“It’s been 12 years since my last art lesson, but recently I decided to spend less time in front of a [computer] screen when I travel”
When I heard Candace declare this on a video a few years ago my interest was instantly piqued.
How many amongst us have also not drawn since primary school?
Yet are prepared to give it a go?
If you can’t see the video: Click here http://youtu.be/MFE6lVpQmn8
She explained in the video how sketching… “makes me stop. As a photographer the images I want to capture are almost never-ending. With my sketchbook in hand I become the camera.”
As someone who takes way too many photographs I loved her concept of letting the places she visited adjust her aperture as she tentatively embarked upon her new way of recording global impressions… and within two years, Candace has published her first book of travel sketches – Beneath the Lantern’s Glow, which she compiled on a trip to South-East Asia last year –
So, here, as part my series of interviews with travellers who offer inspirational ways of recording travel memories, I asked her…
1. Why keep a travel journal?
I’ve always kept a travel journal for the same reason many people do – to remember the small details that fall away so quickly after a trip ends:
- the names of restaurants and new foods
- how long a particular bus or train journey took
- the sounds and smells of each city.
But then about three years ago, I began doing on-location watercolour sketches in my journal. Sometimes they were of a complete scene, other times a smaller snapshot.
It didn’t take long for me to fall in love with travel sketching. One thing I love about it is that it has changed the way I move through the world – sketching slows me down and helps me observe a place with more focused eyes. It helps me pay more attention.
The second reason is that people are very quick to approach you when you’re sketching. There’s something about art that transcends language and cultural barriers; it opens the door to serendipitous encounters that might never have happened had I not been sketching in one place for several hours.
In a way, my sketchbook also helps create the moments I record in it. I might head to a café to draw a street-scape, start talking with the man next to me, and then jot down a line or two from our dialogue on the sketch itself. Sketching has become both my muse and medium on the road – it creates the very stories I love to tell, stories of connection and serendipity, and I now can’t imagine ever travelling without my sketchbook.
2. What do you include in your travel journal?
As much as I can!
Besides sketches and writing, I love including
- ticket stubs
- pressed flowers
- business cards from hotels and restaurants
- brochures for companies we used, and
- any other ephemera that will trigger my memory in the future –
- for instance, a used sugar packet from a favourite café.
3. How do you keep your journal?
When I first started sketching, I still kept everything together in the same journal (usually an A4 spiral-bound sketchbook), and I mixed in pages of writing with sketches and ephemera. But about a year after I started sketching, I began sharing my sketches with other people – be it on my blog, on other websites, or even in magazine articles. This shift necessitated a change in sketchbooks as well – so I now do the sketches in their own book, and I carry a Moleskine for the writing and ephemera-collecting.
On the drawing side of things, I try to do all of my sketches on-location. Sometimes rain or nightfall will force me indoors, but I really enjoy doing the entire process – from outlining the sketch in pencil, to filling in the details with pen, to finally adding colour with paints – right there on the spot.
For me, sketching is all about capturing the essence of a place and telling the story of your time there, and I find that finishing the sketch where you began it gives a nice sense of completion to that particular story.
In addition to the actual picture I’m sketching, I also enjoy including little annotations on the sketch itself – these are usually sensory observations, snippets of dialogue from either a conversation I had during the sketch or from one I overheard, and even small haiku-like reflections on how I’m feeling that day, or how the sketch is going. I find these notes add another layer to the story the sketch is telling, and that they take it beyond a purely visual creation.
4. How often do you update your travel journal?
I update it daily.
Now that I keep two separate books – my sketchbook and my travel journal – I try to do at least one sketch a day, but the frequency of my note taking varies. Some days, I simply paste in that day’s ephemera with a couple of lines in my journal; other times I sit down over a beer or coffee at the end of the day and write out a few pages of thoughts and notes.
5. What is your favourite piece of travel journaling equipment?
It would have to be my Winsor & Newton watercolour field kit – a wonderful gift from two friends soon after I started sketching.
Although I also bring along a sketchbook, drawing pens, watercolor pencils, squirrel-hair paintbrush, and glue sticks for pasting in ephemera, nothing compares to bringing a sketch to life with colour.
6. Why does this type of travel journaling work for you?
Before I began sketching, I barely remembered places – because I let my camera do all the work for me, I moved through a city quickly and my journal tended to focus on personal reflections that unfolded during the trip. The reason that keeping a travel sketchbook works for me is because I myself become the camera. Sketching opens up my mind and imprints the intricate details of a new place on it.
There’s a quote I love by Frederick Franck:
“When I start drawing an ordinary thing, I realize how extraordinary it is, sheer miracle.”
I feel the same could be said of travel sketching – that even when we’re drawing an ordinary scene, it has this way of becoming alive and full of meaning. The mundane is made magical.
I never forget the places I sketch, because of how present I was during the process – and more importantly, I never forget the people I met while sketching.
Candace Rose Rardon is a travel writer and sketch artist originally from the state of Virginia, although she has also called the UK, New Zealand, and India home.
She recently released her first book of travel sketches, “Beneath the Lantern’s Glow: Sketches and stories from Southeast Asia and Japan”.
Her blog: The Great Affair
Connect with Candace on Twitter and/or Facebook:
Do you keep any form of travel journal?
Contact me if you’d like to share how *you* recount your travel memories –
Allow us to take a peek in *your* ‘journal 🙂
Share a few tips in the comments below