3 Tips for Summertime Sketching

6 Jun 2013

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!

Convict Lake by Colleen Howe, pastel drawing
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 sights I will see this summer because I’ll have a way to take a little piece of them with me when I leave. But to get ready for this, I want to sharpen my technical abilities so I feel confident about the way I work when I’m on the road. That’s where The Pastel Emag came in for me. As a resource guide it covers all media and gives instruction for techniques that work great whether you are practicing pastel drawing on vacation or in your studio. And do you have any summer sketch tips to share? Leave a comment and help me add to my list.

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Blackbird_61 wrote
on 18 May 2011 9:21 AM

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.

Ellen Neary wrote
on 18 May 2011 11:57 AM

Very useful tips for summertime sketching.   I look forward to all of your daily articles.

Thank you!  EAN

on 21 May 2011 7:49 PM

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

RonT wrote
on 31 May 2011 6:37 PM

Watercolor pencils and a wet brush are good travel tips. They work good over a pencil sketch also.

Georgiegirl wrote
on 7 Jun 2013 2:34 PM

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.

mifasola1 wrote
on 7 Jun 2013 10:04 PM

I keep a French easel and small foldable chair in my car at all times.  If I get an urge, then I just unload and I'm ready to go

vova wrote
on 11 Jun 2013 12:00 PM

This 6 item set is all I need for quick outdoor sketching:


And these are some examples of sketches:


(very fast, 7-10 minutes for each)