Posts Tagged ‘travel journal’

Another Route to Explore

Thursday, June 1st, 2017

This past month my route of explorations took a more literal turn.  I was seeking out not new civilizations, but new landscapes, different qualities of light, and a variety of textural features.

Besides my usual goal of taking a bevy of photographs for future reference, my intention this time was to keep a travel journal of quick sketches to record some of the interesting physical features that caught my eye.  I knew that being on the guided tour we had lined up would preclude my claiming long stretches of time in which to paint at leisure.  But it would also challenge me to achieve accuracy and key visual impressions in a minimized time-frame—always a good exercise for an artist to undertake.

Would I also be able to capture, or at least suggest, some of my emotional impressions as well?  How well would the journal recall the story of our experiences?  I could only make the attempt and ascertain the answers after the fact.  So rather than taking a lot of equipment, I packed up a minimal art kit that could be stowed in a small shoulder bag or pieces of which could be tucked into pockets for opportune moments.  …

Despite all my good intentions, I discovered very quickly that it was unrealistic to expect to accomplish much more than very quick sketches, and even less realistic to take time to actually paint productively.

170505w  Sunset Lit Sedona

170505w Sunset Lit Sedona

I did manage to get a few sketches done while we were on our own, such as the sunset-lit Sedona mesa, above.  Once we joined the time-intensive Road Scholar tour, however, I found extremely few opportunities even for the briefest of sketches.  I tried some very quick pencil sketches during our hikes but then had to run to catch up with the rest of the herd. Nor did working on the tour bus work very well, as my hand bounced too much, and I feared dumping either water or paint on my traveling companions.  Ah well, I did give it the old college try.

Ultimately, I focused instead on shooting literally thousands of reference photos and maintaining a written journal, which included (among other things) color notes and conceptual ideas relating to the area and the culture of its inhabitants.

Despite the deterrents to painting on location, I was still able to closely observe the terrain, landforms, and their indicative color relationships, understand better their development and subsequent erosion patterns, and couple that with information about local flora and fauna and with an enhanced appreciation of the people who have not only struggled and survived but manage to thrive in that difficult environment. I trust that this added insight will benefit my work in the long run, leading it toward a greater level of maturity and expression.

Watercolor Journaling

Monday, April 15th, 2013

I’ve always liked the idea of keeping an art journal but have found the actual practice intimidating. What would I include? Sketches? –At home, I’d rather spend my studio time working on “real” compositions than in a journal. When we’re traveling, my high-energy husband scarcely allows time to whip out my camera and record the scene for later studio applications. Painting can require too much paraphernalia; and if I can’t take time to sketch when we’re on the move, I can even more rarely set up an easel or work in my lap. Artistic musings? –I’m notorious for leaving snippets of papers hopelessly scattered about the house, in pockets, purses, and on odd pages of notebooks…and never compiling them into an organized collection.

A dedicated “Art Journal” sounds ideal but is actually a motivation killer: What if I goof? (And of course, I will; what is art without Trial and the inevitable Error?) Every Oops would live in the journal forever, never to be forgotten. It’s enough to keep me from sullying even the first page. And the more “formal” (pretty or hardbound) the journal is, the more intimidating it seems.

The only times I’ve been able to maintain a written journal has been on our travels, over a limited time frame, and in a dedicated notebook (the less formal the better), so it occurred to me that I might be able to use the same approach to keep an art journal on our forthcoming cruise. Surely there would be time to observe and work on the open decks, and table space I could allocate to my minimal painting paraphernalia. I decided to try.


I began by testing my little-used travel set of watercolors at home. The kit is compact, with limited but usable palette space, a single tiny synthetic-fiber brush, and student colors that I didn’t find at all suitable. After the first dismal test painting, I replaced the student-grade paints with my preferred selections and found a few larger-scale short-handled brushes (for easier toting) to supplement one provided. I also squeezed some bits of sponge (indispensable for removing excess moisture from the brush or cleaning off the palette) into odd corners of the box and between the palette layers. With a screw-top water container, a supply of small watercolor papers, and a light sheet of plastic (to protect table tops), I’d be ready to go. Both weight and space requirements would be minimal.

A 4”x6” paper block to throw into my backpack, and a 6”x12” watercolor pad, marked off into 4”x6” sections for use on the ship, would keep a generous supply of watercolor paper available. Notes of date, location, and additional information could be added to the back of each watercolor sketch, as appropriate.

Meanwhile, I’ll be attempting to get into the habit of doing a little paint sketch every day, from life, to train my eye and my mind to seek out revealing subjects and details from what I experience.

Will the journal be successful? Watch for a follow-up blog later this summer to find out.