Let there be color! I wanted a creative sketchbook & diary for my trip to Thailand, so here we go with more sketches!
This isn't my first travel sketchbook post - go here for the very beginning of my Thailand travel & landscape sketches which I started in Inktober 2017.
While Inktober usually focuses on, well, ink drawings, I fell down the rabbit hole of watercolor. It began with quick shadings and colorful accents on finished ink drawings. Then, I got REALLY unhappy with some of my color work and tossed the ink lines completely, to instead focus on just color mixing and values. There goes my Inktober.
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But let's start at the beginning of this little watercolor adventure.
Thailand Travel Sketchbook: First Inspiration
You might remember the left sketch from my previous sketch diary post. I loved the blue color scheme, which is why I spontaneously added the same shades to the sketch on the right. And it inspired me to keep going all through Inktober!
The square format of my sketchbook was a pleasant surprise when it came to versatility:
- Square formats are very static, so they pair well with tilted perspectives or non-centric compositions.
- Opened up to a full spread, the square pages create an illusion of a wide format instead and look as if the two sides of the spread were part of the same image.
- The square format can also very easily be split up into smaller squares and rectangles for quick color studies (see below). It's very flexible to work with, so a great choice for travel sketching!
This Ayutthaya ruin sketch is one of my favorite pieces from this month! Let's call it "Temple Blues".
I love how the simple blue color plays off the more detailed ink work. This technique isn't anything I'd come up with on a normal day - I'm such a wimp when it comes to being experimental! Inktober and random sketches give me the mental freedom to just do Stuff (TM) and I'd actually love to use this kind of mixed media style in future sketches, too.
Rough Pencil Sketch & Materials - Ayutthaya Ruins
This is the rough pencil sketch for the "Ruin Blues" drawing. I had nothing special planned, just created this patchwork of interesting building remnants that I had taken pictures of and tilted the angle a bit more for a sense of instability.
While I avoided pencil underdrawings for most of my Inktober sketches, I wanted to get the overall forms of these ruins down before adding details with my ink pen.
- On that note: All these sketches are made with a Sakura Pigma Micron pen - I used mostly 04 and 005 in black.
I used Shinhan Professional Watercolors for these quick sketches for bright and vibrant results, in a cheap sketchbook I'd bought expressly for travel sketches, so the paper doesn't absorb water too well... which forces me to be more decisive with my coloring instead of mixing and blending forever and ever.
Color Studies & Practice in my Travel Sketchbook
This is the image that triggered my existential coloring crisis. My reference pictures were a combination of different temple interiors, and somehow, I couldn't get the depth and atmosphere I wanted. The gold statues, too, threw me off. I guess I've never painted gold before!
Combine that with some awkwardly executed patterns and I was ready to tackle my overall problem area of coloring (more or less) realistic backgrounds and landscapes.
(I shouldn't have used such small brushes, too.
You can find the reason why at the bottom of this post.)
To practice, I went ahead and created a smaller color study of golden statues (my husband took that picture in a different temple in Ayutthaya) and loved playing around with the colors of the mural in the background, even though I couldn't go into much detail.
Quick Drawing Lesson Learned:
To make the gold/yellow color pop, add complementary shades nearby. The mural behind the three buddhas worked really well as a practice piece since I could test different shades of yellow on the three statues.
- Left Buddha: Hints of green in the background mural, so I added more red to the yellow of the statue.
- Middle Buddha: The mural was mostly red, so I added just a bit more beige and the tiniest hint of green to the yellow of the statue.
- Right Buddha: This was the darkest of the three, mostly in the shadows. There were hints of purple in the mural, which I heightened for my sketch - so that the yellow would stand out more despite being sparser than the other two statues.
Now that I look at the picture here, it isn't even that terrible. I believe my crisis came more from how absolutely generic and hapless my art style is when it comes to painting. It just felt kind of bland, which motivated me to get into more color sketch practice and to be more creative and adventurous in the future.
I like how the square sketchbook format allowed me to be flexible, with the horizontal larger sketch on top and the smaller color study at the bottom. It's a great tool to compare and improve.
Thailand Impressions: Ruins, Temples, Bangkok Street Markets
I'd wanted to only use my own picture references for these sketches, but then broke that self-imposed rule since, after all, we'd not even spent a full week in Thailand and I didn't take that many pictures.
So for this sketchbook page, the reference picture for the sketch at the very bottom was just a Google image search (I loved painting the lotus flowers!).
I wanted to give these the look of game concept art - something a bit old-school like Final Fantasy 9.
Colorful, bright, playful, without too many sharp shadows. The Shinhan Watercolors were perfect for that purpose!
Of course, when you go on a trip to Thailand, you can't just leave out the streets of Bangkok, its colorful markets, and the ever-present tuk-tuk mopeds.
I struggled with this tiny sketch - much more than with the temple and landscape studies!
Bangkok is all sharp edges, dark shadows, combined with vibrant market stalls and artificial colors. I struggled with choosing what colors I should use when mixing shadows for these city sceneries, since just black looks harsh, even though it is what my reference material tells me to use. I'll have to continue practicing and see what I can come up with. (Maybe take another trip to Thailand? Wouldn't that be nice...)
Sketchbook & Drawing Materials used:
I painted the sketches in my square sketchbook by Korean (?) brand Cergio - the paper doesn't do too well with lots of water, despite it being a watercolor sketchbook. It works for small sketches and single color layers, though, and the cover is very sturdy.
Since this sketchbook is nearly full, I plan on getting another square format one but with different paper (I personally love Fabriano and Canson paper, but square formats are kind of rare except for these artist journals by Fabriano).
I used a variety of brushes, mostly in larger sizes. If you paint in smaller formats like the little practice sketches I made, you'll probably reach for smaller brushes - but I'd recommend using a size 7 or 8 brush. If you use a small brush on a small format, in the end, you could as well paint with a large brush on a large format. Small brushes make me obsess over (useless) details, which isn't very helpful when I want to practice color and mixing.
My pens were the Sakura Pigma Micron liners with archival, waterproof ink (though I stopped using ink outlines as I went deeper into color studies).
As for pencils, I love my Muji Low Center of Gravity Mechanical Pencil in 0.3, with either a B or 2B pencil mine.
I used my Shinhan Professional Watercolors for all of these. The colors are very vibrant and give a bit of an unnatural, playful look to these travel sketches - perfect for the whimsical atmosphere I was going for.
I hope you liked the second part of my Thailand sketchbook adventure! I really love looking at all of these little paintings now - they capture the memories of that trip better than I could have with just writing a travel diary. Even if you don't paint, I can totally recommend doodling little sketches or add creative details to your travel journals.
More of my travel journal ideas:
- Jeju Island - Watercolor Travel Impressions
- Thailand Travel Sketchbook - Inktober 2017
- Illustrated Food Diary - Vegan Travel in Thailand
- Colorful Weekend in Seoul - Bullet Journal Travel Doodles