In a few days Dave and I will get on a plane for London where we will meet up with a dozen adventurous students and friends for a sketchbook workshop through London and Bath. In preparation, I created two maps in my sketchbook.
Lately it's been a flurry of emails between those of us going: restaurant recommendations and walking tours and best London and Bath apps. We've exchanged packing tips, weather forecasts, and travel dreams for future trips. So many things I love coming together: travel, sketching, friends!
I am often asked, what is the big difference between photographing a trip and sketching it. Carrying my camera comes naturally to me and I’ve taken thousands of travel photos throughout the years.
I would return from trips with 100s of photographs but not a lot of vivid memories of what was actually going on when I was taking those photos. I came home with a blur of images and a blur of memories.
In 2004 I decided to leave my camera at home and travel with a set of art supplies instead. I found that I collected napkins, museum tickets, names of streets, and all manner of details along the way to include in my sketchbook. Details I had not paid much attention to on previous trips.
At first I worried that I would be slowing down my traveling companions with my collecting and observing and sketching. But pretty soon, family and friends joined in on this new way of exploring what was around us. We started to pay much more attention to everything: the receipts left on tables, train schedules, windows, sounds, people. The textures of traveling.
This business of sketching also gives me a slowed down experience with a deeper sense of place. When I go back through my travel sketchbooks, even many years later, each page brings back lively memories of who was with me, what we were doing, even what we were talking about or listening to at that time.
I feel so in love with this way of traveling that I started inviting others to join me for the joyful experience. I have been taking students, who all become good friends, for years now. There is no better way to explore the world!
Sketching fixes my experiences in my mind.
So to me the difference between photographing a trip and sketching it is that drawing pushes me to notice details and understand more deeply. Sketching reveals a lot of things I wouldn’t notice with a simple glance or with a snapshot.
Some of the people who join me are completely new to sketching, while others are professional artists who want to travel with other artists or who want to learn to travel with a sketchbook.
My hope for participants in my travel workshops around the world is that sketching becomes an exciting way to record their experiences. A sketchbook can have many roles in an artist’s practice but in traveling, it becomes a great place to observe, annotate, explore, and reflect.
Most of all I hope it becomes a joyful way to record one’s world.
We are leaving soon. I am brimming with anticipation. Adventure awaits!