First of all I’d like to wish everyone a very happy new year, and may 2022 be the year we can all resume the travel we would like to do, the meetings we need to have, the holidays we are eager to take.
During the dreary months here in Scotland, where the days are too short to paint by natural light and the weather too wet to venture outside, my attention has been temporarily diverted to writing. I began a Masters in Creative Writing in October and it certainly knows how to eat up one’s time.
I’ve long thought of writing and painting as being just different ways of saying the same thing. Each can be used to equal effect in describing a place, a being, a concept, a feeling. It has me thinking more and more about the occasions they can be used together, in which the two amplify each other, for example in art journalling.
On several Vistas itineraries, and in particular on the Sketchbook Journeys, we spend some time creating a page or two in the style of a Travel Journal. Here we can use words alongside our sketches to complement them artistically (especially if you are able to produce beautiful lettering), as well as to remind us of events or emotions we may not be able to portray through image alone, which help to evoke the whole experience later.
Words written on the pages of a sketchbook/art journal may include:
Colour notes, to refer to later if you plan to develop your sketches
Descriptions of what the weather is like and where you are sitting
Sounds and smells you are aware of as you sit and sketch which add to the overall sense of place: Is anyone cooking? Is music playing? What about birdsong or crashing waves?
Snippets of overheard conversations, quotations that spring to mind or sudden events, large or small that may happen while you are there. Did a dragonfly really just land on your page?
Random thoughts that the experience brings up, as well as musings about the act of drawing and painting itself; a commentary of the artistic process.
This way of working is not for everyone, but many people title and date their sketches. This is simply taking it one little step further.
During a cheeky escape to the Gambia in November I went on a river cruise to see the local birdlife. As we motored upstream there was little time to sketch the birds – especially as most were fast moving specks in the distance! – but I did want to note down the names of those we managed to identify, before I forgot them. Now when I look at this page I remember the joy and discovery of that day even more completely than from the images alone, which in themselves are so much more than photographs.