Greta Van Campen


In the fall of 2010, I left my teaching job in Chicago and moved back to Maine. I wanted to focus more on my art, but wasn’t really sure how to do that. A friend of mine told me about people raising money through Kickstarter. I decided to try it and called my project “Greta Paints America.” I wanted to visit all 50 states and paint along the way.

Kickstarter is an online venue for creative projects. You can pitch any idea and set a goal for the amount of money you need to raise in order for it to happen. If you don’t receive enough donations to reach your chosen goal amount, then all the money goes back to the donors and you don’t get anything. I set my goal at $8,000 and ended up raising $10,941 with 86 backers.

I knew that my goal of $8,000 wasn’t enough to get me all around the country, but that it would be enough to get started. Once on the road, I came up with other ways to keep the project going. I traded paintings with the wife of a car mechanic who did work on my Saab in Santa Fe, and when I sold the series of small-cost-offsetting paintings online, most people were very kind and gave me more than I was asking for them. After New Mexico, I moved my home base to San Francisco for a while and held a show out there, selling more work from the road and also giving away little sketches as party favors, which helped spread the word. In October 2011, Dowling Walsh Gallery took a chance on a new emerging artist and gave me a show, which really helped to fund the remainder of my travels.


All 50 States

Here is the actual map of my travels. Each leg is highlighted in a different color and the yellow at the top is the train route. It took me a year and four months to see all 50 states.

Each leg of travel lasted from one to three months, and I’d return home between big trips to rest up and get organized for the next leg. While I loved being on the road, it was always nice to come back home at the end of a long adventure. The route highlighted in green was my travel after the train trip. I ended up getting a puppy from Craigslist in Kentucky and she became my travel companion for the last long drive (highlighted in blue) from Maine, out to the mountains in Wyoming and Montana and back.


Living The Dream

And these are most of the paintings I made in that time. I have all of my supporters to thank as well as my friend, Nick Westervelt, who said to me back in 2010, “Greta, if you could do anything, just for yourself, what would you do?”

I completed hundreds of paintings over the course of my project, saw amazing sites, met incredibly wonderful people and really was able to kickstart my career as an artist. The question my friend asked is an important one for us all to consider from time to time.”

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