Travel sketching is a productive way to pass time while still being able to appreciate your surroundings. But since I’m usually pressed for time whenever I travel, I keep my sketching checklist short so I can go right to the drawing part quicker. 🙂
KEEPING MATERIALS AT A MINIMUM
What notebook or sketch pad to bring is easy; I usually go for the smallest and lightest. It’s the pens that are overwhelming — I have way too many fineliners/colored markers/watercolor pencils/brush pens, and taking a hoard of them is impractical since I’d probably use only a handful during the trip.
How do you know beforehand which ones you’ll need? Two words: you plan.
ITINERARY + RESEARCH
Beach destinations are quite easy because colors are always the same: shades of brown for the sand, dark blues and greens for the sea, and light blue for the summer sky. But if it’s a place I’ve never been before, I make sure to tick off two things:
- What does the place look like? Are there any dominant colors?
- What’s the weather condition?
The reason why it’s important to know the weather is because most travel sketches are done outdoors, and colors change depending on the sky’s mood.
Case in point: part of our itinerary in South Korea last December was to visit Nami Island, where I could spend an hour sketching its towering pine trees. Before the trip, I did a Google search on what Nami Island usually looks like at that time of the year. It won’t be covered in snow yet, and AccuWeather expects a sunny sky despite the chilling five degrees of winter air. From those information, I plan the colors I’ll bring: shades of brown, grays, blues, and a couple of greens.
All in all, I took with me about 10 markers for our South Korea trip, which was a huge cut to what I would have brought had I selected pens at random.
TESTING THE WATERS
Sometimes when I’m in the mood, I do an actual sketch of the place I’ll be visiting from photos I find online, just to get the feel of it. It’s like exercising my muscle memory; when I’m finally sketching the temples in Taiwan, my hand might remember its strokes from practice and I’ll be able to finish the sketch a bit faster.
Of course, all this planning is suitable only to specific scenarios. If you’re the spontaneous type, there’s no telling beforehand the colors you need if you’ve never seen your subject before. Or maybe you’re not big in colors and prefers monochrome sketches instead. Whatever your approach is, I hope planning could still help you to some extent.
After all, the most important thing is that we get to capture a bit of what we see with our eyes on paper. 🙂