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Admin (Gill)
Jessica Wesolek recently posted a wonderful article on the guilt of not completing your travel journal on the actual trip. She has kindly given me permission to re-post it here -



Just the other day, I was talking to a dear friend (Hi, Ann!) about the fact that she has boxes of “stuff” from our last couple of journaling adventures and she feels frustrated that she hasn’t gotten those books all done.

I bet you know that feeling.

I sure do.

At our Santa Fe Retreats, we have an abundance of studio time and students do get lots of pages “all done”, but there is always more input of visual treasure than there is time – especially around here.

The truth is that I only know about three people who go off on an adventure and come home with a finished travel journal. These are either people who choose just a few subjects and sketch and paint on site, or people who stay up until midnight in their hotel rooms to finish each day’s pages.

I faced up to the fact a long time ago that I am neither of these.

I have this thing abut being comfortable when making art. Baking sun, wind blowing my hair in my eyes, passers-by interrupting with questions and comments, carrying a camp stool or sitting on a rock, rain, cold – ALL of these do not make me comfortable.

So I have long depended on my camera for back-up – to take scenes back home with me, but there was the hassle of editing photos and printing them, in order to work from them.

The iPad came along and changed all that with its great camera and BIG viewing screen. I don’t have to edit or print unless I want to put an actual photo or a Sheer Heaven transfer in my book.

I can work from my reference photos right on my iPad, and even zoom in to see every tiny detail.

Those of you who have been following this blog for awhile know that I have come up with many “best” journaling kits for travel – always looking for the next improvement.

But no matter how good those kits get, I have finally understood a basic truth about myself.

I love making art at home. Even my travel journal art.

I enjoy reliving the adventures this way so much more than rushing on site or in a motel room that I am only in for a night (my travel style for road trips.)

I have ALL my supplies around at home – no matter what new expressive idea I might want to explore. I have EVERY color of ALL my media.

Working this way allows my actual travel time to be full of experiencing the place – rather than shutting myself up indoors – a prisoner of my pages.

I still sketch on site and in coffee shops and restaurants – but the point is, I can do that in a relaxed manner because I don’t have to FINISH anything.



And I can use artistic license to condense the parts of an experience into a single whole that says it all.

Although I took photos from the car along the route shown above (the VERY boring Texas Panhandle on I-40), and even pulled over for quick & dirty reminder sketches along the roadside, the actual spread was done after I got home – where I could print out a map, sketch ALL the roadside architecture in one place, and figure out a cool way to indicate the constant wind.

My travel journals now have three parts, and each part is big fun.

Anticipation is always the best part of any trip, so the planning is great.

The actual trip is also great because I can take it all in and don’t have to pass up a bunch of adventures so I can complete a painting of one.

And then, the replay - after I get home, I have the adventure all over again as I interpret it in my visual journal.



When I wrote my Travel Journal Workshop a couple years ago. I had all this in it.

But, for some reason, I kept trying to change my habits so I could be one of those urban sketcher types.

I even recently organized a group to meet for journaling at a local bakery. I didn’t finish any pages while at the bakery and found myself taking lots more time back at home to “over<produce” my sketches – as I am prone to do.

And that’s when the truth finally hit home. It’s ok to “travel” at home.


I am still working on this trip- a road trip to and from Michigan in 2008. Each leg of the journey has its own volume, and I love revisiting all the memories.

SO, if you are frustrated by all the unfinished books around you, don’t be.

I am not the “Queen” of any of this or anything, but I give you permission to let all that go.

See those unfinished books as a luscious, creative, playground that can keep you “traveling” for a long time after you return home.

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Jessica also has a Travel Journal Workshop that you can download
Gill McC


Ah well, I dreamt of balmy spring days wandering the streets of Sorrento and sketching in the sunshine, but sadly the weather had other ideas. So, my journal comprises mainly of sketches I painted from images, and printed photos.

I like to start my journal with an itinerary page - a brief outline of what we did each day - and a weather record



I also like to include a map of the area - I simply go to Google Maps, print it to the scale and size I need and use old fashioned tracing to transfer it to my journal.


Do you suffer from 'blank page syndrome?' where it seems far too intimidating to make that first mark on the blank white page... Well, there are a few tips and tricks I have up my sleeve to get around this problem. For this journal I decided to use a technique that Jacqueline Newbold teaches in her wonderful DVD 'Art Journals on the Go'- to pre-paint some pages. I wasn't quite sure how this would work out, (especially as the colour ended up rather more intense than I had intended as I used Winsor & Newton Artists watercolours for the first time - the pigment is far richer in these pans than in the Cotman Student grade paints I am used to.) however, if you trust the process you will find it all works perfectly -

I sketched these trees from photos I had taken during the morning, by the time I sat painting in the hotel lounge in the afternoon, a full-blown storm had roared in - so the background seems very appropriate




The other pages worked well too - the first matched the colours of the flowers perfectly, and the second reproduced the look of the stucco on the church.




There are many techniques you can use if you do not feel your sketching skills are up to scratch - although I always say that keeping an illustrated travel journal is not about creating great art, but about creating memories...

This is a technique that anyone can do - I had a poor quality photograph of this wonderful wisteria-clad pergola, taken under grey skies so the lighting was not good. I converted the photo to greyscale, and printed it on watercolour paper - then simply added colour over the top. Do make sure that you only do this with a printer that has waterproof ink - such as Epson Durabrite, or a Laser printer.



