Podcast 8: Water Color Road Trip

I love keeping an illustrated journal on a trip. And I’m on a big one right now, a three-week road trip down the west coast. I recorded this week’s episode while we’re on the road and I explain my process in detail, go into all the supercool new watercolor gizmos I bought to pack along, and describe what I’m seeing and how I’m turning it into pages on my journal.

Then I call Koosje to get her advice on travel journaling and a whole bunch more.  And I tell you how to get our new and totally free book, Jump Into Watercolor.  And I go into detail on our newest project, Watercolor Rules! and how to break them.

I hope you like it.

Episode transcript:


DANNY: Welcome to art for all, the Sketchbook Skool podcast. I’m your host Danny Gregory.  Each week I bring you stories, ideas, interviews and inspiration to keep you company while you work on your own creative project.  Whether you are drawing, doodling, carving an ice sculpture, sewing a quilt, or cooking chicken tikka masala, I hope this episode inspires you. That’s our mission at Sketchbook Skool, to help encourage art for all.

And if you’re interested in watercolor art, I’d like to encourage you with a free book on how to begin.  Stay tuned and I’ll tell you how to get yours later jn the show.


So, this week, I am not recording this in my studio as usual. Instead I’m in the passenger seat of a Chrysler 300 parked in a driveway in Northern California. It’s not my home. I live in New York 3,000 miles away but my wife and I are midway on an epic road trip down the west coast.  We flew to Seattle, rented this huge car and headed to the Canadian border, then we turned around and began Google mapping our way south. Each day we decide if we need to stay where we are another day night, and if not we look for the next stop on the map. We go to inns, we stay with friends, we’ll even gonna spend a night in an old AIrstream trailer. We have some appointments back in New York at the end of the month so we have three weeks to spend exploring.

Now, one of my favorite things about travelling is keeping an illustrated journal of the trip. Over the past 25 years or so I’ve journaled across Wales, China, Paris, Tuscany, Australia, Bermuda, Qatar, Vietnam, and loads of other places. Even when I travel for business, I take time each day to do a drawing or a watercolor and write down a page or two of experiences and stories.

This started as a natural extension of my regular illustrated journaling,  I’ve been recording my daily doings in my sketchbook since I started drawing in my late thirties.  I spend a few minutes making a drawing of some part of my day, big or small, as a form of mediation and appreciation.  Creating shelves full of sketchbooks filled with words and pictures documenting my days has been one of the most rewarding things I’ve ever done and so when I travel I make sure to keep up the habit.

While I enjoy recording my everyday life, Travel journaling is even more fun,  There are just so many interesting things that happen when you’re on a rip. New things to see, to eat, to learn about, new people to meet, new ideas to encounters. Everything is different and new.  Cans of soup, packages of soap, the design of buses, of newsstands, of baby strollers, how people do their laundry, their hair, their jobs. If you look hard, you see new universes. So much to draw all around. And when I stop and study something new, it sparks ideas. I recognize new connections. I get insights into my own life by seeing how it differs. I learn not to take anything for granted.

It wasn’t always so. I went on lots of vacations in my twenties and thirties that are a total blur. If I remember anything at all. Beach vacation, European vacations, all lost to the fog of time.  I went to Japan for a three week business trip Three weeks and I barely remember a thing. I just wasn’t engaged and present. Drawing changed all that.

WHen you sit and draw something, all of your senses are on. STudy Notre Dame for half an hour and you will never forget it,.  Draw the plaza outside St PAul and it will be seared into your brain cells. Not just the sights but the smells, the sounds, the temperature, all of it.  While I draw, I am experienced life in super high definition.

Vacations are expensive. Spending thousands on hotels and restaurants and museum admissions is even more costly when the memories fade before your tan does. But I can open any of my travel sketchbooks and be instantly transported back to Florence, to Vienna, to Kuala Lumpur, because the drawings contain all those memories, encoded in ink and watercolor.

SPeaking of watercolor, I decided before I left New York that I would use this trip as an excuse to play around with some new paints. I got myself a new field kit of Winsor and Newton watercolors and a couple of new brushes,  I found a folding set of watercolors form Dyvicl DYVICL. 42 colors that fold out like a fan then collapse into a rectangle 7 inches by 2. I got a set of Japanese watercolor markers from Akashiya, 32 brush markers that I can paint over with water to blend and mix the colors. I bought a big box of watercolor pans form Kuretake and just packed a long two sets of primaries, warm and cool.  And of course I got a Moleskine watercolor sketchbook, my favorite size for travelling, 5 by 8.

