| Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Drew Devine guesses he has about 19,000 days left to live.
If you do the math, that’s around 52 years left on earth, more than enough time for the 37-year-old artist to show people they can still have fun.
Devine left in mid-June on his “Painting My Way Across the USA” road trip to bring art and kindness to people in all 50 states shaken by the global coronavirus pandemic, fighting for social equality or for those who just need a nudge of hope. He’s offsetting the costs by creating and selling live art during his stops.
“The message is kind of revolving as it goes,” said Devine, a Sarasota resident and Minnesota native. “People are scared right now. The dynamics of being a human just changed. I’m trying to get out and let people know they can still play and still have fun. That is pretty much the trip in a nutshell.”
The contemporary artist, whose work is influenced by practices of the past using a combination of materials and methods inspired by diverse culture and technology, is making the journey in a Roadtrek 190 camper van he bought just before the COVID-19 pandemic struck. Much of his art pieces are colorful canvases of animals or people with striking eyes.
While Devine is afraid of running out of money, he is hurtling toward his fears anyway.
He designed his route, which includes a cruise to Hawaii, to touch every state based on his desire to find a town where he might want to live.
“I read a magazine article called ‘Top 20 up and coming towns’ for adventurous entrepreneurial 20- to 30-year olds,” Devine said. “I highlighted those on a map. I’m definitely going to hit them up and see if they are towns I want to live in.”
Devine, who picked up his first paintbrush four years ago, researched local artists along the way who are doing good things in their community for collaborative projects. He credits other artists for helping him develop a creative hand.
Devine is currently in Minnesota. He is about 15% to 20% through his trip.
Because of the coronavirus, he is wearing a mask and avoiding public spaces as much as possible. He says he has met amazing people.
Jean Cherouny, an injured professional skier from Winooski, Vermont, is an art teacher who paints with rollerblades. She rides inline skates because she is rehabbing a knee injury.
Cherouny shares Devine’s joy of “making today.”
Devine met Mike Rainey near his hometown of St. Charles, Minnesota. Rainey is reclaiming barn wood across the street from him. He cuts out “Minnesota-based” art.
“I learn from every artist that you meet,” Devine said.
Devine picked up his Roadtrek 190 van from a recently separated Canadian. The camper had sat in the sun unused in central Florida for 20 years.
“He was sad to see it go, but it was serendipitous,” Devine said. “I put new tires on it. It only had 60,000 miles on it. It was basically brand new with some sun fading.”
The van, named “Megy,” was named for four paintings found in Goodwill.
The Hungarian name translated to English means “go forth.”
Devine has traveled from Florida to Maine and from Maine to Minnesota so far, spending time in 19 states since mid-June.
“The newest thing I was thinking, as I head to North Dakota and Nebraska, I’m going to try and find a tattoo artist who does spray paint design,” Devine said. “I want them to recreate these messages inside my head about kindness and social justice, take a window panel and spray it.”
One of the most inspiring encounters of his trip happened in a fifth-grade classroom. They painted a live portrait, and Devine gave a speech.
Devine, who went to school for business, has been unsatisfied with his jobs. He’s worked as a firefighter and emergency medical technician, restaurant server, on a cruise ship and as an English as a Second Language teacher.
“I have career ADD,” he says.
He appears to have found his calling in paint.
Devine is establishing galleries and sells prints at Artful Giraffe in downtown Sarasota.
“The biggest coolest thing for me was I was giving a lecture to 15 high school kids, fifth-grade to seniors,” Devine said. “I told them, I’m not a painter, but people buy my art.
“It clicked for them. I can actually start selling my paintings now. I can be an artist now. I can be something besides this mundane life that people droll through. … That was a cool thing for me to see.”
Devine said he’s a minimalist who doesn’t need much to get by. He doesn’t consider himself to be a professional painter.
Somewhere along the road he left a painted hubcap with the words “Spread Love,” a nod to Sarasota artist Brandon Thrift.
“The thing I’ve noticed, I’ve been in a lot of towns, with everyone on edge,” Devine said. “As soon as you don’t project fear on anyone, if you open up to people, if you expect the best in people, you pretty much get it.”
Devine’s work can be found locally at the Artful Giraffe (https://artfulgiraffe.com/classes-1/ols/categories/drew-devine), and anyone wishing to contribute to his tour may visit instagram.com/drew.devine.art for more details.