When I travel I like to create “story books” about my adventures in small bound books. These are not sketch books, because sketch books are made of paper for use with pencils and other dry media. I like to create my story books in permanent ink and watercolor so the books I use are called “Watercolor Journals”.
I am packing for my biggest adventure yet, a photo and sketching safari in East African, and as I wrestle with the decisions of what to take and what not to pack I was looking through my watercolor journals from previous trips. I have not posted on this blog for awhile now so I decided to post some of my favorite pages from previous trips.
Pots, St. Paul d Vence, France
The fun thing about these little sketches is when I see them the memories just come flooding back. It was a very hot day in St Paul d Vence, and there was a fountain right opposite this window, so of course my students and I all sat around the edge of the fountain with our feet in the cool water as we painted. Somehow we kept our paintings dry.
This tiny cliffhanging town is in Northern France and is an engineering marvel especially when you think it was built centuries ago. I remember watching Sylvia so carefully studying each shape of Pont-en-Royan until she “got it”. The fun thing about teaching is watching that “light bulb moment” happen to a student.
Oia, Santorini, Greece seems to have been designed for artists to paint. Trouble is, trying to find a place to put yourself in order to capture the best angles of the town means you either have to be on a boat below it, or hike way around to the far side to try to find a place that you can look back on the town as I did here.
Margaret and Linda “perched” on the tiniest of stone steps across a little lane from this window to paint it. their paintings were charming and when I look at this painting I see them in my mind sitting on the steps while tourists walked by and snapped their picture. Sometimes when I am teaching I don’t have time to draw and paint myself so I will take a photo and begin a sketch, and finish it later in the evening in my hotel room. This one took a couple of evenings and was great fun.
Barcelona is overwhelming, such a beautiful city. But how do you sketch a bustling city? My answer was to buy some postcards of Gaudi's amazing buildings and then create this montage from shapes I found on the postcards.
If time is short, I look for one small thing and sketch and paint it, like this purse rack in front of a shop in Roussillon, France. It was directly across from an outdoor cafe where they served French ice cream and cappuccino and the little sketch took about as long to do as enjoying my treats.
My friend Susan Sorensen and I climbed high above the little fishing village of Riomaggorie to capture this view. This was my first visit to Cinque Terre, Italy in 2004.
On that same trip, Susan and I stood on the hiking trail with our journals on a rock wall and drew the village of Manarola late in the day because the village faces west and we thought the setting sun would probably be beautiful on the rock cliffs and stucco and stone homes. Once we had the drawings done in ink, we got out our tiny watercolor field palettes and captured the glow of the sun on the village. Beautiful!
Still in the Cinque Terre, this was the view from our balcony at the Pensione Soriesio in Vernazza. Most of the rooms did not have balconies so we were fortunate to have this perch to observe daily life in this tiny Italian village.
When I create these pages I often add some notes about the people I am observing, the sounds I hear or a story about something that happened during my visit. Our Aunt Betty Lynch AWS filled dozens of sketchbooks with beautiful drawings and paintings around the world, but now that she is gone, and I look through her books I often wish I knew more about her adventures in these places she so beautifully recorded. So that is why I have started writing more in my watercolor journals and I encourage my students to do the same.
I returned to the Cinque Terre in 2008 because I had a few days in Europe on my own before teaching a workshop in France and I could not think of any place else where I would feel as relaxed on my own as the Cinque Terre. In May, my guide Patrick Mahoney of Toscana Americana and I have arranged for a painting trip to the Cinque Terre so I can finally show my students this wonderful part of the Italian Riviera.
Oh So French! Vence, France
OK so I cheated, the shutters and door were really black but I prefer blue. I really loved the cute window with the shutters matching the shape, oh so French.
My next adventure I will be traveling in Tanzania with wildlife artist Steve Morvell and wildlife photographer Stephen Powell as instructors. Steve uses the same materials that I do, permanent ink and a tiny watercolor field kit, but instead of water containers, he suggests using brushes that have hollow handles for holding water. He also uses a smaller watercolor journal so it will fit in the pocket of a fishing vest or photographer’s vest. That all makes sense, but the interesting part will be how we capture an animal that is not standing still ! Stay tuned….