There’s a fair amount of redundancy in these watercolors and I probably don’t truly need all of them, but what the hey, I’m on vacation. And I find that when I travel, it’s good to have options,  I put together different combinations of materials to pack along, depending won what I expect to encounter. WIll I see a lot of nature, will I focus on buildings, will I have only short opportunities to draw, will I come back and forth or will I need to shlep everything I bring on a long haul.  sometimes, I have a backpack,and carry folding chairs and water bottles and all of my art supplies, other times I just carry a few colors in my coat or sa small bag, Sometime I leave everything in the hotel and I just take a pen and a sketchbook in my pocket. Or I might just take a few references pictures with my mobile phone and do my drawing in the evening when I have all my gear and  a comfortable table and chair. Prepare for everything is my motto, And then of course, I am always missing some crucial thing. Like on this trip, I forgot tp bring my bottle of permanent white ink. Which is fine because it’s just an excuse to go to a local art store and discover something new.

I’m thinking alot  about watercolors these days because we are just about to launch a new kourse at Sketchbook Skool called Watercolor Rules! and how to break them. FOr th last few months, Koosje and i have been finding great watercolorists for the kourse, then discussing all of the elements of the medium, coming up with a lesson plan, designing demonstrations, and filming videos in England, Spain, AMsterdam, and New York. We both love watercolor — the way they are so flexible, how amazing the colors are, how portable they can be, and how much there is to explore with them, but watercolors also make people nervous.  If you’ve never worked with them, you may well think they are complicated and difficult to learn . And even if you have tried them, you may have a sense that there’s a lot you don’t know about how to use them properly. I know I always feel ath way even after reading lots of books and experimenting for years. Heck, I’ve even had my watercolors featured in books of collections of cool watercolor artists and I still need to review the basics and study new techniques

So we designed this kourse for ourselves, to really break down the rules of watercolors, how to use the paints best, how to mix colors, how to make washes and glazes and gradations, and learn how each type of brush should be used, how is Alizarin crimson different from Quinacridone magenta, and when do you use Winsor Lemon instead of Cadmium yellow. But we didn’t want to just do a super technical dry academic kourse — that wouldn’t be sketchbook skool, so we also decided to learn how to go beyond those rules, to break the conventions.  We didn’t want to just learn how to make sort of boring gauzy Bob Ross type paintings of lilies and sunsets but how to jazz things up and so stuff that felt modern and bold and expressive. So we started with a real expert who could take is through the basics and we managed to convince Ian Sidaway, a dean of watercolor teachers, a member of the Royal Watercolor Society and author of three dozens books, and a personal inspiration to me for ages. He is super straightforward in his explanations and does crystal clear demonstrations, If you don’t own any of his book yet, et ye to AMazon immediately.  He has a lovely beard and a plummy British accent and we’ve taken to calling him the Professor Dumbledore of watercolor. Ian knows the rules but he’s not bound by them and after he showed us the foundations, he broke them open himself and did some wild stuff. Then we went to some other artists we die over, Jennifer Lewis also known as August Wren who paints in mixed media and gouache as well as watercolor, and Ian Fenaway who does amazing urban sketchy landscapes that are surprising and dramatic and also Inma Serrano who brings Spanish verve and fire to her watercolors and we filmed her painting gardens in Seville  that just blew us away.

Anyway, this kourse is six weeks long and features six artists (including Koosje and me)  and it will rock your world. If you’ve been watercoloring for ages like me and need to reconnect with the basics in order to go beyond them or if you have never painted at all ever and want a firm footing so you can begin with confidence, you’ll get a lot out of this kourse, I’m sure,   We made over a hundred videos and covered everything short of where water comes from. I think it’s exhaustive without being exhausting and you can sign up for it on our website now. Just go to Sketchbook dot school and watch the trailer and sign up.

I have been so inspired by making this kourse and hanging out with all of these amazing artists and I’m sure you’ll learn bucketfuls if you sign up,

Anyway back to my trip. So all of this watercolor stuff inspired my to spend our three week journey trying out watercolors on the read and applying the lessons I’d learned from all of these artists.

