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travel pictures drawing

10 Artists to Inspire Your Travel Illustration Journal

  • by @amy.mcgregor

travel pictures drawing

Find out how to bring a destination to life through travel illustration and the top artists to inspire your work

Travel. There’s nothing quite like it. The chance to experience new sights, sounds, and smells, to wander off the beaten track and make new discoveries, or simply kick back and relax for a week on a sun-drenched beach.

When we imagine the far-flung places we’d like to visit, reminisce about past adventures, or indeed, advertise a location to others, we turn to photos as the most powerful medium to capture the essence of a place.

But there is another, equally effective and arguably more creative way to bring a destination to life: travel illustration.

Alex Green ( @algreen_1 ) has been an illustrator for over 25 years and specializes in the art of travel illustration . He has worked in many areas including design, fashion, editorial, murals, websites, and live events, with a varied and enviable list of clients including Airbnb, the BBC, Emirates Airlines, Pfizer, The Guardian , The Financial Times , and Oxfam.

In his Domestika course, he demonstrates how to create travel illustrations that have a sense of place and atmosphere from photographic references of a location, and explains how to apply personal experiences to your illustrations to create pieces with your own vision and interpretation.

What is travel illustration?

Travel illustration is simply the art of drawing a place instead of photographing it. You can use a photo as a reference point, draw inspirational settings in real time as you travel, or recall them from memory.

The aim is not necessarily to copy the location exactly as you see it, but to give it your own interpretation and tell a story by focusing on conveying a particular emotion, theme, or atmosphere.

'Florence', travel illustration by Alex Green.

What are the benefits of travel illustration?

Aside from being a great way to practice your creative skills, illustrating a place allows for more freedom of expression and interpretation, giving you the opportunity to explore the limits of your imagination for a truly unique and personalized result.

It may require more time and patience to complete, but illustration also allows you to really connect with a place, bringing it to life through your drawings and recapturing those precious moments you spent there.

Illustrator Alex Green applies his personal experience to create beautiful travel illustration pieces.

10 Artists to Inspire Your Travel Illustration Pieces

Although using your own photos as a point of departure usually means you have a greater connection with your reference, there is no reason why you can’t choose other images of locations you would like to visit. They could be photographs taken by someone else, or something you have found on the internet, as long as they spark your imagination.

Of course, all artists look to other artists for inspiration and Alex is no different. In this Domestika blog, he shares with us the top 10 artists who inspire his work, providing an invaluable tool that can help you begin thinking about how to develop your style, techniques, and give you ideas for your illustrations.

Miroslav Sasek


The Czech artist is both illustrator and author of the This is series of children’s travel books, which bring to life key destinations around the world including New York, Rome, London, and Paris.

Abstract and representational elements contrast in his illustrations, making for a beautifully original take on seemingly-familiar places.

'This is Rome', by Miroslav Sasek.

Katsushika Hokusai


Katsushika Hokusai was a Japanese artist, printmaker, and painter who lived from 1760 to 1849. He is most recognized for his woodblock print series Thirty-Six Views of Mount Fuji , made in response to a domestic travel boom in Japan.

From this collection, one piece in particular stood out among the rest. The Great Wave Off Kanagawa is arguably the most iconic piece of work in Japanese art, and went on to inspire many 19th-century European painters.

'The Great Wave Off Kanagawa', by Katsushika Hokusai.

Evan Hecox is a multidisciplinary artist and designer based in Colorado, whose work often takes inspiration from travel.

He has a particular talent for capturing the mood and feeling of a place or moment in time, as well as giving new life and beauty to objects that are often overlooked or dismissed as mundane.

Illustration by Evan Cox.

Tom Haugomat


The Paris-based illustrator and director has had his work featured in Air France Magazine, Revue XXI, and Le Monde. His illustrations have a distinctly cinematic quality, perhaps as a result of his background making short films.

Perhaps the most interesting element of his work is that his characters have no facial features, although he is still able to convey depth and emotion through his use of color and negative space.

Illustration for Andersen Rivista, by Tom Haugomat.

Josh Cochran


This Grammy-nominated, Brooklyn-based illustrator has clients including Adidas, Apple, and The New Yorker , and he currently teaches at the School of Visual Arts in NYC.

He is known for his bold colors, humorous drawings, and urban murals.

Illustration for the book 'Drawing on Walls - A story of Keith Haring', by Josh Cochran.

Bruno Mangyoku


Bruno Mangyoku has worked as an illustrator and animation director who is greatly influenced by American graphic novelists such as Daniel Clowes and Charles Burns.

He uses a limited, yet highly contrasting color palette, focusing primarily on character design and silhouettes.

Illustration for Les Echos START, by Bruno Mangyoku.

Hokyoung Kim


The South-Korean artist and illustrator lists clients including The New Yorker , The Washington Post , Apple, and Disney.

She finds inspiration in the Japanese comics and animations she grew up watching, and her work focuses on transmitting a strong sense of mood and atmosphere.

Illustration for Texas Monthly, by Hokyoung Kim.



The freelance illustrator studied at the Fine Arts Academy in Vilnius, before working in advertisement, animation and graphic design, with clients including the Royal Mail, The Independent , Penguin Random House.

His retro style, with soft colors and lines, lend him his unique style.

'Future Selves', by STRAUTNIEKAS for New Yorker Mag.

Christoph Niemann


Christoph Niemann is an illustrator, graphic designer, and children’s book author most known for his Sunday Sketches , quirky and humorous illustrations that take everyday objects and turn them into something unexpected.

Illustration from the series 'Beach life through the years', by Christoph Niemann.

Jon McNaught

This London-based cartoonist, illustrator, and printmaker has clients including Penguin Books, Faber, The New York Times , and The Wall Street Journal .

His skill lies in taking the mundane and everyday and turning them into works of art, using simple shapes and a limited color palette.

Illustration for London Review of Books, by Jon McNaught.

If you enjoyed this references and want to know more about travel illustration, don't miss Alex Green's course Travel Illustration: Recreate your favorite place and learn digital illustration techniques with a splash of acrylic paint to create artwork inspired by a photograph of a place you love.

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- What Is an Illustrated Life Journal and How to Start One? - Create a Travel Sketchbook Without Leaving Your House, with Powerpaola - What Is an Inspiration Board and How to Create One for Your Bullet Journal - Exploratory Sketchbook: Find Your Drawing Style , a course Sarah van Dongen - Lifestyle and Travel Photography , a course by Julia Nimke

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  • How To Travel Sketch? Tips, Tricks, & Techniques For Beginners

Travel Sketching is not only relaxing and rewarding but also an awesome family activity during travels.

In this blog post learn about what to put in a travel sketch kit, awesome travel sketching techniques for beginners and tricks to encourage kids to begin their journey of travel sketching.

How to Create Your Own Travel Sketchbook

Pausing to see the delicate patterns of lichen on tree trunks in the Nilgiri mountains.

Becoming friends with a 5-year old Vietnamese boy in a village without a word exchanged between us!

Sitting inside a bamboo grove, silently.

Watching a tour guide’s face light up.

Getting authentic local food and travel tips.

Being zen while waiting in airports and stations.

Pausing to see the delicate patterns of lichen on tree trunks in the Nilgiri mountains.Becoming friends with a 5-year old Vietnamese boy in a village without a word exchanged between us!I’ve had all these experiences and many more through travel sketching.I have included step-by-step photos on how to get started with travel sketching #travelsketching #travelsketchingsimple #urbansketchers #travelsketchingindia #travelsketchingtutorial

I’ve had all these experiences and many more through travel sketching.

And, that’s why I love sharing it with others and getting them started on their own sketching journey. Here’s my take on how to get started with travel sketching.

I have included step-by-step photos from a sketching session I did in Sirsi, Karnataka.

things to do in Vietnam like getting a glimpse of sellers selling fruits and vegetables at Mekong Delta at Cai Rang Floating Market a sketch in watercolour

Travel sketching is an awesome family activity. It gets children to observe and remember a travel destination. And of course, you’ll have a unique souvenir for every travel

water Sketch of Imperial Citadel where a couple sits and watches sunset in Vietnam

Travel Sketching slows me down, brings everything into sharp focus, and I lose myself in the moment. Sketching has truly enriched my life. Seema Misra, Tweet

Explore these awesome washi tapes on Amazon

travel pictures drawing

If you love slow travel, try your hands at Travel Sketching, Painting, even Yoga. The following 3 posts will keep you creative in your Sojourn.

  • Are You Embarrassed By Your Painting Skills? Here’re Easy Painting ideas & Tips!
  • Are you bored? Looking for ideas to fill in your blank journal? Don’t’ get intimidated by blank papers staring back at you. I teamed up with the talented artist Malabika Saikia and here are 15 of our favorite notebook ideas! 15 Awesomely Creative Things To Do In Your Blank Notebook.
  • How about keeping fit while you travel? Here is a curated list of 10 Yoga asanas or postures that are as good for the beginners as for the advanced practitioners.

Travel Sketchbook ideas

People often say “I can’t even draw a straight line. Forget about sketching.”

I tell them, “ That’s great. You don’t need to draw straight lines.” There’s no such thing as a born artist. It is all about practice, practice, and more practice. 

Look for inspirations around. If you find your zen moment of producing a sketch on the spot, go ahead sketch it out. If not, look for small collectibles like dry leaves, ticket stubs to paste in your travel sketch book for inspiration to strike you later.

travel pictures drawing

In the above image, we had hiked up a hill and it was absolutely beautiful and surreal there. There were prayer flags strewn all around. I picked up a few and pasted them in my sketchbook.

