Monday, July 8, 2013

My awesome vacation in the woods and my travel sketchbook!

Hi everyone, Desiree here! I am enjoying all of the different styles and ideas about the woods so far aren't you! Its going to be tough to follow Dion's wonderful, colorful sketchbook but here goes. I think it is great that Sue has gathered such a diverse group of artists with different styles so we can all try so many different things.

I have so many different sketchbooks, one of my sketchbooks is for my travels, recording my adventures and journaling about the trip. This sketchbook is more about painting the scene or something special and recording the trip, more than it is about using different techniques. The great thing about sketchbooks is that anything goes and you can't have too many!  I often only have basic supplies when we are traveling on vacation as I usually have so much to carry already. This was the case recently on our journey home from spring Market, going through Crater Lake, The Redwood National Forest and Yosemite.  I have found that trying to sketch and paint with people who are not painting and sketching adds pressure and slows down everyones activities. So to be able to keep everyone happy and still be able to sketch, paint and journal I do several things.
My light vacation journaling supplies:
  1. I carry a small paint palette with carefully chosen paints.
  2. A mechanical pencil
  3. A waterproof pen (I use several different kinds so I pick one, Micron, Pentel etc)
  4. A ninji water brush ( a brush that holds its own water) and paper towel or napkin
  5. And of course a sketchbook. This time I took my Moleskine since they have a pocket in the back to collect things    
  6. This trip I also had some loose pages from the new Stillman and Birn 300lb watercolor paper sketchbooks.
  7. I always have my phone or small camera.
Sounds like a lot but its not and fits nicely into a plastic bag in my purse or Jennifer's backpack.
Painting a Eucalyptus Forest

Since it was a family vacation and not a Sketching trip for me I aways want to make sure I am considerate so everyone enjoys themselves. If there is something that I want to stop and sketch my family is fairly patient but being quick is important. Who wants to sit for an hour or more watching someone paint when there are trails to hike and things to see! Often I start a sketch or painting and if I feel I haven't finished it I will snap a photo and finish it later. I will also gather things that can be sketched back at the hotel room or lodge, leaves, pinecones etc, just no bugs.
This is the pocket in the back of one of my Moleskine sketchbooks. I will often grab small things and stick them into the pocket to save or paint later. It also works great as a press!

I also will journal at night in bed about the day so I am still fresh and remember everything. In my travel journal I always leave room to journal on the page, sometimes I will journal over a whole page just splattering paint to add interest.
Having dinner at the lodge at Crater Lake during a blizzard I had the time to do this quick little painting of the trees  being hidden by the flurries of snow. Watercolors are great to quickly give the feeling of distance, just use less pigment and more water to make a soft version of your color, things in the distance are always softer and bluer. Start at the top and add a light row of trees, let it dry, add another row, lower and a bit more pigment or paint. Keep going until your closest trees are truer in color and brighter. Or do a whole page of layers of soft trees and you can journal right over the whole page! As things come closer they are darker, more true in color, just remember Watercolor is about 20% lighter when it dries. This isn't my finished page, I went to the ranger station and added the National Park Passport stamp!

Next we traveled down through the Redwood Forest, and I had the opportunity to capture some forest vistas and Elk that were walking by our little cabin!
The forest was full of greens and with my limited palette I was wishing I had more colors, I will know for next time! 
From there we went to my moms! She lives in Philo, a small town that is near the coast and is referred to as the other Napa Valley. Beautiful vineyards and country settings. This is the view from her bedroom window looking towards the ocean and Mendocino!

Then on to Yosemite, more incredible beauty and so much to see and paint! Selecting what to paint can be overwhelming so by using your phone or camera as a view finder it can help you crop the scene and make it not so scary. We hiked a lot in Yosemite, stopping to enjoy a waterfall or have lunch which gave me a few opportunities to do some drawings. I was glad I brought the loose papers to do some sketching. I love graphite and they become a study of values.
You just can't capture it all and in Yosemite there were huge granite cliffs, trees, meadows etc.  This sketch wasn't quick, I worked on it in the car and at the lodge from my phone later.

Well those are just a few of my journal pages from our wonderful, woodsy vacation! I hope you enjoyed the trip with me and that the next time you take a trip you will try to journal it too!


  1. Great post. Thanks for the tip on the distant trees. It looked like the snow was fading them out!

    Your pictures are terrific.

    1. Hi Timaree,thanks so much! The snow was fading my trees as they were fairly close but the same applies for that or fog or distance. Next time you are driving down the road and can see distant mountains notice how the farthest ones are more blue and softer and as they get closer they get darker, have fun!

  2. Wonderful post -- so full of lovely paintings and useful tips. The snowy trees are my favorite too. It's kind of nice to think of chilly snow during the heat of summer.

    1. Thanks Kristin, I enjoyed the snow so much. We don't see snow here so looking out over this white, winter wonderland from a warm lodge was great!

  3. I have not been around for a while, or in my sketchbook either :( Today is the day to dive back in! Although after looking at your beautiful sketches/artwork and pictures I just want to go camping. Thank you for sharing such a beautiful vacation!

    1. Thank you Rasz for your comments. We were fortunate to be camping in cabins and lodges but remember the days of tents and campfires!

  4. You books are stunning Desiree. I agree, the artists here are all so amazing and inspiring. I have learned so much from others. Thank you for sharing. xx

  5. Such gorgeous drawings Desiree - you inspire me!


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