Generally I fill anywhere from 1-4 pages in my sketchbook each day.  I occasionally do a painting that fills a whole page but lots of my drawings are small illustrations to accompany the text I am writing.  I am also making a lot of maps to chart the route, and am using watercolor to paint the forests and lakes that surround the highways. I am drawing and painting what we eat and drink  and there’s lots of that. We are driving through Seattle and Oregon and California which are full of microbreweries and farm to table restaurants and we are in serious danger of blimping out.   We resolved to find a yoga studio every couple of days and get some exercise and that has been a lovely part of the journey too. I am drawing a yoga pose in my journal each day too to remind myself to stay flexible and present.

I’m on vacation but I’m a triple Virgo so in my world that doesnt mean Im not working.  Everyday I collaborate with with my colleagues at SKetchbook Skool using Videoconferencing and messaging apps. Releasing a new kourse takes a lot of work, not just filming and editing 100 videos but writing the notes and outlines and assignments, building the kourse on our on online platform, then working out all the marketing elements required so I am in contact with them everyday no matter where we are.  

I’m gonna check in with koosje now and see how things are going at her end in Amsterdam. I;d also love her perspective on travel journaling. She makes beautiful ones herself and I love hearing her ideas and tips.

KK and DOG

DANNY: Hey Koosje how you doing?

KOOSJE: How are you?

DANNY: You know, I am still on the road. Well, we are about halfway through our journey or little bit less. Um, and you know, we’re having a really nice time.

KOOSJE: That’s great. Have you seen a lot if you done a lot?

DANNY: Yeah. I mean we have been driving quite a lot, but we’ve seen lots of different things and I’m trying to.

Record them all in my journal to make sure that I have a good record of it and it’s been um, you know, it’s it’s challenging sometimes to find time to draw when you’re on the road. You know, when you’re traveling like you have to kind of stop what you’re doing to record what you’re doing, um, you know and make a bit of time like for that every day.

So when you travel. How do you work your process of of journaling into your day?

KOOSJE: Depends a little bit. I mean if are you talkin about traveling going from A to B because you need to be somewhere. Traveling for a vacation because

DANNY: going on going on a trip making a travel Journal, you know, so if you’re if you’re in Thailand or you’re in wherever you’re going.

How do you decide you know, uh, I have to work on my journal?

KOOSJE: um. I think it’s just I just want to draw every day. That’s that’s just one of the goals when I go on a trip. I’m like I’m bringing my Sketchbook and one of the things I will do is draw I will fill many many pages just like I wanna read many many pages of the books that I bring with me.

Um, so that’s one of the goals. So at least once a day I will sit down and do a drawing and that could be. Even when we are traveling from one place to another, you know, sitting in a train or a plane or in a boss even and draw them or um, Of course, if you are in a place that is really great. Then you want to spend some time there anyway, so maybe you can sit down on a terrace or something and then of course as soon as I sit my butt down I will get my Sketchbook at and start drawing whatever I see.

Um, so it really depends a little bit on what’s Happening that day and if it’s a very busy day and I haven’t got the chance to just sit down and. Then at the end of the day, I will sit down and just sometimes um, just collect some memories of that day. I often feel a page with everything that we ate that day because especially if you’re on a trip, um, you can have like a very uh different food than you would have at home, you know, so I really like just collecting all those memories because.

You forget you forget what you had for breakfast you had soup noodle soup for breakfast, which you I never really have when I’m in Amsterdam, you know, but it’s so good. So why don’t I so it could also be like a little nudge to myself for later. Like maybe I’ll have noodle soup in Amsterdam ones.

Um, yeah, so it’s it’s different different, uh types of sketching and different moments of sketching I think.

DANNY: of the things I think about is there times when as you say you’re like, oh we have some down time and I’m sitting outside this Cathedral. Let me draw it and there times when um you say. I want to capture the day and I’m back in my hotel room.

Um, and I’m going to pull up my schedule and try and record all the things I did. Is that is that kind of what you do or you trying to keep a record or you just oh I have some time so I’m just going to do a drawing.

KOOSJE: think I do both. Um, I I I also you know if we are somewhere and. I see a cathedral or a place that I really find interesting or intriguing I can also just tell my husband like sorry.

I just need an hour now because I want to sit down and I want to draw this and you’ll sit next to me and read a book or he’ll be like, okay, I’ll just want to around and I’ll see you in an hour. Um, so that’s really great to have some to have a travel companion who understands that you need the time to draw and I think my travel journals.

