Category Archives: sketchbook journal

Exploring for a travel sketching workshop

I am very excited to have been asked to hold a Travel Sketching Workshop by Sarah at Arts On Burgundy in Heidelberg, Melbourne. 

On Friday I took a day off to meet Sarah, discuss the January Workshop and explore Heidelberg, as I have never been there. I wanted to see where I could take the Travel Sketching group on a walk on the day.

I will base it on the very successful plan of my East Melbourne Library Travel Sketchwalk except this is a full day workshop, not just an afternoon. 

I am not teaching how to draw, but how to see and to sketch an impression of your moment. No erasers or rulers,  wobbly lines are  just fine. Nothing matters but enjoying what you do. 

I also want to introduce people to watercolour pencils as a everyday art medium or a travel sketching tool. 



I also took the opportunity to catchup with sketching friend and artist Jodi Wiley. We started the day sketching our food and talking a lot.  I got a lot of ideas for where to sketch locally from Jodi and then Sarah.

I walked around and around the streets of Heidelberg.  I stopped at three places and did two 15 minute sketches at each.

This will hopefully give the participants an idea what can be sketched at each. I  looked for places to stop where we could stand or preferable sit for 15 to 30 minutes.

I need to know about the potential for shade as it will be January in Australia. However it is Melbourne – so who knows what the day will bring.  


My day ended at Heidelberg Railway Station, knowing that I had just missed a train and had 19 minutes to wait. Time flies when you are sketching !!!

preparing for a travel sketchwalk

I am preparing for my local Travel Sketching ‘walk and talk’ that are on this Friday and Saturday. Both sessions (1pm -3.30pm ) of 15 people are fully booked out and there is a waiting list ! The wonderful Melbourne Library Service have promoted the sessions widely and there has been a lot of interest to run repeat sessions. 

Yesterday I spent time walking the route and stopping at my planned locations.We are only walking a few blocks and there is so much potential to draw. The idea of the day is to inspire people and  to open their eyes to the possibilities and concept of travel sketching (not to try to teach them to draw in two hours) .


We start in the Library, where I will talk a little about travel sketching, my own approach and what we will be doing. Melbourne Library Service is supplying watercolour pencils, waterbrush and paper for the day.

There are three stops along the way once we leave the Library, each with so many potential things to draw – up close or vistas. We will stop for about 20 minutes at each .  I walked the walk yesterday doing my own sketches which I can show as examples on the day.

These are very quick sketches, as sometimes when you travel you do not get the opportunity to sit down and sketch for a long time.  I also don’t want people to stress about the drawing and getting caught in the details. 

Stop 1
Stop 2

Stop 3.

After the final stop, the plan is to retrace our route back to the Library, giving people the chance to spend more time on a previous sketch or do some more. 

When we arrive back at the Library, afternoon tea awaits and also time to talk about the day and share experiences and sketches if people are comfortable with that. I also have some examples of published travel sketchbooks from my own collection for anyone to browse through to inspire  them to continue. Ad there is my own Travel Sketchbook display on in the Library. 

It will all be very flexible on the day. This is the first group talk I have given and it will be a positive learning experience for everyone. 

My only concern is the weather. It is Melbourne in winter. This week has been 14 degrees and sunny blue skies. Fingers crossed that this continues. The wet weather alternatives are not exciting. However that is all part of travel sketching. Sometime weather changes your plans and you have to make do with alternatives.  

Sketching Mum’s favourite London

I have almost finished scanning and uploading my three UK holiday sketchbooks to my flickr website. Every sketch holds a memory of a time and place and I feel like I want to show you them all. These blogs have been more of a ‘holiday snaps’ than art talk. I did not know where to start and stop sharing my English holiday sketches on my blog.

However, my mother (and travelling companion) has recently mentioned a few places and events that express what London means to her.  I have taken her suggestions to form the basis of my blog this week.


