Travel diaries past and future


Diane and I @ Parc Guell

I am to be visiting Spain in April, for a second time. Last time I went with an old  friend to attend a month’s teaching course in Barcelona. I loved Barcelona and had always contemplated a return. When I learned late last year of a 2019 Sketch Spain trip, I didn’t need any persuasion to add my name to the list. My husband is coming with me this time, with his camera, while I shall join a small group of sketchers. To build some impetus, and ideas for how I’d approach my travel diary, I joined Tony McNeight’s class for a map-drawing exercise as he thought this a good way to familiarise oneself with a new place. We were to emulate a schematic drawing of Devonport, using any style we wished, though keeping to the preferred mediums of watercolour and ink (see at end of blog).

After class I returned home and immediately began searching out my diary and the photos from my original Barcelona trip. Back then, I’d been focussing on describing what I saw, rather than sketching scenes, as my focus was more on writing at that time. But I’d use this information for stories, or drawings, once I was back home.

Notes on Gaudi Casa museum

I have made copious notes in copious books over the years, and produced stories set in Rome, Prague, France, Lake Como, London and New York, to name a few. I have made sketches of temples in Hong Kong and Japan, and drawn sculptures and fountains in Budapest and Prato. Yes, that first trip to Nepal, described in a recent blog, inspired all this travel. But the three-week period when I visited my daughter in New York produced one of the most extensive travel diaries I have ever made with pages of daily written text and drawings. It also produced one interesting tale; involving my being roped in to do a painting. I documented this little story along with the usuals about visiting places of interest in New York, but this memory is a special one.


A snippet from my New York diary page


New York diary sketch

A day was spent visiting art stores and buying the supplies necessary; paints, brushes and a large canvas. It seemed only right that I sketch these items in my NY diary. Lara was beside me the first day, helping prepare the canvas, and painting the background.

Day two, Lara developed a whopping migraine, and I was left to carry on with the painting alone, popping out for walks while waiting for different layers of paint to dry. The painting itself was based on a favourite card of Lara’s, featuring deep blue sea, a whale and a mermaid-type girl. There were also to be little fish swimming around, which thankfully Lara was able to help finish on my last day. I thought her fish looked somewhat evil, and so named the painting which would adorn her apartment wall …

finished art

At peace with Piranhas

I am now looking ahead to the stories my Sketch Spain travel dairy will hold and the memories I shall keep for years after the visit. Meanwhile, I have a map to complete and this I shall do at the art class tomorrow. At least I have the basics down. It is known that images prompt memory recall, and what better way to bring journeys and people to mind through stories created by your own hand. The very act of sketching means one must look and look again to capture a scene, pose, or fragment of statuary. Add to this, the words written alongside the images, and there is a duet of line and prose created, which is utterly unique.


unfinished map 

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