The Quiet Traveler

The page of notes I created in my journal.

I am an introvert. Recently completing the Myers-Briggs personality test confirmed my thoughts, and reading Susan Cain’s book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World That Can’t Stop Talking deepened my understanding.

The terms “introvert” and “extrovert” were first made popular by psychologist Carl Jung in the 1920s and then later by the Myers-Briggs personality test. Cain defines introverts as those who prefer less stimulating environments and tend to enjoy quiet concentration, listen more than they talk and think before they speak. At the other end of the spectrum, extroverts are energized by social situations and tend to be assertive multi-taskers who think out loud and on their feet.

Everyone spends some time extraverting and some time introverting. Don’t confuse Introversion with shyness or reclusiveness. They are not related (Myers & Briggs Foundation). Viewing these terms as opposite ends of the spectrum it makes sense that many of us spend time somewhere in between. I may spend more time on the introversion side but I can enjoy a good party and the overall high energy… I just do it my way, by spending more time with people having one-on-one conversations.

So how does being an introvert relate to my love of travel…

Flying solo for me is all about solitary time. I like to sit on the aisle where I feel there is some breathing space, and where I can get up without bothering anyone. Reading material, journal, things to do are always in my carry-on bag.

Road trips are a favorite of mine. Jay and I love having the time together without distractions. Often I drive and he reads to me, or we listen to a book on tape together. We talk, take turns napping, listen to music, research where we will stay and eat as we approach our destination.

Lately, we find ourselves choosing to spend more time in one place. Last January we spent a month in San Miguel de Allende. Experiencing the breadth of the city and all the various activities that go on there.

Slow travel, like slow food, gives us time to savor and process at a comfortable pace.

Another favorite book of mine is Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s bestseller FLOW: The Psychology of Optimal Experience. His comment on the book Quiet ~ Finally someone has exposed the feet of clay of the extraversion industry. It is a wonder it took so long. Those who value a quiet, reflective life will feel a burden lifting from their shoulders as they read Susan Cain’s eloquent and well documented paean to introversion — and will no longer feel guilty or inferior for having made the better choice!

As Mahatma Ghandi said,  In a gentle way, you can shake the world.

Travel Journaling ~ the best journal

Sketch of poinsettias in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico
Journal entry with sketch of poinsettias in our courtyard, San Miguel de Allende, Mexico

This trip to San Miguel de Allende I brought along several books since we are staying in one place for the duration. One of them, Lavinia Spalding’s Writing Away: a creative guide to awakening the journal-writing traveler is the inspiration for this post.

Writing Away coverIn Chapter One – Let the Wild Writing Begin – she explores the topic of finding the perfect travel journal in delightful detail. Mindful of the beating your journal will take while you are on the road, she suggests a journal that is sturdy. And in the spirit of giving the author/artist complete creative freedom she strongly recommends an unlined journal“An absence of lines leaves room for imagination to take over. Also, a blank page is a better canvas for illustrations – and so what if you can barely draw a circle? You could at least throw your inner artist a bone”.

Spaulding also believes that the best journal lies flat and that the pages of the blank book  be blank – no quotes, tips, or adornments on the pages. And finally, pay attention to the paper, you want it thick enough so that the ink won’t bleed through.

Interestingly, I have come to similar conclusions or preferences. Since I enjoy working with watercolor at times my current favorite journal (pictured above in the photo) has heavyweight drawing paper that works with wet or dry media. Made by Bee Paper Company this sketchbook/journal has 60 sheets of 93 lb archival quality natural white drawing paper. The double wire binding creates a flat surface, the cover is water-resistant and the heavy weight chipboard back is perfect for field work. This sketch book comes in many sizes – I am enjoying the 9 x 9 inch square book on this trip.

best women's travel writing 2011Another book I brought along to read and keep the travel bug fueled is one that Lavinia Spalding edited: The Best Women’s Travel Writing 2011: True Stories from Around the World. No matter how many cities, countries, or continents you’ve visited the 31 stories in this year’s collection will make you feel like you have just begun. Hear tales about falling in love while riding a camel through the Syrian Desert, skiing a first descent of over 5,000 feet in Northern India, discovering the joy of getting naked in South Korea, or leaving it all behind to slop pigs on a farm in Ecuador.

Seattle’s TEDxRainier 2011 Conference

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 2
One page of my sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Heading off the island Friday evening we are full of anticipation about tomorrow’s TEDx Rainier event. This year’s theme is Gained in Translation: Ideas Crossing Frontiers, featuring over twenty five speakers whose ideas and extraordinary work span across domains and fuel innovations and insights. Followers of TED for years online, this is our first live experience.

Earlier on Friday I received a book I had ordered from Amazon – An Illustrated Life: Drawing Inspiration from the Private Sketchbooks of Artists, Illustrators and Designers by Danny Gregory. I couldn’t wait to get on the ferry with no distractions and go through the book slowly, page by page.