Click on Images below to Buy on Amazon

travel pictures drawing

Putting together a travel sketch kit

A travel sketching kit must be a collection of the basic tools required for making a sketch. Also, I have found having limited supplies encourages me to be creative. Such as, mixing two different mediums.

Here’s what you will need:

  • Black pens with waterproof ink
  • Colour pencils
  • Pencil sharpener

Yes, I’ve deliberately left out the ruler and eraser😊

You could also keep a box of crayons, some watercolor pencils, and a glue stick. If you have smaller children, avoid carrying watercolors. For older children, a small watercolor pan and some water brushes are perfect. Keep it small, simple, and light.

map of Vietnam in water colour

A5 size sketchbooks with thicker paper are a good choice – they fit in everywhere and are not too small for landscapes.

Pro Tip: I like to keep all my art tools in a sling bag. This helps me access my art kit easily.

5 Awesome Tips for Travel Sketching for Beginners

Choosing a subject.

Start with a tiny step – don’t try to draw the entire forest or city around you. Choose a small window of a house, a dry leaf on the ground, or an interesting branch.

Long waits in airports can be used to draw the people, bags, food stalls or simply the announcement boards. You could even draw maps to show the places you visited.

travel pictures drawing

This is a small town in Sirsi, Karnataka . The blue roofs amid all the browns and reds interested me and I decided to sketch the road.

Outlining in pencil

Draw an outline of the object using a pencil. It does not have to be perfect – if something looks off, draw over it.

Forget if the drawing “appears correct” – the idea is to capture the object in your own style and have fun while doing it.

travel pictures drawing

Adding in the details using a black pen

Now that you have a basic frame done, add in the details using a pen. Encourage children to add some text to capture the place, date, the sounds around you, or any other details.

You could paste things around your sketch – a ticket stub, a leaf, restaurant bills, bits of pamphlets.

Ask a local to teach you how to write a few words in their dialect on your sketchbook.

travel pictures drawing

There were some changes from the pencil outline. However, I didn’t erase anything.

Click here to read 11 Commonly Asked Questions by Painting Beginners and also get 5 DIY easy painting ideas for Beginners Step by Step.

Adding the final touches with colours

Use a mix of different colours to add life to the sketch. If you are in a hurry, colour in the most prominent bit – the red bricks, a green tree, or that yellow dress. This will save some time while capturing the essence of the place.

travel pictures drawing

You’ll notice I’ve added some blue in the sky which is not there in the photograph. As an artist, you can take liberties while making a travel sketch 😊

travel pictures drawing

Doing art at home or at school is different than working in a public area.

When I sketch during my travels, people often stop to see what I am drawing and want to talk about it. I remember, when I started travel sketching, I’d worry that my drawing is not good. I felt people passing by were judging me.

Eventually, I stopped worring about all those things. I’d simply draw. And that is when I enjoyed outdoor sketching the most!

So, I’d say be kind to yourself.

Don’t judge what you draw.

Just go with the flow.

travel pictures drawing

Drawing on different types of paper, like newspapers, can be a lot of fun.

Often the joy is in making the art and not worrying how it turns out! There is no perfect bird … just the one you have drawn. Seema Misra, Tweet

travel pictures drawing

Travel Sketching – Capturing the Feel of a Place

Marco Bucci shows the Process and gives awesome ideas for sketching places from life. See the video for the art of composition, color, focal point, feel, etc.

Travel sketching for children

Encourage children to draw from their observation. Drawing from observation simply means drawing what you see. And, it is the essence of travel sketching.

Breaking the object into smaller shapes

For example, you are looking at a majestic British building and your daughter is stumped where to start drawing it. Ask, “What does the building look like? Do you see a rectangle with a triangle on top? Do the windows remind you of a shape?

travel pictures drawing

Have fun with colors and collage. The above sketch always takes me back to the greenery of a tea estate.

travel pictures drawing

Focus on the process not the outcome

Even if a child fails to colour inside the lines or draws a circle which is more of an oval, it is absolutely fine. Encourage the children to experiment with colours and shapes – give them the tools to draw but don’t tell them what to draw.

water colour depicting a woman inside an underground tunnel well camouflaged

Making sketching fun during travel

Engage with your little story teller and ask her to describe the picture to you. Who knows she might have an interesting tale behind the picture and the colours used. 

Last but not least, don’t forget to complement the little Picasos. It would be great if you could mention specifics, like “Wow, I love the way you have drawn that leaf.”

travel pictures drawing

Do you find the thought of “Travel Sketch Journal” inspiring? Don’t wait for the next vacation to start travel sketching! Visit a park or museum this weekend, carry some sandwiches and try out your art kit! 

Video on Travel Sketching Tips from Travel Sketchbook

In this video,  Liz Steel  shares lots of travel sketching strategies and tips while going through her sketchbook from her recent trip to New Zealand.


Travel Sketching is not only relaxing and rewarding but also an awesome family activity during travels.In this blog post learn about what to put in a travel sketch kit, awesome travel sketching techniques for beginners and tricks to encourage kids to begin their journey of travel sketching.I have included step-by-step photos on how to get started with travel sketching #travelsketching #travelsketchingsimple #urbansketchers #travelsketchingindia #travelsketchingtutorial

Sharing is Caring! If you have liked reading the post please feel free to subscribe to email and share it with your friends and follow us on Facebook and Instagram.

6 thoughts on “How To Travel Sketch? Tips, Tricks, & Techniques For Beginners”

This one’s a lovely tutorial. My daughter is creative unlike me…haha…and she loves to sketch, paint and play with colors. I’d make her read this. Thank you so much for sharing.

Happy Sketching and happy traveling 🙂

I love this overview of your travel sketching. It’s another creative way to document your travels. You’re so talented! Thanks for the inspiration to start sketching (or at least improve upon my scribbles first).

Wow you are really talented. Travel sketching sounds awesome, but not many have the skills to create such beautiful pieces!

Thanks Sinjanag, this is a blog post and the sketches have been done by Seema Misra 🙂

This is such a lovely idea! I’ve never considered myself good enough to sketch a scene but you’ve broken it down really nicely, thank you 🙂

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Keeping a Travel Sketchbook: Ideas for Artists

Keeping a travel sketchbook is a great way to document your travels and discoveries. Track the places you went, the people you met, the experiences you had. Travelling is one of the most creatively inspiring things you can do, with constant new visual and sensory input.

It can also be a creative outlet for exploring new ideas and techniques. Here are some tips for getting started with your own travel sketchbook.

Disclaimer: Fine Art Tutorials is a reader supported site. When you make purchases through links on this site, we may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Travel sketchbook tips

Here are some tips on how to approach keeping a travel sketchbook and some tips on how to draw and paint when you’re out and about!

Choose the right sketchbook

Stillman & Birn Archival Sketchbooks Gamma Series - 8-1/2

Look for a sketchbook that is small enough to carry with you everywhere, but large enough to hold all your sketches. Hardcover notebooks are ideal for travel sketching because they offer more protection from the elements. Stillman & Birn sketchbooks are lightweight, yet high quality.

Stock up on supplies

Before you hit the road, make sure you have all the drawing supplies you need to document your trip. Pencils, pens, watercolours, and travel-sized journals are all essential for travel sketching. If you prefer painting to drawing, bring all the necessary supplies to clean up afterwards.

Try using different mediums

Is graphite pencil your usual go-to medium? Try using charcoal! You can get some fantastic charcoal supplies , like powder charcoal that you can brush on the page.

Another great medium to travel with is gouache paint . Gouache is a type of watercolour, but is more opaque, so you can build layers of colours and highlights. It’s a versatile medium that is lightweight and easy to clean—perfect for travelling.

Read more about how to travel with different paint mediums in our travel art supplies guide .

Get inspired

travel pictures drawing

When you’re on the road, be on the lookout for interesting places, and things to sketch. Take photos to reference later, or jot down notes about what caught your eye.

Don’t be afraid to experiment

Travel sketching is the perfect opportunity to experiment with new mediums and styles . Don’t be afraid to try something new, you might be surprised at the results.

Take a reference photo

travel sketchbook reference photo

You don’t have to complete a whole painting or drawing on location. Take a photo when the light is right and complete it later. That way, you can capture the essence of the scene with a sketch and spend time on it when you have time.

Vary your subject matter

travel sketchbook

If you’re used to painting landscapes, why not try painting or drawing a cityscape, or a building in the landscape. You could also diversify the subjects of your artworks by drawing a busy scene, including some of the people you see passing by, to give the artwork a sense of liveliness.

Note the date and location of your sketch

A travel sketchbook is like a book of memories. In it, you can document your interpretation of a scene, including the weather, people, atmosphere and main details you noticed. Even if you come back to paint or draw the same place again, no two drawings will look the same! Therefore it’s important to note the date and specific location of your sketch. Afterall the whole point of keeping a travel sketchbook is keeping a log of where you been and what you’ve seen in each location.

Let go of perfectionism

A sketchbook is a place to record your first response to a scene, to experiment and even to improve upon your plein air painting skills.

Let go of creating a perfectly polished sketchbook and instead focus on representing your sensory responses. The sketchbook page should trigger memories of the location, which you can even choose to make a larger canvas painting out of at a later date.