Really a mix of things. So sometimes some days it will be Street Scenes other days. It will be people, uh the next day. It will be just sort of from memory food people. Um, maybe a little bit of comic style type of thing. Uh, The little things that we did the little moments in the day and also what I really like doing, um, if I have a bit of a longer flight back, um, then at the end of the journal I will fill a double-page I will make all sorts of a lot of frames and the frames are the same amount as days that I was away and then I will pick a highlight of every day and draw that in sort of comic books.

Which is fantastic because then you’re on the plane and you’re like what do we do on Tuesday again? What was so fun? And then you know, you you go through all the memories once more you draw it, um in a totally different way again, I really like doing it.

DANNY: you’re drawing a kind of inanimate up way I can imagine way as opposed to looking at do you ever um, take a picture like that to help you later on to do it.

KOOSJE: Sometimes I do yeah sometimes oh my God, this is really a great place. I need to remember the colors or I need to remember that building or yeah, I do but I don’t really enjoy drawing just from a photo so it could be a reference but I I if I missed. Join it on that spot. I am that moment. I wouldn’t really go back and then draw from a photo again.

I just don’t really enjoy it that much then I’d rather draw from memory Maybe.

DANNY: do you think you’re trying to make a record to have for later on or is it just like part of the fun of being on vacation and it’s like, you know, you might be. Going for a hike or you might be going to museum or you might be doing a drawing or you might be having a dinner.

Is it just like another thing to do while you’re on vacation or you thinking like, oh, I better make sure I document all this fur later on.

KOOSJE: I think it’s a bit of both. I mean, I I can really uh, look forward to the drawings that I’m going to make when we are on vacation. So it is really one of the um, Highlights are one of the activities I guess.


DANNY: reason to go on vacation is to have new stuff to draw.

KOOSJE: Maybe yes. Yeah, I think so. I mean if I go out in Amsterdam, um to draw I try to find different places to you know, just to challenge myself and yeah, that’s just a reason to fill another page but on the other side on the other hand, of course.

Doing it every day and documenting certain moments in certain places. It is a way of taking photographs only you use your pen.

DANNY: Right. Do you um, do you look back on those journals?

KOOSJE: Not a lot, but I do look back and then um, and I actually I don’t really dedicate a journal to a vacation. So they um, they’re just my vacations are just in the middle of my other daily drawing.

So I just keep a Sketchbook and then I might be in the middle of that Sketchbook and I take it with me if I go to wherever I go on vacation. And then I started drawing and I might fill it up and then start a new Sketchbook and um once I’m back, I just flipped the page and go on to the next page with my normal daily life drawings.

So it don’t dedicate a travel Journal too. Um, so it’s not like I pick out I can pick from the Shelf like oh that vacation of um, Italy in 2016. I want to look at it again. Now, I really need to think about which Sketchbook did I do that in? Um, So it’s not like on the back of the of the book. It says easily 2016.

No, it will say, uh, May to July 2016, for example, and then somewhere in there is the uh is the vacation?

DANNY: That’s interesting. Um, do you what do you do about media? Do you take basically the same materials that you would normally have with you or do you um, do you bring more to bring less?

KOOSJE: Yeah, that’s that’s always a struggle because um on the one hand.

I’m like, so now I have so much time to draw. I want to try out all my goals. I want to take everything with me. You know, I have those. Sticks and I have um, my all sorts of pens and I can bring my color pencils and different types of watercolor. But then on the other hand unlike I want to travel light.

So what do I really really need? So what I usually do is I take my standard kit, which is just a bunch of pens and a small watercolor kit. And um, then I will take something additional usually, uh, Small set of color pencils and maybe something else that is new when I want to try it out. But a lot of times I just end up using that one familiar kit and don’t use that much of the other stuff.

So yeah, I maybe I should think of it like, okay that’s just travel light if I really need something I can find myself an art supplies show and and get it anyway, you know. So I think driving light is actually the best way to do it just like packing anything– when you go on a vacation like how many clothes do you

DANNY: mean I.

Pack pretty heavily on this trip because I knew we would be in a car most of the time so I could afford to have like one giant bag. And so I I bought all these watercolors that I want to try out beforehand. So I bought the special like, uh watercolor set that has it’s like a fan tell you about this.

It’s like it’s yeah, so it’s it’s like it’s a cafe. It’s got like. Over 40 colors, they’re kind of weird colors. They’re times not like and they’re each one is set up on one kind of panel of the fan has a certain set of them’s set of colors. So it’ll be like some Browns of blue and orange. And then they’ll be another one has three other oranges in to green and yellow and so you can kind of pull out this one of the panel’s of the fan and paint with that.

