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Why you should start Sketching on your Vacations instead of taking Photos!


On my first trip to Europe in 2010, I took around 700 photos over the 9 days I was there. 700 Photos! That's about 70 photos a day of buildings, food, strangers, landscapes, selfies and . . .pigeons? Why did I take so many photos of pigeons? 

For most of these photos, I can't remember where or why they were taken and even though I have some half decent photography skills, these really didn't capture my trip at all. They remain, untouched on a folder on my desktop. 

In 2016, I travelled to the Netherlands and brought my urban sketching kit. My tiny moleskin filled with sketches remains the best souvenir from this trip, and possibly from any trip I've taken. It contains about 20 sketches drawn in cafes, museums, country roads and beaches. I still enjoy looking through these sketches and sharing them with friends and family. Whenever I teach an urban sketching workshop, this sketchbook comes out and I'm filled with memories from sketching these locations. 

windmills sketchbook urbansketch

What makes these travel sketches special for me, is that they represent a prolonged moment of time. Sketching forces you to be present for longer than the time it takes to click the camera shutter. It forces you to look at the scene in front of you and see what makes it truly unique.  A sketch reflects your view of a place and captures its unique energy on a certain moment in time. 

For me, taking that extra time to sketch a scene lets me soak it up and commit details to memory. It helps me determine what is important and significant and lets me truly soak up the beauty of the moment. Looking at one of these sketches immediately takes me back to that place, more than a photo ever could! 

Don't get me wrong, photography is an amazing art form, and if you truly love photography, then snap away! But for many of us, I feel like photography can actually take us out of the moment. 

When visiting the Van Gogh museum in Amsterdam, I watched a fellow tourist walking from masterpiece to masterpiece, taking a photo on their phone and shuffling along. Snap. . .  shuffle . . .snap. . . shuffle.  It was almost like he was "collecting" the photographs.  Sure, he now had a permanent reference of dozens of Van Goghs. But in my opinion, photos can never rival the experience of being in front of the piece and, as a traveller, you might never get that opportunity again. 

gouda cheese, vangogh sketch

While in that same museum, I found a few benches and sketched two paintings from life. I was honoured with the opportunity to truly study the works and see in detail the colour and the brush work. It remains one of my favourite sketches ever! To this day, I feel a huge connection to this painting. 

So I say, go ahead, take your compulsory selfie in front of the Eiffel Tower. But also, try sitting in a cafe and truly being present, sketching your surroundings. I guarantee that you will cherish these sketches more than any snapshot you take.

sketch of a gallery, museum, van gogh


I will be teaching Urban Sketching in May if you want to join me and learn more! check out the Classes section of my website here

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