Saturday, April 27, 2013

The Realities of a Sketching Vacation

Italy was wonderful, beautiful, art-filled, exciting, and endlessly interesting. There's so much to tell, and it's difficult to even know where to start. I'll be posting lots of photos and notes about the trip over the coming weeks, but I'm guessing a lot of you are wondering if I actually did any sketching while I was over there.

Since the purpose of this trip was to see Italy at a slower pace and have time to do lots of sketching, I had high hopes of coming home with a sketchbook brimming with beautiful finished pages filled with watercolor sketches and travel journaling.

Can you guess what really happened? I have seventy pages in my sketchbook with 'something' on them. I drew sixty-four individual sketches, but only one 10" x 7" sketchbook page (yes, one!) is actually complete! Here it is...


I started off with a bang on Day 1. After tasting our first Italian cappuccino at a coffee shop in town, we sat outside and sketched the gelateria across the street. It was a lot of fun painting on site, and I worked quickly to splash on the watercolor after doing my drawing with a brown watercolor pencil. The text was added later, and the page was complete!

In the hours and days that followed, I found myself wanting to get more and more of my experiences down on paper, but there simply wasn't enough time to paint it all. Around every corner there was an ancient building with weathered shutters just begging to be drawn, or a beautiful wrought iron balcony with trailing vines against warm golden stucco walls. There were castles and vineyards and olive groves everywhere we turned - so much to draw in a limited amount of time!

It really was this green!

Rather than become frustrated with the overwhelming amount of subject matter, I decided that whatever I managed to accomplish was enough. I wanted it to be a fun vacation, not a race to the finish. So most of my pages look something like this, with partially painted sketches and blank spots which I plan to fill in later...


Often I would be forced to leave a painting half finished when we had to catch a train, check out of a hotel, or head to our next stop...
.

There are pages like this next  one, where I was having so much fun painting that I totally neglected to finish the right side of the lower sketch. See the area where the distant mountain is missing?


I generally had a loose idea of a plan for the page layout in my head when I began sketching on a page. Other times, I slapped something down in the excitement of the moment, then later tried to figure out how to bring the page together with a title, text, borders, or bands of color which could be added later.

 

 A few of my sketchbook pages even look something like this:


That's reality. Sometimes I chose to simply relax and enjoy the short time I had in a place rather than feeling obligated to fill a page in my sketchbook. It would have been great to sketch in Lucca, but there just wasn't time. We arrived in the late afternoon and strolled around the historic town center, then rented bikes for an hour to ride on the old town walls surrounding the town before the sun went down. Better to experience the bike ride myself than to sit and sketch all the other people riding by. I can add a drawing later on this page using the reference photos I took that day. (I took over 1200 photos in fourteen days! That might be a tad excessive, but there was so much to take pictures of!)

I journaled every evening, writing about all the interesting places we'd seen and people we met. I worked on inking the penciled-in text on the flight home when I had eight hours with nothing to do. Reading over all of our adventures was a great way to end the trip.


I'll be working on finishing up my Italy sketchbook as time allows this spring and summer, and I'll be sure to share it with you. I'd love to be in my studio working on it all day every day, but spring is a busy time of year, with planting and mulching and mowing to tend to, plus my sewing business. I know it might take awhile to complete all seventy journal pages, but that's okay. I'm looking forward to reliving those good times and wonderful places as I draw and paint my way from Venice to Tuscany to Cinque Terre on the pages of my sketchbook.

17 comments:

  1. Welcome home! It sounds like you had an awesome trip, Leslie! I loved seeing what you did achieve in your sketchbooks. No doubt, you will get a lot of enjoyment out of finishing them at home too.

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    1. Thanks, Serena. I hope to have some finished pages to post soon. I'm itching to get at them.

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  2. One of the best vacations I ever had was at Cinque Terre a few years ago. I had just started sketching and was not with other sketchers so I did very little of that but did do a lot of hiking. I wish I could go back with with my sketchpad and with others who also want to take it more slowly. Maybe stay in one place for a few weeks see all the sights then take time to see them again and sit and sketch.
    This will be fun seeing your work and the drawing you do from your photos.

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    1. I think Cinque Terre may have been my favorite place that we visited. We stayed in Manarola - such a cool place. So quiet in the evening after most of the tourists had left. I'd love to go back there some day. Wish we'd had time to go hiking.

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  3. HA! Thank you so much for not finishing your pages! I feel so much better now about not finishing mine, or not doing the amount of sketching I'd planned. I, too, think that often the activity is more important than the sketch.

