A postcard captures an image, but sketching allows you to capture details, which is especially helpful if what inspires you are textiles and needlework. I made the sketch above on a trip to The Jewish Museum in London. It shows details from an embroidered Torah ark cover made in Turkey in the late 18th century. You can see the full ark cover on the postcard on the left. The sketched section shows a cluster of embroidered figs on a vine. What I was particularly interested in, and what I tried to capture in the sketch, was the direction of the embroidery stitches in the various parts of the design, especially as leaves and tendrils branch out the from the central vine (a click on the image will show you a larger, more detailed version). The postcard makes a nice memento, but making a sketch of the Torah ark helped me learn useful ideas about embroidery. And I still have my sketches as references today.
Sketching also forces you to slow down and appreciate the moments of your travels. Much like the contemplation we do while sewing increases our appreciation of the objects we create, the contemplation that comes with quiet sketching helps me appreciate whatever adventure I’m on, whether it’s a trip to another part of the world or another part of town.
You might even try taking time to sketch if you’re traveling with young kids. Most kids like to draw more than they like to travel, so bring notebooks and pencils for them, too. I first tried this with my daughters on a trip to Canterbury, England. The girls were probably about five or six years old. After a quiet fifteen minutes of sketching on a bench outside of Canterbury Cathedral, we shared our drawings. While I sketched some of the cathedral’s architectural details, one of the girls drew a picture of the parking garage where we left our car, and the other drew the gift shop at a tourist trap down the road. Okay. It took a moment to process my disappointment that the girls didn’t find the cathedral inspiring–and it occurs to me now as I write this that they might have been messing with me–but they clearly enjoyed their drawing break. I got a chance to appreciate the cathedral’s details, and we all got time to relax alone with our own thoughts in the middle of a long day of touring. And that was enough to rejuvenate us all for more adventures.