Travel journal : the big picture. Wide views sketches!

I just came back from a 12 days watercolor workshop with Marc Taro Holmes and it was a blast!! 😀
Non stop sketching, impressive demos, adorable fellow sketchers, sketching talks, good food (I had never eaten so much fish in my life, before!! 😁), lovely and amazing places in Portugal… what an awesome adventure! 

Moreover, meeting Marc and benefitting from his advices were way more than the icing on the cake (or the fish?! 😂), of course! 😀 If you don’t already follow Marc’s blog, please visit it at

I am going to share my sketches and my travel journal pages through several articles. I will try to evoke my learnings and to give you some advices for your own travel (or day to day) sketches too.
This first article is about sketching wide views. 😊 

 Prainha, Alvor. Portugal. (Because sketching wide view doesn’t necessarily means producing detailing tedious sketches. 😉 Sometimes, loose is more!!! 😝)

I tend to usually sketch details and parts of subjects. As I sketch straight with the brush, I need a starting point and it often makes me focus strongly on ONE subject, juste adding a few things around it. 😉 For sure, working from a strong point of interest is a good approach but it makes me forget, sometimes, to tackle wider views (and I probably don’t always feel confident to make such ambitious paintings!…).

That’s true that we need a bit more time to make these kind of sketches, too. 😉

So, one of the many learnings, from this time spent with Marc Taro Holmes, results from my surprise to see him envision to sketch all the panorama in front of us (the see, with dozens of boats, the landscape, with dozens of roofs, the sky… All in one shot!….) or some urban settings with no less than 2 churches, a porch, a statue and all the city around!! 😱😅
It was, at last, amazing to watch him sketching such difficult and detailed subjects of course.

Sometimes, I felt that a “too wide view” would make me using only little fiddling brushstrokes and I didn’t want that so I shortened a bit the scene to sketch. 😉 That was the case for the page below. If Marc shares his own sketch (I did! Here is a link), you’ll see that there was a statue on the right and that the urban setting keep going forever, on each side, obviously!! 😅 I admit that this part of the view was enough for me. 😉

  Praça da Republica, Lagos. Portugal.

However, with these already ambitious sketches, for me (good practice!), I am pretty sure I will be more at ease, now, to simplify wide views and to give a sense of depth and width to my paintings. 😀 
Sketching these wide views in your travel journal or your day to day sketchbook is great because it gives a great sense of the place, right away. Then, you can add some vignettes and details sketches (we will talk about them in another article) but, at least… you know where you are! 😜

 Lovely street in Portimão. Portugal.

To create these wide view sketches, I used various strategies. For some of them, I made a pencil drawing first, like Marc, to organize the page, set the composition, and be sure all the wanted elements could fit in the page. 😬 Sometimes, just a few landmarks with pencil helped me to do that.
And for some sketches, I jumped straight with the brush as I usually do, trying to keep in mind all the main elements, and adding them one by one. For this sketch, below, for example (the top one, with the church), I started by painting all the orange roofs – they seemed to be good landmarks for me – then I kept going with the other elements. 

  Church and castle, in Silves. Portugal.

At the end, I was able to sketch this urban scene,below, starting by the violinist girl (she left soon, indeed, so it was a good idea to draw her first) and growing the sketch as I was going, to build the environment nearby, even this ugly 😅 impressive bright green house covered with tiles. Praça Luis de Camões, Lagos. Portugal. The green house.

For a landscape, it’s more common to paint a large scene but I am not sure I was used to associate several elements in one big sketch, previously, like in this agave + seescape + rock painting. 

  Prainha, Alvor. Portugal.
I often use this kind of framing for wide angle photography and I am happy that this approach can inspire some of my sketches too, now! ☺️
I think some advices for your own sketchbook or travel journal could be :

  • Change your approach and your scale! Alternate wide views and details sketches but don’t forger the “setting shot”, if you have enough time to do it!
  • Try to find which proportions are needed to fit all the subjects you want in the page. The width of the page will probably be your limit. See if it can be a good idea to divide the page in two panoramic areas to get longer sketches. The other area can be used for another sketch (as I did for the castle sketch, above) or for text and lettering adds, or ephemera collage etc.

  A big house in Portimão. Portugal. Here, the sketch didn’t fill the page so I added my bus ticket and some pieces of map to complete the design.

  • If your paper or sketchbook doesn’t seem wide enough for your sketch, put two sheets of paper side by side (like Marc Taro Holmes often does), paste an extra sheet to your sketchbook or even keep going on the other side of the page (but that’s more difficult to do that with wet watercolor 😉 ) !
  • Don’t forget to define what is your main focus, with perhaps one or two other points of interest. And do not put these important subjects in the middle of the sketch. 😉 One important element on each side (but not too close of the edge) can be nice. Three subjects, with a sort of triangular setting can create a great design too.
  • Start by sketching a few landmarks or big shapes (with pencil, ink, or straight with the brush) that will help you to know where you are in the sketch (oh, I can hear Kimberley saying “I am totally lost in my sketch!!” 😂 ). However, I doesn’t matter if one house can’t fit between the church and the tree, in the background! You won’t even remember it when you will have finished your sketch!