Mum & I in Regents Park, London

I have taken Mum’s words and added my sketch


  •  the green spaces, so many lovely squares. We were using our Oyster Card just like all the locals and other tourists – Russell Square, King’s Cross, Jubilee Line, Westminster!!!!



the places to visit like British Museum and Library





  • then there is beautiful Regents Park, an oasis in the busy streets around Baker Street. Pity we had a little trouble finding our way back to Bloomsbury


  • London is the red buses, telephone boxes and post boxes


  • not forgetting that time we sat eating lunch after hearing the ‘Bells of St. Clements’


  • and looking down the street at the Royal Courts of Justice.

London is all that and more……………



Return from UK holiday – catching up

I have just returned from 3 weeks holiday in England, which involved a lot of sketching. Slighty jet-legged, I am sorting out, catching up, reliving wonderful holiday memories and planning ahead. The sketches on this page are a few that I have scanned today.

27Jul2016 Manchester Town Hall rooftop

I travelled to Manchester for the Urban Sketching Symposium and then to York and then to London.27Jul2016 Symposium opening event

The holiday was wonderful and very special. I was overwhelmed with the history that surrounded me and the architecture of these three cities. I travelled with my very very patient mother, who understood and accommodated my sketching as we travelled – it is so easy to get distracted and ‘need’ to sketch something as you pass by it.

1Aug2016 York The Shambles

1Aug2016 York Micklegate Bar

I filled almost three sketchbooks (Moleskine 13 x 19 cm) with travel sketches in those three weeks. I now have the long task of scanning them. But before I can do that, many of the pages need to be ‘finished’ . This usually involves adding the date, heading, transcribing my scribbled pencil notes into the page in pen. Sometimes I want to find out more information about the place I have sketched and look online for details. I usually don’t add anymore to the sketch that I did on location, unless it is to add a bit more colour, or intensity to some areas.

5Aug2016 London Russell Square 5Aug2016 London Trafalgar Square



Once scanned, I will add them all into an Album on my flickr site, and a few on this blog.

Many people have been sharing their sketches and summaries and videos of their Symposium experiences on facebook and their blogs. I am looking forward to spending time looking through these one day.

I had decided not to blog, scan or try and keep up with any social media while I was away. I wanted to spend my time experiencing the sights, meeting people and sketching. However I did end up posting one drawing a day to Instagram. I am alissaduke1 if you want to see them. I also shared these to my facebook page Alissa Duke Art.

stocking up for travel sketching

I have I started thinking about my art gear for my upcoming three week holiday in the UK, and have purchased and ordered some supplies. Some had to be ordered online and I bought extras to stock up for home as well.


I am going to attend the Urban Sketching Symposium in Manchester for three days, and will I be continuously sketching for the entire time.  I sketch daily now and will have even more to draw when I am away.

I’ll be taking my current pencil wrap (same old one as my new one did not get made), filled with  new Faber Castell LONG pencils. I’ve bought new watercolours pencil and will take doubles of a few that I am prone to use/loose.  Payne Grey, Ivory, Light Yellow Ochre.

I also bought some new watercolour pencil colours that I have been advised for UK trees, buildings  – Sap Green, Hookers Green, Alizarin Crimson.


I am taking three Moleskine 13 x 19 cm Watercolour Sketchbooks. I have already started the first one by holiday sketching- drawing my new suitcase, some British pounds. I’ll sketch my clothes before I go. Then at the airport, on the plane ….


My eraser is specific – it fits in my pencilwrap in a pencil space. TOMBOW Mono Zero 2.5 x 5 mm


I’ll take two waterbrushes – one in use and one spare. I use ZIG Brush H20 Medium Tip. It has a filter that slows the flow of water. This suits my drawing style, as I don’t flood the page with water and colour and I like to work in small areas on the page.


And a spare sharpener.  Blunt pencils make for a bad drawing – so much of my drawing of objects relies on the hint of detail,  which a sharp, fine line provides.

Of course, this is just my usual sketching gear. I am enrolled in four workshops and four activities at Manchester Urban Sketching Symposium. They will all challenge me and build my techniques and skills but are all suited to my drawing based approach. I will buy some extra art gear in Manchester when I get there. I am sure to get ideas from the other 500 sketchers there !

