3 Tips for Summertime Sketching

I love summer because I’m always on the go. It’s the best time of year to travel, and I just can’t seem to say no to any outing or adventure that comes my way. Want to take a road trip through the Carolinas, Court? I’m there. A holiday to Chicago? Sign me up. A vacation in California’s wine country? I wish, but yes!

Pastels, like the ones used to create Convict Lake by Colleen Howe, have such rich color and are easy to transport.

But with all this moving around, I want to make sure that my sketchbook doesn’t get ignored, so I’ve come up with a few on-the-go sketching and painting strategies that I want to share with you.

A Part, Not the Whole: Even with pastel, I find that I still work pretty slowly. When it comes time for me to set out on my travels, I know that time is going to be of the essence, so my plan is to target one part of the scene instead of hurriedly sketching everything in.

Pencil sketches and color notes can allowyou to create art while traveling. Artwork by Colleen Howe.
Drawing of Convict Lake by Colleen Howe
Pencil sketches and color notes
can allowyou to create art
while traveling.
Artwork by Colleen Howe.

For instance, at a roadside fruit stand, I may see bunches of people and dozens of inspiring compositions, but I’m going to focus on just a corner of the action. This way I can make the most of my limited drawing time.

Color Notes: I love sketching with color, so pastel drawing is a great travel option. One of the ways I like to work best is to abstract a scene and just focus on color. This can be a great way to make a sketch for something you might paint later in the studio. It can also stand alone as a fun memento of a time and place that meant something to you.

Different Strokes: Paring down what I work with when I travel means using versatile tools and getting creative about the different strokes I use. I really give my implement a workout. The few tools I bring must allow me to create fine lines and broad strokes, hatching or dotting on my surface, or incorporating wet brush techniques that I only need a single brush and some water to do. For example, wet brushing pastel softens my lines and disperses color in a really subtle way.

Thinking this way has gotten me even more excited about the cities I will see this summer because I’ll have a way to take a little piece of them with me when I leave. So that I can get started now I am using the Archisketcher Travel Watercolor Kit. It has great resource guides for urban sketchers and a travel watercolor kit so we can paint on the go. Exciting!! Enjoy!

And do you have any summer sketch tips to share? Leave a comment and help me add to my list.

P.S. Tomorrow is the last day of the Summer 30 Day Giveaway, so be sure to sign up for your chance to win the Grand Prize! Good luck!



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Courtney Jordan

About Courtney Jordan

  Courtney is the editor of Artist Daily. For her, art is one of life’s essentials and a career mainstay. She’s pursued academic studies of the Old Masters of Spain and Italy as well as museum curatorial experience, writing and reporting on arts and culture as a magazine staffer, and acquiring and editing architecture and cultural history books. She hopes to recommit herself to more studio time, too, working in mixed media.   

7 thoughts on “3 Tips for Summertime Sketching

  1. If I may …
    But the timing of your blog is just to perfect.

    I just put together a new travel kit for this season.

    I started with Derwent’s “Sketching Collection” kit and subbed out a couple of their pencils with two I favor. I slipped in a Protractor into the tin to hold the pencils in place better while traveling and clamp the whole thing shut with a large document sized paper clip. –

    I slip all that into a Kids Pencil Pouch I found at the Grocery store ($2), but its a really good fit with enough room for a quality Sharpener and a kneaded eraser.

    The best thing about this arrangement is a I have 3 Derwent kits in the 12 Pencil sized tins and I can swap out for any of those in seconds just before I go out to the field. I think this is going to be a very good season. Blessings, BB.

  2. Thanks Courtney and BB! Great ideas and details. Certainly having everything you’ll need ready to go in your carryall of choice is how to get it done. Look forward to seeing what you both create; do share! And please, give me your feedback/ideas on my work at sites below.
    Thanks again,
    Susan/Red Barn Art (on fb) and redbarnartatredbarnart.net

  3. I take my pen with waterproof ink (Uniball sells them in fine and micro sizes}, a small watercolor travel pan set and a travel brush, a pill bottle of water, some paper towels or kleenex, and a small watercolor paper spiral bound sketch book no bigger than 9″X7″. This all fits into my purse or a fanny pack and I keep it with me or in the car at all times. I time myself and try to capture the essence of the subject in 15 to 20 minutes. This way I do not have time to overwork the sketch. I have many many sketch books full of memories. They are my greatest treasure and I store them in a fireproof safe.