Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Sketching the Time Away

A twelve-hour van ride is enough to drive me bonkers if I don't have anything to occupy my time. I get antsy and impatient and tend to snack too much, just to break up the monotony. But last week, when my husband and I were packing for a trip to Cape Cod, and I was gathering some art supplies to take along, I came up with a fun idea to pass the time on our upcoming 673 mile trip. I would paint a sketch for every hour that we were traveling. Twelve sketches in all - that should keep me occupied!

We were up 4:45 a.m. and out the door by 5:45. I set the timer on my phone to go off hourly, and when the ringer chimed at 6:00 a.m., I began looking for a scene to sketch. Trouble was, it was still dark out, but, hey, rules are rules. I started drawing...

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor & ink, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

Each hour, I did a simple sketch lightly in pencil, then inked it with a Pigma Micron black pen (size 01.) I balanced my Heritage palette on my lap to add the watercolor, holding the sketchbook in one hand and a waterbrush in the other.

We didn't stop at all for me to sketch; these were all done on the move. Some of the landscapes are composites of scenery we passed. I'd see a scene and try to jot down the main components quickly before I forgot the image, then add other elements as they came and went by my window.

For others, I snapped a photo and referred to the image on the viewfinder to draw the picture. For a few of them, like the 8:00 a.m. sketch, I had live models. (That's our golden retriever, Buckley, begging for some breakfast.)

Since we drove hundreds of miles of parkways with nothing to see but dense trees lining the highway on both sides, I had to get creative in choosing my subject matter, thus the lovely 3:00 p.m. view of my feet on the dashboard and Fred pumping gas at 4:00 p.m.

5-1/2" x 8-1/2", watercolor & ink, Stillman & Birn Beta series sketchbook

By the time 5:00 p.m. rolled around, I was beginning to dread the sound of the hourly alarm. I'd had quite enough sketching for one day, and as we drove the length of Cape Cod to get to Wellfleet, I put away my paints for another day. We arrived safe and sound, just in time for a sunset walk along Cape Cod Bay.

The next morning, after an hour of sitting around in my pajamas on the screen porch, looking out at the water, sipping a hot cappuccino, and listening to the quiet, I added the final sketch of Clam Cake Cottage.

Sketching in a moving vehicle is challenging. The space is cramped, the scenery is moving by at 70 mph, and it's tough to control a pen or brush when things are bouncing around. But there's an immediacy to the sketches that I like, and instead of the miles passing by in a blur, it has a way of making me notice the particulars of the area we're driving through. It sure made that twelve-hour drive to Massachusetts fly by!


  1. What a fun thing to do. These are all great. A great memory keeper. When taking pix only you do miss things. Fun post!

  2. Was on my iPad and had to come and see them on the computers big screen. How small are these works of art? they look like they would go faster then a larger scene.

    1. The sketchbook is 5.5x8.5, so most of the sketches are only 2-3" wide/tall. They don't take too long to do, but I found that by the time I found a scene, did a rough pencil drawing, inked it, and painted it, I was spending around 45 minutes/sketch. So it really did keep me busy for most of the trip.

  3. Yes, the immediacy & what a way to really look! Sketching out train windows is perhaps a bit easier, less bumpy...I appreciate your discipline, even setting an alarm.

  4. Wonderful way to spend journeytime - I usually knit!
    Love those little views.

  5. I really admire how you discipline yourself, your tiny painted sketches are wonderful.
    I'm looking forward to seeing more from your trip to Cape Cod.

  6. I would love to know what kind of a pallet you use when in the car.
    Love your paintings

  7. I use the Heritage folding palette when I'm out and about.


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