Do you have some tips about tackling wide views to enhance our sketchbooks, too? Feel free to share it, my fellow workshop sketchers companions and my fellow 5 readers 😂 (Pernille?! 😜)!

I hope that my pages will inspire you and that you will find these few tips useful! 

    Rua Vasco da Gama, Alvor. Portugal.

In my upcoming articles, I will share other types of sketches (some very different : really rushed, quick fast and furious sketches!!). We could talk about lettering, too, if you want, or other fascinating topics like that… 😝 😉

Take care, and sketch!! 🎨

20 thoughts on “Travel journal : the big picture. Wide views sketches!

  1. HI Anne Laure,

    This is a wonderful blog post! Your pages looked awesome before but now that you have added the touches of collage and hand writing they are terrific! I so enjoyed traveling with you, your enthusiasm rubs off on everyone around you and makes the trip more fun of all. Keep in touch, Sandy

    • You are so adorable, Sandy, thank yooooou!…
      Our group was so nice and it was a blast to interact with each other, to share, to be together during these 12 days! I am really happy that I could bring something nice, useful and positive to the group. 🙂

      Thank you for your compliments about my finished journal pages! 😀
      Keep in touch,

  2. Thanks for a wonderful post and sharing your experience. Your blog is wonderful and your paintings are super.
    I have trouble viewing the videos in other posts but my mac is old and I don’t have an ipad yet. Next week I will so I’ll have another look. I will also try again to subscribe to your blog as it is so much better than the tiny pictures on instagram and so much more. But at least I can see when you have put up a new blog there.

    • Thank you Ros. 🙂

      There won’t be any problems anymore with the videos, as I have created, yesterday, a YouTube channel for the website. 😉
      This way, the video will have a preview, will work, and will be able to be longer than 45 seconds! 😀

      I like, too, to be able to share bigger pics, here. I chose this simple template because it allows me to show rather big pics. 😉
      Did you try to use Feedly for following the blog (and some other nice blogs ? 🙂 ) ?

      Good week end!

      • Ros, I just added an email subscription to the website.
        I hope you will like it! 🙂

  3. I also find it funny and interesting that you are writing on your sketches and making collages. How about making a video of how you chose what kind of letter types, and how you you chose where to put them? Love your new YouTube videos You are so an inspiration

    • Thanks Pernille! Yes, it would be very interesting!
      There are so many things I want to share here, that’s crazy!!! 😀 😉

      From now, I don’t speak in the videos 😉 so it could be a bit more difficult to explain things like that but maybe I will try! 🙂

  4. Pingback: Travel journal. Catch the evocative details! | Watercolor sketching

  5. Absolutely beautiful and more memorable than any photo! Love be the vibrant colors. You can feel the warmth and the breeze!

    • Thank you so much Susan!! 😀
      I tried to confer a lot of things through the sketches so I am glad you feel it!

  6. Pingback: Video of Marc Taro Holmes watercolor demo. [in Alvor, Portugal] | Watercolor sketching

  7. Thanks for sharing all the info. Your colors are so pleasing and leaves one happy. The colorful Lettering is a delightful addition along with the ephemera.

    • Thank you so much, Linda, for your kind comment!
      I am very happy you like the pages. ☺️ 😉

  8. Your sketches are so lively and colorful! I was signed up for the trip with Marc but had to cancel because I fractured my knee. I’m living vicariously through your sketches.

    • Hi Tony,

      Thank you for your comment and your kind words about my sketches! I am so sorry for you that you couldn’t attend the Portugal workshop… Is your knee getting better?

      I was the one on the waiting list so I guess I have to thank you for the spot, but I don’t want you to think that I am happy that you had this health issue, of course!!… Be sure, I tried to make the most of this opportunity. ☺️

      I really hope you will have other occasions to attend a workshop with Marc and/or to visit Portugal.

      Btw, wouldn’t you interested in going with us in India?! It will be such an amazing trip too!
      Obviously, I am not Marc but I will work hard to offer you a great watercolor workshop and to help you making huge progresses with your watercolor sketches, loosening up and painting quicker and in a more spontaneous style. ☺️

      Sorry, I am chatty!! Have a good day!

  9. Pingback: Urban Sketching with watercolors. Simplifying urban scenes. | Watercolor sketching

  10. Wow! I love your style. I like watercolors so much and I like your style the most. I mean this is how I would like to paint and I am saying this after i have been looking at hundreds of great water-colorists.
    I saw Marc Taro Holmes’ painting of the same location from the video blog, and his sketch is absolute fantastic, but for me your sketch is better.

    • Whoo, thank you so much Mohit, I am really touched by what you think and feel about my work! ☺️

      I just realized that you are the one who wrote a nice comment about the India workshop on Instagram too.
      That’s amazing, for me, that you said this is how you would like to paint… ☺️ I hope that you will be able to attend the workshop. I will be really happy to try to teach you how I paint for you to find your own loose style.

      Let’s keep in touch!

  11. My friend and I love your work and want to attend your September 2018 workshop. Please email me the details. Thanks

  12. Love your sketchbooks, they are incredibly nice, soft, bright, alive, facinating…. you and your art is amazing! Thank you Anne-Laure, áll your work is so insparing! And thank you for everything that you share with us, and teach!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *