Watercolor and Pastel Artists at CHAW
In 2001, Gina Clapp led the class in a workshop on traveling with a sketchbook. We practiced our observational skills in and around Christ Church in DC. We all had great incentive to develop sketchbook techniques for an upcoming class trip to Denmark and Sweden. A former classmate and her husband had invited the group to visit them at their home in Ystad, Sweden, and their farm in Bornholm, Denmark. We jumped at the chance and spent two idyllic weeks painting, touring, and eating and chatting a lot. My devotion to keeping a sketchbook of my travels was born.
I love to travel and have been fortunate to be able to enjoy many wonderful trips in the US and abroad. I no longer attempt “full blown” pieces when I’m traveling. Carrying the supplies and subsequently the finished artwork is simply too difficult to be practical on most trips. I like to have a small sketchbook, pencils and pens, water pen, a small “travel “watercolor box, and a couple of “travel” watercolor brushes. The whole lot fits in a gallon Ziploc bag. With these few supplies I can sketch while I wait for my food in a café, sit on a park bench, or wait for a train. I strive to record what captures my eye or strikes my fancy. (And I do photograph what I’m sketching in case it starts to rain.)
There is so much to be gained from simply observing a scene or a thing. When I have recorded something on paper, I have actually taken the time to LOOK at it . . . to soak it in. After the trip, my sketch will take me back to that moment much more than any photograph could. Passersby often stop to watch, or to chat. It’s a wonderful way to meet people.
Because I’m usually traveling with my husband, I don’t have the luxury of extended time to sketch in any one place. I make thumbnail sketches, usually in pencil with a bit of color or ink. Occasionally at the hotel or in our cruise ship cabin I may develop the drawing more. I then add the written “journal” of the day in, around, or over the art. There are limitless approaches to be taken. Some artists combine their love of lists and draw pages of clothes that they packed, food that they ate, animals that they saw, charts and maps of where they went. Some may choose to do true preliminary sketching to be used in future paintings, including notes about light direction, colors, etc.
To start sketching, you don’t have to wait to travel somewhere exotic. My sketching around the Capitol Hill neighborhood became the start of my recently published book. You could even sketch around your own home . . . lovely flowers or the dead plants, what you had for dinner, the unmade bed or dishes in the sink all are more visually interesting than after they are tidied up. I have a published journal by a man who recorded the year that he was taking his wife for cancer treatment. He sketched and journaled as the cared for her and went to her treatments with her. It is wonderful.
Just have fun with your sketchbook!