Traveling with my Sketchbook

“I have learned that what I have not drawn, I have never really seen”
Frederick Franck (1909 – 2006) Dutch American sculptor


Next week we begin our trip to the Scandinavian countries of Sweden, Norway and Finland. I have not yet started to pack clothing and necessary items-like my toothbrush- but my sketching materials are ready! I have started to prep some pages in my sketchbook and prepping my thinking to make sketching a priority habit on this trip.

When traveling, sketching seems as though it should be easy and quick and it is not. Often, I will forgo sketching because of the travel schedule time element and/or my travel companion is not a sketcher and wants to “move on” to the the next site. Time for sketching can not be completed at a leisurely pace. To prepare for this inevitable situation I have developed a list of potential times to sketch that might provide more leisurely time using my sketchbook. My list includes sketching while waiting at airports, sketching while we are traveling by railroad, capturing the landscape from the deck of a cruise ship, sketching at a restaurant while waiting for a meal. We will be in museums where I can draw and in small towns for easy walking at the end of the day for nature journaling. When a tour group stops for photographs I can open up my sketchbook rather than setting a shutter speed. I have written these strategies into my sketchbook as a reminder.  Using my cell phone camera is another tool. I can start a sketch and when it is time to go, photograph what I am drawing for reference. The drawing can be finished back at the hotel in the evening. Drawing is meditative and at the end of a busy day drawing might be the perfect way to end.


Sketchbook page from Florida (2016) Kathy Grundei

Though drawing is primarily a visual exercise, flexing other sensory muscles can deepen my engagement. What did I smell? What did I hear and which sounds stood out the most? With each observation, I like to note it on my sketch. These annotations will help create evocative memories of the wonderful places experienced with travel. Sketching is well worth the effort.

Besides pre-thinking how and where I can draw on this trip I have also prepped one page in my sketchbook to be calendar.  I can draw one simple image to remember any given day. I found a wonderful template that could be used in so many ways.

Calendar Layout

I used this to create a calendar for the time that we will be away and also left the right amount of boxes for the days we will be in each country. I added a title, some color wash as a background to neutralize the white of the page. I now have a place in my sketchbook devoted  to drawing one thing that catches my attention. I am looking forward to seeing this page completed.

Preparing a Sketchbook Calendar Page

Sketching does more than help me remember places—it opens doors and creates connections. I could write all day in my journal and no one would stop to watch or ask me what I was doing. It’s different when I have my sketchbook. There’s just something about art that encourages people to approach you, to peer over your shoulder, to look up at the subject you’re sketching and then back at your drawing to compare likenesses. Also, when I sketch while traveling, I have much more vivid memories of places when I look back on my sketches.

My goals for using my sketchbook require DESIRE and PERSEVERANCE. With pre-planning and attention to the trip’s schedule and awareness for possible detours in my thinking I believe that I can end up with pages of  memories.

Thanks for reading!