploring and/or talking about art reasons.

Back at the end of July, I had the opportunity to go to Iceland with Light Grey Art Lab as a part of their 2015 Artist in Residence program. The experience was nothing short of extraordinary. No exaggeration. 

The directors, Lindsay, Chris, and Jenny, have managed to tap into the very best feelings of summer camp, art school, and (yes, even!) traveling with their residency program. I absolutely loved my time.

(And you know what, the Iceland 2016 Residency applications are now open!)

The days consisted of hiking to massive glaciers, exploring (sometimes hidden) waterfalls, plein air painting, and (for some of us!) climbing up every winding sheep path we could find. The evenings were filled with conversations about art and process through different workshops led by each team member.

Light Grey Art Lab describes the concept behind the residency this way,

The environment in Iceland is entrancing on a grand, and primal level, and we wish to bring leaders in the arts world together here to learn and share thoughts on creativity, problem solving, and ideation, and learn more about why we need to use our power as creators in art, illustration, and design to change minds and make an impact upon our return. 

Note: Not all of these images are from my time in the residency. The week after the program ended my wife, Erin, was able to meet up with me and we wandered through the country for another week.

There's just no way for me to encapsulate the experience of exploring somewhere as truly wild and inspiring as Iceland. It's just beyond the reach of a humble blog post to convey the feeling of the place.

Music helps. Sigur Rós captures the expanse, mystery, and magic of their homeland.

Fjallsárlón Glacial Lagoon. 
Jökulsárlón. Not kidding. #nofilter

I'm paraphrasing @justinoaksford, one of my fellow #teammoss2015 adventurers, but Iceland truly makes your soul ache as tangibly as if you've been working out a physical muscle the entire time.

That thought leads me back around to the title of this post:

Why is it important to (force yourself to) go places? 

Because burn out is a serious thing that we rarely talk about as artists. Because there are times when the well comes close to running dry. Because even if you're a reluctant traveler like me sometimes you have to delve into a new place, feel it, try to learn it, and step outside yourself. You do your best to refill the well.

Why? So that you can come back to your own work refreshed, yes, but I believe more importantly you refill that well so that you are better able to give others a drink.

Gullfoss. An actual, real, live place somehow.

And you know what, I mentioned it way back at the top of this post but even just driving around Iceland is a delight in and of itself. Here's a quick time-lapse video. Perhaps travel's not all bad, I suppose.

A video posted by corygodbey (@corygodbey) on


If you'd like to see more pictures (and some video) you can find them on my Instagram, @corygodbey.