So it all folds up and it’s about the size of um, I don’t like a tube of toothpaste maybe yeah, so you have all these things then it also has a little mixing one of the panel’s of the fan is for is a pallet and then has a little sponge built-in so you can clean your brush right on it and then has.

Water brush that’s snaps into the side of it. So you have this whole watercolor set. That is it’s a bit big to fit in your pocket, but it’s pretty good. And when we the first couple days we were here we went to a to a thrift store and they happen to have a huge section of bags and I just didn’t have like the right back with me and I found this thing.

I told JJ I’m calling it The. Quick-draw holster and it’s like this little bag that fits over like it goes over your um shoulder and sits against your ribs.

KOOSJE: Oh, that is so cool.

DANNY: yeah, so it’s like it’s it’s kind of like a man purse but um, but when you open it, it has like a perfect slot for Sketchbook and then the front part opens down.

And you can put all your pens and water colors in it, not all watercolors, but certainly I can put this fan thing in and I had been carrying. I thought like I’ll carry everything around in my backpack. But a lot of times backpack is just too much at least from the because I’m not used to carrying any kind of bag at all.

I’m just carrying water colors in my pocket. Um, that’s I wanted this bigger set. So now I have my. Draw a thing. Um, but now I also have another huge bag that has this brand-new set of Windsor Newton watercolors that I bought that I haven’t even opened yet. And then I also got these watercolor markers from China.

There are a little bit sheepish other China Japanese, but they’re um about 35 colors in that and they’re sort of water. Have you ever used watercolor markers? So

KOOSJE: I haven’t no.

DANNY: it’s like it’s like a regular marker, but you it’s basically water-soluble so you can just go over it and then you can kind of mix them.

So I think it’s not really watercolor. I think it’s basically water-soluble markers. So sometimes those are helpful, but I have this big box of those and I have a big box of pencils and then I have my big box of. All my other pens with other stuff and other brushes and the whole thing ends up being like a giant bag inside my suitcase.

So it’s one of those things that’s like, okay. Well when I sit down at the hotel or whatever in the evening, I could pull out all that stuff and do like more elaborate kinds of drawings. But yesterday I was looking at my journal and I was like, this is kind of turning into a mess. I really started to hate my journal yesterday,

KOOSJE: Really, but why because you are using so many different types of tools or.

DANNY: think so. I think it’s like I had done this one thing right? We had gone to this big huge bookstore in um in Portland called Powell’s which is this like the most amazing book store in the world. It’s I took you to the Strand in New York. Well, this place is like three times the size of. And it has used books and um, it has all of my books by the way, um, but has used books and has new books.

Um, and you know, it was really really nice. And so when I came home, I want to like commemorate that we had gone to panels and we have in fact gone there twice in the same day because it’s so fantastic. So I started lettering the logo for Powell’s and it was kind of a mess. And I dented the wrong color and I went and got some colored pencils and I tried tightening it up with that and I got some markers out and that’s uh, this is looks like something that like a nine-year-old did it’s really ugly and it’s taken up like a third of a spread in my book and

KOOSJE: But you know, you know, that’s you know, that’s um collage is the answer when you are really unhappy right

DANNY: have to do that.

I have not used that um crutch of like just pasting something and I’ve been picking up a lot of stickers because they love stickers out here and uh, I haven’t been putting any stickers in the book, but you know, I might have to do that anyway, so when I put that stick when I put that horrible mess down there then suddenly I felt like I have to balance the rest of the page with more color.

And I don’t know then I said I made the whole thing was like really garish ugly and we went we had gone to this beautiful rose garden. They have this place called the international test Rose test garden and it has um, it has a I think 800 or 600 different types of roses there. They have 10,000 rose bushes, and they were all imbued.

Um Bloom right now and they all smell amazing. And so to capture that I took a picture of one rose. I thought okay. I’m not going to draw here in the garden. I’m going to draw back and I did this drawing on the rose and that also kind of was a disaster and I then went over with a pen. So it was like this.

I done it all in watercolor originally and then I drew pan on top of it. Anyway, so then I used that as an excuse to go and look back through my other pages. I thought this whole thing is the mess. So the monkey was definitely with me on this trip and uh, I need to to calm down. So I so I thought what I might do is I might just say to myself.

