Several weeks ago the Cloth Paper Scissors team had the great pleasure of meeting artist Suzanne McNeill, whose article “Drawn to India” appears in the July/August 2017 issue. The article features her fantastic art journal that she created before, during, and after a trip to India, and it’s a must-read. Her artwork is inspirational, and she includes great tips and techniques for making and filling your own travel sketch journals.
When Suzanne and her daughter came to visit our offices she brought more journals with her, and we were thrilled to look through each one. We knew they were too great not to share with you, so we asked Suzanne to reveal a little more about her travels, her journals, and her artistic process. Here’s Suzanne! ~ Jeannine
I love my home in Texas, but I get itchy feet and like to travel. I began traveling to foreign destinations 30 years ago when I helped chaperone my daughter’s spring break trip to Mexico with her Spanish class.
Voila! I was hooked! I found that I could travel on a budget; not only was it cheaper, but it also made the trip more memorable than staying at a fancy resort. Soon, my sisters and I started taking our mother on a budget trip each year to Mexico or Guatemala for a meaningful family-time-together journey.
An Experience Like No Other
What?! A volcano was erupting 30,000 feet below our airplane on the way to Peru. At midnight the pilot woke us to see a volcano erupting down below. Streams of hot red lava were running down the sides of an earth cone, right before my eyes.
My sister and I could see the lava clearly, but there was no way to take a photo from a tiny airplane window. I grabbed paper and a ballpoint pen and created a sketch. No matter how amateurish this page, it preserves a cherished memory. This was the event that inspired my first travel sketch journals.
When I Travel
I travel a lot, always carrying sketch supplies with me. I keep an extra sketchbook stashed in my car too, just in case. Whether I’m close to home or traveling abroad, I take a sketchbook, permanent black pens, watercolors, brushes, and a small fold-up stool. They all fit in one handy flatpack carrying case.
While traveling, I document as many views as possible: scenes from hotel rooms, train windows, street curbs, cafes, flowers, people, and village squares. I sketch anywhere I can be still for a few minutes. By sketching, I see more, connect more, feel more, and best of all, I remember more long after I’ve returned home.
I often take artistic license with what I see, jotting down the flavor of a place rather than every detail. Everything I document in my sketchbook is something I have experienced firsthand—places I have visited, sights I saw, food I tasted, people I met, and roads I traveled on.
Year by year, my journeys have taken me to 30-plus states and more than 30 countries around the world. Being able to travel is a blessing. Everywhere I go, visions of beautiful landscapes, nature, intriguing culture, and charming people inspire sketches in my travel sketch journals.
I’d love to hear about your travels or sketchbooks! You can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Suzanne McNeill loves anything hands-on. She often sketches while traveling. New people, ideas, and places feed her imagination and fuel her artistic drive. She is the author of more than 30 books. Suzanne has a bachelor’s degree in art from Southern Methodist University, and received the lifetime achievement award from the Craft & Hobby Association in 2012. Discover more about Suzanne at sparksstudioart.com.