In March 2019, I travelled through Japan for three weeks with my friend Bridie. I set myself a challenge – to create a small sketch for each day.
I thought this would be a fairly unrealistic goal as travel is often busy, energy draining and unpredictable, however I did manage to have something down for each day by the end of the trip. The quality of the work was not always there, but hey some days it was so cold my hands froze up!
I tried to, wherever possible, paint and sketch on site as I think this is such a fantastic way to enhance your experience and memories of the places you visit. Taking photos is great, but being able to spend even 20 minutes sitting, observing and absorbing, creates a deeper appreciation of being there in the moment.
I also often painted from our photographs of that day and collected as many stamps as possible – and Japan is obsessed with stamps. I really don’t know why, but practically every gallery, train station or noodle museum you visit has a touristy stamp.
Here’s a quick run down of the order of places:
- Arrive in Tokyo, Narita
- Two nights in Takayama
- Two nights in Takayama
- Four nights in Kyoto
- Three nights in Osaka
- Three nights in Hiroshima
- Seven nights in Tokyo
- Depart Tokyo, Narita
My Travel Journal
Tips for Painting Outdoors
- Prepare for the elements – if its cold, you will only get colder by sitting down and staying still while sketching. If its sunny, you need to protect yourself from sunburn and heatstroke.
- Set up somewhere comfortable, shady and out of the way of other people/tourists.
- Don’t try and paint the most ‘iconic’ tourist destinations if its busy – you don’t want to get in people’s way and make it more crowded.
- Make sure you choose tools that are easy to travel with – for example I used watercolour pans and pens which are very easy to travel with as they dry quickly and will not leak in transit.
- Try to plan a little in advance for that day – when do you want to paint, what will the temperature be, will you have other people with you?
Tips for Painting whilst Travelling
- Make time everyday according to how you travel – in Japan we spent a lot of time on trains, making it the perfect time to do some sketching. Neither Bridie or I were big night owls which meant most of the time I had the night to catch up on some sketching if I didn’t do any on that day.
- Pack only what you need – the lighter your tools, the better.
- Carry a small jar for paint water in case you can’t find a place to dispose of it while painting outdoors.
- If you’re travelling with someone or with family, you might need to be a bit more flexible around their needs – try to talk about sketching time before the trip and see what you can work out.