Sketching while traveling presents a perfect pretext for slowing down and absorbing the sights. For example, while traveling I often latch onto a theme and, through sketching, study various aspects related to it.
While in Mexico I studied thresholds—doorways, windows, and how a building’s edges meet the sky and ground. The sketches I drew there show how thresholds can affect one’s experience of entering a home, its profile seen against the sky, and the public realms formed between buildings.
A theme that spanned trips to several other countries involved using black-on-white pointillism to study textures and forms in nature. In contrast to nineteenth-century artists like George Seurat, who used spots of color appearing to blend into a full range of tones, the pointillistic spots of black ink appear to blend into a full range of textured surfaces and contours. And unlike ink drawings made over an initial pencil underlay, these sketches begin as light dots placed far apart and become more dense as the textures and forms emerge.
While traveling through Scandinavia, I sketched details of buildings to study how architects express movement through design. Although buildings are typically thought of as static structures, they can be made to appear dynamic. In addition to stairways, an obvious subject for this study, I was excited to find movement also expressed in ceiling forms; doorway features; and materials wrapping from floor to wall or wall to ceiling, peeling a floor up to expose a dark crevice below or peeling a wall back to allow the visitor to slip inside.
When sketching overseas, I am most thankful that art transcends language barriers. While I was sketching one morning in Croatia, a group of local artists signaled for me to join them. Making art was our only common language, yet we spent the remainder of the day together, sketching along the beach, eating at a café, and lining our work up along the boardwalk to share our discoveries with one another.