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Take Your Sketchbook! 3 Reasons to Become a Creative Traveller


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Think of your last trip. Did the photos you made really express the sights, sounds and fun you had? Or are you like many of us. . . those photos are still in a digital camera or, stuck in the computer somewhere, so there is nothing to show or share from the trip.

That won't happen again if you take a sketchbook. Become a creative traveler, not just a passive one. In this article, I offer three benefits of taking a sketchbook on your next trip, including some “Art Secrets" to start drawing of what you see, and a short supply list to checkoff. .

1. Using a sketchbook will allow you to sit down and focus on the charm and details.

Many times we try to keep up with a group and find a trip less than enjoyable because the pace just does not allow us to experience it as we would like and nothing you see seems to make an impression. A sketchbook is a perfect excuse to repair to a cafe, take out your drawing materials and relax. Then, instead of a blur, you can consider the magnificent details of the church on the piazza, as you block it out and start to fill in your scene. You will find sketching is a pasttime that is both calming and stimulating.

2. You don't feel like a tourist anymore.

Have you ever felt like the classic tourist who has no real connection to the area you are visiting? You are an observer, not a participant. Sketching makes you part of the action. Suddenly you are busily involved in recording what you see and experiencing sights and sounds in a new way. It's a bit challenging to take out a sketchbook and make that first drawing, but one drawing leads to the next and you'll feel less self-conscious as you keep at it and get better. You will find “Plein Air" drawing engaging and active.

3. A sketchbook can be a scrapbook/journal which grows during the trip.

It becomes an activity in itself to sort and put together. Make the most of downtime or the nasty day when the group is stuck in the chalet. Everyone is bored, but not you. This is a great time to refine your sketches, add color and get those bits and pieces, which collect on every trip, organized and in place.

If you brought colored pencils along, now it is great time to go over your sketches and enhance the drawings with color. And those ticket stubs to museums and plays-get out your glue stick and put them in your sketchbook. They can be easily taken off and repositioned later, but at least you have done the initial work of sorting and general placement. Now you don't have a whole trip to put together once you arrive home, and you will want to keep up every evening, refining your sketches and pasting in trip tschoctschkes.


How do you start actually sketching. I will always start with a still life model and break down the process in the “3 Art Secrets". For example, take a pear:

a. Hold it in your hand and block out the whole shape. Put it on a lightly drawn grid or cross. Is it a basic circle/square? Make one, whichever it is. Add or subtract small shapes to make it look like the outline, like a coloring book drawing.

b. Shade the shape. Look for the lights/darks and pressure your pencil accordingly.

c. Details on the shaded shape. Does it have bruises, marks? Make them. Don't forget the stem. Now color it in with color pencils.

You may want to take a drawing class. If time is short, check out a DVD from the library.


-any kind of pencil, #2's are fine.
-sketchbook of any size; perhaps several if they are light enough for you to carry; just make sure you like the size and you will use it.
-colored pencils; waterproof markers.

Use your sketchbook to records thoughts, observations, small details which make the day different and write them along the margins of your sketches. What was the weather like? What were people wearing? Was there music playing? Something cooking at an outdoor stand? So many things can be scribbled in which make your sketchbook uniquely personal and fun.

Finally, don't forget another benefit, people may come up to you and just start talking. Why? Because you are doing something new and interesting. Certainly, you're not a tourist!

J. S. Staffier, M. L. S, M. F. A. is an artist and art teacher in the Boston area.

Her DVD: “Jane's Drawing Studio" is available, together with samples of her artwork on:


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