How to Find Things to Sketch When You Travel

Photo caption: Filled with the sights and colors of your travels, your sketchbooks can become a source for new paintings and happy memories. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels

You’re finally taking a vacation and you can’t wait to spend some serious time sketching. The only wrinkle in the plan is you’re just not sure what to sketch. It’s like your mind is so overwhelmed with all the possibilities that you lose focus. So, how do you find things to sketch when you travel?

Simply put, you need to plan AND be spontaneous.

The Planning Side of Travel and Sketching

You’ve chosen the spot (or multiple spots) and now you need to do a little research. You need to know the terrain, the weather, the special sites, the subjects you’re seeking, etc. Will you be just sketching with pencil or pens? Or will you be watercolor painting?

  • Do you have some must-see areas where you want to sketch? Mark them down so you don’t forget them.
  • Knowing how long you’re spending in each location, you need to prioritize what’s most important to you. There may be several things you’d like to sketch in one city but hardly anything in another. That’s where your list of must-sees is important.
  • If you’re painting, will you need a specific paint palette? Limited color palettes make traveling easier. You can also exaggerate that color scheme to more powerfully convey the message you want to tell.
  • Will your subject be nature, architecture, or the human figure? Or will you look at your surroundings for inspiration to be inspired by how you feel there? Depending on what and how you want to sketch, you may need to take additional tools (or decide to do something different so you take fewer supplies).
  • If you’re limited on time, don’t worry. Simply start your sketching and take photos at different angles and with different lighting (if you can). Then finish it when you get home. It’s good to get the foundational part of your sketching done while you’re on site.

Being prepared to sketch things that are really important to you will help keep your priorities set during your travel. Also, knowing your sketching plan helps you know what supplies you’ll need.

The Spontaneous Side of Travel and Sketching

Be ready to catch the moment. Planning is important. But so is being ready to spontaneously change the plan and go with the twists and turns that come up in your travels. Spontaneity adds to your joy and offers unexpected moments of inspiration and revelation. Take time to take in ALL that surrounds you. You may be surprised and blessed by things that pop out and just beg to be drawn and remembered.

Sometimes you need to sketch how you feel, not just what you see. Does it feel energetic and alive or calm and peaceful? Are the colors vibrant and bold or soft and demure? Are you surrounded by nature with lush green grasses or moss-covered stones, a clear, vibrant blue sky, tall trees with a shroud of leaves, beds of flowers bursting with color? Or are you in an urban setting with stark lines and geometric shapes? Feel the vibe and go with the flow.

Combine Plans and Surprises for Success

Ultimately, a combination of being prepared with a plan, while being flexible with the surprise moments that come your way, will bring you greater success. With your plan, you’ll capture the sites you don’t want to miss. Yet with spontaneity, you’ll capture things you couldn’t even dream of. 

In planning you’ll ensure the elements of art are present in your work. Your composition, lines, values, etc. will be thought out and conveyed well. While the spontaneous flashes of inspiration will help elevate your art to a new level. It allows you to use your creative license to exaggerate and emphasize things to help your message be seen more clearly.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page.”

                     ~ Saint Augustine

Put in the language of a painter—The world is a canvas and those who do not travel paint with only one color. 

Explore, mighty Adventurer and use all the colors!

Read More on Traveling and Making Art…

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