Store your sketchbook

If you use water based paints in your travel sketches, consider putting your sketchbook in a waterproof bag to protect it. So if you take it backpacking and it gets wet, your drawings and paintings will be preserved.

Travel sketchbook ideas

You might naturally feel inspired to sketch whatever you feel most drawn to on your travels. However, sometimes it’s difficult to know what to focus on! Here are some ideas for your sketchbook, so you can mix it up, make a theme and record as much as possible.

Draw the flora and fauna

draw flowers travel sketchbook

If you spend a lot of time hiking or out in nature when you’re on your travels, you’ll know that one of the best things about it is spotting new animals and plants. Dedicate pages in your sketchbook to documenting your sightings, whether that’s birds, flowers or larger animals!

Draw the architecture of a new city

draw a cityscape travel sketchbook

New city, new buildings! Whenever you travel to a new place, one of the first things you’ll probably want to do is explore the streets and take in the architecture. Whether you sit and draw La Sagrada Familia in Barcelona, or some random buildings you found off of a main street, architecture is an art form in itself. It’s detailed, complex and tells a story of a city’s history.

Documenting this in your travel sketchbook will give you a fantastic visual record of your trip. You could even write some facts about the buildings you go to see. This can enrich your experience of a city, as you find out more about how it was built.

Paint a crowded scene

One of the hardest things to do when painting or drawing is to show movement. This can be even harder when you’re trying to do it on location! But by taking a few minutes to sketch a busy scene, you can practice depicting moving subjects.

This might sound daunting, but it doesn’t have to be. Focus on one thing at a time, such as the way a person is walking, or the way their clothes are billowing in the wind. By breaking it down into smaller chunks, you can create a sense of movement without getting overwhelmed.

Capturing the people and energy of a bustling city is just as interesting as drawing in nature!

As well as painting or drawing people, try to include some of the background too. This could be buildings, trees or even just the sky. All of these things add to the story of your travel sketchbook and make it more interesting to look back on.

Create a cover for each location

For each new place you visit, you could create a cover page, almost like a new chapter in a book. Add some lettering to the page to show where you are. You could even leave a page blank before your other sketches of the city, then come back to it once you have more inspiration of how to sum up the area you stayed.

Create a sensory piece

What can art do that photos can’t? Drawings and paintings can capture the atmosphere of a scene better, and therefore better elicit memories of your sensory responses at the time.

You could even include some of the local produce to colour your drawings. For example, you could crush up a flower petal into a paste to make pigment and paint it on the paper. Or do the same with the local coffee. If you create art with items you find where you travelled, it can strengthen the connection you have to the place.

Draw or paint a self portrait in each location

self portrait sketchbook

This travel sketchbook idea is less about the scene around you, and more about your reaction to it. What did this place make you feel? How has travel changed you?

A self portrait can be a way of representing these emotions. They don’t have to be literal portraits, they could be more abstract or even just a series of colours and shapes that you associate with your travel experience.

Whatever you choose to do, have fun and let your creativity flow!

Visit the national parks

National Parks Travel sketchbook

If you’re touring the US, you could stop off in some of the national parks. Each park has its own distinct topography, flora and fauna. Capture the essence of this in your sketchbook.

Every country has their own national parks and areas of natural beauty. If you visit them, make sure to pack your sketchbook.

Paint a night scene

Cities can look totally different at night, it’s when most cities come alive!

Cafe Terrace at Night

Whether you’re painting your own rendition of Starry Night, or Cafe Terrace at Night, or painting something entirely different. Capture the glow of the street lamps over a cobbled, wine bar lined street in Italy, or the moon over the ocean in Hawaii.

Find the perfect viewpoint

paint a night scene

This might take some trekking! Find a viewpoint that overlooks the city or area you’re staying it. Take some time to make your sketch, capturing the horizon. Equally, you could go and find the best viewpoint of a famous monument in the city. Find more sketchbook ideas in our guide.

Travel sketchbook kit

Now that you’ve got some ideas and know how to approach your travel sketchbook adventure, you need to make sure you have the right supplies!

The sketchbook you choose will depend upon your size requirements as well as the medium you use. If you like to work with water based media, such as watercolour or gouache, make sure to choose a sketchbook with thick pages.

The Stillman & Birn Gamma Archival sketchbook is a high quality book, with 150gsm thick pages that have a smooth vellum finish. Use this book with mixed media, such as pencil, ink, gouache or watercolour. The pages are stitched together, so you can make double page spreads. Stillman & Birn books come in a variety of paper types and sizes, so you can choose the best one for your needs.

If you want more sketchbook recommendations, check out our guide on the best sketchbooks for artists .

Drawing media

A couple of graphite pencils in different softness levels, an eraser and a sharpener is all you really need to start drawing. However, if you want to add colour to your piece, consider taking a set of gouache paints . You don’t need too many supplies for gouache painting , just a brush, a water cup and the paints.

Another way to add a splash of colour to your travel sketches is with coloured pencils . Watercolour pencils are a great option, as they remain dry until activated with water. So they’re easier to transport and less messy to paint with. You could also take oil pencils or pastel pencils to create coloured drawings.

Da Vinci Casaneo Synthetic Squirrel Watercolor Brush - Travel Round, Size 8, Short Handle

If you do decide to take some paints with you, you’ll need some brushes too. Get a watercolour travel brush like this da Vinci Casaneo, which is a synthetic yet soft and absorbent brush that can render excellent details and create wonderful washes.

If you want to see our full review of travel art supplies , check the guide!

Painting en plein air

Painting on location, or en plein air as it’s also called is a big part of keeping a travel sketchbook. It’s the best way to capture a sense of place and the feeling of being there.

When you’re painting outdoors, you need to be quick because the light changes constantly. So it’s good to have a plan before you start painting. First, decide what composition you want to paint. Look for interesting shapes, colours and textures. Then, decide what colours you want to use. Once you have your plan, start painting!

If you want to learn more about painting en plein air, check out our guide here.

Have fun with it!

Your travel sketchbook should be a reflection of your own personal style. So have fun with it! Use bright colors, experiment with different mediums, or even add in photographs.

We hope you enjoyed this travel sketchbook guide and that it’s inspired you to get out there and start sketching!

What are you going to include in your travel sketchbook? Let us know in the comments.

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Home » How To Guides » Drawing » Travel sketching: Anne Desmet answers your questions

Travel sketching: Anne Desmet answers your questions

By Artists & Illustrators | Wed 2nd Sep 2020

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Printmaker and avid sketcher Anne Desmet RA shares her travel sketching tips


Wondering how to sketch while you travel? Illustrator of Anne Desmet: A Greek Journey is here to help you make the most out of your travel sketchbook.

Why is it important to sketch when travelling?

Travel sketching, for me, serves many purposes. It provides a visual diary of a significant journey; I often find that, when I look back at my travel drawings, even years later, I can remember the mood of the moment – the sun, the breeze, some of the sounds or smells – quite clearly.

Because each drawing takes anything from 20 minutes to three hours to create, I get very absorbed in what I’m doing and that seems to fix itself more effectively in my memory in ways that simply photographing a scene does not.

Also, as an artist whose prints are highly dependent on my drawing abilities, I find it is really important to keep those skills fluent and that involves making the time to do sketchbook drawings just simply to keep up my drawing skills.

Why should I work in pen and wash?

It enables me to pin down the essential contrasts of light and dark in whatever I’m drawing. My most successful drawings tend to be those involving a lot of contrasted bright sunlight and deep shade. Those contrasts provide the excitement and life in the composition and suggest the three-dimensionality of the landscapes or buildings depicted. Those qualities are of great importance to me in my work as a wood engraver.

What should I have in my travel sketch kit?

My essential sketching kit comprises a bunch of sharpened HB pencils (preferably Staedtler) though I’ve also recently starting using a Pentel P205 0.5 mm HB propelling pencil, which is becoming indispensable too. I also use black fine line drawing pens: Uni Pin Fine Line with water-and fade-proof pigment ink, 0.1 and 0.2 nib size; and a Pilot G-TEC-C4 with a 0.4 nib size.

I also always carry a dilute solution of black Quink fountain-pen ink, about one-part black ink to at least six parts water – sometimes more dilute even than that. That provides my grey wash which can be applied in swift layers which dry fairly instantly – the darkest layers becoming a rather lovely blue-grey and the palest having a hint of yellow about them.

I also have four or five Pro Arte Prolene flat brushes for applying these washes, sizes 1/8” to 1/2”, a few Caran d’Ache watercolour pencils and a tin of Rembrandt watercolours.


How do I pick a subject to draw when travelling?

It’s difficult to analyse what draws me to a particular subject. It’s a combination of things. Strong contrasts of light and dark are important, as is a sense of drama – whether architectural or landscape. Sometimes it may be something as simple as a zigzag of sunlight on a flight of stone steps or the angle of light hitting the side of a building. Other times it may be a sense of sweeping panorama, so a drawing might start on one page and be able to sweep downwards or across to cover two pages with one long narrow drawing. Or I might just be struck by the beauty or the shape of a particular building and the way in which the sun sparkles on it.

There are also practical factors such as whether the view is something I feel I can do justice to in whatever time I have. That decision will factor in the sun as well because it’s much more comfortable to draw from a shady spot rather than in full sunlight when you’re liable to get too hot or even sunburnt.

What information do I need to get down first in a travel sketch?

