Tuesday, June 2, 2009

To Sketch or Not While Traveling

As our annual "get away from Florida in August and September" approaches I am looking at piles of small sketch books, nifty watercolor and colored pencil sets, brushes made for travel and wondering whether to pack them. My record in this area is rather dismal.
I take comfort in something I read about Matisse. As I recall, he did very little sketching or even photographing while traveling. He said the images would all meld in his subconscious and then emerge at some point in his paintings.
An honest response makes me wonder if a small nudge from sketches or photos wouldn't help my subconscious produce better paintings now. Part of this soul searching is probably brought on by the gentleman who frequents my favorite coffee shop. He sits with watercolor pan and sketchbook recording the characters who frequent the cafe. "What kind of artist am I, that I don't do this?" Terrible, probably. Besides that I am really a very poor sketcher. People might observe this. Ugh.

Canyon IV Acrylic cMarge Bennett
Canyons of the West

On the other hand ( Am I beginning to sound like Tevia here?)some of these modest sketches have produced smashing paintings. For me the sketch is a memory prod.
So, to sketch or not to sketch? that is my question.
Last year's trip was a first for recording daily photos and comments. Fred did a comment and I did a photo each day for our our travel blog. It was fun and I still love looking at it.

So, photos, yes. Sketches, maybe.
I am looking for someone who has made sketching on vacation fun and valuable to tell me how to
have this kind of fun. Help.


  1. I used to pack my pencils and my watercolors all the time and never used them. But, I could have, if I'd wanted to. So, I say pack your art supplies and see what happens!

  2. I don't know that this will be all that helpful to you, but when I sketch I feel like I have really experienced the place - much more than when I snap photos. The sketches have never led to any paintings, I purposely don't assign that expectation to them, but I'm always glad I do them just for giving me that 5 minutes or a whole hour to really become one with where I am.

    I was lucky enough to get to go to Paris last November and I had grand plans to sketch everywhere and my biggest plan was to do a series of sketches of the gargoyles at Notre Dame and then turn them into saleable drawings or paintings when I got home. I fear that that expectation, that pressure to perform if you will, totally blocked me and even when I pulled out my sketchbook and pencil, it just didn't flow. I was frustrated, disappointed in myself and allowed that to take away from my time there.

    So if you do sketch, great - enjoy it for what it is; it can enhance your experience, but don't beat yourself up if you don't sketch!!!

  3. Marge, I see both sides of the issue - do you sketch and zero in on one area, or do you just absorb all the sensory details for later? It's something I struggle with too, so I think I'll just jump in and try it both ways. Maybe if you don't sketch, you could at least journal your thoughts/senses experienced at the time.

    And Gabrielle, how lucky - PARIS!!!!

  4. Thanks Kimber. I will take my sketch book. Thanks Gabrielle, I will not feel guilty if I don't use it. Krista your idea of journaling sounds like something doable. What happens will be part of our travel blog.

  5. I have carried watercolor pencils, pens, paper in neat little envelopes then not used them at all. I think expectations for my following in a great artist's footsteps are a little overwhelming. hee hee. I would have something in case the free time pops up and your travel posts with camera sound great.

  6. Thanks Beth. Travel posts are a for sure.