From my Travel Sketchbook

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When I get my Pilgrim Passport stamped, I also have them put their stamp somewhere on a blank page of my travel sketchbook. This starts a painted travel collage-sketch of that place. I do one or more most days, another reason why I enjoy shorter hiking days.
This painted sketch of apples in a basket got me a jar of garden flowers and a free glass of wine from a Basque grandma. I am not above making sure that when I bring out my notebook at check in time– my Pilgrim Passport is stored in it– that the person sees the paintings. I’ve gotten some special treatment from it, I think: a slightly better bed and so on. They are really just for me, a sensory-rich artifact of that fleeting time.

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Turtles in an ancient pond in the middle of a walled garden, orchids on the counter of the Kind Albergue Keeper Jose, a gargoyle from an octagonal Templar chapel— all were drawn from life. My little travel kit is always close at hand. People want to watch me sketching and photograph me; I’m an oddball pilgrim. These are no masterpieces, but they are expressive and unify me with the place for a brief moment.

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I am reading The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton on my Kindle app. It’s marvelous. He provides brief meditations on famous travelers, then links them to a travel experience of his own. I live on Humboldt Street, named after the amazing traveler and scientist, Alexander von Humboldt. De Botton tells a story of Humboldt’s travels, then concludes with this remark.
Instead of bringing back 16,000 new plant species, we might return from our journey with a collection of small, unfeted but life-enhancing thoughts.
That’s the travel sketchbook. Buen Camino, Suzanne

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14 comments

  1. Great to see this collection of images. Traveling with a sketchbook is a method of communication outside of common language — for everyone can see the exuberant joy in these drawings and watercolors. And it must be a real treat to be traveling in a country where the artist and the act of art-making are valued and appreciated. Raise another glass!

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  2. I love your delicate & interesting line work, the vibrant colors you use, & how you put it all together to create such special beauty.
    Your sketchbook logs are much more of a wonderfully personal expression of sharing images that you see, vs. taking a photo.
    It’s a joy to see what you are experiencing on your pilgrimage trip to places I will never have a chance to visit. Thank you for blogging your amazing trip.

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  3. Suzanne, we are really enjoying your sharing this trip with us!
    I have a friend in Healdsburg named Richard Shepard that has written a series of books called Artist on the Road, about sketching in public places. I guess there is an art to it, and certainly a bit of public interaction to contend with or showmanship make the most of it. Congrats on milking it for a nicer bed, a glass of wine, etc! (His books may be available on Kindle, not sure.)
    Happy trails!

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  4. I may have to borrow your sketchbook when I hit the Camino, Suzanne. LOL! sounds like Camino cred can be a valuable asset come bed time. Your sketches are precious and you are a gifted writer. I look forward to more. xob

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  5. I LOVE you sketchbook. So interesting, colorful and with the stamp too. Seems like a great way to remember and reflect and process.

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