It’s important to decide what you are most interested in about the view and ensure that particular bit gets included in the drawing. It’s very easy to start drawing one part of a view and then realise the bit you liked the best doesn’t now fit within the picture space because you haven’t correctly gauged the scale of your composition relative to the space on the page. So, ideally, it’s a good idea to decide, first, where to place the area of the composition that most interests you.

Another really important thing is to decide whether it’s a linear description that you’re trying to attain or a sense of light and dark. If the latter, then it’s important to try to get the essential elements of the composition laid down speedily so that you can get to work fairly rapidly on applying the wash, which defines the light and dark contrasts. You can always add more pen and pencil detail to the drawing later but, once the sun moves, the light will be in a different place.

How important is accurate colour mixing in travel sketchbooks?

I have never considered colour work to be my forte. When I was a student and made the earliest Greek drawings, they were made with Winsor & Newton coloured inks and watercolours . I think they were more impressionistic and quite playful with colour, but not necessarily especially accurate colour-wise.

However, with the latest Greek drawings, I found myself getting quite obsessive about trying to mix accurate colours that felt true to what I was actually seeing. I found that really difficult and challenging, though also really satisfying on pages where I felt I succeeded.


How do I choose what details to include or leave out?

I work fairly intuitively so I’m not sure quite how I choose what details to include or to leave out. My eyesight is less good now than it was 30 years ago and often I choose to sketch without wearing my prescription glasses because, although that means I can’t see some details, I get a stronger impression of the light and shade and the strength of a composition, overall – especially if I’m drawing trees, for example. Sometimes, having the benefit of perfect eyesight can be a handicap as it’s easy to get bogged down in tiny details and lose sight of the overall structure of what you’re drawing.

How much time should I spend on a travel sketch?

I don’t set myself time limits on sketches unless there are specific issues such as the sun will have moved in an hour or I have a ferry to catch. However long you spend, it is very important to stop when your concentration is flagging, because you tend to start improvising on a drawing rather than really looking at the subject matter – and the drawing always suffers if you do that.

What are the benefits of sketching rather than photographing a scene?

I do make photographs as additional reference material to my drawings, but I almost invariably find that the camera distorts or compresses a view so that the features that attract your eye – and which you try to convey in a drawing – are much less apparent in the photographs.

Light, too, is captured very differently by a camera lens than by the human eye and hand. Both photographs and drawings have their very useful places, but I don’t find either one a satisfactory substitute for the other. Over the years, some of my wood engravings have been created from photographs rather than from drawings but, overall, I would say that the use of light I employ in my engravings and the way in which they are composed is informed more by my drawings.


Should I note exact locations in a travel sketchbook?

My sketchbook drawings form an important visual diary and personal celebration of some of the places I’ve visited so it’s important to me that they are dated and the locations noted down. In one or two of my sketchbooks, over the last 30-odd years, I haven’t systematically added that information and, looking back on them now, that’s incredibly frustrating.

How has your travel drawing technique and focus changed over time?

My technique and focus changed considerably when I was a Rome Scholar at the British School at Rome for a year in 1989-’90. It was there that I became interested in the play of light on architecture rather than so much in landscape or portraiture, which had previously engaged me. It was then, too, that I began to sketch, primarily, in pencil and grey wash.

What should I record if I want to turn my travel sketch into a larger artwork?

I don’t generally sketch with a view to turning any particular subject or drawing into a specific print or collage. I work fairly intuitively, responding to what attracts my eye at the time, which I will sketch and photograph. Back in my studio, I will look at the drawings and photographs to choose what to work up into a new work. But sometimes I may select something from a decades-old sketchbook and sometimes something freshly drawn. I have no hard and fast rules about this. The drawings are very much ends in themselves, and may or may not be used for other purposes.


What practical advice do you have for creating a travel sketchbook?

I’ve found it helpful to carry very tiny sketchbooks – A6 or smaller – because they’re very portable and, if you work quickly, you’ll fill the pages very fast, which can be satisfying, and if, like me, you’re a slow worker, the page size is small enough to not feel intimidating.

It’s important only to sketch things that interest you and not to feel you have to draw this, that or the other because of some sense of what sketches ‘ought to’ be of. For instance, I know a wonderful artist, Peter S Smith, who makes gorgeous sketches of his shadow on train platforms, pavements, at bus stops and so on, yet it may well be that some of these were drawn within sight of famous monuments – St Paul’s Cathedral, for instance. A student might feel this “ought to be” the chosen subject matter if one is within sight of it, but in fact you need to draw what most interests you because the amount of interest you’ve got in a subject is always clearly represented in the drawing you make of it.

It’s also helpful to try to make at least one drawing per day on your travels (weather permitting, if outdoors) as you get better at it and it gets more fun the more of it you do.

  • 5 top tips for sketching your travels
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35+ Travel Sketching Ideas to Overcome Your Creative Blocks

travel pictures drawing

Photo caption: Your travel sketching adventures can take you from Athens, Georgia to the streets of New York City. Photo by Ketut Subiyanto from Pexels.

Student sketchbooks may count as one of the most underrated tools that art students have at their disposal for overcoming creative blocks .

Within their pages, students attending any of the art schools in Georgia can try out their must-have drawing supplies for travel sketching and for developing ideas for school art and design projects.

However, students who aren’t used to keeping a sketchbook are sometimes heard lamenting: “I don’t know what to draw!”

At Milan Art Institute, we actually offer students a solution for overcoming creative blocks. As school founder and co-owner, Elli Milan, says: Always have something to paint (or draw).

More specifically, Elli recommends that art students at the Milan Art Institute have at least 20 sources ready to paint or draw at all times. 

Artists who take this advice never wonder what to paint or draw. They always have 20 pieces on the ready.

The MAI one-year professional certificate program, the Mastery Program , teaches students how to create all the painting and drawing sources they’ll need to work as professional artists.

That doesn’t mean, however, that art students who aren’t yet in the Mastery Program are out of luck. 

These aspiring art students can parlay their love of travel sketching into a sketchbook filled with an abundance of drawing and painting prompts. These prompts can inspire visions of amazing works of art that have the power to change them and to change the world.

Drawing Prompts for Your Travel Sketching

The good news is, you don’t even have to travel out of town to fill up your student sketchbooks. Places like Oconee Forest Park delight the senses in the fall. And they’re close by. 

These Athens, Georgia beauty spots are also filled with drawing prompts from the natural world. It’s the perfect place to practice some plein air painting and drawing.

Just a note to the students in our online art classes or who don’t attend a Georgia art school: These drawing prompts should help you fill your student sketchbooks, too, even if you don’t live in Athens. It just requires a bit of ingenuity and tenacity. 

There’s more on that later...

You can also do this exercise in more than one place. For example, start in a national forest or park and then continue the exercise in town or even at the local pumpkin patch. 

We do recommend that you draw anything that catches your eye while you’re out on your travel sketching adventure. The idea behind filling your sketchbooks with images from the natural world is to get you into the habit of really seeing the world around you. 

It’s also important for you to notice the images that tug at your heart strings. These represent the things you care about and are one of the key components to developing your artistic voice. 

If you do this, you’ll overcome your creative blocks and even have an overflow of ideas that you can turn into future art projects. 

However, to help you out in case you’re really stuck, we provide you with a list of prompts for your travel sketching. 

Traveling Sketching: Let’s Go on an Art Scavenger Hunt 

Let’s call this activity an art scavenger hunt to make it even more fun. Basically, we’ve created a list of items you’re likely to find in the fall of the year. 

The more of these items you find, the closer you are to fulfilling the requirements of the art scavenger hunt. 

When you find them, spend a few minutes drawing these items in your student sketchbook. If you want to create a special travel sketchbook or journal to capture the memories of your autumn scavenger hunt in Athens, Georgia, that’s great, too!

Ideally, this exercise will give you so many fall drawing prompt ideas that you eventually fill more than one travel sketch journal. If you do, you’ll never run out of ideas for your class or professional art projects again. 

Autumn Art Scavenger Hunt: Sketchbook Drawing Ideas List

Here’s a list of some suggested fall travel journal prompts for this exercise.

A List of Must-Have Art Supplies for Your Travel Sketching Adventure 

Anyone who attends an art school in Georgia - well, anywhere, really - should have the opportunity to try out a variety of art supplies. Every medium handles differently and produces a different effect. 

Anothing element that makes an artist’s voice unique is the art materials that a particular artist uses. The more you know about your supplies, the better chance you have at developing your voice.

We bring all of this up, because we’d like to recommend a must-have art supplies list for you to take on your adventures in travel sketching. Travel sketching gives you an opportunity to try new supplies in a fun, adventurous kind of way. 

We tapped one of our amazing art coaches and mentors, Esther Franchuk , to get a list of art supplies. Esther’s list includes sketchbook recommendations, as well as drawing materials suggestions. 

  • Hand-book journal co. - WATERCOLOR SQUARE 8.25x8.25
  • Talens Art Creation Sketchbook - Pocket size
  • Paul Rubens Artist Watercolor Paints - Glitter Solid Colors
  • Watercolor White Nights paint set, St.Petersburg, Russia
  • Royal Talens C902 - ArtCreation Gouache set
  • Refillable watercolor brush pens

If you can’t find brands above, just keep in mind that you might generally like to bring along:

  • Pencils, erasers and other dry drawing media
  • Watercolor pencils
  • Colored pencils
  • Watercolor paint brushes
  • Sketchbooks made with watercolor paper
  • Anything that’s easy to use in all kinds of weather
  • Portable chair

One final note about your must-have travel sketching supplies: You may want to experiment with these materials in your student sketchbooks before you go out. 

It’s likely that you’ll gravitate toward some supplies more than others. Knowing what those are allows you to eliminate some of your art materials from your art travel pack. 

This keeps things light. It also reduces the number of supplies you’ll have to carry around with you when you’re out sketching on location. 

If you’re still not certain about what should go into your travel sketchbook or journal, this video that Elli and Dimitra Milan did about drawing and painting on location may help you. 

travel pictures drawing

Photo caption: A trip to the museum fills your travel sketchbook and gives you a foundation in art history. Image by OpenClipart-Vectors from Pixabay.

Art Scavenger Hunt Ideas If You Get Rained Out…

Sometimes, our best efforts get rained or snowed out. That’s okay. The fall art scavenger hunt is adaptable. Some urban sketchers take their travel sketchbooks to coffee shops and sketch the streets outside the windows. 

Really, you can set up your portable art studio in any building that has big windows. You may have to move around a lot if you want to try to get everything on the list into your books. 

(Remember, we also encourage you to find your own sources from the drawing prompts that nature provides for you, so it’s okay to abandon the list above. As long as you’re putting ideas into your sketchbooks, you’re golden.)

Finally, there is a creative alternative that you’ll probably like. 

Art museums are known for their scavenger hunts in some cities. Museum scavenger hunts encourage people to look closely at art, because museum participants are given a list, like the one above. 

As art scavenger hunt players wander through the art museum, they are encouraged to find items on the list in the paintings. 

You as art students can take this one step further by drawing the work of art (or portions of it) you found your scavenger hunt item in. They don’t have to even be full-blown drawings. Small sketches are fine to get you started. 

This activity does a couple of things. First, it allows you to put powerful and inspiring images in your student sketchbooks that can inspire works of art down the road. 

Second, it allows you to get some art history lessons in. Exceptional artists understand their place in art history. The artists that were and are most notable in history are culture warriors and influencers. 

Looking at and sketching these works allows you to peer into their creative processes and adopt a new way of seeing. By immersing yourself in their virtuosity, you subconsciously develop your sense of taste and ultimately improve your art.  

Third, seeing great art elevates your taste levels, which in turn, motivates you to continue to create art that has the potential to change the world.

Many museums allow art students to come in and sketch. However, it’s always best to find out ahead of time if you can come in and sketch. Always be sure to ask permission to bring your art supplies into the museum with you before you set out on your travel sketching trip.

Urban Sketching: Another Variation of Travel Sketching

The general gist of this blog post has concentrated on filling your student sketchbooks with images from the natural world. That said, you are not limited to staying on the hiking trails as you go on your art scavenger hunt. 

Urban sketching, that is drawing on location, often in the city, has increased in popularity of late. 

Here’s what the urban sketchers’ website had to say about the characteristics of urban sketching:

  • It’s done on location and its purpose is to draw from direct observation.
  • Urban sketchers can draw inside or out.
  • Through drawing, urban sketching strives to tell the story of the places people live, where they travel and even about their surroundings closer to home.
  • Each urban sketch captures a moment in time and is a truthful visual account of the scenes that the sketcher witnesses.
  • Artists interested in urban sketching can use any kind of media: Individual drawing styles are celebrated!
  • They share their work online, with the purpose of showing the world, “one drawing at a time.”
  • Urban sketchers draw together and support one another in these efforts. 
  • While you can sketch alone, taking up urban sketching is a great way to sketch on location with other people. If you’re interested in finding a local chapter of urban sketchers, check out the urban sketchers’ chapter finder . Or check out their website to find out if there are any urban sketching workshops near you.

Final Words on Travel Sketching for Art Students

As an art school in Georgia that embraces traditional, as well as modern art techniques, we believe it’s important that art students learn to draw from life. 

One easy way to develop this habit is to fill their student sketchbooks with images from cities, forests and even their own backyard. This practice sharpens art students’ technical skills. 

But more than that, student or travel sketchbooks filled with visual prompts from the forest, the streets of Paris or even the local coffee shop can become stunning works of art down the road. 

These images are powerful ways to help you get motivated and to push your drawing skills to the next level. 

For More Drawing Tips, Check out the Articles and Courses Below:

If you want to learn to draw quickly, check out the Drawing Essentials class or the Beginner Art Program .

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Travel Sketching: Tips for Keeping an Art Journal

travel pictures drawing

From 2015 to 2018, Ivan Chow made trips to and around Istanbul, Turkey, sketching many scenes along the way. In this excerpt from his upcoming book, “ Travel Sketching: Drawing Insights from Istanbul ,” he shares one of his favorite formats for drawing on location.


Travel sketching, an ancestor of sorts to Instagram, has changed the way I observe the world. I have discovered that the act and art of converting visual observation into graphic representation has far surpassed the benefits afforded by digital photography. What I have learned and enjoyed from the practice of travel sketching has enriched my travel experiences as well as deepened my appreciation of different cultures and peoples.

travel pictures drawing

A Fresh Approach to Travel Sketching

One of the most invigorating formats for travel sketching is one I have recently become more intentional about, and which has been received with a great deal of enthusiasm, especially when posted on social media in audio-visual form. On platforms such as Facebook or Instagram, posts of travel photos depicting scenes or people accompanied by captions attempting to describe said experiences are fairly typical. Posting travel sketches, however, is still unique and arguably more interesting. Adding written captions or commentary makes this approach of sharing travel experiences even richer and more memorable.

Enter the travel art journal. While not necessarily a new genre or form of expression, it has become for me a fresh approach to sharing experiences in an otherwise digitally saturated world. A travel art journal has the potential to transform travel sketching into a unique mode of expression, combining drawing with handwriting and composition to create a new “voice.” My forays into developing art journal sequences have been thoroughly rewarding, as I can combine my drawing skills with an interest in writing to communicate much more than either discipline can on its own. That’s probably why comic books and graphic novels have such appeal and why skillful cartooning can be so influential.

A travel art journal can be formatted in as many ways as there are personalities. My favorite format is an A5 size journal (about 5.5” x 8.5”), either in landscape or portrait mode, with sufficiently thick paper to stand up to waterproof ink lines and light washes. (80 lb. minimum, 140 lb. preferred) As with sketchbooks, an elastic closure strap and inside back cover pocket can be helpful. In addition to the usual array of tools I might have on hand for travel sketching, I would add a few choice writing instruments, such as a chisel-nib calligraphy pen or fountain pen.

travel pictures drawing

As the name implies, a journal is a regular log of activities and events that occur roughly in chronological order. A travel journal might memorialize the daily travel schedule, places visited, people met, cuisine enjoyed, and souvenirs acquired. A travel art journal adds the element of artwork in the form of sketches, doodles, graphic illustrations, even glued-on collages using torn excerpts from brochures, tickets, receipts, and labels. I have found this last exercise quite a satisfying way of closing out a busy day of touring.

Travel-art journal entries are unique compositional challenges. In its simplest form, each page might contain a few sketch vignettes describing the activities of the day. Arranging the sketches on the page may require some foresight, consideration of the size, scope, and subject of each vignette and how they might tell the story of the day. Each entry becomes a graphic design exercise involving the layout of sketches, diagrams, titles, and text.

travel pictures drawing

The addition of handwritten text to a composition of sketches is both an enriching enhancement and a potentially stressful endeavor. It is enriching because it adds information, flavor, and specificity to a sketch. Potentially stressful because, unlike the editability afforded by computer software programs, each phrase or caption needs to be somewhat thought through and composed before being physically written within the space available.

I love to write by hand and am constantly experimenting with different writing instruments with different tips, nibs, and inks. It’s almost an obsession with me, and I am easily disappointed when my writing falters. Having said that, I highly enjoy narrow, flat-nosed calligraphy pens for travel art journaling, especially used in a generally cursive lettering style. However, most fountain pen type writing instruments with reservoirs have no tolerance for waterproof ink, which tends to clog the fins and feed tubes. This often leaves me with little choice but to use the waterproof ink felt-tipped pens I used to sketch with for lettering as well. A real calligraphic treat is to use Speedball dip nibs with bottled India ink, although both have proven not to travel well.

travel pictures drawing

This summertime sketch of the renowned Taksim Square (above) was completed in one sitting but from multiple positions. I had begun sketching seated on the pavement in front of the Taksim Mosque facing the square. Within 10 minutes, the local constabulary approached, ordering me to move. I continued the sketch while standing about 50 feet to one side, which required walking to and from my original position for reference, and back to the “safe zone” to continue sketching, clutching my watercolor kit and sketchbook in one hand, pages flapping in the breeze; brush in the other hand, pinky finger trying to hold down the page.

I ended up crossing the street into the square proper and finishing the 45-minute sketch seated on a low rail around the Republic Monument. Even under these conditions, I was pleased by how the sketch reflected the windy conditions, the movement of people and the “life” of this symbolic gathering place.

travel pictures drawing

This interior sketch (above) was made while standing within the cavernous expanse of a 1,500 year-old Byzantine monument to Ottoman architecture and culture. The contrast from the warmth and bustle of the exterior to the hushed coolness of the inside almost mandated reverence.