New exhibition of my sketchbooks

In August this year I was fortunate to have the opportunity to hold my first exhibition at my local East Melbourne Library. At the time, I also booked the space for my second exhibition for this month of October. Today I set it up with my friend and curator extraordinaire, Louise. This exhibition features 24 of my sketchbooks open at pages displaying a variety of themes. I hope to show people the wide variety of things that can be sketched and open their eyes to the concept of sketchbook journalingL1100103a.
The themes on the opened pages include people, travel, food, drink, Melbourne, tools, everyday things and medical – as you can see, a wide variety. Anything is sketchable! Some are quick sketches and others are studied drawings. I carry my Moleskine Watercolour Sketchbook, watercolour pencils and Ink pen with me every where, and draw everyday.







It was difficult, but fun to choose 24 pages from 55 books with sketches capturing the last 8 years of my life. I had help and advice to choose pages that had strong images in landscape format so that they would be interesting to look at in the glass display cabinets in the library. So many choices !









My exhibition is on for the month of October. If you are in Melbourne, I hope that you get the opportunity to come and visit.

L1100072 L1100100


travel sketching on the go

I have just spent three days in Sydney after my first year of living in Melbourne. I was going to write a blog including my sketches from the weekend. However, after beginning scanning my 18 pages I realised there were enough interesting transport and travel sketches to put together a post on them alone.

Travelling provides so many opportunities for very quick sketches as well as longer ones.  A lot of time is spent waiting, sitting, standing and  queuing. Some of it is unexpected and some you will know about in advance.  Each opportunity can also provide its own challenges and issues.

6Aug15 bus

My bus ride to the airport (above) was very bumpy. I think I was sitting over a wheel! I sketched with my Lamy Safari Joy ink pen and my hand seemed to bump along with the bus. It seemed to happen when I got to drawing faces – some big noses here. I have drawn on this airport bus previously and am used to where people are positioned and the perspective.

8Aug15 taxi
The taxi ride back to the airport was a lot smoother. I don’t catch many taxis and don’t often draw in them. The subject doesn’t move much!
8Aug15 plane
I always arrive early at the airport and enjoy the time that I can spend sketching planes. I don’t always get to draw the plane I am travelling in. Sometimes I start to draw a plane and all of the landing crew, mechanics and vehicles suddenly move away and the plane leaves. Sketched with my watercolour pencils in Moleskine Watercolour sketchbook (13 x 19 cm ) .

6Aug15 plane

6Aug15 passengersFellow passengers across the aisle can be ideal subjects to draw . (Sometimes the seats are just to close together and I don’t feel comfortable sketching with my passenger right next to me looking over my shoulder ).They sleep, have interesting hairstyles, lots of creases in their clothing to sketch. The sketch above was in ideal circumstances. This was before take-off and all the people stayed in place for me. I sketched this with my Watercolour pencils, but with no water added.  (and I received lovely compliments from the flight crew).

But passengers also move a lot in their seat and unexpectedly  change positions. The lady below moved a few times, but stayed in each one for a while. She also sat with her legs crossed on the seat (how did she do that?) but I missed that opportunity to sketch her.

8Aug15 passenger
and then there are the REALLY quick sketches as people hurry to leave 6Aug15 passengers2

The SEATBELT sign has been turned off at the end of the flight and everyone scrambles to standup, retrieve their belongings and then ….wait and wait. (and sketch)
8Aug15 on the plane