You know, what for at least for a few days. I’m going to use one color today.

KOOSJE: Oh, that’s a good idea. Yeah.

DANNY: so I might just take like one watercolor. One marker or two markers in that color and just like calm it down.

KOOSJE: I think that’s really smart because I was going to say well maybe you know that this is also part of of Sketchbook.

You were just experimenting with things that you don’t use that often like those markers. And of course you’re going to make. And that’s totally fine. And now your monkey is telling you it’s horrible. But when you look back at it in a couple of weeks, you’re like no. I was fun. That was Rose Garden, you know and oh, yeah, I remember that collage.

There’s something I’d lie under that but um, I think it’s it’s part of the trip, um, because now you finally have the time to experiment and explore so it’s a different kind of exploration just like you are exploring by going on a trip, but I think it’s really smart to to tone down the colors or to limit your colors and then you can still.

You know experiment with all these different kinds of tools and then it feels less messy probably.

DANNY: Yeah, I think that’s one of the things I’m wrestling with is on the one hand. Um. You know, I want to do what you’re saying. I want to experiment I’ve all these new materials with me and um, you know, I’m here to have fun and so forth and there’s another part of me which is like well, this is the only opportunity you’ll have to commemorate the Rose Garden and your Sketchbook.

You better make a good you know, so it’s like on one hand. It’s like this casual thing but on the other hand, it’s like this important historical document would be like. You know, if you forgot to take photographs of your Journal of your whole thing and then he look back and go. Oh, yeah, I wasn’t taking photographs because I camera broke.

So it’s a weird combination of fun and pressure.

KOOSJE: Yeah, you’re putting pressure on yourself because you want it to be great. So you can pick the book up again later on and think I made so many great drawings and it was such a fantastic trip. I I I I I recognize that yeah.

DANNY: I think it’s like, you know, there’s an old cliche about um people go on vacation and they come back Vicky from days when people used to take slides, you know, and they would and they would set up like the slides they invite their friends over for dinner.

You’ve got to see my slides of my trip to Africa and then everybody sits there and it’s like, uh, like other people’s travel pictures are just not that


DANNY: I think sketch books aren’t like that. I think it’s good. I think everybody likes to see a Sketchbook is more interesting and you know, and I’m writing a lot of stuff, you know, because I’m sort of making jokes and try to actually record what we’re doing but so far my favorite part of it is actually the maps,

KOOSJE: Oh, yeah.

DANNY: doing like watercolor maps of. When we go on when you drive like two days ago, we drove like 300 miles. So I made a map of that and that part of the country is actually really interesting because it’s the whole, um Coastline that has all these little islands and stuff like that. So drawing that is really fun.

It’s not just like a square, you know,

KOOSJE: Fantastic.

DANNY: yeah, it is pretty fun. Um, so when you um, Go to a place other certain things that you I mean, I are there some things you look for to draw. I mean obviously food. I know that you do that a lot. But will you ever say, you know, we should go to such and such just to draw it.

KOOSJE: Um, well I’ve been to Greece this year and um, we hadn’t really decided where to go. We just wanted to go for a week somewhere and we wanted a bit of a nice weather. So it just went on on Google Images and uh, we actually got um a place where commended by someone and we went to. Images and I was like.

Okay, we’re going here. I want to draw everything there because of the um, the buildings and the super blue sky and the buildings are all white and they have these round shaped, um roofs and uh, the The Villages are all sort of tacked on to um Hills and uh half of the houses are like. Caves so yeah, I think part part of the decision to go to Greece was actually that it was so well, let’s say photo photogenic photo.

Photogenic, um, but if it’s photogenic then also it’s also really great to draw. Um, and the colors are just fantastic and I have to that trip. I took extra blue and extra blue pencils and gouache and all kinds of stuff to just slap around all on the pages. Um, and

DANNY: see you didn’t just go to Google images and just do drawings from them.

KOOSJE: No, no, we just went to Google Images to to find inspiration for where to book. You know? No I but people do that people do that. That’s a way to travel to you know, Google Images straight.

DANNY: like just download the Google images and put them on your Instagram and then you don’t have to leave your house.

Um, now one of the things I like to do also is to learn a little bit about the thing or the place, you know, sometimes when you go to a place. They’ll be like, you know, you are a tool or there’s like, um, you know facts that are presented in some way. I like to put those down or at least do my own version of like, oh this is built in 1837 and it has you know, someone who lived here.

