Travel Sketchbook Hacks

I’ve always aspired to be one of those people that travel and make sketches of the beautiful places I see along the way. I’d have page after page of these beautifully illustrated vignettes—the ultimate travel souvenir.

My drawing chops are not at the level of capturing the scenes I see before me, and I want to develop this skill over time, which gave me the idea of using my iPad and Procreate to bridge the gap.

I can be in an exotic location, snap a photo, bring it into Procreate, and draw over it on a new layer. I like using the “studio pen” in black to trace the image, similar to a lightbox. I take lots of creative licenses to decide which parts to simplify in the picture. Once I have the general outline of the scene, I hide the layer with the image and begin adding thicker lines and coloring in if desired.

You may be thinking this exercise is cheating, but I don’t see it this way. Yes, I’m tracing the scene in the photo, copying its composition and structure. However, copying drawings is one of the best ways to learn. I have to think as I go, deciding how a simple line will represent the corner of a building. In addition, I’m learning firsthand how light and shadow are reflecting off the buildings and trying to include that in my pen strokes.

A more advanced artist would glance up at the buildings and transfer that directly on the page, but the experience I’m having is the same. Drawing something forces you to look deeper, use all your senses to take in a place. As I sketch, I notice details in the roof tiles I didn’t even see before. My brain takes in the visual of the scene, and as it trickles out my hands onto the page, I become the lens filter. A piece of me embedded in the final illustration. What better way to capture “I’ve been there!”

Timelapse of Italy Drawing:

Timelapse of Aspen Drawing: