Category Archives: Paris

travel sketchbook journalling

On Thursday, October 11, 2012 I wrote the following blogpost for KateJohnson’s wonderful Artist’s Journal Workshop blog. If you are not familiar with it and the book you should read it !

I am reposting this now as I have just returned from three weeks of travelling to London and Barcelona , where I have put all of my thoughts and ideas in practice. In the next few weeks I will let you (and Artist Journal Workshop) know what worked (most things ) and what didn’t (a few things) in reality.

I am also going to share my thoughts and travel journals with Erin Hill’s Sketching Class this Saturday, so they may be interested in reading it too

Travel sketchbook thoughts : Alissa Duke

Thoughts on creating myTravel Sketchbook

I have had these thoughts going through my head for a while and I wanted to put them in an organised version on paper. The catalyst has been the Sketchbook Project that I am working on this year (more about that later) and wanting to share my learning experience anyone else who is interested.

Looking back, I always enjoyed reading books that were illustrated travel journals and sketchbooks. I enjoyed them for their illustrations as well as reading about other people’s travels, They are always more interesting if they are about a city or country I want to or have visited, especially the United Kingdom ( I am in Australia) .

This interest began many years ago with books such as David Gentleman’s Britain (and many others in the series) and Fabrice Moireau sketchbooks, to more recently Taking a Line for a Walk by Christopher Lambert, An Eye on the Hebrides by Mairi Hedderwick and Lorette E Roberts Singapore. Secrets of the Lion City. (and many many more books) . (I am looking forward to Danny Gregory’s upcoming book “An Illustrated Journey”).This is all pre-internet/self publishing era. But these are usually edited, formatted, composed, cleaned up, lovely small font with commentary, they are quite lengthy and published after the journey. Now I have many online favourites, .

I realised that I wanted to create my own sketchbooks in my drawing style when I travel.. They would be a narrative, day to day, capturing my travels, whether local, interstate or overseas.. As the sketchbooks would be created as I travel, I won’t have the luxury of all of the above editing factors. But I do have the luxury of being able to have an approach in my mind, a concept of how to approach a page composition and what works for me. That is the stage I am at now.

For the past few years I have been drawing everyday in a Moleskine watercolour sketchbook, using watercolour pencils and/or ink. I draw at home, on buses, in queues, sitting on stairs, at cafes,. So I am comfortable with how and when where to draw.

I also know how I draw at the moment. I am at ease drawing objects, food, paper. I am not so good at buildings and vistas. But architecture is an important feature of a city or town and so I want to include it , the trees, roads, sky. I have been considering how it is best for me to capture a scene with these in it. And people – people are the life of the city, so I must include them too.

Sketchbook travel Journals

I currently draw my pre trip preparation – drawing my packed bag, or things in preparation – my sketch-kit, passport, currency. I also always draw at the airport, and on the airplane.( a good way to pass the time) So I am comfortable with the first few pages of my travel sketchbook.

I am entering the 2013 Sketchbook Project and have chosen the theme : Travelogue.Paris 2007. I am revisiting my 2007 holiday to Paris, as if I was there, drawing as much then as I do now ! ..My sketchbook is based on my diaries, photographs I took and where I thought I would have drawn at the time, as well as souvenirs I bought. Although this is created in retrospect, all the time I thought how would approach future travel sketchbooks. I still have a few pages to complete, as it is not due to be sent away until January 2013.

The journal can be viewed here Travelogue Paris 2007

My Travel Sketchbook :my thoughts
Over the 18 double pages of the Sketchbook Project I have experimented with composition, lettering, maps., It is different paper and size of my usual sketchbook and I have had to squeeze five days into a limited amount of pages. have come to the following conclusions 
  • it will be a combination of on the quick on the spot sketching and more detailed drawings

  • leave first page or two of each day blank – at end of day I could draw maps, streets walked that day, rail/metro routes caught.
  • draw objects such as tickets, souvenirs, food, headings also at the end of the day in my hotel room. There is time and space to draw. If there is a good view from the room, I can draw it everyday
  • MAPS. If I colour the roads or areas between the road on a map I can match them with other colours I have used on the page, bringing it all together. Below are examples of maps and date experiments



  • leave lots of white space – I can always fill it in later if it looks too sparse.
  •   write commentary about how I feel, think, react to things, smells, places but not too much. I will probably keep a separate diary. I have read a very good book by Dave Fox called “Globejotting : how to write extraordinary travel journals”. I am not a writer, but it had some great hints.

  • Re: buildings and vistas

-just try an draw a section

-leave the top, bottom or sides unfinished.- lines drifting off
  • only colour some parts  
  • don’t try and fill the page – only use part of the page
it is like a little vignette., with a little character and insight, but not too much
don’t try and get caught up in the detail and try and leave this to a ” close up ” drawing later if I get the chance
Reading over what I have written it seems a little pedantic in places but it has been a very valuable creative experiment.

Of course this is all very well in writing,