An Illustrated Life, cover
click on book for more info

As Gregory says in the introduction, “a book full of sketchbooks and illustrated journals from all sorts of people who love nothing better than to hunch over a little book and fill its pages with lines and colors”. This treasure of a book has 78 five star reviews out of 84… it is stupendous with creativity overflowing tremendously inspiring.

This was just the creative jumpstart I needed and somewhere along the way from home to Seattle the idea was born to capture the essence of each talk creatively in my sketchbook on two facing pages. So I arrived with Jay at the Conference Saturday morning with sketchbook and pen in hand. The first few moments I had some self-consciousness as the first speaker began… where and how to begin, is anyone watching me??? All the usual fears. Fortunately, I was able to move through the fear, pick a starting spot, realize everyone is mesmerized by the speakers (not me) and plunge into it. By the third speaker there was no looking back, I was totally hooked on my project.

Sue's TEDx Rainier notes, page 1
My second page of sketchbook notes from the TEDx Rainier Conference

Jay & I enjoyed many of the speakers, some of the highlights included:

  • Rick Steves‘ frank talk about how global travel brings us together, saying “Fear is for people that don’t get out much.” Rick is a world traveler and author of over 80 very readable helpful books on travel.
  • Amory Lovins on Reinventing Fire – how to transition to zero carbon clean renewable energy by 2050… I liked his quote – “Not all the fossils are in the fuel.”
  • Peter Blomquist on being humbled in his encounters with the kindness of simple traditional cultures. Peter is principal of Blomquist International, focused on organizational development, philanthropy, and global engagement. His words of wisdom – enter humbly, stay for tea, listen and learn.
  • ITGirl librarian Chrystie Hill on how libraries are transforming and evolving in the new world. When kids were asked what they would like in a library where everything is allowed, one replied – to hear the sounds of the forest as I approach the books about trees.
  • Leroy Hood on how insights from the human Genome project are bringing fundamental advances in early diagnosis and treatment of disease. P4 Medicine is his belief – predictive, preventative, personal and participatory.
  • Pediatrician Dimitri Christakis on how focusing on the first year of a child’s development can have stunning effects on the potential of the child, for the rest of life. Dr. Christakis is author of The Elephant in the Living Room: Make Television Work for Your Children.
  • Jenn Lim on happiness. Jenn Lim is the CEO and Chief Happiness Officer of Delivering Happiness, a company that she and Tony Hsieh (CEO of Zappos) co-created in 2010 to inspire happiness in work, community and everyday life.
  • Adnan Mahmud on “Climbing the ladder that matters.” Adnan tells his story about how he came to create Jolkona, a nonprofit that helps people raise large amounts of money through small donation, and receive proof of how the donations helped make a difference for those in need.
  • The three  Interfaith Amigos, Pastor Don McKenzie, Rabbi Ted Falcon, and Imam Jamal Rahman on religious discord, and how to get along. Their presentation received a standing ovation. It was at once funny, touching and brimming with promise and hope. Their new book is Religion Gone Astray: What We Found at the Heart of Interfaith.

For both of us, the most powerful talk was given by photographic artist Chris Jordan. Jordan, a former corporate lawyer, explores the detritus of mass culture, using photographs and images to, at a gut level, convey the impact we are having on the earth. Earlier this year we saw his exhibit – Running the Numbers – at the University of Oregon’s Jordan Schnitzer Museum of Art in  Eugene, OR.

Let’s see I’ve covered the Travel, Sketch, Write areas… now we get to the part about doing all this while eating gluten-free. This trip to Seattle we experienced two new restaurants. Both casual, affordable, gluten-free friendly and yummy.

Friday night we had a late dinner at Uneeda Burger. Located in Seattle’s Fremont neighborhood, Uneeda Burger is a casual, roadside-style burger shack with seriously delicious burgers. I had the lamb burger special on a gluten-free bun with a side of spicy sweet potato fries while Jay splurged and went with the Whidbey Island Crescent Harbor 100% Wagyu (Kobe) grass-fed beef (additional $3) with caramelized onions, watercress and blue cheese. Both were deliciously juicy and messy and enjoyed with one of their craft-brewed beers. Not a beef eater, not to worry, they have chicken and veggie options.

Saturday at our lunch break two of the student volunteers at TEDx Rainier suggested we try Shultzys. Nothing better than to walk into a busy restaurant and find a quiet seat near the fireplace on a rainy fall day. Jay tried the “Schultzy”, a char-grilled sausage burger made with mild Italian pork, served on a toasted, garlic-buttered roll with grilled onions & peppers – very good subtle flavors. I had the Bratwurst, a mild but nicely spiced pork and beef sausage, served with grilled onions & sauerkraut. Easily gluten-free by eliminating the bun. Very tasty. The service was prompt and our food came quickly which we appreciated given our limited time.  Seattle’s Wurst Restaurant is located at 4114 University Way NE.

I end with a tip from my sweet husband… Looking for an idea for taking your sweetie out on a date? Go to a TED conference. Ideas are hot! Follow up the conference with a nice dinner, in a quiet romantic place, and prepare to have some great conversation. TED talks will inspire, enlighten, and fill you with hope.

Watercolor palette

Today after refreshing my travel watercolor palette I decided to make a sketch of my palette colors. These are Daniel Smith tube watercolors I purchased as a set from Daniel Smith a few years ago when taking a watercolor course. Other quality brands for tube watercolors include Holbein and Windsor Newton.

sketch watercolor pallet
Illustration of my watercolor palette

My travel palette is plastic, measures about 4″ by 8″, and holds twenty watercolors with room for mixing. It is incredibly light and is easy to pack in my purse or backpack with a sketchbook. My palette is not new but I recently read in Jude Siegel’s book – A Pacific NW Nature Sketchbook – that it is good to scruff up the surface of the mixing area before you put the paint in. This allows the paint to puddle nicely versus beading up. So I used a 320 grit sandpaper that we had in the garage to create some texture and afterwards washed off the palette to remove the plastic dust.

Next I had to decide how to place my colors in the palette and, in general, it worked out to have warm colors on one side and cool colors on the other. As I was filling the pans I created my illustration of my palette in my sketch book. This was a great exercise because in creating my sketch I realized there were some colors I would like to add – time to personalize my palette. I ordered three tubes of watercolor paint from Daniel Smith online – Quinacridone Pink, Raw Sienna, and Undersea Green (all Daniel Smith paints). Luck was with me, Daniel Smith was having a free shipping offer with no minimum order limits.

My watercolors last a long time because I am mostly sketching with ink and then adding some watercolor. For more information on sketching, my list of supplies I take when traveling… please see my post Sketching on Vacation.

Sketching on vacation

I sketch for enjoyment. Savoring the process and the way a quick sketch catches an impression in a very personal way. In the book – Sketching, the author,  Alwyn Crawshaw suggests 30 minute sketches. Why? “First, it will stop you from fiddling and looking for something extra to do in your sketch, which can ruin the spontaneity of it – a good sketch can be spoiled by overworking. It will teach you how to observe your subject“. On vacation there is often time to linger but not always. Honing our skills so that we can be quick is often a practical asset as well as a way to keep the image fresh. And my experience is that practice is the best way to improve my skills, speed and confidence.

rat sketch with watercolr
Sketches from a metal sculpture at the NK'Nip Cultural Centre in Osoyoos, BC

Sometimes there just isn’t time to sketch or I just don’t want to at that moment. So I take a photograph and sketch from it later. That’s the case with the rat sketches you see in this post. The inspiration was a metal sculpture we saw at the NK’Mip Cultural Centre in Osoyoos, British Columbia. The one on the left is a watercolor sketch done very quickly. The drawing on the right was done more slowly – the outline created with a watercolor pencil and then colored in with watercolors. This one is more realistic and the other is a gesture sketch – often a warm-up for the real thing.

In preparing for a vacation I like to make sure I have all the art supplies I need. I travel light. Here is a list of the art supplies I pack:

  • Two sketchbooks – I like a 7″ x 10″ watercolor sketchbook and a similar size sketchbook of high-quality drawing paper.
  • Black ink pen set (waterproof)
  • 2B pencil and kneaded eraser
  • Watercolors in a small travel palette
  • Two watercolor brushes (#2 for detail, #6 round as my larger size)
  • Small container for water
  • Watercolor pencils (optional)

Watercolors come in cakes or tubes. I took a watercolor class several years ago and bought a set of professional-grade tube watercolors. sketching - 30 minute artTube watercolors last a long time and have richer colors. I find that what I squeeze onto my palette lasts until I use it up. The paint will dry out but can be reconstituted with water. Crawshaw uses seven colors throughout his book – mainly French Ultramarine, Alizarin Crimson, and Yellow Ocher. Other colors he enjoys are Cadmium Red, Cadmium Yellow Pale, Ceruleum, and Hooker’s Green.

Since childhood I have enjoyed drawing and was encouraged to draw, first by my grandmother, and then by my mother-in-law who is an artist. In my 30’s I took a basic drawing class which was invaluable. And more recently I have done two workshops – one on watercolors, and the second – sketching with watercolors. Classes are instructive, fun ways to get back into art.

A favorite book I refer to often for instruction and inspiration is A Pacific Northwest Nature Sketchbook by Jude Siegel. She encourages everyone who loves the outdoors to find their artist wings and keep an illustrated nature sketchbook – “…the most basic advice I would give is: Begin. Just keep going. pacific northwest nature sketchbookWherever you might be, there is beauty in nature that can inspire you, and perhaps you will capture this in your sketchbook”. Filled with her gorgeous original watercolors of Oregon and Washington, her book embraces every level of artist. Her first chapter – Getting Started – is a basic primer in itself. She will discuss what materials you need and where to find them, and will give you a few simple techniques, exercises, and helpful tips to get you going in your sketchbook. For those of you in the Portland, Oregon area Jude Siegel teaches a class on nature journaling with pen and watercolor at The Multnomah Arts Center.

What books are your inspiration for sketching?