This summer, I experienced first-hand the ups and downs of making art on the move. At the midpoint of my artistic education-moving from A level to Art Foundation-I was set the task of completing a full artistic journal/sketchbook, within the span of about 6-8 weeks. Even for the most house-bound of art students, who would have daily access to their pre-designed art spaces-whether it be the lounge floor, a desk in their bedroom or the garden shed-this is not an easy feat. But when I received this project in early July, I knew that this was going to become a whole other kind of challenge.
As many of you may know, the end of college marks perhaps one of the longest summers of your education-one which I was fully prepared to embrace. This meant that besides my 18th birthday, family engagements and local pub job, I was going to be spending 2 weeks volunteering in Uganda, followed by a week camping in Wales and a week volunteering at a Youth Festival in Peterborough. It was a busy summer, and suddenly I was setting out with not only my suitcase, but with my sketchbook.
The art of making art whilst travelling is a rather chaotic one; it is a messy skill which requires quick thinking and ingenuity-so I have come to learn. Setting off to Uganda I took basic drawing equipment, a watercolour set, and my trusty glue stick. And with that I just about managed to put the feeling of the trip to paper. Uganda was jam packed with inspiration, from its amazing rainforests, animals and landscapes, to its beautiful batik fabrics at the market; even just the welcoming smiles of the children at the local school. I wanted to capture it all, which was not easy with a packed volunteering schedule-so here are my tips for art-making on your next trip across the globe.
1. Art starts at the airport - you would be surprised at how great airports are for making art. I love sitting in the departure lounge and secretly sketching those around me; people are generally more relaxed and therefore more interesting to draw.
2. Always keep a look out for great materials - for me this began on the plane ride when I cut up a sick bag for the background of my collage. New countries means new magazines, newspapers, post cards and brochures: all of which can make a background or resource for your artwork.
3. Keep to simple quick, sketches - pick a subject you can take within a few minutes, maybe even 30 seconds - this way you are working in the moment, within the short pockets of time that you have available.
4. Take lots of photos - this may seem obvious, but photos are important! If you see something which you think could be a great piece of art, that might take longer to complete, photograph it and come back to it - you often won’t have time to pursue it whilst you’re on the move.
5. Have a go at not-looking line drawings - a very fun way of keeping yourself focused on your new environment. Take a subject, and draw it without looking down at the page, keeping consistent eye contact.
6. Don’t forget to hit the local craft markets - in most major cities you will find an art or craft market, and this is crammed full of cultural and inspirational goodies; pick up an interesting object to take home and inspire you, or buy some local fabrics or clothing. New experiences breed new art.
7. Remember not to take your art too seriously - when you have limited resources and time; with so much going on around you, don’t get caught up in whether it looks good or not. Travelling allows you to experiment, get inspiration and most importantly, have fun.
After my trip to Uganda I came home with about 8 pages filled with work. There was enough inspiration in the country and in the people for me to have done much more, but my travels continued and so did my sketchbook. By taking photos and souvenirs, I can keep hold of those inspiring moments, and revisit it in my work whilst I’m back at home in my artist’s habitat. But I would, without a doubt, encourage any creative who feels stuck in their normal habits, craving fresh inspiration and perhaps in a bit of an art slump, to take a sketchbook with them the next time they travel. Whether you take just a day trip or go on a global adventure, there is a whole world out there at your disposal - go capture it.