Always be sure to do your own art too - it will change your life for the better!
Always be sure to do your own art too - it will change your life for the better!
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Drawing The Line - a primer on travel journal sketching


This is a page from the sketchbook I have in Zihuatanejo with me. This gives me the opportunity to just play with the lines and the shapes without any kind of judgement….and it’s all good practice.


 One of the most enduring challenges people tell me they face when contemplating keeping a Travel Journal is that they’re not an ‘artist’. The simplest response here is - you don’t have to be.

    I’ll give you one important and very simple trick to start getting around that conundrum. Like lots of things in life, you’ll have to give it a bit of practice - but the trick I’m about to reveal is even more straightforward  than that.

     The trick - only do small partial sketches.

A couple of quick little sketches along the Playa Madeira coastline. I didn’t want to paint a whole big scene of the concrete beach path, so opted for the little vignettes.


     If you’re at a wonderful outdoor farmers market, for example, you might ask yourself, “How would I ever begin to sketch this whole busy market?’ The answer is - don’t sketch the entire market!

    Only draw a portion of the market.

     Try this……explore the market setting a bit and find something in there  that interests you and sketch only that piece of the market. For example, just sketch the carrots all lined up at that farmer’s stall….or just sketch a single carrot for that matter. Let yourself off the hook.

A simple carrot sketch from the market.


    Then add a written description of the sights and sounds and smells of the place. Write about why you were there in the first place. There are so many brief descriptive pieces you could write if you use all your senses. Along with your description, the memory of that entire market will come welling back in you years down the road.

A page full of practice pieces - note my editorial comment about the sad looking Dorado fish head I tried to sketch. A bit of practice will help get it right I trust. 


     Similarly, perhaps you’d love to sketch that Hibiscus flower outside your Air B&B place in Zihuatanejo, Mexico. The trick, again, is to only sketch a portion of the plant.

    Hibiscus can have a pretty complex petal pattern and that, in itself, might be kind of intimidating. For me, I find the day-old blossoms are just as compelling and, again, I find them way easier to draw.

Here’s one version of that ‘fading hibiscus’, as it were. I wanted to get the shape and the form of the blossom, but wanted to be sure not to get distracted by too much detail.


    Another trick for you with the whole sketching thing is to give your small sketch a name. If you wonder whether people won’t see that it’s a Hibiscus……then label it ‘Hibiscus’. They will NEVER twig in that you’ve just cued them to that fact with your label.

    So please don’t be challenged too much by the sketching side of things. You will find, in the end, that it’s all good practice. Over time, you’ll see just how much better you’re getting at keeping a Travel Journal, and scattering it here and there with little sketches will help bring those experiences back to life in so many rich ways in the future.

I clearly know that drawing the human form isn’t one of my strengths…..not yet anyway. I could choose to let that bother me, or I could just go ahead and continue to practice. 


    Finally, remember that keeping a Travel Journal isn’t supposed to be a job….so relax and I think you’ll quickly find that you get better and better with every single Travel Journal you keep.

    To help with the challenge of ‘what to include’ in your Travel Journal, I’ve attached a link to a PDF that I’ve put together to help you build that framework and get you going. Years from now, you’ll never regret having kept a Travel Journal, and your descriptions will be so much richer if you pay attention to your 5 (and 6th) senses.

    Email me to let me know how I can help you get going on setting up your very own Travel Journal. Tell me what your biggest barriers are, and I’ll help you overcome them.

    Go ahead and click this link to download you framework on Travel Journal ‘content’!

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