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?

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