Erin Hill’s travel sketch workshop

Today I travelled to Manly to give my third (or is it fourth) guest presentation at Erin Hill’s Sketch Class. (Scroll down to the bottom of her page for today’s class photos and sketches). I had the privilege of sharing my enthusiasm and excitement about sketchbook travel journaling. I talked about how and when I sketch and why. I hope that is provided a little insight into the world of travel sketching.
I sketched my day from the start to finish , so that when I arrived at the class I already had sketched on the ferry. I left a space for the map, which I completed at home. I penciled in a heading, and completed at home, to match the colours I used on the page during the day.
leaving Circular Quay on the Manly Ferry. A classic view of the Opera House and Sydney  Harbour Bridge
Arriving at Manly Wharf and sketched at the wharf
After my short chat we did our own travelling from Erin’s Studio at Manly to Shelly Beach. It is a 15 minute beachside walk . Just perfect on a sunny day. We stopped twice along the way to sketch the scenery, sculptures on the way, plants and people. It was a chance to try and capture the essence of a moment or place on paper.
Sandstone cliffs on the Manly to Shelly Beach beachside walk
View to Shelly Beach as we got closer
Water dragons sunning by the side of the path
Our final destination was the Sand Bar café at Shelly Beach. We continued to sketch – I did my lunch of course. One of the newest sketchers had her priorities right – her lunch plate on her lap and sketchbook  on the table !
View from Shelly Beach and my lunch from the Sand Bar Cafe
It was all over to soon and time to say goodbye til next time.


and I sketched on the way home, finishing with the ferry ride home.
so many sail boats on the harbour

view of the sailboats from the ferry

sketchbook travel journal : the reality

On Thursday, October 11, 2012 I wrote my thoughts on creating a travel sketchbook for KateJohnson’s wonderful Artist’s Journal Workshop blog. (If you are not familiar with it and the book you should read it !)

I reposted my original post on my blog in August this year.

I had written that blogpost to gather my thoughts “on paper” on how I would approach my own travel sketchbook. I had entered the 2013 Sketchbook Project and chose the theme : Travelogue. At the time I decided to revisit 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.

The journal can be viewed here
Travelogue Paris 2007. Over the 18 double pages of the Sketchbook Project I experimented with composition, lettering, maps and came to some  conclusions about what and how I wanted to try and capture in my travel sketchbook journal.

In July this year I had three weeks holiday travelling to London and Barcelona, where I had the opportunity to put all of my thoughts and ideas in practice. I filled two Moleskine watercolour sketchbooks. This post is to review what worked (most things) and what didn’t (a few things) in reality. I knew what I wanted to try and achieve and what was important to me on my holiday in my journal.
I am so incredibly proud of my holiday sketchbook journals  (see them on flickr: London and Barcelona) and each time I look at them (for example, to write this,) I relive my holiday and it gives me immense joy to see the pages. They are a unique holiday souvenir that will be with me for a long time.

Below are my original theories from the Sketchbook Project  and then the reality of how it worked when I was actually travelling, with examples

· it will be a combination of on the quick on the spot sketching and more detailed drawings

This worked so well – and gave life and an individual feel to my sketchbook.

on the plane Sydney to Hong Kong. a very quick sketch of people queuing for the toilets after a meal. A drawing of my dessert (a delicious ice cream bar) . I drew the ice cream for a while then as it began to melt, I ate it, making sure I opened the packet in an inconspicuous section. I then kept it after the attendant cleared the meals away and finished drawing it then

I use watercolour pencils and Lamy Safari Joy ink pen. I can combine these and have a few different styles of drawing that suit different opportunities, the time and place or my mood. The above sketch shows the two extremes.


· 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.

I wish I remembered to do that each day . I often forgot to leave the first page blank and would not remember until I had started the first sketch . I would then leave the rest of the page free. Next time I will turn to the next blank page the night before and write in pencil on the page LEAVE BLANK. Two pages could easily be left for this

· 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

view inside the hotel room and also looking out the window. This was drawn over two or three sessions, just a bit at a time


the leaf and seed were picked up in Hyde Park on this day. I sketched Royal Albert Hall on the spot and then left the space and drew a rough outline of the size and placement of the leaf and drew if at the hotel over the next day or two before it wilted

I stood across the street to sketch the printshop and then drew the books on the plane on the way home.

I had the feathers for a week and then realized that we were flying home the next day and could not take them back to Australia. Three feathers in one night !

I drew objects A LOT less than I thought I would, especially since that is a style of drawing I do a lot at home and get a lot of enjoyment out of. In reality, if I was working (that is the wrong word !) on my sketchbook in the evening, it was adding my notes, finishing off sketches by adding a bit more colour or line.

