In preparation for my upcoming trip to France, I’ve been reviewing my notes about travel journaling and looking back at what I’ve done on past trips. Most of my journaling falls in three categories and requires only basic supplies such as a small watercolor kit and some pencils and pens.
Getting Acquainted: Landscape “Snapshots”
When traveling to a new place, my first goal is to absorb the feel of the place. I also want to be prepared to move when my traveling companions have taken photos and are ready to go. In this case, I make small (approximately 4×6”) line drawings in pencil in my journal to capture basic shapes. People are just torso and legs with a gesture or posture. I may draw a door or flower box rather than the whole building. Along with the drawing, I note the character of the place in words. For example, “white rectangular buildings with red roofs, bright sun, strong shadows” or “busy, noisy, colorful flower market”. I also record the weather, sounds, and smells… church bells, diesel fuel, birds, lavender, etc.
When I stop for lunch or in the evening, I add color and details while the scene is still fresh in my mind. For these small landscapes, a soft wash of color in the background and some foreground details with an ink pen may be all it takes. In other cases I add color only in the area of greatest interest or define shapes with brush strokes. I’m trying to create physical memory though my hands and not to worry about completing a painting.
I leave some white space on the page and add place names and dates, and soon the book is full of very personal landscape “snapshots”.
Next week: Borrowing language