From the Sketchbook: France
When I travel I love to write and sketch during the trip. It takes a bit of effort (and the co-operation of any fellow travelers, who are stuck for 20 minutes while I work) but the sketches capture details that the photographs miss, and the process forces me to take the time to genuinely observe the environment instead of rushing off to the next attraction.
These images are from a recent trip to France. Drawing outdoors poses exciting challenges, including distracting crowds of gawking tourists, unpredictable weather conditions, and constantly changing light. It started to rain part way through the above sketch of Mont Saint Michel, and I was forced to quit and finish it later. (I was also afraid I’d drop something off the cliff. It’s hard to tell from the photo but that ledge is actually convex, so things kept wanting to roll off toward the ocean.)
One easy place to sketch is from your hotel window. Here’s my morning view of rooftops in the medieval heart of Blois, France:
Some artists have portable supplies like folding stools or lightweight easels so they can easily and comfortably paint anywhere. Maybe someday I’ll get my own fancy plein air equipment. For now, it looks like this: (Notice how I am precariously balancing the palette on my knee. It’s a delicate setup.)
I’m consistently amazed at the difference in color between my sketches and photographs of the same subject. The photographs tend toward gray, with all color completely lost in the shadowy areas.
I noticed so many details while I sketched: birds singing, bumblebees crawling into holes, clouds drifting by, the murmurings of conversations around me. Sometimes I was greeted by a stray cat or had a chat with a local or tourist who also had an interest in art. The sketches don’t always turn out as perfectly as paintings made in a studio, but they’re so much more interesting.
Do you sketch and paint while you travel? Share any tips you have in the comments!