The last few days journaling

There is something wonderful about tracking your life in sketches and words. Suhita’s blog, Sketch Away is great inspiration.

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A painting of hope

There are dark skies these days, it is in times like these that the light is brighter and the flowers most appreciated, I cling to that. This is an acrylic on a 9×12 canvas, prints available.

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Flowers in Newberg, thanks Pete

I never tire of flowers, they are right up there with landscapes and buildings. My friend Pete Miller posted a photo on FB, I asked if I could do a sketch, thankfully he said yes.


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My new pochade box finally came!

My last blog described my transition to theTravelsketcher. Today my gift to myself finally came – Amazon left the unit number off the address, resulting in an extra day of unwelcome delayed gratification. My SOHO Urban Artist Pochade Box arrived at lunchtime.

For those unfamiliar, a Pochade box is one of the ways that plein air artist carry their paints and such and also is a easel for canvases or panels.

It measures 15 x 13 x 7 inches and weighs just 6.1 pounds. It even looks good with the cherry stain.

Inside the slide out wooden pallet also serves as a cover over the storage section, paints and brushes will soon fill the space. The opened lid is also the easel, adjustable to hold a wide range of canvases or panels, or a watercolor pad. It adjusts to any angle, even flat for watercolor.


The tray on the right hold brushes, there is a paper towel holder, and in the back a compartment to hold wet or finished panels. On the bottom is a mount for a tripod, my next purchase. It is also easy to use setting on the lap, or on a conveniently placed picnic table.

Many painters make their own pochade boxes out of cigar boxes, I have done that as well, but I wanted one that would take a bit larger painting panel and one with more options. So this should do the trick. I plan to spend the afternoon getting it stocked and ready to go, then its off to the great outdoors for blissful hours of painting.


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How I became theTravelsketcher

Twenty-five years ago, this coming January, I boarded a plane at SEATAC airport headed to Racine Wisconsin. Prior to that I had been to Mexico twice, and flights for business in the Western States – a business traveler yet not the road warrior I would become. My life as a seminar speaker was just beginning, hoping that the dream I had held for so many years would actually come true. Excitement and a lot of trepidation accompanied me on my way to the Racine Holiday Inn where I was to conduct my first seminar for Fred Pryor Seminars – “Management Skills for the Technically Trained.”

A few months later Pryor called with an urgent request, could I rush my passport application? My first passport. They needed a speaker to go to England to cover for another speaker, I don’t remember why. I had never been off the continent, I was going to Europe; fear and trepidation booked passage again.

Not long after that excitement, my weekly Fedex packet brought an itinerary with names of cities and states that I did not recognize at all. Slowly it dawned on me that these were cities in Australia, I was speechless. Never in my wildest dreams was Australia a place I expected to visit. Little did I know that I would go there well over 20 times in the coming years.

Over the last 25 years I have done seminars in Asia, South Africa, multiple trips to the United Kingdom and Australia, and most every State in the USA. Thanks to the gift-of-gab I became a world traveler, a designation that I am both proud of and for which I am grateful.

My first real sketch was in fact a travel sketch. We were staying at the Turtleback Farm Inn on Orcas Island in the San Juan Islands. Sketching was something I had wanted to do for a long time, with even a few less than stellar attempts along the way. Tricia, my wife, is the most encouraging person in my life, my biggest supporter. She encouraged me to find an art store on the island and buy a sketchpad and pencil. I sat in front of the fireplace and sketched; mercifully I have no idea where that sketch ended up.

Hear are two of those early sketches. The first is from a trip that Tricia and I took to Hawaii in 1989 when I was still in sales. The second is what I believe to be my first international sketch, 1997 in South Africa.

I began sketching and painting with acrylics on canvas. I remember sketching in the Johannesburg airport, the town square in Cape Town Africa, and at Sydney Harbour in Australia. Then, for some reason, I laid down my pen for a few years, thankfully not forever. Eventually I would show work in the Edmonds Art Walk in Edmonds, Washington, and at wineries in Woodenville, Washington. People bought paintings and even a couple of commissions came along.

Today I am grateful for the Mukilteo Beacon Newspaper which runs a little “Travelsketcher” column two weeks a month featuring my  sketches. I am thankful to those who commission me to turn a photo from their trip into a travel sketch for them; it is as if they share a bit of their experience with me, I trust the sketch brings back memories for them.

Sketching has allowed me to meet so many people, curious and usually too generous with their compliments. Tricia started getting me “Artist Trading Cards” a few years back, 2.5” x 3.5” blank watercolor papers, for quick sketches and paintings. I carry those with me always, sketching gifts for people I meet, flight attendants, and servers; a simple gift that always brings a smile.

In the near future there is plein air painting, and workshops to teach people how to travel sketch. And of course as much travel as possible.

Last week was pretty much my last flight as a seminar speaker, so I have now made the  transition from speaker/travelsketcher to just theTravelsketcher, it feels so right.

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Travel sketches vs urban sketches, and what about plein air?

The teapot in Bath, and a street in Kyoto are both travel sketches yet they do not qualify as urban sketches.

The teapot was done on location yet it does not qualify for an urban sketch due to the content. Travel sketching strives to capture the moment, the content reflects a time and place that is meaningful to the artist/traveler. If the view included the whole cafe, or a view through the window to the outside, it would be an Urban sketch as well as a travel sketch.

This sketch brings back memories of a morning in Bath, England when I went out for tea while the rest of my travel group slept-in; a nice memory.

The content of this sketch of a street in Kyoto, Japan is certainly typical of an Urban Sketch, yet it was not done on location, it was done months after the trip from a photo, since it was not done on location it does not qualify as an urban sketch. One of the joys of travel sketching is to revisit a place by sketching it from a photo, reliving the moment long after the trip has ended; a way to reflect on another time and place. Doing this sketch took me back to a July day in hot Kyoto, almost two years after the trip, a pleasant memory.

The Seattle Urban Sketchers web site posts the Urban sketchers manifesto.

• We draw on location, indoors or out, capturing what we see from direct observation

• Our drawings tell the story of our surroundings, the places we live and where we travel

• Our drawings are a record of time and place

• We are truthful to the scenes we witness

• We use any kind of media and cherish our individual styles

• We support each other and draw together

• We share our drawings online

• We show the world, one drawing at a time

Here are two that are urban sketches – the Ferry Dock at Mukilteo, and Diamondknot Brewery

So the difference between travell sketching and urban sketching is not huge, in many respects they are the same. Yet some sketches that we travel sketchers do would not fit the Urban Sketchers Manifesto, so being a travel sketcher gives one the freedom to sketch from photos, and even change the content a bit.

What about Plein Air? The simple definition is: painting that is done outside, on location. So urban sketching and travel sketching would both fall under that definition quite frequently.Yet Plein air most often refers to the mediums of oil or acrylic paints done on canvas or panels, pastels, or watercolor with little use of pen and ink; both travel sketchers and urban sketcher make frequent use of ink in their paintings, though many never do.

Plein air tends to use a more elaborate set up and takes longer. Travel sketching and urban sketching are usually quicker, with a more spontaneous feel about them.

There is no official body which has decreed strict definitions, yet there are some general categories. In the end what matters is that a person enjoys their art

This is an plein air acrylic on a 5”x7” canvas panel that I did at Mukilteo Beach State Park.

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Fall colors and bare branches

Looking out the window on a blustery fall morning. An abstract collage of color with bare branches crisscrossing the scene.

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