Today I wanted to share with you a beautiful and amazing technique used by artists and illustrators around the world. This technique is called “Travel Sketching” or “Urban Sketching”. This technique consists on creating art on location inspired by scenes witnessed by the artist while they are visiting some place, being it on vacation or in the town where they live.
Some of these artists even say their travel sketchbook is the best souvenir they could have from the place they visited, as they vividly remember the places and the moments lived when they painted them.
The Spanish artist Alicia Aradilla (@aradilla on instagram) is my biggest inspiration in this discipline of travel sketching. She travelled the world for one year while creating her travel journals and in her profile you can check all the beautiful places she discovered. Another artists I know applying this discipline is Danny Hawk, (@dannyjhawk on instagram), I am sure you will be very inspired if you take a look at their pieces!
Although this technique is mainly used when travelling, I thought it would be a nice idea to use this travel sketching idea to virtually travel from home! Being at home doesn’t mean we can’t discover new places. I like to call this idea, #homesketching.
If this project speaks to you, continue reading! I will guide you through the entire process.
If you don’t feel inspired with the following steps you can always take the free sketches appearing in Step 4 and color them ☺
- Any sort of art supply: I will use watercolours and a fountain pen with waterproof ink. However, it could be any art supply you like: watercolour brush pens, colored pencils, gouache, acrylic paint, paint pens, fine liners, sewing colored thread, paper scraps, etc. You decide!
- Any support: I will use a watercolor journal with handmade cotton paper, but again in this case, it could be any sketchbook, mixed media journal, a canvas, a series of rocks, fabric, etc.
STEP 1: Choose a place
In this step you are choosing a place, and remember to dream, it could be anywhere in the world! This trip is going to be for free!
Maybe some city you always wanted to visit, the little village where you spent your childhood, or that enchanted place you visited last summer, in definitive, choose a place that is somehow inspiring you. To be inspired by the place is key for the success of this project.
In this case I chooseLauterbrunnen, a beautiful small village in Switzerland. This is a place close to where I live, about three hours by car but I never had time to go there even if I really wanted to, so I believe it is perfect for this project.
Photo by Tim Trad
STEP 2: Research, look for information about this place
To look for information about this place you can use the internet, travel guides, books, your own memory.
What I did is to first locate the place geographically and add a few facts about it like the official language/s, the emblem or flag of the city, the currency. I also have a small section where I note down some typical food dishes.
You can choose anything inspiring you from that place! I like to add some text to the pages as well like how I felt when I visited the place or what is characteristic about it if I never went there.
When I finished my research about the place, it looked like this:
Research about Lauterbrunnen - Photo from África Santos @afrisartjourney
However, this is not written on stone. Indeed, you will see I ended up painting a Cheese fondue for the typical dish and it is not even appearing in the notes, but it gives us an overview and an idea about what we want to include. If you want to read more about this beautiful village, you can take a look at the following page:https://www.myswitzerland.com/en/destinations/lauterbrunnen/
STEP 3: Look for graphical inspiration
If you have not been there yet, I recommend using free copyright images to have some pictures inspiring the paintings. The websites I normally use are:
If you have been there, you can use photos you clicked on your last trip, some books or travel guides to inspire yourself on the topic! Please remember to ask for permission and credit the photographer if you are not using copyright free images.
I chose the following inspirational images:
Photo by Daniel Cox - Image from Unsplash
Photo by Hans Braixmeier - Photo from Pixabay
STEP 4: Designing the journal (OPTIONAL)
To better envision what I am going to have as a result, I like to pre-plan:
- Which images / elements I am going to paint in the journal.
- The general layout, or where I am going to place each element.
I decided I am going to use two consecutive pages of my landscape journal. To have a better image in my head, I took a normal sheet of paper and I measured the size of my journal pages to have two exact copies of my pages where I could sketch and arrange the elements the way I wanted:
First page of the journal - Photo by África Santos @afrisartjourney
Layout of the second page of the journal - Photo by África Santos @afrisartjourney
STEP 5: Draw everything in your support and play with color!
This is the part I enjoy the most. Painting and playing with colors in your chosen support!
Of course, I learnt much more about Lauterbrunnen than the few things I wrote in the journal but I like to have a good balance between text and art. Feel free to leave the sketches black and white or write much more information about your town. If you are motivated enough you can even create your own travel sketchbook about a whole country from home ☺!
I hope you liked this tutorial and I would love to see your projects. If you are kind to share just tag me at @afrisartjourney or write me a message!
Finished project - Photo by África Santos @afrisartjourney
Journal page 1 - Photo by África Santos - @afrisartjourney
Journal page 2 - Photo by Africa Santos @afrisartjourney