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Inspired by her love of national parks, artist Suzie Garner shares her top sketchbook tips.
In 2015, I developed a course called “100 Ideas for Keeping a Travel Sketchbook” to help celebrate the 100th anniversary of Rocky Mountain National Park. Here are 10 tried-and-true ideas from that list.
Sketchbook Top 10
1. Design a title page that includes your contact information.
This can be fun on its own, but also, it may help your travel sketchbook find its way back to you if lost.
2. Draw a credit card size sketch.
When time is short, draw small. I’d rather have a tiny sketch than an unfinished sketch or no sketch at all.
3. Draw an architectural sketch.
This can be especially fun if the structure has special significance to your travel experience.
4. Sketch and paint.
Draw the sketch with a technical pen and then add watercolor. My favorite tool for pen-drawing is the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Micron Pen (with a super-fine nib). It really makes the watercolor pop.
5. Record the time of day, date, longitude and latitude.
This information is always fun to have later. If you have a smartphone, you have this information at your fingertips.
6. Collect National Park Service passport stamps.
Most national parks and monuments in the United States have rubber stamps—found at visitor centers and ranger stations—that are available for visitors to use at no charge. The park service sells “passports” for collectors, but you can use the stamps in your sketchbooks, too.
7. Collect local packaging/soda/beer labels.
When traveling, food and drink packaging, etc., can make interesting additions to your travel sketchbook. Sometimes they even come with their own adhesive.
8. Buy a sticker and affix it in your sketchbook.
Purchase or ask local businesses for a sticker to add to your sketchbook to document travels. It’s quick, easy and often free.
9. Ask the postmaster to stamp your sketchbook.
Not every postmaster will do this, but these cancellation stamps prove you were there and—if you find yourself in a foreign country—a postage stamp is a great addition, too.
10. Draw a floor plan, elevation or observational view of a room.
If you have a good sense of space or keep a tiny tape measure in your bag, you can sketch small room plans to remember a cool hotel room, cruise ship cabin, lobby, etc.
About the Artist
Suzie Garner is a professor of art and design at Colorado Mesa University, in Grand Junction, where she teaches design and illustration. The artist has studied in Italy, where she developed a sketchbook course for the university. She participated in an artist residency in Yellowstone National Park, at the Yellowstone Art and Photography Center in the Old Faithful Historical Area and has taught watercolor workshops in Arches National Park, Canyonlands National Park, the Colorado National Monument, Rocky Mountain National Park and Yellowstone National Park. Her artwork has been exhibited throughout Colorado and the Western states. Garner currently offers a university sketchbook course that takes students outside to sketch at museums, parks and other outdoor venues, including the Colorado National Monument.
Learn more about Garner and her inspiring work in the May/June 2020 issue of Watercolor Artist.