Travel Sketching

Travel Sketching

Travel sketching for me is a great opportunity to motivate and improve as an artist, as well as creating a visual diary of the places I go.

Two years ago I was fortunate in being able to travel for eight months to South America, Africa and Asia with my wife Lyn.  We visited fourteen countries on this trip and I sketched and painted as much as possible along the way.  At one point in Africa I no longer had a camera to back up my sketches and it was at this point that I really started to sketch in earnest as I had no other way to record visually what I was seeing.
This was an important moment of understanding for me in that it made me realize that I should approach all of my sketching moving forward as if I don’t have a camera and this is the only opportunity I would ever get to record what I was seeing.  This idea is a gentle reminder to me to do my very best while sketching on location and not to think that I can complete the picture later in the comfort of my studio.

When I look at the sketches I did on location on this trip I am transported back in my mind to that experience.  For me these drawings and paintings are very personal, in the same way a written diary can be.

Today I would like to show you some sketches from India and Nepal.  These two countries are enough to keep me busy producing watercolour paintings for a long time.

Painting with limited colours.

Plein-Air Painting, watercolour painting


Yesterday I painted a cemetery scene in watercolour in North Vancouver.BC. I was painting this picture in response to an on-line challenge by James Gurney, who is a great plein aire artist, author and illustrator. He is hosting a challenge to paint a cemetery in a restricted palette.  See his blog and look for Graveyard Challenge, October in the index.

Painting with limited colours forces you to work a little harder to mix your colours and the result is a more harmonious painting.  If you normally have 15 or so colours available to paint with it is easy to end up with a painting that lacks harmony when you start adding colours all over the place.

It is also more difficult to get contrast and deep colours when you are only using three colours to mix. The colours I used for this painting were cobalt blue, cadmium red and aureolin yellow.  I found this a great exercise for painting and will practise this more often. I also appreciate painting something I would not normally consider.  On line painting challenges are a great way to get out of your comfort zone.  Thanks for that James!

Finding a good subject to paint.

Plein-Air Painting

Sometimes I find that the best way to find a good subject to paint in the woods is to walk off the trail a few hundred feet and just stop and sit down.  Trying to find the perfect scene seldom works for me.  There is always something interesting to paint if I take the time to slow down and really look at what is around me in the forest.

On a recent hike to Mt. Seymour near Deep Cove, BC. I was looking for a stream to paint that would be cascading down through the woods. Normally this would be easy enough to find as there are dozens of streams in this area, but it has been a dry summer and so I wasn’t finding  what I was looking for. Ok; time for plan “B”.

Plan “B” in this situation for me is to just walk off the trail, sit down and start painting.  It sounds ridiculous but it works.  Finding subject matter to paint can be really difficult if you over think it. The water colour study I did that day I also made into a studio version.  I do this just to explore my visual ideas with out time restraints and mosquitos.  The painting below is the field study.

IMG_4002 (2)

Painting at Goldie Lake, Mount Seymour

Plein-Air Painting

The weather has been great for getting out on location and so I have been hiking and painting in several locations on Mt. Seymour.  The trails can be a little rough and so it’s helpful to take your time.  On my last two day trips to Mt. Seymour I managed to get temporarily lost one day and the next trip I sprained my ankle on the way home.  The trails here definitely demand respect.

The trail to Goldie Lake from the upper parking lot is short and relatively easy and made for a great day.  The lake is a little low on water but still beautiful.   The watercolour painting that I started here I finished at home in my studio.Goldie Lake, Mnt. Seymour

Painting on location in North Vancouver, BC

Plein-Air Painting

Looking North from Dog MountainMystery Lake, Mnt. SeymourIMG_3928 (2)Lynn Creek StudyFor the last couple of months I have been painting on location on the north shore of Vancouver, BC.  I enjoy getting out of my studio and capturing first impressions of the streams, trees, and mountains.

Some of these plein aire sketches were used to create studio paintings but I find that for me, painting outdoors is a great way to learn and improvise. Time and weather force you to keep the paintings simple. Most of the time I work outdoors using the easel that’s in the photograph of Lynn Creek.

I have included a few more examples of recent plein aire paintings.Stream Study, Mnt. Fromme

Lynn Creek Photo.

The Paddle And The Paintbrush


The title of my blog “The Paddle And The Paintbrush” is a reference to the adventure
spirit that was instilled in me from a young age.  Along with painting in watercolour, I spent many summers working as a white water rafting guide in Western Canada. The picture above shows me guiding in Bow Canyon, on the Bow River in Alberta.

It’s been a few years since I hung up my paddle as it relates to river guiding but the spirit of adventure, exploring and travel lives on.  My watercolour paintings and sketches are often scenes of Canadian wilderness, however I also love to paint my travel experiences and adventures world wide.  What I hope to share with people is the beauty I see along the way with a special emphasis on Canada.

I grew up with a fascination and respect for a group of Canadian painters called the Group of Seven.  They painted  Canada in a style that show cased Canada as a rugged land of lakes, rivers, mountains and forest.  This is a big part of what Canada still is and I would like to be a part of that tradition of painting this great land.

The idea behind my blog is to share with you my journey of painting in watercolour.  When I couple this idea with my love of travel, hiking and fascinating places, I feel their is no end to this adventure.  I would like to think that there is value in sharing thoughts and experiences and so I welcome your comments.

Thanks for stopping by!

 Sketching at Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park,BC

Sketching at Lake McArthur, Yoho National Park,BC