AIKEN - In recent years, Al Beyer has produced oil paintings of rocks in the waters of Ireland, the mountains of Spain and the vivid architecture of Istanbul.
This summer, the USC Aiken fine arts professor has returned from India with more art work, including an amber fort and a lake palace in Jaipur, the Taj Mahal in Agra and the Lodi Gardens with the Sikander Lodi Tomb in New Delhi.
A faculty member at USCA for 33 years, Beyer holds the Mary D. Toole Chair in Art, an endowed chair that has helped with his travels overseas each summer since 2008. During that period, his journeys have taken him to a single nation each year: Ireland, Spain, England, France, the Netherlands and to Istanbul, Turkey in 2013.
Beyer also recently returned with photographs, but "what's nice about my paintings is that they're different from the photographs. I'm always hit by the experiences of when I did the paintings," he said.
Before each trip, he immerses himself in information of each country, but not randomly. Each time, Beyer studies the country through Google and Wikipedia, seeking images that he would like to paint and figuring out the internal issues within the city or cities he chooses. As a practical matter, he searches train and bus schedules to accelerate his opportunities to quickly move from site to site within one city, or move on to another community.
His travels are not "visits," Beyer said. "I have to be able to paint, or I wouldn't take those trips."
Each country has its own theme. In Istanbul, Beyer concentrated on the architecture and did so again in India. He also found in India exotic qualities in many areas, as well as extreme poverty.
"I really feel that people should see as much of the world as they can," Beyer said.
"There are issues that affect everybody."
He spent 12 days in India, producing a painting each day. It's "pretty cool" to accomplish that self-assigned project, but he finds it a challenge, too. Beyer only will paint from the actual scene, doing so "with the ideas of not coming back to those arenas," he said.
The scenes will change as the light changes. In Ireland at the lake, he often had to hunker under an overhang or a poncho to keep dry from heavy rain. The weather in India brought extreme heat, with temperatures of about 100 degrees and a far higher heat index.
Still, Beyer's experiences in the seven countries are so indelible, so moving, that a little discomfort is of no consequence. He is pondering his next trip in 2015 and is close to a decision on Iceland, which isn't that cold in the summer.
"It's really wonderful to spend time on the computer looking at Iceland," Beyer said. "It's like a dream."
Information from: Aiken Standard, http://www.aikenstandard.com