How to fail at a travel sketchbook (In 10 easy steps!)

April 5, 2017

After a beautiful vacation for three weeks in the South Island of New Zealand, and less than 20 drawings to show for it, I am in awe of my lack of skill and dedication.

As the worst travel-sketcher ever I can now give you the kind of advice that will ensure that you are unable to record your travels in an enjoyable and creative manner-despite all the amazing benefits of recording your journeys through art.

1. Make sure your sketchbook is large enough! Mine was just slightly too large to fit in the convenient front pocket of my backpack. This is perfect if you want your sketchbook difficult to retrieve, and thus too much of a bother for spur-of-the-moment drawings.

Walking through the gardens by myself resulted in wonderful, relaxed sketching. Definitely avoid.

2. Spend (all your) time with other travelers! Even a beautiful, leisurely hike offers few opportunities for sketches when you’re afraid to slow down the group! The important thing here is never taking enough time by yourself to relax and get into your drawing, bonus points if FOMO keeps you busy and distracted during the day AND night!

This picture could have been EASILY avoided if I had just left my sketchbook behind…

3. Forget your sketchbook in your hostel or have it put in the storage compartment of the bus. This is a no-brainer, no sketchbook=no sketching.

4. Write in it. A lot. This advice works really well after forgetting to sketch for a few days. Just try to catch up on all the memories you forgot to record by filling pages writing about them! You’ll soon have a glorified diary with few, if any, drawings to distract the reader. (Which will only be you, y’know, because you just wrote all your secrets in it!)

This cute little parrot was WAY too fun to draw. Some rocks might have been a better choice.

5. Draw things because you “ought to”. In the South Island I was surrounded by stunning natural scenery every day…so of course I tried capturing those views in my travel journal. This is despite how painfully boring I find drawing landscapes compared to smaller details, people, or…most things. Drawing subjects merely because you “ought to” is a great way to kill your motivation for your travel sketchbook and ensure it stays as empty as possible.

6. Draw in a very soft pencil so that as soon as you close your sketchbook your drawings will smear and fade across the page.

The relaxing view on my hostel’s porch as I irresponsibly avoided getting to know strangers. Don’t worry, this was a rare occasion.

7. Care what others think of your drawing, and how much they’ll judge you if they see you choosing art over socializing. Despite the fact that no one is watching or judging you, at all, the false impression that someone is currently looking down at your habits or skill is a wonderful demotivator.

Drawing a stranger in public?! I should be ashamed of myself…but for some reason I’m not?

8. Refuse to draw interesting people you see on the streets because it would be too awkward if they noticed. Everyone knows awkwardness is to be avoided at all costs!

9. ONLY draw from life. This goes with number 5. Since this is a travel sketchbook you obviously can only draw cool *travel* things, while you are *currently* experiencing them. This will help limit your options for drawing and prevent you from sketching anything cool after you experience it when you actually have time.

10. Don’t add any color or variety of materials. You are a serious, minimalist, traveling artist and thus must avoid anything fun or bright in your travel sketches. Bringing along color pencils, paint, or (the shame!) even markers would be much too fun and exciting and a betrayal to your cool, worldly image.

There you have it, my top ten tips for ruining keeping a travel sketchbook for you. Be warned though!! Even after making all those mistakes I still somehow ended up with some drawings of interesting places that I love looking at and instantly remind me of my time drawing them.

So, I guess the only guaranteed way to fail is to not draw at all. 😉