This is where my Winsor & Newton professional watercolor travel kit came in handy, albeit restrictive. Being able to clutch both watercolor kit and sketchbook in one hand is a cultivated skill and immensely useful for situations like this. It was important to limit the scope of the sketches knowing that I would likely not be able to stand in place for much longer than 20 minutes at a time.

travel pictures drawing

Do you keep a travel sketchbook or art journal? Tell us about it in the comments below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Ivan Chow is an architect, author and award-winning artist. He was born in England, grew up in Southeast Asia, and has worked in the United States and around the world as an architect, educator and artist for almost four decades. He has practiced in design firms of various sizes; managed a private real estate company; worked in academia as a department chair and dean; and served as artist-in-residence at Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater. He has degrees in architecture from Harvard and Berkeley and a degree in theological studies from Gordon Conwell.

Facebook: @ivanchowsketches Instagram @qkkdraw

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Your lines are lovely! I carry a 6×8 WC book and fine line pens as well as a travel WC set. A film can (remember those?) half filled with water is all I need to complete hasty or slow drawings and paintings wherever I go. In a ziplock, it fits under a car seat or in an airplane carryon. The water is small enough to pass security. Thanks for posting your images. I consider my pages suitable to be Urbansketches.

Hello Kath, please excuse my 5-month tardiness in replying, but I very much appreciate your comment. I still have a couple of film cans around! Have you tried posting on Instagram? (I am @qkkdraw) I learn so much from following other artists around the world.

I love travel sketching! I use the same size book you do, and I’ve found Lamy Safari sketching fountain pens to work wonderfully with waterproof ink. I have a small (Altoids tin) travel palette, and often use a water brush to add a little paint to a small ink sketch.

Leslie, I’m only now realizing there were comments to this September 2020 article! Sorry about the delay in response. The Altoids tine palette is such a good idea. Although I have a handful of water brushes, I tend to get annoyed and how the colors get muddles when I forget to rinse properly.

I have 2 types of travel journals. The first is done strictly with sepia Micron Pigma pens in a Moleskine journal. I do line drawings on the spot, or later in my hotel room from photos on my phone. I annotate the day with text. These pages allow me to look back and remember details of my trip. The second book is done strictly with watercolor. I use a Moleskine or HandBook watercolor journal. These paintings are always done plein air and without text. I love keeping travel journals and they have become treasured keepsakes.

Hi Marian, thanks for your comment; my response is unforgivably tardy, but hopefully still relevant. Interesting idea to keep two travel journals concurrent; I never thought of doing that. Makes sense though – almost like mood-based entries. I’ll try that on my next trip, assuming Covid gets dampened(!)

I started travel journal sketching on a 3 week trip through England. London, to western most area near Penzance and with to the Lizard. Then up to Bath, followed by a week in the Lake District. Now, I take it whenever we travel — though there’s been damn little of that lately!

KL, sorry about this delayed response. I really miss traveling; we used to make any excuse to visit our family all around the US and internationally but now stuck looking at the world through a laptop… I spent some time in the Lake District decades ago, before I took up travel sketching, and aim to go back some day armed with my weapons of art!

I have notebooks that I kept while serving in Germany where I sketched various church steeples as I took various bus tours. Every two weeks tours after joining reserves, I sketched and took photos

Hi Dixie. Thanks for sharing and please excuse my tardy response. Have you posted your steeple sketches on FB or IG! I learn so much from following what other urban sketchers are doing.

Ivan thanks for sharing the details. I have several different sketch books but need to start using one and go through it day by day . I usually try to sit down so I can put my watercolor pallet on the ground and bring a spritz bottle to keep them wet.

Hi Bruce, thanks for your response; there are no excuses for my super tardy one. The thing about these plein air experiences is that every one seems to be accompanied by lasting memories: the sounds, smells, hapticity of the moment. And the need to come up with inventive ways of setting the right ambience for each little sketch can be such an annoying yet rewarding travel experience.

Hi Ivan, great sketches and tips. I’ve kept illustrated travelogues and journals for a few decades now. Smaller sizes work best for me. It keeps the sketching from being too detailed, they are quick and leave just enough space for minor remarks. They are also discrete cause I don’t like to make a show. Check out my IG-feed @ivanseymus or visit my portfolio on . Good luck and take care! Ivan (yes, that’s my name too!)

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Artist Spotlight: Kami Mendlik

Featured artwork: fran mangino, featured artwork: jessie rasche.

Explore Your Worlds

An old way to see new: How travel sketching can improve your trips

See the world anew through travel sketching.


When I used to see people out travel sketching or examples from history, I had two responses:

1) That is so cool! and 2) I could never do that.

I was half right.

Travel sketch

Travel sketching is meaningful because you capture a very personal view of what you saw. More importantly, you actually perceive the world around you in a whole new way.

To my second response, let me paraphrase Chef Auguste Gusteau in the film Ratatouille :

Anyone can draw.

You did it as a kid. You can do it again. But you have to try and you have to practice. The good news is that with travel sketching, you get to practice in some pretty remarkable places.

Travel sketch

You just have to take that first step

Awhile back, I completed a trip to China where I practiced travel sketching each day in a travel journal. What got me over the “I can’t draw” hurdle was seeing my son do it and reading Danny Gregory’s, The Illustrated Journey where he profiles various artists and their travel journals. Major inspiration. Plus, when I first picked up one of Gregory’s books, I thought, “Wait a second. His drawings aren’t perfect. And he doesn’t care.” Nope. And neither should you.

Your goal with travel sketching isn’t to render perfect replications of what you see. Your camera can do that. Your goal is to have more fun and experience your trip  in a new way. Here’s how travel sketching can help.

The benefits of travel sketching

Travel sketch

  • You see things better . Much better. You appreciate the details and understand how various elements relate. You discover small visual treasures you’d otherwise miss if you weren’t travel sketching.

Travel illustration

  • You slow down. Travel sketching forces you to stop. And look. And look again. You not only perceive your subject in a new way, you get to know the place better because you experience it over a longer period of time.

travel pictures drawing

  • You meet people easier . They approach you. Everyone loves to see what you’re drawing. No one cares if it doesn’t look exactly like the scene before you. At least you’re trying. They’re not. You both know it. And that can lead to wonderful conversations.

Travel sketch

  • You get to choose what you draw . I am a rank beginner when it comes to drawing or travel sketching. But it doesn’t matter. I journeyed through China with my son who is a graphic designer and artist. He’d be tackling some complex building or—gasp—a person, and I’d settle for drawing the trash can. It didn’t matter. I liked that trash can. And I knew it wouldn’t be as hard as what Leonardo there was sketching. We both walked away satisfied.


  • You improve other creative areas. I’m a better photographer because of sketching since now I’m more intentional about what I shoot. Plus, I can draw during the bright mid-day hours when the light isn’t as great for photos. I think I write better too because I notice more details.

Sketch of Ruins

  • You experience a place on a deeper level . I now see things I never would have before,  plus I look for things I never would have previously. Every place is now a visual scavenger hunt. I see a completely new dimension of a place as a result. It’s like the artist’s trick of drawing negative space: to draw the chair, for example, draw the empty spaces between the legs and back slats and you’ll actually draw the chair as a result. You begin to see the “negative spaces” of life that before were invisible. And in that is an entire world of wonder.

Palm Tree

  • You learn there is no wrong way. Stop the self-judging. There are no bad drawings. Everything is a chance to practice and learn. Sure, the kangaroo I drew from a photo in the in-flight magazine looks psychopathic. And yes, that large round flower pot I drew in the Suzhou garden looks like a fallen cake. But so what? As an art professor once told my son, “You’ve got 2,000 bad drawings in you that you need to get out.” 1998 to go…

Travel sketch

Not yet convinced?

Here are some other tips, resources for inspiration, drawing ideas and suggestions for how to get started with your own travel sketching.

Christmas tree watercolor

To get started, just start playing with different media. Here I didn’t even sketch the outline first in pencil. I just started painting. Is it great? No. Was it fun? Yes. And that’s what matters.

  • Find a style you like . Maybe one out of ten books I’ve read on drawing work for me. And I can tell by looking at a few pages. Most are too complex or photo-realistic. Others are too fussy. Still others are too messy. You’ve got to be like Goldilocks and find learning resources — books, online courses, websites or even classes — that work for you. Otherwise, I guarantee you want stick with it or likely, even get started.

Watercolor tree

I saw a pin of this image on Pinterest and re-created it. It would be blatant copying except that I am only using it to practice.

Watercolor castles

More recreations, this time from a Matthew Rice book using pencil with watercolor. It’s good to simply enjoy making the sketch and not worry if it is perfect. But it’s also helpful to learn from each one. For example, with the top castle, I really like the building on the right but the one on the left got a little wonky.

German church in pencil and ink

I’ve recently started using ink instead of watercolor since I still can’t make watercolor sketches quite the way I want. Ink reduces the learning to only dealing with shades, not colors

Pen and ink sketch of Wurzburg, Germany

Here’s a very different style using pen and ink instead of pencil and ink. I think I like pencil better, but I still have a lot of practice ahead of me before I figure out my preferred style. So why not try both?

  • Find resources that fit your needs . Just like finding a style you like, finding the right learning resources is a matter of evaluating a lot and choosing a very few. Start online with courses or tutorials. Or go to the library and look through all the options there. But you’ll know you’ve found the right one when it inspires you to want to try. If it doesn’t, keep looking. Here are some that have worked for me:

German town in ink

This is typical of the majority of my travel sketches where I make it quickly in ink alone, not worrying about so-called mistakes. As one artist put it, they aren’t mistakes. They are evidence of your personal style!