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    1. You're welcome! I didn't want to blog about my beautiful finished sketchbook at some point and give the impression that I did it all while traveling. That just doesn't happen for most of us. It's really okay though! And I will finish my Italy sketchbook this summer, and it's going to be awesome!

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  4. Welcome home! What a delight to hear about your trip. Continuing to work on your sketches this Spring/Summer will extend your trip even more. Have fun enjoying your memories and sketching some more in your book.

    Actually it is reassuring to me that you weren't able to finish all the sketches. It makes me realize that I might have expected too much for myself on several trips. That is what happened to me on my 'painting trip' to New Orleans, as well as family vacations to Denmark/Ireland, Washington state and even Victoria, BC. I did a little but took so many more pictures. I still enjoy working on sketchbooks for these trips.

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    1. I think we're all in the same boat when it comes to sketching while traveling. There's always so much to see in a limited amount of time, and we have to decide whether to see more and sketch less or sketch more and see less. On this trip, I feel like we had a good balance of the two.

      I found that doing a line drawing, which only took 10-20 minutes, was a good way to record my impressions without taking too much of a bite out of my day. I wish I'd had time to paint all of them, too, but at least I had the enjoyment of doing the drawing. It was enough to satisfy me. But now I can't wait to paint them all!

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  5. Welcome home - safe and sound! I think your pages are beautiful and it sounds like you had an amazing trip. How did the sketch kit work out? Is there anything that you needed that you didn't have? I have been reading about your prototype with great interest ...since I would like to pull together something simular for my trips. (At the moment I am using a tote bag, and everything ends up in a jumble in the bottom no matter how carefully I pack them away.) Looking forward to you posts ...this could be your Italian summer ;c)

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    1. I'm going to write about the sketch kit in a future post. I did like it, and I used it a lot. There are only one or two things I might change about it, and I'll discuss them later on.

      When I was painting, it was great, but sometimes, when I knew I wasn't going to have the time to sit and paint, I just put my sketchbook, a pencil, an eraser, and a pen in a Ziploc bag and threw that in the backpack. Sometimes simpler is better.

      There wasn't anything I wanted that I didn't have. There were only a couple things I didn't use - the red plastic value finder and the spatter screens. I did use all the different pens and pencils I brought. It was fun mixing things up.

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  6. Wow.. is that trip over already? Just seems like you said you were leaving. Fun to see what you got done and what you didn't. I think if I were to go that far I would want to be there soaking up the atmosphere and seeing as much as possible rather then just seeing one or two things to paint. What you did seemed best to me. Photos can recall things later to simple sketches. I like how you got a page going and something on it, even if not much, so you can go back to it later in some kind of order. You can relive that trip finishing that journal.

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  7. Leslie, I just popped over from a link on Wendy's blog. I love your travel sketches, finished or unfinished. Your writing made me smile because I had the same problem on my first trip to Italy. I went with 8 x 10 wc paper thinking I would do paintings. Our first stop was Venice...and I wanted to paint everything. By the time we got to Tuscany I had cut up all the paper into 4 x 6 pieces and it made me so much more relaxed. Now when I travel I do 4 x 6 pieces, sometimes I sneak in a 5 x7, and keep a 5 x 8 sketchbook where I usually do 2 sketches per page. I am going to put you in my links on my blog so I can follow along and see what you do.

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    1. Great idea, Joan! Relaxing and enjoying the trip is what it's all about. This is supposed to be fun, right? I'd love to go back and spend several days in Venice and a week in Tuscany - there just wasn't enough time on this trip in either one of those places. So much to see, and it's all so-o-o-o beautiful!

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  8. Awesome work! And thanks for posting your unfinished pages, made me feel much better about my own similar sketch-travel stresses! Much better to enjoy and relax. When I was in Barcelona recently I actually did more (and better) sketching on the day which I had planned to be a more touristy non-sketching day.

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    1. Hi Pete, I'm so excited that you stopped by for a visit! I've been reading and enjoying your blog and your artwork for years. Your work is amazing!

      Glad to know my post touched a chord for you.

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  9. Salve, Leslie. I happened on your website today. As I am getting ready for my first trip to Italia in September 2014, I identify with your reality of sketching while relaxing and enjoying the trip. I appreciate your sketches and comments. Grazie mille! Buona Giornata!

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    1. I'm glad you're happily anticipating a trip to Italy, Retha. I hope you have as much fun as I did on mine. I long to go back some day. I'm still working on finishing up the sketches in my Italy journal. (You can find them all by clicking on the Italy label in the sidebar.) It's been great fun to relive those days as I paint from the photos I took on the trip.

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