Everyone has a secret dream of mastering a certain skill which has so far eluded them. Mine is being able to casually sketch everyone at a sidewalk cafe in Italy while simultaneously drinking a cappucino. So far I pretty much suck at it but where there is life there is hope, yes? This is my travelling sketching kit! Very compressed: a smallish watercolor notebook (5"x8") by Moleskin, a box of 12 Inktense pencils, a small Sennelier watercolor box with 14 colors, a small pouch holding my Japanese water brushes (the handles are hollow and you put water in them for ultra light travel sketching), and a larger pouch that contains more tools such as a pencil sharpener, eraser, pencil, compass, and a small plastic palette. The pencil is in the photo to indicate scale.
Even though my watercolor set has a built-in palette, it is very useful to have another small palette for mixing colors, which is one of the funnest aspects of sketching with watercolors. In fact, I could just mix and invent new colors all day without ever sketching anything!
I took Inktense pencils this time but often I take watercolor pencils. The little scrap of sponge on the right is very handy for creating "vegetation". You just wet it with water and dab it into the paint on your palette and then dab it into your sketch. And then don't mess with it. Messing with it too much will result in blobs rather than light dabs which the human eye mistakes for leaves, bushes, and trees.
Above you see tools from my larger pouch. These I use when I want to draw a mandala "on the road." The blue tool on the left is my battery operated eraser. The plastic stencil is helpful for drawing straight lines and for adding consistently sized motifs to the mandala. The five black ink drawing pens are handy for sketching and for outlining. The compass is great for making circles but must be packed into your checked baggage or you will lose it to the security people!
These are the two journals I took with me. The larger journal is one I made out of a composition book and has a scene from my studio on the cover. It's the one I use for my daily writing. The smaller one is a book of floral postcards. I used the backs of the postcards, which feature beautiful floral designs by the English designers Susan Collier and Sarah Campbell, to record our daily progress through Italy. The postcards will become part of a bigger book about our trip. They may end up stuck in pockets on each page or used in some other way. It is a tiny journal measuring 5"x4":
Because we made our trip in the spring, I thought all the floral designs would be a cool aspect of the larger book I will make. I have to give some further thought as to how I will use them.
I was staying here, at Villa Lecchi, when I did most of my sketching....a casual term for something that actually requires a lot of looking, seeing, and thought. Moi, I just keep bumbling along and learning as I go. Sometimes I sketch what I am looking at and sometimes I just make designs or page headings for my other books. Either way it is fun and relaxing.
Here are some of my fledgling efforts from the trip:
The one above I did sitting on the balcony to our room at Villa Lecchi. These flowers,of course, do not grow in real life. When I am too tired to observe carefully and record what I see, I just draw stuff from the inside of my head. It's busy in there.
This one was done at a sidewalk cafe in Assisi to acknowledge St. Francis and St. Clare:
The view from the terrace at Villa Lecchi was amazing, so one day I sat out there for nearly the whole day trying to sketch it:
And here is my sketch, which is, as sketchers say, pretty "tight" but it's a learning curve to make your sketches look alive and juicy.....something I have to work on!
One day at the villa I realized I was just plumb worn out so I stayed behind while everyone else went into Florence. I pretended I was a 19th century heroine in a Jane Austen novel who had fled to Tuscany to escape the amorous attentions of John Keats, who was back in London writing a poem about me.
And then, there is Mr. Bill, my real life John Keats, who was not back in London but actually on the trip--even better! So I made a page header for him:
It was so much fun being able to experiment with my three years of college Italian again. I say "experiment" because when I try to speak Italian it is always an experiment. (Inspite of having lived in Trieste for a year when I was young.)
Every day at Villa Lecchi was, in fact, "meravigliosa!" It was one of the most enchanting places I have ever visited. I loved the quiet, serene evenings with all the larks darting here and there, catching bugs for their babies.
Now if I was an accomplished sketcher I would have drawn this goddess, who dropped in for a swim. Maybe next year.
After the larks disappeared for the night, we could hear the owls begin to call across the valley to each other. So quiet. So timeless.