Do you ever do that kind of thing?

KOOSJE: Yeah, I do. Um, sometimes I I need to really look it up to know where I am, you know to know something about the place where I am. Um, so then I just really need to use Google if I want to add something. Uh, but. You know often when you are traveling somewhere, there might be a guide who tells you stuff or someone local who tells you things and I like actually those things are really like.

Um, so. If someone tells you something about the neighborhood or something like that, it’s not like a historical fact that you can find online but it’s something that someone told you I really like it when when something like that happens. Um, so then that’s that’s the kind of thing that I really like document.

DANNY: Yeah, I mean for me I I put down a few facts that you could find from Google but usually in order to say something else, you know, so. Um, you know, I want to comment on it like oh this building was built in 1537, you know, think about how many like people have used this use their bathrooms, you know, like I try to make it into a joke would make it into a comment because because in the end I’m not I’m it’s important to me that it be personal that it’s not just like I’m creating some kind of generic Field Guide or tour guide, you know, but it’s important to me.

Because I think one of the things that I like about drawing when I travel I think I do it way more than I do at home is the stories. There’s just like so many more stories you have so many more experiences than the few like sitting at work or taking the bus home.


DANNY: just like a it’s like you want to record those stories, so.

KOOSJE: Everything is new when you’re traveling everything is different. So there’s a lot to tell ya.

DANNY: the place is a weird traveling right now. Some of them are like places you go as a tourist, you know, but a lot of them aren’t particularly because we just on this driving tour. So we’re just sometimes we’ll just drive through like a little town.

And they’ve never had a tourist in their lives through their you know, but there’s always interesting things to do or to meet we meet people, you know, and you’ll hear like, oh waitress tells you a story or you know, I mean when I’m on vacation, I like to kind of meet strangers and ask them their stories.

So that’s part of my goal is to like try and capture stories and find them along the way.

KOOSJE: yeah, that’s really great. That’s fantastic goal. Yeah.

DANNY: Or son is this weird things will happen to you like you’re stuck in some place and it becomes some big involved story around why you couldn’t get your hotel room key or you know, how you got stuck in some government immigration passport control thing and just becomes interesting thing to look back on it.

Oh, yeah. That’s right.

KOOSJE: Yeah, and also smaller things like um, uh things that are totally normal in the country that you are. Um, But for you, it’s like kind of new and exotic. You know, I I was in Thailand a few years ago and they had these um sort of pots with water and then sort of um, Um, um, I can’t find the word, uh sort of a spoon a big spool like a soup spoon and they had that yeah, they had that um, uh in front of every door of the Bungalows where we stayed and was just to you know, it was Sandy there so you could just um, rinse your feet with

DANNY: the bucket and thinking that it was like some kind of.

KOOSJE: No, but I was like that is so cool, you know, um, maybe at uh more luxury place it would be a tap, you know tap water, but it was just a bowl of water with a ladle and I I just thought that it’s just so common for them. And for me, it’s like a really fun memory like remember it was so warm and your feet would get Sandy Sandy and.

Just Ladle some water on it and they were clean again and you could get into the Bungalow. So that’s the kind of thing that I will draw them. It’s it’s a totally sort of random thing, but for me and helps to remember the place that we stayed at.

DANNY: a couple nights ago. We were staying in an Airbnb there was actually a farm and they had a whole bunch of different chickens and they were like, um.

The kind of exotic chickens, so they’re really beautiful beautiful birds and different sizes. So I spent some time drawing them and then they had several different lambs and sheep and each of them had a different personality. So I was trying to capture like how they look different but also how to behave different and they had some horses that I didn’t get around to dry.

But that was just a cool part of it. So I just made like a couple of pages in my Sketchbook about just the animals that were there and and writing little stories about them. Um, and of course painting animals is challenging because there was moving and you know, so but that was cool and they also the woman who owned the farm her job is training people who train horses.

So she had this amazing stable and she also had all these special kinds of carts that they used to I don’t know. I think they’re some special events that they do with porcelain these little cards that were like made of metal and leather and and I drew some of those. Um, they also had a miniature horse, you know, it was really cute.

So so that was just like a fun. You know random moment that I felt like I can’t leave here without spending some time with those animals and and drawing that we’ve also seen um bald eagles they have those are so rare and unusual to see and we went out on a we went out on a whale-watching Expedition.

