Ingredients for a Travel Sketch Journal

Part Two of Art on the Go Giveaway! 

There are some definite challenges to "arting" while underway on a trip. Do you find it hard to find quiet time when walking to see the sights, eating out in cafes and restaurants, or chatting with travel companions? What about drawing in public places? (The pressure, the audience!) 

Use the tips below to set the mood & prepare for keeping a travel art journal. 

Quick Daily Painting Video

Tips for Keeping a Daily Travel Sketch Journal:

  • Make a small commitment–in time and size of artwork. I carved out 15 - 30 minutes and used half a page in my sketch book per day. 

  • Erase freely–I start in pencil, outline in ink, and then add color. There’s serious graphite and erasing as I get designs the way I want them.

  • Start small: my friend Ally Ryde carries a little viewfinder to help limit what she’s looking at, and she uses it to draw small squares on the page to fill with her designs.

  • Use a fat pencil–it’s hard to get hung up on fine details when using a big fat lead to draw loose images.

  • Personal photos for inspiration. No shame! We might think we’re “supposed to” draw in the moment, but sometimes that’s just not possible. Use personal pictures and come up with a creative sketch version.

  • Siesta! Use the time when others are resting, taking a break between activities, or waiting out the high temps.

  • Mimic local styles, advertisements and signage, or patterns (like cobblestones, swoon!)

  • Use personal style to interpret new subject matter. For example, concentrate on a detail of architecture rather than drawing an entire building. 

Find Your Why! (and get entered in a giveaway)

For me it was the joy in flipping back through a visual journal of the trip that inspired me to keep going. 

Flip Through the Journal! 

What’s your why for keeping a sketch journal while traveling? What are some tips you can share?

Drop an answer in the comments below to share your wisdom AND get entered into a giveaway inspired by travel and summer. Giveaway ends June 15, 2024. Open only to those with U.S. addresses. Commenters from this post or Art on the Go post get entered into the giveaway.

Giveaway includes a fantastic pouch donated by Linnea Design, a fine point sharpie, a gum eraser, paper samples, and six paint splotch samples from my travel palette.

Please note–I am an Amazon Associate and I earn from qualifying purchases. Use any of these links to go directly to the products. I am not an affiliate of Linnea Design. Just a fan! 

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My why is probably similar to others my age..I don’t want to forget😆. Even capturing a simple sketch, or a single color base gives me the foundation to come back to it and expand on it. I’ll never have enough time to do the painting justice, but capturing a sketch or impression gives me something to build from when I have more time.

Roberta Graver

I absolutely love your journal- it is right up my alley! I look forward to doing this when I travel this summer.


Hi everyone,
Thanks for all the great ideas!

Valerie—great question! I use Daniel Smith watercolors and squeeze the tubes into a small travel kit, but there are some great pre-made travel kits if you don’t want to hassle with creating your own.(If you are interested in making your own, you can buy empty “pans” and fill them from tubes.)
There’s this high end Daniel Smith kit:
Here are two Windsor Newton kits: (has some pretty colors, too!) or this one
Not sure if these links are live, but same disclosure—I’m an Amazon Affiliate and earn from qualifying purchases

Natasha Zahn

I have yet to keep a travel journal but I have goals too. This blog is very inspiring. Also I am wondering what travel watercolor do you recommend? I have a trip in July and I want to journal about it.

Valerie Lukin

my travel kit is a very small journal—3inchx4inch—pencil with soft, dark graphite, #3round brush, numerous watercolor pens, gum eraser, and collapsable cup for water and a timer. My husband drives, I sketch, at times stopping to sketch, then at our lunch stop—picnic style— I add color, details, whatever fits. I love these drives and they are so rejuvenating. The time is for when I want to do a timed sketch for practicing getting basic details quickly drawn.

Gail L Crutcher

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