Planning an art trip - seeking advice on semantics to avoid run-ins with police

Hey, everyone.

I am planning a trip down to Austin for the spring to work on a series of large paintings I’ve been wanting to make. I will most likely make my start in a couple of weeks.

The way things stand at the moment is that I am not rich enough to sublet a room or stay at a hotel, but I have a loose network of friends I can stay with, each for a day or two, with a few possibilities…but for an entire two-month stay, I may have a few days (maybe as many as 10-14) left unfilled.

I have considered the idea of having a sign or placard next to me as I am working, seeking a floor/couch to sleep on in case anyone who is observing me work might be able to help.
My main concern is how to word a sign so that an (imho) overzealous Austin police force would be more inclined to leave me alone than to give me any trouble.

I would think the simple sentence “Traveling Artist seeks temporary couch to sleep on, if you would like to help” might suffice, but I’m terribly worried that cops could and would misconstrue it as vagrancy/begging. I’ve lived there for a few years before, and I know what APD is capable of.
Does anyone take any issue with how I would word this sign? Do you have better suggestions on how to say it?

To be clear, I will be traveling with decent clothing – button down shirts, new(ish) clean jeans, even a suede sportcoat (if it gets cold) I never had much opportunity to wear until now. My plan is to keep my supplies and belongings at a storage unit during my stay, and I will be using anything at my disposal to try not to appear to be the technically homeless person I will be during this time.
I have personal work to do, and am not going down to Austin to loaf around.

Boy, do cops everywhere hate signs. If I were you I’d engage in conversation with anyone who stops and see how that goes. Especially for the first few days. If you don’t get a good response there consider a sign, but start slow with something that does not provide evidence that can be trotted out in court.

But I’ve had a lot of great conversations with artists who I’ve stopped to watch work. I wait for them to engage me, as I don’t want to disturb them, so you might need to be more outgoing than usual with anyone who stops.

You might be right about cops and signs.

Engagement is definitely not a problem, though. When I’m painting, I’m a people magnet.

The interesting thing…I was spending a few months in eastern Europe (Moldova/Ukraine) when I decided to get back into art, and people were inviting me to come stay with them on their farm or at their country home all the time, and I didn’t even need a place to stay.
The main impression I got was that they were proud that an American artist felt their country was beautiful/interesting enough to want to paint it.

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I don’t have any good suggestions, but here’s one you might want to avoid using:


Well, he ain’t stayin on mah couch for free…

Well, with that attitude, you ain’t gettin’ your portrait did either.

P.S. I never said I was against bargaining for things. I am all about trading when the opportunity arises.


I have no experience with jurisdictions with real vagrancy laws, but would obvious baggage be safe?

Of course, I’m trying to keep it light and will only be taking what I can fit into one of those rolling, wire errand-carts – art supplies and personal gear together. I do plan to carry a messenger bag over my shoulder as well.

As soon as I get to Austin, I think one of the most important things to do would be to rent a storage unit a.s.a.p. so I can have a safe place to keep personal belongings and store the “art cart” overnight. It would make life rather awkward if I had to take it everywhere I go, not to mention the 2 paintings in progress I would be working on each day.

My process will be to work on two paintings simultaneously (these take about 10-14 days each to finish, it’s hard to get the weather to cooperate all the time) – in the morning, afternoon, or evening, depending on the location. Other free time will be used to sketch or do watercolors that I can trade or sell later. If people ask me to do a portrait, I’m all for it, and aside from the 5 large oils I’m planning to do, I’m taking about 10 small canvases along just for personal requests in case anyone wishes to buy one. I don’t really need a studio to do a portrait, and prefer something more organic in nature than a “Sears Portrait Studio” look.

To be clear, I do not intend to vendor from the street. That would land me in even more hot water.

If anyone’s curious, a couple of my primary spots will be – the view west from underneath the overpass at Lamar and 183 at night, where it’s a giant paved median between the Dodge dealership and the comedy club on the other side (near the transit bus transfer station). It’s a great nighttime “concrete city” kind of view – another would be the Guadalupe corridor downtown, looking north from the dead end by the river, during the day – thinking about going over to South Congress, but not sure if it would just look like an advertisement for the businesses down there. Perhaps something up close, so you couldn’t identify the businesses from their signs – other ideas I’ll deal with when I get there. My intention is to create canvases that look like stills from a movie, and if I can get the cooperation of people to insert into the scene, that would make it all even better.

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Can you post some pictures of your prior work? Interested to see it.

I’m a horrible photographer, but this is the best representation of the few items I have. If I could afford to pay for models, I’d seriously love to do more figure study or portraiture.
I feel I need to get serious about a portfolio, and I’d like to use this as an opportunity to create some work that is well-planned and better executed than my previous work.
Another minor reason – family members I am living with do not see art as a primary pursuit in life, and wish I would do something else. I can’t really make art here without putting my relationship with family in jeopardy, so going somewhere else to do it is my best solution. A little insecurity about shelter I can deal with. Family stress about what I’m trying to accomplish with my life is another matter altogether.

I realize my painting style has sort of a quaint (dare I say, sophomoric) appearance to it, and I’d really like to move away from that to something more galvanized. While living in Austin, I got to know the landscape/cityscape pretty well, and would like to represent it faithfully if I can, without all the touristy trappings.

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As the date approaches, I have seriously taken to to see what’s available.

1,000+ couches. I may not be stranded after all.

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