The following guest post has been submitted by Denise Bleakly.
I have always been intrigued with artists who keep sketch books, and I have numerous books on traveling with a watercolor journal. When I was in my 40s I decided that there was no time like the present to start. I started with a weekend workshop on travel sketching – that was over 10 years ago, and I now I always travel with art supplies.
I don’t worry about making art, instead, I try and get absorbed in the place and record in my journal what I am seeing and feeling. Now, when I look back at my older journals, I can perfectly recall the moment I made the image, the time of day, what I saw and what I felt. To me, these little drawings are the best mementos of my journeys.
I have several little kits – my most basic consists of a permanent Sakura Micron Pen, a water soluble Pilot Razor Point pen, a Sakura Koi Watercolor brush pen and a Moleskine water color journal. I keep the pen and brush in a reading glass case and I keep it in an outside pocket of my travel bag, just in case I want to record something.
An example is this drawing I did as a passenger in a car while driving through the San Luis Valley in Colorado, USA. It was late in the day, the hills were green with deep shadows and there was verga, rain that doesn’t hit the ground. It had been a lovely day, and to me this picture puts me back at that special place.
When I want color, I have two small palettes that I carry with me. One is homemade with 3 colors in it, a yellow, a blue and a red. I can make almost any colors I want with these three. For a bit more variety, I sometimes carry another homemade palette. It was a child’s paint set that I emptied and replaced with some of my most favorite Daniel Smith and Winsor and Newton watercolors.
Most recently, I’ve been experimenting with Artist Trading Card sized paintings. Artist Trading Cards, or, ATC’s, are 2.5 by 3.5 inches and are a very handy way of keeping small art materials at hand. A few years ago, I took a trip to Costa Rica and created a whole series of paintings on these little cards. When I got back home, I mounted them in a slightly larger album and now have a wonderful little memory book of that trip.
When I know I am traveling to one of the National Parks in the United States, I bring along a special journal I have kept for many years devoted to this purpose. It is an acid free, leather notebook that I picked up at one of the parks. In the back I keep some small watercolor sheets, and I use that journal to record when and where I visited. The National Parks have special stamps that your can use that has a date and name of the park on them.
I usually stamp my book and do a small painting of something I saw at the park.
None of these supplies take up much room, and they are very light. If I am going on a longer trip, or a trip where I am planning to paint more, I usually put my pens and brushes in a clear zipper bag from Blue Avacado, or a Reveal bag by Rume.
If you would like to get inspired to try some travel sketching, the book, “An Illustrated Journey” by Danny Gregory, is a great way to see the wide variety of approaches to travel sketching. Travel sketching is a rewarding way to record your journey, and it will give you a lifetime of enjoyment!
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About the Author: Denise Bleakly, is a cartographer (map maker) and travels for work and pleasure. When she is not making a map of some exotic place, she is dreaming of a trip! You can reach her at [email protected].