Making Art While You Travel – The Why and the How

Cameras are a great way to capture your experience while traveling.  Making art adds a different dimension, whether you’re sketching or painting, because you are not just copying but interpreting.  It also causes you to more deeply absorb and enjoy what you’re experiencing.  Later, when you look at your sketchbook, it will all come back far more vividly than a photograph would.It’s not hard to do art while you travel.  A small sketchbook with a mechanical pencil and eraser is very portable and easy to pull out and use.  I carry a small bag with a lightweight watercolor book that opens completely (you can use both sides for a panorama or just find it easier to work with), a small set of watercolors or watercolor pencils or Aquarelles (like pastels but water soluble), a few brushes and a water container.  Personally, I like to do a quick pencil sketch with my mechanical pencil (which always stays sharp) or my watercolor pencil or a black pen that won’t run so I have the bones of the drawing done in a way that works for me.  Then I use color and splash around.

JK doing watercolor in Egypt

JK doing watercolor in Egypt

You need to carry a small container for water that can be any sort of small empty bottle that is relatively flat and a few brushes that can do a lot.  You need to leave some time to do a full picture or be willing to rough in some of it and finish it later.  Or you can take the approach of splashing in there and not worry about whether it’s an accurate reproduction of the fountain you saw in Rome.  Frankly, my friends, it doesn’t really matter if it is since it’s unlikely an anxious world will be looking at it closely for accuracy.  The point is to have fun, explore what you find most interesting and beautiful through your pen and brush and have a keepsake for later.

Tulips

Tulips

For added enjoyment, bring a seat like a crazy creek chair that gives you back support but is light (there’s a way to fold them to stow them).  Also, the indispensable coffee and chocolate.  Although some scoff at that, it’s only because they haven’t experienced painting while drinking coffee and eating chocolate.  With the proviso that it’s best not to try to clean your brushes in the coffee or drink your paint water.  Also, chocolate must be used sparingly in most artwork.  I also bring a napkin or tissue to blot up watercolor errors before they become tragic.  In a pinch, your average tissue is also useful for creating cloud action and other effects.

For added fun, try the ‘Drawing on the Left-Side of the Brain’ technique of imagining you are tracing the thing you are drawing or painting and connecting each thing you draw to the other.  You can even try it without looking down.  I personally look down but I definitely imagine my hand is tracing the top of a tree or architectural detail.  It is frankly like you are flying when you do that and one of the few occasions you can have superpowers without being obvious about it to your fellow tourists.

A cautionary note or two:  People will want to look, chat and give advice. Unless you are a people person who welcomes this type of thing, responses are best kept to mmmhmm, hmm.   Also, don’t forget the hat and sunscreen unless you are sitting in the shade or you’ll get toasted while you’re caught up with what you’re doing.  Might I add that no matter how excited you are about your subject matter, look around to make sure it’s a safe location and occasionally surface to look around again.  Finally, if someone offers to buy what you’re doing, hold out for a good price because you’ll want the piece later.

Photo Credit:  J.Kreutzer at Fine Art America

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