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.
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