Perhaps my strategy for travelling with a non-sketcher would interest you. Originally I had been going to Europe alone and it would have been a sketching holiday. However when Broni offered to come with me I jumped at the chance. We always have fun together and laugh our heads off. But from a sketching point of view, things were different. It’s my view that on a holiday, if one person is not having a good time, nobody has a good time. I knew I needed to compromise and not spend hours sketching when my travelling companion was itching to see the sights. I prefer to keep my friendship. But how to fill my book?
I was very lucky that Broni is the sort of person who is always willing to have a go. We had a 15 day holiday in Bali in June and I learnt what worked and what did not work for us. From Europe, I was determined to go home with a full sketchbook, even if it was only a few sketches, a lot of collage and some writing. I had a bit of a panic as it got closer. I knew I would be very disappointed to go home without a full sketchbook. So I planned and prepared. As it worked out, Broni finished her sketchbook before me. She sketched quite a few times, mainly from memory (how did she do that?) but with all the collage and writing, now she needs to add a fold-out for the Thailand days. How good is she?
- I made Broni a sketchbook and gave her some art materials (don’t we all have plenty to spare?) In Bali I had had a concertina (ox-plow) style of book but for the Europe trip we had a square format coptic-bound book of watercolour paper (about 8″). It really works better when one spread stands alone, when you want to add collage. Glue an envelope inside the back cover to put the collage bits you pick up.
- I had known Mary Ann Moss’s blog for some time and I remembered that she printed out the days and dates and took them with her, to collage onto her book. I picked up that idea, and I did each day and month in the language of the country I was visiting. (The Thai curly writing was a challenge). I made plenty to spare for both myself and Broni. But I still wanted to know what Mary Ann took with her, so I did her course, ‘Ticket to Venice‘. Recommended! Mary Ann is very very generous with her information. You will find all sorts of useful things, even up to which adaptors you will need for any country in the world. And you’ll be entertained. It is not expensive and so worth the money. Do it.
- I had a plastic box with this collage stuff, plus a little plastic ruler, scissors, and a glue stick. Known as ‘The Box’, (also ‘La Scatola’ while we were in Italy) it was critical to our success. In it were also any collage bits from home I thought relevant, like some Italian decorative paper bits, a few rubber stampings with an Italian theme, a Spanish stamp or two.
- Take the tiniest set of paints you can. I had a W&N Sketchers box, and it was too heavy. The sketchbook gets heavier as you add the collage, and you get more exhausted as you walk, and walk and walk and walk and ….walk. I took watercolour pencils to Bali and found them too slow, so it was paints only for Europe.
- Have a look at some books to see how other people handle sketchbook spreads. Get some ideas to make an ordinary spread look better when you haven’t got much time. If your travelling companion is only going to glue and write, they will still want it to look good. Things like writing text into a box with a coloured wash, for example. Just be careful not to scare them by showing them too much work of very experienced and professional artists, LOL. I suggest Cathy Johnson’s Artist’s Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures and Danny Gregory’s An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers, also An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers
- Take a little notebook also. It is useful for writing down train times, but also very useful for remembering what you did if you’re running late with writing in your sketchbook. You will forget what you did two days ago. And it is hard to keep up and do your book every day.
- Have a light-weight bag. I had a leather one and though the size was perfect, it was too heavy in itself.
- Start the way you mean to go on. Sketch at the airport, on the plane. Also the next day even if you are jetlagged. Get the book started. It wasn’t easy for us because we were staying with friends who were non-sketchers. But people accept it. The first days are important. Once you’ve invested time in it and you’re starting to see results, you’re more likely to keep it up.
- Edited: Put your contact details inside the front cover. Mine is here. See the comment below from Irene Brady
- Grab the airline magazine. You need it as a backing when you are glueing (once you have used everything you want for your sketchbook).
- Start collecting stuff. Keep your airline luggage tags, boarding passes etc.
On the road
It can be difficult to stop long enough for a ‘proper’ sketch, because there is so much to see, so many things to do, and a limited time. It’s just not possible to do long sketches when your companion wants be out there seeing the world. But when you have the opportunity for a longer one, do it.
- Sketch something every day. It doesn’t have to be ‘good’or ‘nice’. It just has to be there on the page.
- Not enough time? Do it roughly in pencil, take a quick photo and finish it later.
- Seek out bars and restaurants with a view of something interesting to sketch. Many many of my sketches were done over a meal.
- Be devious and ruthless and inventive about finding suitable collage bits. Have fun with it. (You had to be there, the night we sneaked the beer bottles up to our hotel room in Thailand to soak the labels off and the whole basin of water ran out onto the floor.) Paper placemats are useful. Put them in your bag before you get food all over them. I have one I took from the Vatican. Watch out for the lightning bolt.
- Learn the word for ‘business card’in the local language. In Italian it is ‘bigliettino’. Then you can ask restaurants for their card. (If that sounds hard, it’s not. Bill-yet-ino is how you pronounce it.) Easy.
- If you do a number of more complex sketches, have a day or two when you do simpler ones without much finishing needed, then you won’t fall behind. Whatever you do, don’t abandon your book.
- If, like us, you have collected a number of quite heavy brochures for collage, leave time for emergency glueing before you catch your flight home.
- Finish everything off.
Above all, have fun and see everything.