We asked travel writer and sketch artist Candace Rose Rardon and here’s her answer along with some stunning sketches from her travels.
Ever since purchasing my first SLR camera when I was 13 years old, I’ve loved documenting my travels through pictures. But I gradually felt that the more photos I snapped on a trip, the more I wasn’t remembering places as vividly as I would have liked to. In a way, I was letting the machine do all the work, not my mind. And so just about three years ago, I decided to bring something else besides my camera with me on my next trip: A sketchbook and a pack of 12 watercolour pencils. I’ve now sketched my way through nearly 25 countries, and I couldn’t imagine a better medium for recording my travels.
Sketching slows me down, and opens my mind up to a new place. As I sit in the same spot for two or three hours, working on a sketch, my senses are on high alert, and I leave that spot with strong memories of all that I could see, smell, hear, and feel as I sketched.
Here’s how you can start sketching on your next trip:
Choose your gear
I always recommend keeping it simple. Don’t feel like you need to invest in an entire portfolio of painting supplies just to get started. Select a sketchbook with good quality paper – I suggest 140 lb. (300 gsm), so that the pages won’t buckle when you begin applying water and decide on what medium you’ll use, be it watercolour paints, pencils, pens, markers, etc. For paints, I love my Winsor & Newton watercolour field kit, which holds 12 colours and is easy to slip into whatever bag I’m using for a trip. I also use Staedtler pigment liner drawing pens and Derwent watercolour pencils.
Focus on a scene
Choose a scene that inspires you. Find a cafe or bench where you can sketch from, and think about what you’d like to focus on and what details you’ll include. Although you will soon develop your own style, I usually spend about 15 minutes laying out a sketch in pencil, an hour drawing the scene with pen, and then another 45-60 minutes bringing the scene to life with paints and watercolour pencils. During the drawing stage, I also like to write little annotations on the sketch – snippets of overheard dialogue, sensory observations, or even a line or two of how I’m feeling that day – anything that will instantly transport me back to that scene when I look at the sketch in the future.
Be open to serendipity
Although I’m grateful for the way that sketching helps me remember places, what I love most is how it opens the door to serendipitous encounters. When I’m sitting down with my sketchbook open, it’s amazing how often people will come up to me and peer over my shoulder. While sketching in the Bến Thành night market in Saigon, Vietnam, I met two local college students who invited me to draw with them the next day; in Mostar, Bosnia, I was invited into several local families’ homes after they saw me sketching outside; and sketching on-location in Istanbul’s bustling Grand Bazaar was a way to form a unique connection with Turkish carpet sellers. The people I meet through my sketches mean just as much to me as the paintings themselves.
Candace is a writer and sketch artist originally from the state of Virginia, although she has also called the UK, New Zealand, and India home. In addition to running her blog, The Great Affair, which was recently featured in the New York Times, she has also released her first book of travel sketches, Beneath the Lantern’s Glow: Sketches and Stories from Southeast Asia and Japan.
Check out more sketches on her blog: www.candaceroserardon.com
You can get a copy of Beneath the Lantern’s glow here