35+ Travel Sketching Ideas to Overcome Your Creative Blocks

By Milan Art Institute on October 14, 2020
35+ Travel Sketching Ideas to Overcome Your Creative Blocks
  1. Photo caption: Your travel sketching adventures can take you from Athens, Georgia to the streets of New York City. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

    Student sketchbooks may count as one of the most underrated tools that art students have at their disposal for overcoming creative blocks.

    Within their pages, students attending any of the art schools in Georgia can try out their must-have drawing supplies for travel sketching and for developing ideas for school art and design projects.

    However, students who aren’t used to keeping a sketchbook are sometimes heard lamenting: “I don’t know what to draw!”

    At Milan Art Institute, we actually offer students a solution for overcoming creative blocks. As school founder and co-owner, Elli Milan, says: Always have something to paint (or draw).

    More specifically, Elli recommends that art students at the Milan Art Institute have at least 20 sources ready to paint or draw at all times. 

    Artists who take this advice never wonder what to paint or draw. They always have 20 pieces on the ready.

    The MAI one-year professional certificate program, the Mastery Program, teaches students how to create all the painting and drawing sources they’ll need to work as professional artists.

    That doesn’t mean, however, that art students who aren’t yet in the Mastery Program are out of luck. 

    These aspiring art students can parlay their love of travel sketching into a sketchbook filled with an abundance of drawing and painting prompts. These prompts can inspire visions of amazing works of art that have the power to change them and to change the world.

    Drawing Prompts for Your Travel Sketching

    The good news is, you don’t even have to travel out of town to fill up your student sketchbooks. Places like Oconee Forest Park delight the senses in the fall. And they’re close by. 

    These Athens, Georgia beauty spots are also filled with drawing prompts from the natural world. It’s the perfect place to practice some plein air painting and drawing.

    Just a note to the students in our online art classes or who don’t attend a Georgia art school: These drawing prompts should help you fill your student sketchbooks, too, even if you don’t live in Athens. It just requires a bit of ingenuity and tenacity. 

    There’s more on that later...

    You can also do this exercise in more than one place. For example, start in a national forest or park and then continue the exercise in town or even at the local pumpkin patch. 

    We do recommend that you draw anything that catches your eye while you’re out on your travel sketching adventure. The idea behind filling your sketchbooks with images from the natural world is to get you into the habit of really seeing the world around you. 

    It’s also important for you to notice the images that tug at your heart strings. These represent the things you care about and are one of the key components to developing your artistic voice. 

    If you do this, you’ll overcome your creative blocks and even have an overflow of ideas that you can turn into future art projects. 

    However, to help you out in case you’re really stuck, we provide you with a list of prompts for your travel sketching. 

    Traveling Sketching: Let’s Go on an Art Scavenger Hunt 

    Let’s call this activity an art scavenger hunt to make it even more fun. Basically, we’ve created a list of items you’re likely to find in the fall of the year. 

    The more of these items you find, the closer you are to fulfilling the requirements of the art scavenger hunt. 

    When you find them, spend a few minutes drawing these items in your student sketchbook. If you want to create a special travel sketchbook or journal to capture the memories of your autumn scavenger hunt in Athens, Georgia, that’s great, too!

    Ideally, this exercise will give you so many fall drawing prompt ideas that you eventually fill more than one travel sketch journal. If you do, you’ll never run out of ideas for your class or professional art projects again. 

    Autumn Art Scavenger Hunt: Sketchbook Drawing Ideas List

    Here’s a list of some suggested fall travel journal prompts for this exercise.

    1. Acorns 
    2. Pine cones
    3. Fall leaves
    4. Piles of leaves
    5. Pumpkins or fall and winter squashes
    6. Apples
    7. Wild mushrooms
    8. Spider webs
    9. Mile markers on the trail
    10. Scarecrows
    11. Ducks
    12. Geese
    13. Tractors
    14. Wagon (hay rides)
    15. Twigs
    16. Moss
    17. Feathers
    18. Tree bark
    19. Stalks of corn, corn on the cob
    20. Mature sunflower
    21. Bird’s nests
    22. Interesting rocks
    23. Cats
    24. Clouds shaped like animals
    25. Candied apples
    26. Mugs of hot apple cider
    27. A winged seed
    28. Marsh grasses
    29. Crows or ravens
    30. Raccoons
    31. Scarves and mittens
    32. Footballs
    33. Hay bales
    34. Squirrels 
    35. Cinnamon sticks

    A List of Must-Have Art Supplies for Your Travel Sketching Adventure 

    Anyone who attends an art school in Georgia - well, anywhere, really - should have the opportunity to try out a variety of art supplies. Every medium handles differently and produces a different effect. 

    Anothing element that makes an artist’s voice unique is the art materials that a particular artist uses. The more you know about your supplies, the better chance you have at developing your voice.

    We bring all of this up, because we’d like to recommend a must-have art supplies list for you to take on your adventures in travel sketching. Travel sketching gives you an opportunity to try new supplies in a fun, adventurous kind of way. 

    We tapped one of our amazing art coaches and mentors, Esther Franchuk, to get a list of art supplies. Esther’s list includes sketchbook recommendations, as well as drawing materials suggestions. 

