A painting from Sweden in “The Traveling Artist.”

Missy Dunaway took a leap of faith on leap day five years ago when she drove up to Maine from New York City, checked herself into a hotel in Portland and began a new life.

An itinerant artist who had used New York as a base, Dunaway was searching for a place to settle for a while and maybe put down some roots. She had done her research, and after considering relocating to Kansas City, Baltimore, Providence, Pittsburgh and Minneapolis – cities with solid reputations for supporting artists – she chose Portland.

She arrived Feb. 29, 2016, knowing no one. “I decided I would give it a try for a year,” she said.

Missy Dunaway has traveled all her life but has settled in Maine. Photo courtesy of G Editions

That year has turned into five, and counting. She is now married and living in Cape Elizabeth, and while she still travels for her art, she is no longer itinerant. Maine is her home.

“I am here to stay,” she said. “I made the decision after traveling for several years at a time and living in Turkey and traveling through artist residency programs to places like Morocco, France and Iceland, and staying in each destination for months at a time. After a few years of doing that, I began craving a house again. After working small in sketchbooks, I wanted to start painting big again.”

Cape Elizabeth artist Missy Dunaway has published a travelogue of her art-related journeys, “The Traveling Artist: A Visual Journal.”

She shows her art at Portland Art Gallery, where she also works, and recently published a pictorial travelogue, “A Traveling Artist: A Visual Journey.” It includes watercolors and short pieces of prose from her travels. She will sign copies of her book June 26 at Portland Art Gallery, 154 Middle St.

The daughter of Navy captain, Dunaway moved often growing up and studied abroad in Italy in high school. She studied painting and material and visual culture at Carnegie Mellon University and, in 2013, received a Fulbright Research Fellowship to study textiles in Turkey. Her year in Turkey opened her world to new colors and new horizons.

“It was a beautiful experience. I learned I am better at learning languages than I thought, and that was the most exciting thing off the bat that came out of it. Having the confidence of knowing that wherever you go, you can make friends – that you can learn and adapt – is very powerful,” she said. “Living in Turkey gave me the confidence to move to Maine. It showed me you can find a community wherever you are and build your home.”

She painted her travels and recorded her feelings in a visual diary. For some time, she referred to it as a sketchbook. She stopped calling it a sketchbook when she began viewing her artbook as a complete work of art, which became “The Traveling Artist.”

Only recently has she expanded the size her paintings, and those are what she is showing at Portland Art Gallery.

She included 80 paintings in her travelogue – from Turkey, Morocco, France, Sweden, Finland, Iceland and England. She has traveled to Vietnam since completing the book and had planned to go Kenya in 2020 before the pandemic changed those plans. Her leap of faith rewarded, she stayed home in Maine and painted instead.

A painting from Morocco in “The Traveling Artist.”


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