These days when I go on vacation, I always take a sketchbook and a very small box of paints. At the very least, I try to do something small when I can steal the time.
I remember the first time I took a sketchbook and paints on a vacation. . . I was so timid I never took them out! The next time I painted in my room away from the eyes of onlookers.
Gradually as I gained confidence, I became a brave artist and painted outside. The more I did it, the less I worried about others and the more I wanted to record my adventures with my art.
I’ve found that keeping a sketchbook travel journal is a wonderful way to store memories even if you don’t actually paint much in them. A good substitute is taking a photo, noting the number of the photo, and then making notes in the sketchbook for a future painting.
I will often note colors and impressions, details and even feelings to evoke memories back at the studio. That way when I go to paint it the scene comes to life again.
If you get a chance, though, you can paint a small scenes in your sketchbook, too. A sketchbook journal is the perfect size to do quick studies. Many of my sketchbook paintings are unfinished because I had to move on. I find that some of those unfinished sketches are favorites of mine. . . I’m not sure why, but I try to remind myself it’s not always about finishing. Sometimes it’s just about starting, isn’t it?
My sketchbook journals are usually a mix of written notes (something for each day of my travels) along with small watercolor sketches.
When I go back through them it is much more than a photo album—it is a record of my experience in the “here and now” of “then and there” if that makes sense.
I have some other sketchbooks that aren’t for traveling, but are just for everyday journeling. I don’t actually write every day, nor do I sketch daily. I just like to have them as a way to observe and then reflect on some of the important (and not so important things) that interest me artistically.
I try not to be too serious about them. They’re for my eyes only, after all, so I can have fun and just play in them.
Recently I was rereading The Pastelist’s Year by Elizabeth Mowry. She writes about keeping a journal to record her impressions of nature during her walks each day.
I thought that was a good idea, and I will probably start to do that as well. It gives me a third reason to have a sketchbook journal, beyond just travel and working out compositions and things.
As you can see, there are many ways to keep a sketchbook journal and just as many reasons why you might want to do so. For me, the value grows with each journal I fill. . . besides which, they’re just fun!