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Sketching on holiday – capturing more than a photo

Ponte Luis I Porto

Pencil sketches by Selwyn Lemos

With the advent of the instamatic camera and more recently the now-ubiquitous mobile phone camera allowing everyone to readily document their experiences, it has become all too easy to simply take a snap of things you come across. This is especially relevant when encountering unusual and impressive sights while travelling.  

I used to draw and paint in my youth and did lots of sketching during my architectural training and practice. But all this had stopped in the recent decades, once I had left the profession. 

So I decided to revive this during my last overseas holiday to Northern Spain and Portugal in the summer of 2019. I got myself a handy-sized sketch book, a range of pencils in varying softness and diameter and practised before the trip.

The gallery below features the outputs from that particular trip, along with some local practice attempts and a few subsquent pieces taken from my sketch book.

Why bother sketching?

Sketching engages different parts of your brain. You develop an ability to focus and pay attention to detail, a skill useful throughtout your life and career. Apart from improving hand-eye coordination, it also forces you to pause and to take in what you are seeing at a more deliberate or purposeful pace, one that will reinforce your memory of the moment. 

My pencil sketches usually take about 30-45 minutes to complete, depending on the level of detail. They are usually done while sitting at a cafe or while waiting, e.g. at an airport departure lounge.

As it can be tricky to do while travelling, I sometimes ‘cheat’ if there isn’t enough time to do a live sketch. I may decide what I want to  draw and then take a photo as reference for the sketch to be done later, when more time and the situation permits.

From a copyright perspective, it’s less problematic if you’re drawing from your own personal photo. It also allows you to set the  ‘right’ angle and perspective of what you wish to capture later in drawing form.