Saturday, November 5, 2016

Italy Sketchbook -- Travel is NOT for Sissies!

I always have such high hopes when I head off on a trip, thinking I'll be able to share lots of great stuff with you here on my blog while I'm away, but it just doesn't seem to work out that way. Things get very busy when I'm teaching a workshop, and there just aren't enough hours in a day to squeeze in all that I'd like to do. (If only I didn't have to sleep!) But I'm back home now and finally have time to share some more about my Tuscany trip with you. 

I traveled with seven of my sketching buddies from home, and we spent the first few days of our Italy adventure in Cinque Terre.  Click here and  here to read about our time there. But I didn't wait until we were on Italian soil to begin my travel journal. I wanted this sketchbook to be about the whole experience, so on the flight over to Italy, I penciled in the lettering for a travel quote on the first page and did a rough sketch of a plane flying over the Atlantic.

10" x 7", ink & watercolor, Handbook Field Watercolor Journal

There was no way I could do the watercolor washes in the cramped confines of my airline seat, so I saved that for later. Then I turned the page and started on this two-page spread showing the joys of travel...

Click to enlarge

I knew it was going to be a l-o-n-g day as I made my way from home in Prosperity, PA, to Cinque Terre, Italy, so I decided to document it all - the early wake-up, the car ride, meeting my friends, waiting in lines at various airports, and riding in planes, shuttle buses and vans. 

The lines for security and customs at JFK and in Rome seemed endless...

but we eventually arrived in Pisa...

We had a private tour of the Piazza dei Miracoli, where the Leaning Tower stands (or leans)...

and finally made it to Manarola in Cinque Terre... 27 hours after leaving home!

Travel is definitely not for sissies! It's exhausting and frustrating and can seem endless at times, but it's easier to handle when you're with friends, and, in the end, it's worth every grueling minute of it just to be in ITALY!

It was worth it, to see this!

The first day we were there, I did a sketch of the view from my room at our B&B, Affittacamere San Giorgio...

I had stayed there on my first trip to Italy in 2013, and you just can't beat its location, close to the train station in the little town of Manarola. The rooms are spacious and modern, and we were right in the heart of the village.

Our B&B was on the upper floors of this beautiful historic building

Manarola suits me, because it's a little quieter than some of the bigger towns in the Cinque Terre, like Monterosso and Vernazza. It's so quiet at night that you feel like you're one of the natives, strolling through darkened streets on your way back from dinner. 

View from my room

But during the day, the shops and restaurants are open, the ferry boats are running, and there's plenty to see and do (like sketching!)

This tiny cottage was so weird and interesting that I just had to sit and sketch it. It looked like a hobbit house, with its round windows, log posts and arches, whimsical chimney pot complete with metal flag, and flowers all around. So cool!

Italy is filled with unique scenes like this. Just go for a stroll, open your eyes, and you're bound to see something interesting. 

Watch for more sketches from Italy coming up soon!



  1. Leslie, just an enchanting post. Lovely!

  2. Replies
    1. It was indeed, and I'll have lots more sketches to post as I finish them.

  3. Leslie, I always enjoy reading about your travels. I guess I am traveling vicariously through you! Your pages are so amazing. I just love all of the different ways that you compose your pages. I love how you designed the Tower of Pisa page. Your sketches are so much fun to look at. I only wish I sketched and painted faster so I could be so productive!

    1. I wish you could travel with me for real, Annie! And please don't think I'm a fast sketcher. I only came home with a few pages finished. I tend to draw a lot but not take the time to paint everything onsite. I'd rather see more and sketch more than sit in one place for two or three hours and finish a page. And sometimes I need to research a lettering style, or I need time to figure out what else I might want to add to a page. So it's an ongoing process for me. I like working on my travel sketchbook after I get home. I can relive the happy times as I paint my drawings.

  4. Well that makes me feel better. I usually only accomplish one sketch in a couple of hours and sometimes only get part of the painting done on location. Often I finish them at home too!

    1. I've made peace with the fact that I'm not as fast as some sketchers. We're all different, and it's not a race, after all. We should do what feels right to us.

  5. Thank you for this account. The sketches are delightful! Hoping to visit the Cinqua Terra in the next year and have made a note of this town and the B&B!

  6. Regarding your comments to Annie, you're always such an encouragement, Leslie, to us sketchers who are a little bit different from the "norm"--whatever that is!

    I love your journaling as much as your sketches. It's so fun to learn of others' travel experiences.

    When my husband and I finally got to bed the first night after traveling to Germany, we figured up that we'd been awake for nearly 40 hours (in real time). The good thing about that was, we were so exhausted that we fell right to sleep and woke up 10 hours later ready to go--we never felt the effects of jet lag.

    I'm looking forward to tales of your entire trip as you have time to post them.

    1. I agree that the best way to beat jet lag when flying to Europe is to just stay up until bedtime of the day you arrive. I always wake up the next day feeling like I'm on European time. Coming home was much more difficult for me this time, and for most of the people I talked to about it. It took over a week until I felt like I was almost back to normal. But I still think all the hassle is worth it. Wish you could go with me next year. It's shaping up to be a wonderful group of women going to Tuscany with me in 2017.

  7. Leslie, Thank you for this wonderful introduction to your Italy trip. I felt like a participant, and it made me want to go another time. Hmmm, perhaps.

  8. Absolutely inspiring. I made my first travel journal in Maui. We returned on Monday, April 17th. After looking at yours, I'm upping my game. We are traveling to Sant Malo, France and Barcelona in the fall. I can't wait. Really wonderful, Leslie.

    1. It sounds like you have a wonderful trip coming up. Keeping a journal while traveling takes some dedication, but it's so worth the effort. Have a great trip!


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