Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill

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

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
While creating my travel sketch journals, I discovered that a sketch keeps a memory alive and brings the magic of travel back to life.

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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
Sketching filled my days while I was an artist-in-residence at the Los Poblanos lavender farm in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
Two-day travels and sights from a bus are preserved on this page about my trip to Vietnam. The city of Hoi An was filled with wonderful shops, museums, and ancient sights.

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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
Keeping my daily art supplies to a minimum works best. Back in my hotel room I also keep a glue stick, extra ink, and small scissors.

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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
Amazing decorative counted embroidery on black fabric is done by the women of Sapa in Vietnam. They embellish tribal clothing and fabrics.

Artistic License
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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
A must-have part of travel sketch journals is a daily calendar. When I return home, it provides a quick glance memory of all the sights and events of the trip. This spread is from my trip to India.

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.

Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill
Cows were everywhere in India. Some were painted with handprint designs, sort of a brand mark to know to which family they belonged.

I’d love to hear about your travels or sketchbooks! You can email me at

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

Read Suzanne’s article “Drawn to India” in the July/August 2017 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine and learn how to make your own travel sketch journals.




One thought on “Travel Sketch Journals: Suzanne McNeill


This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.