Creating and Maintaining a Travel Sketchbook
One of the most rewarding parts of travel can be marrying it with the creative process through a travel sketch book. Here are a few tips on how to start and maintain a travel sketch book:
First, consider your schedule and destination in considering your media, techniques and equipment. All too seldom do artistic travelers have the opportunity to linger upon a single subject as much as they would like. Be sure to have a small, light weight, digital camera (I find my IPad perfect for this) in order to quickly document what you see first or on the fly, thereby creating a visual reference file for yourself for use at a more convenient time.
Be realistic about time and schedule a private sketch time for yourself everyday when you can return to a subject or work from your photo references to finish up a quick plien air start. Be realistic too about the amount of time you can spend on a single work and keep your works small and your media and techniques simple. Save the large works and media experiments for your studio at home!
Find a sturdy, easy to use container for your media that fits conveniently into what ever tote you will be carrying daily with you as you tour. I am quite fond of the one pictured here. (Please note the six inch clear plastic ruler in the picture for scale). It is compact, lightweight, and sturdy protecting the contents from any impacts. It closes securely with a zipper and has tight elastic to secure pencils and brushes.
I prefer a hard bound sketchbook. I find that spiral bindings can become bent and caught on things. The hard binding also provides a convenient drawing surface. The paper I use is usually for both wet and dry media.
The sketchbook here was for my recent trip to Italy. You may note that it is a landscape format. I purposely chose that as I knew I wanted to do some landscape sketches. Be sure to consider the proportions of your sketch book with regard to your anticipated subject matter.
Be sure to pack media that needs a minimum of space, creates a minimum of mess and light weight equipment so you have maximum flexibility as to where and when you can work (I love to finish drawings on the plane). Also, no one wants to lug an easel up and down mountain sides or through crowded city streets unless you intend to stay awhile or stay close by.
Staples my travel sketch kit includes: permanent ink drawing pens (similar to the Micron brand) as well as a small assortment of hard and soft leaded pencils. Don't forget the sharpener, kneaded eraser, small ruler as well as a stump and tortillion or two for blending. Sometimes I like to bring conte pencils which work well for landscape and architectural subjects. but, make sure your sharpener can accommodate the larger conte barrel. Leave the pen knives and x acto knives at home as airport security will confiscate them. Another good addition are wash pencils which can be used as traditional sketching pencils or you can add water and achieve a wash effect.
With regards to wet media, I include several types in my kit. The first are watercolor pencils that behave like normal colored pencils when dry and then can melt into soft washes with the addition of water. I prefer the Derwent watercolor colored pencils and like to use the watercolor brushes that have the hollow handle as the water container for achieving the wash technique. I also carry a small, preloaded, plastic folding palette for my traditional watercolors. I do not bother with tubes as the per loaded, dry palette will have more than enough paint for a two week trip. For use with this palette, I carry three small brushes, two flats and one detail.
And that is really it. Here are a few examples of sketches created from the media kit described above. Please note that I find many of these mediums combine well.
The sketch of the olives is a combination of pencil and watercolor:
Frank Lloyd Wright's 150th Birthday!
The work and life of the the great American Architect Frank Lloyd Wright is being celebrated by the Museum of Modern Art in New York City this summer.
Here is the link to learn more:
Michelangelo Discovery and Exhibition
This is a big year for the Great Master Michelangelo with the revelation of new works and an upcoming exhibit of his works (rare outside of Europe!) Be sure it check out these links to learn more!
Summer Wheat Field, Vincent Van Gogh, 1889
I hope you are excited about embarking on a summer of creativity! Please use this blog as a source of information, support, and inspiration as you hone your talent, skills, and discipline to create a body of work. This is your first step toward completing your AP Portfolio and discovering your personal artistic voice.
Be sure to check this blog often and remember any resources you may need can be found under the "Course References." Of course, if you have any questions, do not hesitate to post a comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Feel free to explore older posts and
I will be posting a least once a week...so stay tuned!
I thought we would start with one of my favorite paintings by Vincent Van Gogh, one of his wheat field series. Van Gogh lived in the late 19th century. Although he was Dutch, he worked extensively in France. Finding city life overwhelming to his delicate health and spirit, he preferred to work in the country. He only painted for 10 years of his life, yet created over 800 paintings!
I always find landscape sketching/painting to be one of my favorite activities in the summer. I am especially fond of getting on my bicycle and exploring the countryside in search of a visually compelling composition and captivating color. What are the kinds of things specifically that I look for? Well, let's take a look at Van Gogh's work closely and see exactly how he used the Elements and Principles of Art to create a masterpiece. Note how Van Gogh incorporates overlapping landscape elements of the more detailed grasses in the foreground, the expanse of the field of color of the middle ground, cut by the stand of trees and house, and finally on to the sky itself. Notice that the further away objects get from the viewer in the picture plane, the smaller they are, the less detail they have, and the cooler in hue they become. These techniques help create the illusion of three dimensional space on a two dimensional surface. Maybe you will want to try it in your sketchbook?
Lastly, Van Gogh's work is always noteworthy for its strong use of line: whether a literal line as made with a pencil or pen or in the movement he creates through how he creates brushstrokes recorded by his thick use of paint.
Van Gogh was a big believer in "being present" to the subject. He was a "plein art" painter or he rather painted his landscapes out of doors, painting what he saw right on the spot. He was often stymied in his painting when the weather was poor and he turned to painting self-portraits or still lifes from objects he had in his studio space. Working directly from his subjects in front of him.
Butterflies by Odilion Redon, 1920
In contrast, this "landscape" with butterflies by another artist who lived and worked in France around the time of Van Gogh (in fact, Van Gogh and his brother Theo owned a few of his works which they obtained through purchase and trade). Notice that Redon's landscape still has foreground, middle ground and background, but it is at a much smaller scale than Van Gogh's expansive wheat field. Microcosm or macrocosm, the same rules of space and composition and the Rule of Thirds (remember that one from your Drawing or Painting Class?) still apply!
The work and artistic outlook of Odilion Redon marks a change in artistic thinking at the beginning of the 20th century. He was part of a group of artists known as Symbolist. These artists were interested in dreams and the life of one's personal imagination. Both Redon and Van Gogh brought their imaginations to the canvas and mingled them with the objects before their eyes. Yet, each man had a different way of working. Here is what Redon wrote in his journal:
"I have often, as an exercise and as a sustenance, painted an object down to the smallest accidents of its visual appearance; but the day left me sad and with an unsatiated thirst. The next day I let the other source run, that of imagination, through the recollection of the forms and I was then reassured and appeased."
So Redon works both from life and then recalls the subject the next day and brings that intermingled vision of memory, recollection, and imagination to the canvas. Perhaps this might be something you would want to try? Chose a subject and carefully in great detail draw or paint it from life. Then the following day create a new work, you can even use a different media, composition, whatever your imagination choses to better express the subject as you recall it and try to capture the spirit/ mood/essence of it. Pay attention to your process. Note why you make the decisions you do. Then reflect on both works. (You may want to wait a day or two. Gentle time and space lend clarity to artistic perspective.) Which way of working felt more natural to you? From which process did you prefer your work? Remember there are no "right and "wrong" answers here...only a process of self-discovery with regards to learning how you work.
Both artists, Redon and Van Gogh, were avid letter writers and kept journals. Consider reading Van Gogh's Letters or Redon's journal "To Myself."
To learn more about each artist and see more of their work check out the following museum links: