Travel, Travelogues, and Travel Sketchbooks
My mother wrote a diary whenever she travelled which was once a year. My father worked for a Tata Group company and he would meticulously plan his annual leave. This was in the sixties and seventies when travel photography was not very common. I do not know who encouraged her to write or why she wrote the diary. My guess is that writing came naturally to her, and the urge to write must have grown stronger with new experiences.
I have her diary of her travel to USA in 1971 in which she has made interesting notes. The reason to remember this is my own urge to write travelogues which you will appreciate, go a step ahead of making travel notes. (My mother must have passed the gene responsible for travel writing to me, thank you, Mom!). I wrote a few travelogues, when I visited Trinidad and Barbados. Those were published in a Marathi magazine which encouraged me to write more. (You can read my other travelogues here and here too.)
The reason to write this is simple: I just finished reading Danny Gregory’s ‘An Illustrated Journey: Inspiration From the Private Art Journals of Traveling Artists, Illustrators and Designers’. With a name which seems to run from Mumbai to Pune, the book would not have drawn a reader like me to it, but look at the author – Danny Gregory. And I am his fan! I will read anything with his name as the author.
I saw travel artists when I visited Paris and I thought art came naturally to Parisians. Then I saw a group in London sitting in a corner and drawing who were ‘Urban Sketchers.’ The travel sketching bug bit me too, but I became very conscious of people around me and abandoned the adventure. (Although I do keep a sketching book, thanks to Danny Gregory. Read about it here). But with Danny Gregory’s book in hand, I have decided to go Travel sketching.
The book has a simple format. Forty-three travel artists tell us why they do it and what they get out of it. They also tell us the material they use, but that is not important. Why do some well-trained artists as well as those who just enjoy travel art do it year on year? They say their fresh eyes see their world differently. Does it remind you of Wallace Stevens famous poem? ‘Twenty men crossing a bridge into a village, Are twenty men crossing twenty bridges into twenty villages’?
‘There is something about drawing a that makes a person approachable. How many times you have taken a digital photo and had a complete stranger come up and peer at the camera’s screen?’ One artist asks. Yes, people get very curious when you draw sitting in a corner. They see it as the proof that their city is beautiful. And they nod appreciatively, although they would object if you were to take photograph with them in the picture. I saw a group of primary school children in Tate Modern sketching and their energy was so infectious!
Fabio Consoli, a travel artist writes in the book: ‘Energy does not come from the pride of having a nice drawing, but from the act of drawing it, the act of doing and living in the present, the here and now.’
All artists who have contributed to the book say -just pick up pen or pencil and start drawing, who cares about perfection, draw it your way. But many like me have to overcome fear, the judgment that we are not good at drawing. ‘Don’t perceived lack of skill or experience keep you from starting a sketch journal’ is the best advice another artist gives.
That is true. The only way to overcome fear is to do what you are afraid of. We have to experience the world our way and express it so too. Life is too short to allow fear to interfere with living it to the fullest! I am coming Danny!!
Vivek S Patwardhan
“What you leave behind is not what is engraved in stone monuments, but what is woven into the lives of others.” **** “Aroehan: Creating Dream Villages in Mokhada by 2025: “No Malnutrition Deaths, No Child ‘Out of School’, Reduction in migration by 50%.”
Good morning and this is a fascinating subject. I too like to travel ( and fortunately have been able to) and just love the different worlds that we inhabit as well as the similarities that see so obvious. It also makes me question things that I take for granted here in India or even Maharashtra where I have spent all my life. I do love to take photographs but have not written at all. We as a family love to see the travel shows on TV and coincidentally, I just took out my DSLR yesterday and start now photographing the city I live in. Your blogs inspire me to restart such simple pleasures all over again. Thank you.
Very interesting. Thanks for introducing a subject to me that I had no idea about .more importantly “clamp” coming off from your earlier blog is fantastic.
I’m not much of a sketch artist but I agree that it conveys lot more than a digital print ever can. The artist’s interpretation gives a place a different meaning.
I am a photographer, in awe of those who can draw. My wife is an artist and so drawing and painting is in my home. This article is awe-inspiring. It seems that people did a lot more drawing and painting in the past. We have diaries of British Civil Service Officers, Army Officers, Planters and others who enlivened their records with excellent sketches. Your article brings all those to mind, Vivek. I see the first comment is from V.J. Rao. If that is my friend Juggie (and there is only one like him) then I feel even more warm and glowing than usual, when I read your writing.Many thanks once again for sharing this.
Yes, my dear Yawar. This is me. Also since we are on this subject your own travelogues and descriptions of life in the tea gardens, your safaris and others are awe inspiring. The photographs that accompany them are fabulous and detailed.
Nicely written on a subject which attracts almost everybody. When you read through a travelogue and also browse among the sketches or photographs the mind camera wakes up and the original images as well as incidents come flashing into your mind transporting you to a different world by creating a realistic vision. It also helps to tell stories to the young ones when you grow older and also helps during a adda (friendly chat) session among friends.Thank you so much for helping in reviving the memories through your well written article…