Creating Watercolor Memories

Snake Charmer

A picture is worth a thousand words. But… when it comes to creating a travel journal, those pictures can be difficult to capture while travelling. I want journal filled with watercolor sketches and colorful text, describing our adventures in the far corners of the world.

In the past I tried to reserve space amongst the words to print and paste pictures when I got home. Later I purchased a Zink printer and while that’s nice, it doesn’t create great pictures, and it doesn’t give my journal that old-timey explorer’s quality I desire. In general, photographs don’t tell the story I want to tell.

Chinese Sweeper

Anyone can draw from sight. It’s purely a matter of regular practice. Unfortunately, unless you’re naturally talented, there is a great deal of upkeep practice required, or those skills soften. If all you want to do is sketch while you’re travelling, it’s a difficult investment of time.

The other issue is the lack of time while travelling. Karalee and I travel together, and often we’re part of a group excursion or tour. There isn’t really any way I can sit and sketch from the world when everyone else is ready to move on.

The time I have, usually in the evening, when we’ve returned from the day’s events, or in the morning, before we head out, is short and requires me to draw quickly, but you may be surprised to learn – there’s an app for that.

Camera Lucida App

The Camera Lucida App allows me to view the page by looking “through” a picture. The effect of this is that I can see any picture I take projected onto the page of my journal. I can quickly trace a picture onto a page without having to actually draw it. This way I can lay down a quick sketch and claim that space on the page.

Watercolor and text can be added while sitting on a tour bus, or during lunch, as long as the drawing is already down.

Camera Lucida View

I set up my phone on a coffee cup, or a drinking glass and place it over the page so that the picture appears where I want the drawing to appear. A slider at the bottom of the screen allows me to change the opacity of the picture, making it easier to see the picture or the drawing.

The easiest thing to do is block in the big shapes and set up for adding detail. If I have more time, I can zoom in far enough to add tiny details – all the way down to the teeth of a smiling child.

Once the initial forms are blocked in, to whatever level of detail for which I have time, or desire, I clean up the sketch, capturing any details I missed, or removing any that distract from the storytelling.

Balloon Sketch
Balloon Painting

On a cruise, or a group trip we often head out for the day, in a bus or smaller boat, to get to the actual experience. These bus trips are a slog through uninteresting city streets or bland highways, which is a perfect time for watercolors and writing. The Camera Lucida App requires a stable surface, but splashy watercolors are easy to apply holding the book on my lap, or an airplane tray table. When it comes to watercolor journals, less is definitely more. I’m often tempted to fill in the page, but that always backfires on me.

Sphinx Page

Some people might say using an app to draw is cheating, but this isn’t a competition, there is no cheating. The goal is to capture memories in watercolor and create beautiful journals people want to look at. If an app is what you need to