I’m Charlene Collins Freeman and I’ve been painting and photographing for what seems like all my life. Years ago I started offering travel art workshops and now I am thrilled to have partnered with World Tours Studio for these offerings.
I would like to share with you a little background of how of my love for the joy of traveling with a sketchbook began.
I was always intrigued by historical sketchbooks, such as Lewis and Clark’s, or those of other explorers, naturalists and botanical artists. But it wasn’t until I came across a small book by Danny Gregory entitled Every Day Matters, that I understood the use of sketchbooks as a visual journal of one’s life. In this book Danny Gregory explores his life, the big and the small details of it.
I liked the idea of keeping my own visual journal so I bought a sketchbook, a few pens and a watercolor kit. I carried it with me everywhere, hopeful that I would start to be one of those people who sketches regularly.
It was about a year before I did my first sketch. I began to sketch every day moments from my life almost daily. And I began to share my passion about sketching in the watercolor classes and drawing classes I was already teaching. Pretty soon, I started teaching sketchbook workshops. These are popular classes as people recognize that it is a way to be creative on a regular basis without the pressure of creating “Art.” Sketching is a unique way of recording our day to day world.
Sketching everyday moments transforms your relationship with your own life. My kitchen, my sleeping dog, strangers on a bus, the world’s beauty reveals itself when you slow down to sketch it.
Carrying my camera comes naturally to me and I’ve taken thousands of travel photos throughout the years. But there is a huge difference between photographing an experience and sketching it.
Taking photographs literally places the camera between us and what we are photographing. Taking a photograph takes but a second. We rarely slow down to really look at what is around us. We figure, we will look more closely later, when we look through our photos. So we shoot and move on.
I would return from trips with 100s of photographs but not a lot of vivid memories of what was actually going on when I was taking those photos. I came home with a blur of images and a blur of memories.
In 2004 I decided to leave my camera at home and travel with a set of art supplies instead. I found that I collected napkins, museum tickets, names of streets, and all manner of details along the way to include in my sketchbook. Details I had not paid much attention to on previous trips.
At first I worried that I would be slowing down my traveling companions with my collecting and observing and sketching. But pretty soon, family and friends joined in on this new way of exploring what was around us. We started to pay much more attention to everything: the receipts left on tables, train schedules, windows, sounds, people. The textures of traveling.
Each page I create allows me to live the experiences I have all over again. Whenever I look back through my sketch books, even years later, I am transported back to the ordinary and the exquisite moments of my journeys. This business of sketching gave me a slowed down experience with a deeper sense of place, each page brings back lively memories of who was with me, what we were doing, even what we were talking about or listening to at that time.
With a sketchbook in hand, all of a sudden you really want to stop and drink in what’s around you, it refreshes your eyes and your mind, it dismisses preconceptions and replaces them with discovery and wonder.
So to me the difference between photographing a trip and sketching it is that drawing pushes me to notice details and understand more deeply.
After several trips with my sketchbook in hand, I began taking groups to Europe on sketchbook workshops. Some of the people who join me are completely new to sketching, while others are professional artists who just want to travel with other artists or who want to learn to travel with a sketchbook.
Our sketching workshops usually take place in the mornings, and focus on core observational, drawing and watercolor skills. We develop the ability to work in a fast spontaneous way.
My hope for participants in my travel workshops is that sketching becomes an exciting way to record their experiences. A sketchbook can have many roles in an artist’s practice but in traveling, it becomes a great place to observe, annotate, explore, and reflect, even for those who don’t consider themselves artists.
Most of all I hope it becomes a joyful way to record one’s world. Traveling with a sketchbook is not about doing “good” drawings or paintings. Traveling with a sketchbook is about being in the moment and letting the hand record what the eyes see and hopefully what the heart feels, without judgment, without too many rules. Ultimately sketching when you travel is about “learning to see.”
Behind every sketchbook page, there are stories and emotions, both ordinary and extraordinary! I encourage you to dust off your passport and give every page of a sketchbook some love. This is the adventure we embark on when we travel with a sketchbook.
Click here to see a short video of my sketchbook from this past summer’s sketchbook workshop when I was joined by 12 advenuturers to discover Verona, Venice, Lake Garda, Mantova, Giverny and Paris.
On the list of the top five things I love you will find traveling, sketching, friends, family and enjoying food. These all came together during this trip. Color me joyful!
I hope you enjoy flipping through my sketchbooks. And consider joining me in 2017 for our sketchbook workshop to London and Bath!
Charlene Collins Freeman