Small people watercolor

Sketches don’t have to be big to be enjoyable. I re-created these little people from a book on watercolors but now, I can make similar ones from real people because I understand the technique.

  • Art Before Breakfast – While focused on being more creative, the emphasis here is on getting started doing daily drawing by providing drawing ideas and other creative activities you try so you form the habit sketching or doing something creative every day.
  • The Creative License which teaches you how to be more creative in anything.

Fall leaves watercolor

One thing I learned from Danny Gregory is that you’re never without subjects. A trip around the block will reveal all kinds of things to sketch.

  • Keys to Drawing — It’s over two decades old but still one of the best for providing drawing ideas, getting started and progressing.
  • Drawing with the Imagination —This is great if you want to learn to draw on your own without a subject before you. I’d start with Keys to Drawing first and then progress to this book. But check this one out just for the inspiration.

Betty Edwards in pencil

Anything can be a source of a practice drawing, even a photo of Betty Edwards on the back of her book. This is one of the few times I took more time to draw something more detailed in pencil.

  • Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain
  • Explorers’ Sketchbooks 
  • The Sea Journal: Seafarers’ Sketchbooks  

Baby Yoda and Copenhagen

If you’re making your travel sketchbook just for you, you can fill in blank (or smudged) areas even after a trip with, I don’t know, maybe Baby Yoda? As long as you date each entry, it doesn’t really matter the order of them.

You can see other examples and resources in my article on travel journals .

Stacked rocks

Sometimes you sketch things over and over just to understand what you’re doing. After that, your practice is both more fun and productive.

And in case you’re wondering about the sketches shown above, the older ones up to the “Not yet convinced?” section come either from the Smithsonian’s recent release of over 2.8 million images to the public domain or the New York Public Library’s digital collection which is also in the public domain. Both are great resources for old images. The newer ones are all mine just to show that anyone can do this.

Need more inspiration?

Here are some wonderful examples I’ve come across of different styles and approaches for your inspiration.

Why sketch a city you see when you can just make up your own ?

You can draw whatever you love. Especially food.

This will expand your perspective on using the medium of pastel.

Here’s a good overview of some specific sketchbook tips.

Finally, here’s a wealth of various travel sketchbook examples on a few different Pinterest boards. With Pinterest, it helps to search by boards because then you can get a sense of people who have similar taste to you. Or you can just search on pins and see a wider variety. These are four boards I enjoy (click on the image to go to the board), but your taste may differ, so go hunt down some boards that inspire you:

Pinterest screen shot

Wow! Fascinating read, and actually quite encouraging to those of us who are artistically-challenged to give it a whirl!

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Thanks, Rick. I’m glad it is encouraging. I was going to say I expect to see some masterpieces from you. But that would defeat the point of this post. So how about this: I expect to see some great efforts soon.


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Photo Appears to Capture Path of Bullet Used in Assassination Attempt

Michael Harrigan, a retired F.B.I. special agent, said the image captured by Doug Mills, a New York Times photographer, seems to show a bullet streaking past former President Donald J. Trump.

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Donald Trump, in a red hat and a blue suit, speaks at a lectern. A red oval is drawn around what appears to be a bullet’s path.

By John Ismay

Reporting from Washington

  • Published July 14, 2024 Updated July 15, 2024

Follow the latest news on the Trump assassination attempt .

In documenting the Pennsylvania campaign rally on Saturday afternoon that turned into an attempt on a former president’s life, Doug Mills, a veteran New York Times photographer, appeared to capture the image of a bullet streaking past former President Donald J. Trump’s head.

That is the assessment of Michael Harrigan, a retired F.B.I. special agent who spent 22 years in the bureau.

“It absolutely could be showing the displacement of air due to a projectile,” Mr. Harrigan said in an interview on Saturday night after reviewing the high-resolution images that Mr. Mills filed from the rally. “The angle seems a bit low to have passed through his ear, but not impossible if the gunman fired multiple rounds.”

Simple ballistic math showed that capturing a bullet as Mr. Mills likely did in a photo was possible, Mr. Harrigan said.

Mr. Mills was using a Sony digital camera capable of capturing images at up to 30 frames per second. He took these photos with a shutter speed of 1/8,000th of a second — extremely fast by industry standards.

The other factor is the speed of the bullet from the firearm. On Saturday law enforcement authorities recovered an AR-15-type semiautomatic rifle at the scene from a deceased white man they believe was the gunman.

“If the gunman was firing an AR-15-style rifle, the .223-caliber or 5.56-millimeter bullets they use travel at roughly 3,200 feet per second when they leave the weapon’s muzzle,’’ Mr. Harrigan said. “And with a 1/8,000th of a second shutter speed, this would allow the bullet to travel approximately four-tenths of a foot while the shutter is open.”

“Most cameras used to capture images of bullets in flight are using extremely high speed specialty cameras not normally utilized for regular photography, so catching a bullet on a side trajectory as seen in that photo would be a one in a million shot and nearly impossible to catch even if one knew the bullet was coming,” he said.

In Mr. Harrigan’s last assignment, he led the bureau’s firearms training unit and currently works as a consultant in the firearms industry.

“Given the circumstances, if that’s not showing the bullet’s path through the air, I don’t know what else it would be,” he said.

John Ismay is a reporter covering the Pentagon for The Times. He served as an explosive ordnance disposal officer in the U.S. Navy. More about John Ismay

Our Coverage of the Trump Rally Shooting

The Investigation : F.B.I. officials said the 20-year-old gunman who tried to assassinate former President Donald Trump appears to have acted alone , but investigators remain unsure of his motives.

Secret Service Under Scrutiny : President Biden called for an “independent review” of security measures  before and after the shooting, while directing the Secret Service to review all of its security measures for the Republican National Convention.

Tearing America Further Apart : The assassination attempt comes at a time when the United States is already polarized along ideological and cultural lines  and is split, it often seems, into two realities.

Our Photographer’s Account : Doug Mills, a veteran photographer for The New York Times, was only feet away from Trump when the shooting started. He described what happened .

The Force of the Photos : In video footage of the shooting, everything was pandemonium. It was still images that made Trump an incarnation of defiance, our critic writes .

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Ossipee Valley Fair, Moxie Festival and more happening this weekend

The Maine International Film Festival starts Friday in Waterville.

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Now that we’re all comfortably settled into the rhythm of summer, let’s do a classic summer thing and go to a fair!

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Jeremy Schoff of York leads his oxen, Pete and Red, during the ox pull on Thursday at the Ossippe Valley Fair in 2021. Ben McCanna/Staff Photographer

The Ossipee Valley Fair starts today and runs through Sunday. We especially love the Farmer Olympics because the hay bale toss and blind wheelbarrow obstacle course competition is fierce. Ray Routhier has details about Ossipee Valley and several others fairs happening this summer in Bangor, Waterville and Acton, among other locales.

Go a little farther afield and find a Maine summer fair for you

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Aretha Aoki & Ryan MacDonald (right, in bear suit) performing IzumonookunI (stet capital letter at the end). Aretha Aoki & Ryan MacDonald will be bringing this dance program to the Bates Dance Festival July 12 and 14, 2024 at the Schaeffer Theatre on the Bates College campus in Lewiston, Maine. Photo by Colin Kelly

Another summer tradition is the Bates Dates Festival in Lewiston . Performances are underway, and arts writer Megan Gray has the scoop on “IzumonookunI” by Aretha Aoki and Ryan MacDonald. See it tonight and Saturday.

Topsham couple’s Bates Dance Festival performance is inspired by kabuki, punk rock and their 7-year-old

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Big Yellow Taxi. Photo by Julian Parker Burns

I’m headed to One Longfellow Square on Friday night to see the Massachusetts-based Joni Mitchell tribute band Big Yellow Taxi. They’ll be playing Mitchell’s 1974 album “Court and Spark,” along with other tunes.

Tribute to Joni Mitchell celebrates 50 years of ‘Court and Spark’

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“3 Vendors of Ipanema” is directed by Lewiston native Jonathan S. Lee. Courtesy of JSL Films

We weren’t kidding when we said there’s a lot going on right now. The 27th annual Maine International Film Festival starts on Friday and runs through July 21 in Waterville. Our film writer, Dennis Perkins, offers up his picks for 12 screenings worth your while.

12 hidden gems of this year’s Maine International Film Festival

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Spectators watching a previous year’s Moxie Festival Parade in Lisbon Falls. Carl D. Walsh/Staff Photographer

Our weekly events roundup includes the East Bayside block party in Portland and the Moxie Festival in Lisbon Falls. Should you make it to the festival on Saturday, don’t miss “American Idol” alum Julia Gagnon singing at 1:30 p.m.

Kennebunks garden tour, Moxie Festival, East Bayside block party

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One with Everything from Gunnar’s Icelandic Hot Dogs. Photo by Ray Routhier

Need a break from standard-issue hot dogs? We love them too, but sometimes a new twist is just what your taste buds need. Ray Routhier stopped by Gunnar’s Icelandic Hot Dogs cart . If you like what you read, you can find it parked from 4-9 p.m. Thursday at Apres in Portland, then on the roof of Bayside Bowl on Friday and Saturday evenings.

Sick of red snappers? Try an Icelandic hot dog instead

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Why your next wellness trip might lead you into a cave

Underground retreats from Oregon to Thailand now draw travelers with yoga classes, meditation workshops, and sound baths.