There were many ceramics in Sorrento - a speciality of the area - many of them were on walls or pavements. I decided to re-create the look of a wall to mount the photos on. This was easily achieved by using a water soluble ink to draw in light brick lines (I used a Rotring Art Pen), then I loaded some raw sienna on my paintbrush and painted the bricks - just touching the ink lines and allowing the ink to run.




This was one of the few paintings I did in-situ, a wonderful pizza served in the tin tray in which it was cooked -



More to follow...
Tags: Italy, watercolor
Admin (Gill)
I recently stumbled upon the blog of Artist Leslie Fehling - what a delight! Her watercolour sketches are just beautiful, and she has some stunning journals of her travels in Italy
Lupia by Leslie Fehling
and Ireland. I was particularly struck by one of her posts about the realities of sketching on vaction, and asked her permission if I could share it with you.

So, with thanks to Leslie, I have reproduced it here...

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The Realities of a Sketching Vacation by Leslie Fehling

Italy was wonderful, beautiful, art-filled, exciting, and endlessly interesting. There's so much to tell, and it's difficult to even know where to start. I'll be posting lots of photos and notes about the trip over the coming weeks, but I'm guessing a lot of you are wondering if I actually did any sketching while I was over there.

Since the purpose of this trip was to see Italy at a slower pace and have time to do lots of sketching, I had high hopes of coming home with a sketchbook brimming with beautiful finished pages filled with watercolor sketches and travel journaling.

Can you guess what really happened? I have seventy pages in my sketchbook with 'something' on them. I drew sixty-four individual sketches, but only one 10" x 7" sketchbook page (yes, one!) is actually complete! Here it is...


Near Bolzano by Leslie Fehling


I started off with a bang on Day 1. After tasting our first Italian cappuccino at a coffee shop in town, we sat outside and sketched the gelateria across the street. It was a lot of fun painting on site, and I worked quickly to splash on the watercolor after doing my drawing with a brown watercolor pencil. The text was added later, and the page was complete!

In the hours and days that followed, I found myself wanting to get more and more of my experiences down on paper, but there simply wasn't enough time to paint it all. Around every corner there was an ancient building with weathered shutters just begging to be drawn, or a beautiful wrought iron balcony with trailing vines against warm golden stucco walls. There were castles and vineyards and olive groves everywhere we turned - so much to draw in a limited amount of time!

Near Siena by Leslie Fehling



Rather than become frustrated with the overwhelming amount of subject matter, I decided that whatever I managed to accomplish was enough. I wanted it to be a fun vacation, not a race to the finish. So most of my pages look something like this, with partially painted sketches and blank spots which I plan to fill in later...

Vicenza by Leslie Fehling


Often I would be forced to leave a painting half finished when we had to catch a train, check out of a hotel, or head to our next stop...
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Manarola by Leslie Fehling


There are pages like this next one, where I was having so much fun painting that I totally neglected to finish the right side of the lower sketch. See the area where the distant mountain is missing?

Tuscany http://2.bp.blogspot.com/-MmcMLxeL5hk/UXwq38yEsuI/AAAAAAAAGBw/MfgU7-AKb-M/s1600/Tuscany.jpg



I generally had a loose idea of a plan for the page layout in my head when I began sketching on a page. Other times, I slapped something down in the excitement of the moment, then later tried to figure out how to bring the page together with a title, text, borders, or bands of color which could be added later.

San G by Leslie Fehling



A few of my sketchbook pages even look something like this:

Lucca by Leslie Fehling


That's reality. Sometimes I chose to simply relax and enjoy the short time I had in a place rather than feeling obligated to fill a page in my sketchbook. It would have been great to sketch in Lucca, but there just wasn't time. We arrived in the late afternoon and strolled around the historic town center, then rented bikes for an hour to ride on the old town walls surrounding the town before the sun went down. Better to experience the bike ride myself than to sit and sketch all the other people riding by. I can add a drawing later on this page using the reference photos I took that day. (I took over 1200 photos in fourteen days! That might be a tad excessive, but there was so much to take pictures of!)

I journaled every evening, writing about all the interesting places we'd seen and people we met. I worked on inking the penciled-in text on the flight home when I had eight hours with nothing to do. Reading over all of our adventures was a great way to end the trip.


I'll be working on finishing up my Italy sketchbook as time allows this spring and summer, and I'll be sure to share it with you. I'd love to be in my studio working on it all day every day, but spring is a busy time of year, with planting and mulching and mowing to tend to, plus my sewing business. I know it might take awhile to complete all seventy journal pages, but that's okay. I'm looking forward to reliving those good times and wonderful places as I draw and paint my way from Venice to Tuscany to Cinque Terre on the pages of my sketchbook.

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So, be sure to head on over to Leslie's site to see some of those finished pages

And please do leave a comment below for Leslie if you have enjoyed her article, and spread the word by sharing this with your friends. If you do not see the comment box below simply click here and scroll to the bottom of the post.
Jan T Baillie
Rylstone caravan park overlooks the golf course and it inspired me to paint a small picture using acrylics for my journal.

Jan T Baillie
Gresford in the Hunter Valley, NSW, has an award winning camp spot.

Here are the pages from my journal:

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