I was travelling with my mother and she was very patient with my sketching, and also appreciated quiet time for herself, while I sketched.

I was also very tired at the end of each day. It is part of being a tourist, walking and seeing a lot. We had 28 degrees in London each day and long summertime hours


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. 

the blue and green of the land and river on the map, matching the sky
The lettering on the page matching the blue of the Serpentine


just the basics


I am really happy with this combination

I have never been comfortable with maps I tried to add – too many streets, too messy  looking. But I do want to include maps of my travels. I experimented with a few different alternatives in my Paris Sketchbook project. In the end I have a basic mud map. I have included  the streets we walked down and different types of transport. I did not do a map for everyday – probably only eight in the whole book, but I was pleased with those that I did. They are a gentle reminder of how we get where we went

·  leave lots of white space – I can always fill it in later if it looks too sparse.

as mentioned  , I did not do enough of this .

·   write commentary about how I feel, think, react to things, smells, places but not too much. I will probably keep a separate diary.

I want to write too much and have to make decisions about what to include. Often the sketch tells the story and only a few other notes were added.

I feel as though I did not write enough on the moment of thoughts and feelings. It was not often the right time and place. Often I scribbled some thoughts in pencil on the page and left a block of space around it to expand on it later (in the evening at the hotel).

I still want to include something of the history or description of the place I am. But where to stop? In the end, my sketchbook journal is for me, not a history lesson, so I just need reminders of it’s place and importance in history. And there is SO much history in London. I was overwhelmed by it.

· buildings and vistas

I 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. I want to create a little vignette., with a little character and insight, but not too much

-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

I filled the page in the vast majority of the time -so much to draw !!!

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


Writing this has helped me think about what I have learned about my sketching and myself when travelling. I know that sketching brings me do much pleasure. I hardly took any photographs and when I did they were of people (and then there are those 20 photos of squirrels for reference photos for drawing at a later date).

My art is growing and slowing evolving as I meet other sketchers, go to workshops. These travel sketchbooks seem to be the culmination of a series of events . It is an exciting journey in itself.

If you are in Sydney. I am talking about my travel sketchbooks at Erin Hill Sketching  sketchclass on Oct 26 . Book in and I will see you there !



Erin’s Sketch class and travel journaling Part Two

Today I returned to Manly to talk to Erin’s Sketching Class about my travel sketchbooks and my recent holiday to London and then Barcelona for the Urban Sketching Symposium.

It was a smaller class this week, so that just meant it was more informal and we talked more ! As a few of them are going on a Travel Sketching Holiday to Fiji with Erin in just a few weeks, it put them in the right frame of mind.

I showed them my two sketchbooks and talked about how I put my sketchbook pages together (mentally) and decide what to include in a page and where I put things on the page. The emphasis is always that is YOUR sketchbook and you decide what to include. It a record of your own holiday and moments that are important or unique.

We also talked about making and taking opportunities to sketch on holidays when you are with non-sketchers. Also thinking about when you can find a few minutes or some longer time to record a moment.

I sketched the basics of this page as I sat on the ferry going from Circular Quay to Manly. I knew I had eight minutes before the ferry sailed . I added the colour on the ferry ride out to Manly. Would I have done this if I was with non sketchers? probably .
I left a space on the left hand side as I know that I want to spend time at home drawing my old, folded bus timetable that I used. 
I also left space on the right hand side of the page as I knew that I wanted to draw a map of my journey. I drew it from Google maps when I got home. I drew it in ink, as the main feature of the page has enough colour.
updated version with bus timetable. drawn at home (while watching tv)

 The theme this week for Erin’s class was Barb’s birthday cake (I have never met Barb. She is a Friday sketcher- Happy Birthday !) I did not get a chance to finish the balloons as we had to leave to go to lunch.

But that does not matter – capture the moment on the page, as life around does not wait for you to draw it before it moves on.

and you don’t have to “finish” a page

Lunch at the Sugar Lounge in Manly . The sketching lessons continue through lunch from Erin as we sketched our food, table accessories, other people, or for me – the lights above. They look just like upsidedown birdsnests !