Woman alone in a cenote, Mexico

Caves have been central to the human experience, whether as early forms of shelter or as sacred religious sites. But eventually humans crawled out, stood up, looked around, and realized the outside world held more creature comforts. Lately, wellness caves have travelers heading back underground seeking darkness, quiet, solitude, and perhaps even spiritual enlightenment.  

These subterranean escapes can be rustic or luxuriously stylish. Some, like the Sky Cave Retreats in Oregon or the Dark Retreat Earth Domes in Thailand , are man-made, carved into the ground, or constructed by piling earth upon stone. Others were formed naturally, like the famous Dungeshwari Cave near   Bodh Gaya   in India’s Bihar state, where a young Buddha allegedly took shelter. While caves were once seen as a last resort, now they’re often used for recreational purposes, like yoga classes, sound baths, or meditation. What ties these spaces together is a sense of retreating, reflection, and resetting.  

Caves as sacred and social sites

Religious and social groups have long gathered in caves . In Central America, Maya people went to caves to leave offerings for gods, consume mind-altering substances, and, sometimes, make human sacrifices. Tibetan Buddhist “dark retreats,” which last from three to 49 days, involve advanced practitioners sitting in caves, meditating on their mortality. Christians in ancient Greece and Rome likely used their vast maze of catacombs for private worship and to escape prosecution.

(Inside the Irish “hell caves” where Halloween was born.)

Travelers probably won’t commit to spending weeks underground. But those hiking Dochula Pass in Bhutan can take a side trail to tiny, open-faced meditation caves and spend a few quiet minutes reflecting on the green forests and rugged mountains. A 20-minute drive from Tulsa, Oklahoma , the Forest of Peace retreat invites visitors into its “Cave of the Mothers,” a storm shelter converted into a meditation space.

“There is a curiosity about sensory deprivation practices that can alert us to something greater in ourselves,” says Tim McHenry, chief programming officer at New York City’s Rubin Museum of Art , a Himalayan culture center that has hosted dark meditation in one of its cavelike spaces. “It is so rare that we experience being in the utter dark.”

A blue, cave like room that opens at the top with a ladder.

Caves to cure what ails you

Spending time in the dark might be good for your health, too. “In the 1960s, scientists began looking into REST [Restricted Environmental Stimulation Therapy],” says Scott Berman, the founder of Oregon’s Sky Cave Retreats. “They started to find that it was really beneficial for soothing the nervous system and for relaxation.”

Research finds that spending time in pitch black can be particularly helpful for specific mental health issues or vision problems . Since its popularization in the 1960s (largely credited to German anthropologist Holger Kalweit), darkness therapy has been successfully used to treat symptoms of bipolar disorder,   chronic fatigue syndrome, and migraines. More recent studies have seen positive effects for people with amblyopia (aka “lazy eye”).

That’s led to dozens of dark retreat centers opening across Europe. Now the therapy is catching on in North America, thanks in part to the high-profile endorsements of NFL player Aaron Rodgers and actress Rosario Dawson. For professional athletes and creatives, darkness retreats can provide a much-needed escape from the hum and chatter of public life. “Sitting on that couch all day or scrolling on your phone, that is death,” said Dawson after completing her four days at Sky Cave. “This retreat made me recognize that I need to have such a deeper loving relationship with my body.”

“The underground teaches us to respect mystery,” argues author Will Hunt in his 2019 book, Underground : A Human   History of the Worlds Beneath Our Feet .   According to Hunt, his excursions into subway tunnels, catacombs, and caverns led to the realization that “not everything should be revealed, not all the time.”

(This Slovenian cave is a real “house of dragons.”)

How to take a cave retreat

At Sky Cave Retreats, visitors stay overnight (or for weeks) in 300-square-foot underground suites built into the hillside from concrete blocks and metal rebar, furnished with beds, floor pillows, rugs, and wood-burning stoves. These “caves” are warm, lightproof, and soundproof. “That’s something many people don’t expect, that there will be no noise,” says Berman. “It gives people a visceral experience of timelessness. You enter into an unchanging reality.” Staff are on hand to deliver meals (which are consumed in darkness) and each suite is equipped with a private bathroom, a flushing toilet, and a bathtub for quiet, hot soaks.  

Samaya Meditation Center in Indonesia offers a similar set-up, encouraging practitioners to book three full days in their simple yet cozy dark room. Plant-based meals are provided, and while the rooms aren’t quite soundproof, each guest is given earplugs upon arrival.

Of course, one need not commit several days in order to feel some inner shift. It’s possible to visit an Himalayan salt cave for an hour or rent a room carved into the side of the Tres Cuevas Mountain via Summit at Big Bend , in Texas . A group session of cave yoga at Olentangy Caverns in Ohio provides an active way to enjoy the underground, and many parks offer private, guided cave tours. Whether for an hour or a month, visitors will now find a variety of ways to dabble in darkness.

(The land of the Sleeping Beauty Cave is waking up to tourism. )

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Watch CBS News

Trump rally shooter killed by Secret Service sniper, officials say

By Faris Tanyos

Updated on: July 14, 2024 / 10:14 AM EDT / CBS News

A suspected gunman who opened fire during a Trump rally Saturday in Butler, Pennsylvania, was fatally shot by a Secret Service sniper, authorities said. 

One rally attendee was killed and two more were critically wounded, the Secret Service said in a statement Saturday night.  

The suspect was shot and killed by a member of a Secret Service counter-assault team, two law enforcement sources told CBS News. 

Former President Donald Trump as gunshots are fired at his campaign rally in Butler, Pa., on Saturday, July 13, 2024.  (Doug Mills/The New York Times)

Multiple law enforcement sources said the gunman was outside of the cordoned-off rally area, about 400 feet from the stage, and was on top of a shed, the two sources said. The shooter was armed with a semiautomatic AR-style rifle, the sources said. The Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives is tracing the weapon.

Several shots rang out while Trump was speaking on stage at about 6:15 p.m. local time. Video showed the former president immediately touch his ear and then crouch to the ground, with his Secret Service agents rushing the stage. Some blood could be seen on his face as he stood up and held up his fist to the crowd. He was rushed out to his motorcade and the Secret Service later confirmed that he was safe.   

In a post to his Truth Social platform, Trump said he was "shot with a bullet that pierced the upper part of my right ear."

"I knew immediately that something was wrong in that I heard a whizzing sound, shots, and immediately felt the bullet ripping through the skin," he continued.

Authorities are investigating the shooting as an attempted assassination. The FBI said in a statement that it is leading the investigation, with assistance from the Secret Service and state and local agencies. 

In a statement early Sunday morning, the FBI identified the shooter as 20-year-old Thomas Matthew Crooks of Bethel Park, Pennsylvania, which is located just outside Pittsburgh.   

In a news conference late Saturday night, Kevin Rojek, special agent in charge of the FBI Pittsburgh office, refused to speculate on a possible motive. He disclosed that "there was identification of suspicious packages around where the shooter was, and so we deployed, in an abundance of caution, bomb assets, to make sure those were cleared for investigators."


The FBI is leading the investigation, with assistance from the Secret Service and state and local agencies. 

Rally attendee Ben Macer told CBS Pittsburgh that  he saw the suspect "move from roof to roof" and told an officer that the gunman "was on the roof."

Election 2024 Trump

"When I turned around to go back to where I was, it was when the gunshots started, and then it was just chaos, and we all came running away, and that was that," Macer said. 

Rep. Mike Kelley of Pennsylvania, who was standing backstage watching Trump speak, told CBS News, "I believe a lady who was next to me was hit, other people were hit."  

Dr. Jim Sweetland, an emergency room physician who was at the rally and witnessed the shooting, told CBS News by phone that he administered first aid to a man who had sustained a gunshot wound to the head.

"He was shot in the head, his body was twisted around and wedged between two benches that were in the stands," Sweetland said. "He was not breathing, he did not have a pulse. He appeared gravely ill."

With the help of three people, Sweetland said he was able to get the victim onto a bench and then began administering CPR and chest compressions.

"There was a lot of blood that was spilt on the stands where he lay, as well as brain matter," Sweetland said.

Two Pennsylvania State Police troopers then approached, gathered up the victim and took him, presumably to an ambulance, Sweetland said. 

Republican Senate candidate David McCormick, who was in the front row of the rally, also saw one person shot.

APTOPIX Election 2024 Trump

"It was really hard to tell, there was a lot of blood, so it wasn't clear where the bullet had struck him, and how severe the wound was," McCormick told CBS News. "He looked to be unconscious, but even that's not entirely clear to me."

The shooting comes just two days before the start of the Republican National Convention in Milwaukee. 

Trump's motorcade departed Butler Memorial Hospital a little before 9:30 p.m. local time, two sources confirmed to CBS News. Video posted by a Trump aide to social media early Sunday morning showed him deboarding after his plane landed at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey. Prior to the shooting incident, he had been scheduled to travel to his estate in Bedminster, New Jersey, before departing for Milwaukee for the convention.

  • Donald Trump

Faris Tanyos is a news editor for, where he writes and edits stories and tracks breaking news. He previously worked as a digital news producer at several local news stations up and down the West Coast.

More from CBS News

Maps show location of Trump and gunman at Pennsylvania rally shooting

Trump says "I'm supposed to be dead" after assassination attempt at rally

A look at past attacks on U.S. presidents and candidates

Biden makes statement after Trump rally shooting: "It's sick"


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