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FRONTLINE: 60 Seconds

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Painter John Hannafin

Many of us daydream about throwing our real world into neutral for a spell but we never seem to find the pause button. Not John Hannafin. In March, this West Chester artist loaded his Honda Accord with a video camera, art supplies and a few rolls of canvas, and headed west. The goal: to capture nature on video and film, and to raise money for Friends Association for Care and Protection of Children friendsassociation.com) by auctioning off paintings from the trip and donating a percentage of the proceeds.

MLT: There are so many beautiful spots across the country. How did you narrow down your list?
JH: It was tough, and there are still many places I want to go. Basically I had to pick many of the places I’ve always wanted to see—the Grand Canyon, Yosemite and many other national parks. I also had to coordinate my visits to these places with the friends and family I was staying with along the way.

MLT: What were the most breathtaking sights? Were any more or less awesome than you’d anticipated?
JH: There were many, and I honestly can’t pick a favorite. Each place was so special in its own way. Of course, places like the Grand Canyon and other larger-than-life places really humble you and make you contemplate the bigger picture.

MLT: What was a typical day like on the road?
JH: During a three-day period, I drove one day, painted the next day and relaxed the third before starting the cycle over again. The ride consisted of lots of music, lots of time to think, and stops at Subway and McDonald’s.

MLT: What kind of people did you encounter along the way?
JH: The national parks attract everyone from everywhere—not just the U.S. but also Asia, the Middle East, South America, Canada, Australia. I spent time with all kinds of people, from real-life cowboys who live off the land to people in the news media. Funny story: In a remote area of the Grand Canyon, I randomly met a woman from West Chester who also happened to meet my mom one week later back in West Chester.

MLT: How much camping did you do?
JH: Not too much actually. Though I spent my days in nature, I was fortunate to have friends and family to stay with along much of the route. I spent one night in a teepee near Yosemite, a couple nights in my car and a few nights in cabins, motels and hotels.

MLT: What was your total gas bill?
JH: I’m too scared to look, but I think it’s somewhere close to $1,300.

MLT: I read that you had a stretch prior to the trip where you painted nearly 100 paintings in as many days. You must have a lot of free time on your hands.
JH: Painting is seasonal for me, and creativity seems to work best when there are rushes of work with breaks in between. When I get inspired, I go deep into that world and stay dedicated for days or weeks at a time. Luckily, I’m able to create my own schedule.

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