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.

Marée au Mont Saint Michel

Marée au Mont Saint Michel

Sketching Mont St Michel

Sketching the above scene of the tide coming in at Mont Saint Michel (just before it started to rain.)

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:

Sketch of rooftops in 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.)

Sketching the Chateau de Chambord

Sketching the Chateau de Chambord. Photo by my patient husband, Jonathan.

Watercolor of the chateau de Chambord, Loire et Cher, France

My sketch of Chambord. I'm not sure that roof line could get any more complicated.

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.

Les Faux de Verzy

Les Faux de Verzy: weird, genetic mutant trees in Champagne.

Incredibly, this is the same tree as above.

Incredibly, this is the same tree as above. Maybe I just have an overly colorful imagination?

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!

Saint-Malo

St Malo. The tide changed drastically while I painted this.

Painting the walled city of St Malo

Painting the walled city of St Malo.

Paris Bookstore Favorites
Time-Lapse (Video!)

2 Comments

  1. by K. Reilly on April 6, 2016  5:02 pm Reply

    They're really nice little sketches.

  2. Pingback : Jessica Lanan Illustration » Pictures and Words » Equipment for a Free Range Artist – Part 1

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