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Joe of our Seattle Store on Travel Sketching

I take my sketchbook everywhere I go. Not because I’m waiting for inspiration to strike, but because I find inspiration in my every-day surroundings. I draw people waiting in line. I draw cars parked in the sun. I draw birds, puddles, children and cups. I draw anything that is in front of me any time I have a minute or two to draw it.

My sketchbook is my journal. My sketchbook is a visual record of where I go and what I see. My sketchbook is a more personal version of a daily photo album—and it’s super-fun to make.

My travel sketching set-up changes depending on my mood. Sometimes I choose dry media. Sometimes pens. Sometimes watercolor. Right now, I’m cold.

I like to beat the freeze by sketching people at my local coffee shop. It’s warm, it’s cozy, there’s music and the drinks are hot and delicious. The coffee shop setting also has a lot of people in constant motion. The scenery changes on a minute-by-minute basis. The activity and bustle of a Coffee Shop forces me to draw quickly and to use tools that give me quick, responsive results.

These two women were sketched at different times—people tend to not hold still when they don’t know they’re posing for you. I quickly gestured the line work in about 15 seconds for each figure using a Faber Castell Pitt Superfine Dark Sepia pen. I like this pen as the ink is waterproof and will not run or bleed when I create a watercolor wash over it.

At this point, both women had moved on, so the color washes I added had to be from memory. I observed other people waiting in the same place to better inform my lighting decisions. Using various mixes of my three colors (DANIEL SMITH Garnet Gen., DANIEL SMITH Prussian Blue, and DANIEL SMITH Serpentine Gen.) with some WINSOR & NEWTON Permanent White Gouache, I mixed some muddy grays to give the sketch some quick washes of color.

The entire sketch, including time spent color-mixing and pondering, took no more than two minutes. Then, I was on to the next subject!


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