We stayed in Puerto Vallarta which is a touristy place with a huge Walmart and we spent a fair amount of our vacation sunbathing and reading trashy novels and eating from buffets and avoiding the horrors of New York in December and the transit strike.
I spent a grim evening at the bullfights watching four innocent creatures being tortured to death in front of several hundred tourists fresh off the big cruise ships., I went in the spirit of seeking out new adventures when possible but left feeling nauseated and vegetarian.
From a drawing perspective, this trip certainly didn’t have the immersive qualities of trips I’ve taken to Rome or Jerusalem or Paris. However I think that even a daytrip to Dayton is made richer by drawing and writing about one’s travels and so I thought I’d set down some things I’ve discovered about travel journaling:
I like to travel fairly light. I carry a smallish shoulder bag with my journal, pens, watercolors. I like NiJi waterbrushes because you can load them with water in the morning and they will carry you through the whole day without needing to carry water jars that could spill. I recommend some sort of folding stool. You can buy them light and inexpensively at camping stores and they let you set up where you want to without having to worry about being in the way or finding an empty bench.
Be prepared but not overly so. Make sure you have enough of your favorite pens but if you pass a local art supply store, always check it out. You may make some wonderful new discoveries. Don’t shlep more than would be comfortable. Improvise. I sometimes rub local soil and leaves onto my drawings for color. I’ve used pasta sauce as paint in Tuscany.
Don’t just draw postcards. It’s fine to sketch monuments and tourist spots but also try to capture local color and everyday life. Draw your meals, travel on public transportation, use art to immerse yourself in a different way of life.
Be bold. I’ve great characters in Roman catacombs, Death Valley bordellos, San Franciscan homeless shelters, and Yorkshire flea markets, all through drawing. Talk to people and don;t be embarrassed to show your work. Most people are impressed that you are even doing it and won’t judge your art as harshly as you do.
Let your art be your tour guide. Every minute you’re lying in your hotel bed could be spent drawing. The more pages you fill, the richer your memories will be. I still remember the sights and sounds of street corners from years ago just because I spent twenty minutes drawing somewhere. The memories are so much more intense than if I’d just been seeing the sights through a tour bus window.
Jot down notes as you draw, not just recording the where and when but conversations you overhear, thoughts and associations you make, smells and sounds specific to the place. Show how travel broadens your mind.
*Translated by Google. Apologies if it’s garbled.