Travel by Pencil


Summer Drawings from Israel and Cape Ann

Qumram, Israel – where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found

A year ago today, I arrived in Israel.  The visual impressions I gathered on that trip in the pages of my sketchbook are priceless to me now, bringing back the places I visited in and around Jerusalem, the Judean Desert, and the Galilee.  Later in the summer I visited Cape Ann, Massachusetts, where I was taken as a child long ago.  It was a great summer!  Here is a sampling of drawings I did during those travels.

Drawing is the wellspring of creation for many visual artists.  Keep the sketches flowing, and your artwork will grow like a willow beside a stream.  Even painters who are dedicated “colorists” often begin their work with drawing.  Why?  Because the core concept of an image takes the form of shape, while color can be applied later.  Variations of tone give expression to both color and shape.

The ancient cemetery in Tzfat (Safed), northern Israel

View from Yad Vashem, Jerusalem – Two weeks later, these hills were badly burned by a fire which required much of the area to be evacuated.

I carry a sketchbook with me almost everywhere I go.  Waiting in an airport or a restaurant, visiting with friends, and driving (when I’m a passenger!) are all times when I can take out my sketchbook.  Whether it’s a study for an idea in my head or a way of remembering the scene in front of me, it’s always helpful to look back on these drawings later.  Some are incorporated into future paintings.  Some stand on their own as complete compositions.

In the world of illustration, there are two kinds of artists:  those who use outlines and those who do not.  For me it has never been clear which camp I occupy, though I have leaned heavily away from using outlines for years.  In my drawings, I use them partially, blending some outlines into fields of graduated tone, while allowing others to stand out as lines.

Hollyhocks on Bezalel Street, Jerusalem

The creative process thrives on trial and error, and there’s no limit to what you can explore with a pencil.   Whether you are a fine artist or a commercial artist, drawing by hand will improve your work and generate ideas.  For me drawing is therapeutic.   It both anchors an idea on paper, and frees it to change.  There is no such thing as a final drawing.  You can always do another one, and your images can continue to evolve.  And evolve they will, the more you draw.

I treasure the drawings I bring home from my travels.  At home, I might use colored paper or ink, but while traveling, I simply use pencil, or even a plain pen.  If I can’t bring my sketchbook, I’ll just carry a few blank sheets of folded paper.  I can always transfer a loose drawing to my sketchbook later.

Each drawing carries special memories.  The drawing you see at left is a study for a large painting I’m about to begin.  Hours after I did the drawing, this alleyway on Bezalel Street became the site of an outdoor artisan’s market.  Around the corner is the famous Bezalel School of Art.   I walked back through the neighborhood later in the day, and in the very same spot where I had done my drawing, purchased a beautiful watch on a chain as a gift for my daughter.   I’ll never forget that alley!

Two Olive Trees, Valley of the Cross, Jerusalem

So pack a pencil and paper the next time you travel, along with a kneaded eraser, a sharpener, and a ziplock bag to catch pencil shavings.  You’ll be glad you did.  In a world of high-tech drawing software, these simple tools may still be an artist’s best traveling companions.

Scroll down to see more drawings . . .

"Kaf" (palm of the hand) vessel design from northern Syria, 900-600 BCE – Bible Lands Museum, Jerusalem

Intersecting shapes: a doodle on the long flight from Tel Aviv

Rocks and surf, Rockport, MA

Still Life with Binoculars, The Captain's House, Rockport, MA

Stratford Island, Rockport, MA

Seaside plant, Rockport, MA

Rocks & sea, Rockport, MA

Lighthouses, Rockport, MA

Yemen Moshe, a neighborhood of stone walkways, arches, and stairs outside the old city of Jerusalem

Backgammon players on Shabbat, Independence Park, Jerusalem

Study of olive foliage

Study of olive tree, Jerusalem

Sacher Park, Jerusalem

House and bomb shelter, Kaditah, northern Israel

A porch at Kibbutz Gezer

Stone cairn, Dead Sea beach

Happy Summer to all!

Old Garden Beach, Rockport, MA

Ein Kerem, a picturesque neighborhood on the outskirts of Jerusalem

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