Um, and I was I thought about bringing my Sketchbook, but I thought you know this. What could be more of a disaster than like being out on the open ocean in a wet boat with a watercolor set? So I didn’t do that, but I did do a painting. They gave us these special suits to wear because it’s really really cold aren’t the oceans.

You wear these like coveralls that are kind of fleece-lined like you might wear if you were going snowboarding or something and uh, so we looked really ridiculous in them, of course because they were. Always the wrong side. So I did a painting of of JJ wearing hers and that became like that stood in for trip.

So he’s all whales and porpoises and seals and sea lions and Eagles and I did a painting of JJ and this big suit because I don’t that so yeah, so it’s it’s it’s really fun. I mean, we’re only about third of the way through the. There’s still um quite a lot of it to go.

I mean it’s hard in a podcast of course talkin about drawings and watercolours that you that nobody can see.

KOOSJE: Have fun!

DANNY:  I told you about our new Kourse Watercolor Rules and How to Break Them. Well, if you’d like a few introductory tips, we’d like to give you a free ebook to get you started.  It’s called Jump Into Watercolors and it has loads of step by step explanations from many of the artists who teach at Sketchbook Skool. Just go to Sketchbook dot school and look at the menu under free stuff,  Then just tell us you’d like your own copy of the book and we’ll send it to you right away with no cost or obligation as they say in the commercials, That’s sketchbook dot school and look under free stuff.

Okay, well I have to wrap things up so we can hit the road.  We still have another ten days of travel ahead of us and I still have lots of pages to fill in this sketchbook.   Meanwhile, f you like the idea of illustrated travel Journaling, here are a couple of things to get you started.

A few years ago, I wrote a book called “Illustrated Journeys” in which I interviewed fifty artists who keep travel sketchbooks and collected some of their best work.  I love that book and I reread it for inspiration before I set out for this trip too. If you’re looking for ideas and approaches, check it out.

And if you want to work on your watercolor skills before you go on your next trip, join me and Koosje and Ian Sidaway and Ian Fennelly and August Wren and Inma Serrano in Watercolor Rules and how to break them.   You can find out more at Sketchbook dot school. And while you;re there, don’t forget you free book “Jump in to watercolor” You can sign up for it under Free Stuff.

If you enjoyed this episode, please subscribe and leave us a nice review.  And if you have any questions or comments, please email me at danny@sketchbookskool.com , And I hope  you used this time to make something creative of your own.  If you’d like to tell me about what you make , I’d love to hear about it too, Until next time, this is art for all from Sketchbook Skool and I’m your intrepid road warrior,  Danny Gregory.

11 thoughts on “Podcast 8: Water Color Road Trip”

  1. “so maybe you can sit down on a terrorist or something and then of course as soon as I sit my butt down I will get my Sketchbook at and start drawing whatever I see.” Ah, the poetry of transcription! Lovely stuff. So true about everything coming right back when you open a journal (written or drawn). A great habit to pick up again. X


  2. Leaving for Portugal walking trip soon and picked up a Portable Painter water color box. You make your own palette with the empty half pans that are included. Having lots of 22×30 watercolor paper on hand I tore them into 6×8’s in lieu of a book, eliminating the covers meant a few more sheets. All art supplies weigh 2lb 11oz, clothes 5lb – wish it could be the other way round!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And I see you went to Whidbey Island. There is a very active arts community there and a great group of sketchers who meet weekly. I sometimes go as a walk-on on the ferry and a friend picks me up at the dock.

      As far as the eagles… they’re really not that uncommon. I see them frequently where I live in the suburbs!


  3. I am not an urban sketcher, but rather a nature journalist. So I really enjoyed listening to your podcast about your west coast trip. I would love to see a review of your sketchbook in your Sketchbook Club.
    Regarding your frustration with bad pages in a sketchbook, I have found pasting successful sketches in a themed album has some pluses. I create montages of events that occur in nature, especially ones involving animals. By maintaining an album, I am less tense about experimenting and being creative. I am also more open to tackling complex subjects, like ones involving action events.


  4. Love your art, love your dialogue with Koosje and appreciate the time and effort to sketch while traveling. It is one of my dreams to do while on the road again. I may take some pointers from your post!


  5. Listened while eating lunch and sketching at an outdoor cafe in the Lakes Region of NH. Perfect autumn day. Wish I knew how to send a photo of my art and lunch, you enthusiastically suggested it, but hmmm, where? Thanks so much, Danny.


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