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This post is about six travel sketch books — that is, books about places that have delightful hand-drawn images — that I keep coming back to again and again.
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Photography, even for those of us who love it — or at least love looking at the results later — can have it’s downsides, especially when we are traveling. It’s easy to get wrapped up in snapping photos, setting up cameras, trying to capture that perfect shot that it turns into a stressor of its own.
Trying to capture the spirit of place in another way — with pencil and paper — is something I’ve long thought of coming back to do. I set out on the road this Summer equipped with a fresh set of Prismacolors (one that my now-grown children wouldn’t touch — all MINE!), but they went unused.
But here are six books I’ve found that might inspire me to put those pencils to good use. Some are books I’ve found just perusing the shelves at my local library — and then ended up buying as they ended up on my coffee table so often. I find myself relaxing just looking at these hand-sketched drawings.
My advice to myself on keeping a sketch journal: be like when you were a kid; turn off the inner critic and draw! Things that are worth doing are worth doing badly at first!
But I can still aspire to create sketches like the delightful ones in these books.
Here they are; six travel sketch books that I keep coming back to again and again:
I found the delightful The Little Pleasures of Paris by Leslie Jonath at my local library as I was planning a trip to Paris. This book was where I “discovered” the flower and bird market which is open on Sundays and subsequently found myself heading there when I ended up having to take an earlier train than expected, la,nding me in Paris on a Sunday morning.
The watercolor illustrations in the book by Lizzy Stewart capture the author’s Paris memories on everything from The Thinker, To Les Bateaux Mouches, to a petit déjeuner of croissants and coffee. Trés fantastique!
I’m from Seattle and saw “Seattle Sketcher” Gabriel Campario’s sketches in the Seattle Times on occasion. And, being from Seattle, I love the book for places I recognize. But I think I would also love it if I were a visitor to the city, much as I love similar hand-drawn books that add to my wanderlust for places I’ve never been. He captures Seattle perfectly in his sketches of everything from Dick’s Drive-In to Lake Union houseboats.
The Seattle Walk Report (I like it some much I also wrote about it in another post) is a recent release, based on the author’s successful Instagram account where she draws random things she saw taking walks through Seattle neighborhoods. Unlike the other books in this post, her “sketches” are cute black ink pen cartoons — but, like the Seattle Sketcher, they capture places I instantly recognize.
Away and Aware: A Field Guide to Mindful Travel is about precisely the sort of thing that makes me interested in picking up a pencil instead of a camera sometimes during my travels. Just looking at the book makes me feel more mindful, take a breath, and relax. Tips accompany the illustrations — many of them you may already be aware of but, perhaps, not put into practice — to be more present during your adventures.
While it’s not exactly a book about France or travel, it is about both food and the French language. Edible French by Clotilde Dusoulie of the French cooking website Chocolate and Zucchini is a delightful read about French-language idioms related to food. And there are many, from “Sparing the Goat and the Cabbage” (see above) to “Mettre du piment dans sa vie,” (adding chili pepper to one’s life, which I need to do more of)! Also included are some phrases that are similar to English idioms, brought to life by the charming sketches by Mélina Josserand. There’s also a crepe recipe tucked away in there!
A Fine Romance is Susan Branch’s illustrated journal about a trip through the English countryside, visiting places from the Yorkshire Dales, to Lacock, to Beatrix Potter’s Hill Top Farm in the Lake District. She utilizes sketches, photos, and handwriting in this charming recollection of how she fell in love with England. I’m very tempted to try to give my trip around Scotland this treatment!