  • Hand-book journal co. - WATERCOLOR SQUARE 8.25x8.25
  • Talens Art Creation Sketchbook - Pocket size
  • Paul Rubens Artist Watercolor Paints - Glitter Solid Colors
  • Watercolor White Nights paint set, St.Petersburg, Russia
  • Royal Talens C902 - ArtCreation Gouache set
  • Refillable watercolor brush pens

If you can’t find brands above, just keep in mind that you might generally like to bring along:

  • Pencils, erasers and other dry drawing media
  • Watercolor pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Watercolor paint brushes
  • Water
  • Markers
  • Sketchbooks made with watercolor paper
  • Anything that’s easy to use in all kinds of weather
  • Umbrella
  • Portable chair

One final note about your must-have travel sketching supplies: You may want to experiment with these materials in your student sketchbooks before you go out. 

It’s likely that you’ll gravitate toward some supplies more than others. Knowing what those are allows you to eliminate some of your art materials from your art travel pack. 

This keeps things light. It also reduces the number of supplies you’ll have to carry around with you when you’re out sketching on location. 


If you’re still not certain about what should go into your travel sketchbook or journal, this video that Elli and Dimitra Milan did about drawing and painting on location may help you. 

Photo caption: A trip to the museum fills your travel sketchbook and gives you a foundation in art history. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

Art Scavenger Hunt Ideas If You Get Rained Out…

Sometimes, our best efforts get rained or snowed out. That’s okay. The fall art scavenger hunt is adaptable. Some urban sketchers take their travel sketchbooks to coffee shops and sketch the streets outside the windows. 

Really, you can set up your portable art studio in any building that has big windows. You may have to move around a lot if you want to try to get everything on the list into your books. 

(Remember, we also encourage you to find your own sources from the drawing prompts that nature provides for you, so it’s okay to abandon the list above. As long as you’re putting ideas into your sketchbooks, you’re golden.)

Finally, there is a creative alternative that you’ll probably like. 

Art museums are known for their scavenger hunts in some cities. Museum scavenger hunts encourage people to look closely at art, because museum participants are given a list, like the one above. 

As art scavenger hunt players wander through the art museum, they are encouraged to find items on the list in the paintings. 

You as art students can take this one step further by drawing the work of art (or portions of it) you found your scavenger hunt item in. They don’t have to even be full-blown drawings. Small sketches are fine to get you started. 

This activity does a couple of things. First, it allows you to put powerful and inspiring images in your student sketchbooks that can inspire works of art down the road. 

Second, it allows you to get some art history lessons in. Exceptional artists understand their place in art history. The artists that were and are most notable in history are culture warriors and influencers. 

Looking at and sketching these works allows you to peer into their creative processes and adopt a new way of seeing. By immersing yourself in their virtuosity, you subconsciously develop your sense of taste and ultimately improve your art.  

Third, seeing great art elevates your taste levels, which in turn, motivates you to continue to create art that has the potential to change the world.

Many museums allow art students to come in and sketch. However, it’s always best to find out ahead of time if you can come in and sketch. Always be sure to ask permission to bring your art supplies into the museum with you before you set out on your travel sketching trip.

Urban Sketching: Another Variation of Travel Sketching

The general gist of this blog post has concentrated on filling your student sketchbooks with images from the natural world. That said, you are not limited to staying on the hiking trails as you go on your art scavenger hunt. 

Urban sketching, that is drawing on location, often in the city, has increased in popularity of late. 

Here’s what the urban sketchers’ website had to say about the characteristics of urban sketching:

  • It’s done on location and its purpose is to draw from direct observation.
  • Urban sketchers can draw inside or out.
  • Through drawing, urban sketching strives to tell the story of the places people live, where they travel and even about their surroundings closer to home.
  • Each urban sketch captures a moment in time and is a truthful visual account of the scenes that the sketcher witnesses.
  • Artists interested in urban sketching can use any kind of media: Individual drawing styles are celebrated!
  • They share their work online, with the purpose of showing the world, “one drawing at a time.”
  • Urban sketchers draw together and support one another in these efforts. 
  • While you can sketch alone, taking up urban sketching is a great way to sketch on location with other people. If you’re interested in finding a local chapter of urban sketchers, check out the urban sketchers’ chapter finder. Or check out their website to find out if there are any urban sketching workshops near you.

Final Words on Travel Sketching for Art Students

As an art school in Georgia that embraces traditional, as well as modern art techniques, we believe it’s important that art students learn to draw from life. 

One easy way to develop this habit is to fill their student sketchbooks with images from cities, forests and even their own backyard. This practice sharpens art students’ technical skills. 

But more than that, student or travel sketchbooks filled with visual prompts from the forest, the streets of Paris or even the local coffee shop can become stunning works of art down the road. 

These images are powerful ways to help you get motivated and to push your drawing skills to the next level. 

For More Drawing Tips, Check out the Articles and Courses Below:

If you want to learn to draw quickly, check out the Drawing Essentials class or the Beginner Art Program.

How To Draw a Self Portrait

Milan Art Institute
Milan Art Institute

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