Sketch On the Road – A Sense of Place


We are all creative. Exploring a new year may include exploring your creative side. To be more creative, make some time and space to do things differently. With each trip for work or pleasure comes an opportunity to be creative and draw. This is one small, low cost and convenient thing we can do to express ourselves and unleash our creative potential. In October 2015, National Geographic online reminded us about sketching while traveling.

Let me further describe the five key points through the eyes of this seasoned art student:

1. “Choose a subject.”

Sketch what you like or what relates to your other interests. I sketch people on the plane, plants at the destination or landscapes. These are sights that are unique to the location or experience. Drawing (sketching) is the sister to every other art practice including photography, painting, sculpture and printmaking. Sketching is simultaneously a beginning and a foundation.

2. “Lay the scene out with pencil.”

Use a pencil and an eraser. Go ahead; make mistakes and experiment. Do not judge your work; just let your hand move across the paper. You could make a grid to help you organize the image. Or use some guiding lines that are coincident with edges that appear in the scene you are sketching, such as an edge of a chair, edge of a building, top of a table or angle of a head tilt. Give yourself some ways to see how things relate to each other in space.

Second, it’s a sketch. Keep it loose. Develop your own pencil mark-making like you would your signature in handwriting.

3. “Fill in the details with pen.”

The sketch accompanied by a journal entry is especially valuable when you reminisce about your travels. Add a few of the key details of the day on your journey that makes it memorable. Last August on a trip to Italy, I jotted down the top ten things about each day that made the trip special for me. What did I see, hear or taste that was a memory –maker? What put a smile on my face? How did I feel; was the jet lag replaced with elation of a new discovery?

4. “Bring it to life with color.”

If you want to add color to your sketch, there are many convenient ways: markers, colored pencils, or watercolors. “Each medium offers its own adventure.” If you want to add color, but run out of time onsite, simply jot down the hues you see as notes on the page. Take a photo on your cell phone to supplement your first-hand impression of the scene.

5. “Be open to serendipity.”

Be open to what you are sensing about a place. What is a place; is a place its people, culture, flora and fauna? A sense of place is more than a physical location when there is human interaction and emotion, whether within the space, viewing the space, or remembering the space. While you’re sketching, reflect on these questions:

  • What is our place in the world?
  • Where do we find comfort; where do we find meaning?
  • What is it we call “home” or “leaving home?”
  • Can a place be virtual (digital) and real at the same time?
  • Is a place physical or in our mind? Both can be equally real.

Your creativity will expand as you sketch and do things differently. With each trip, comes a growing sense of place and how to capture it with all of your senses. Sketching allows us to express ourselves and unleash our creative potential.


We are giving away a $50 Amazon Gift Card every month to one of our subscribers! To enter, simply add your email address below. If you already subscribe, you will automatically be entered. Winners will be chosen randomly.

Related Posts: