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Travel Journaling – part 1 of 4

Posted by Koosje Koene in ArtJournal, sketchbook on January 10, 2018

Traveling: drink and draw

I’ve always loved traveling. Exploring new places, experiencing different cultures, tasting new flavors, meeting people from around the world, see famous landmarks and art, and discover stuff off the beaten path. With a sketchbook at hand, the experience becomes even richer, as you’re creating memories, and document moments and locations the way you experience them

Doing all of the above can be done at exotic locations, but also close to home. Last year I made a promise to myself to enjoy my own country more. The Netherlands is just a small country, but it’s variety in nature and interesting cities is amazing. So last year I spent quite some weekends away from home. City trips that were just all about strolling through the streets and discovering fun neighborhoods, or more culturally involved because they were planned around museum visits. But I haven’t only been visiting cities in the Netherlands; I’ve also stayed at fantastic places in the middle of the Dutch woods or near the sea. Like I said, it’s a small country but so versatile.

I started my current sketchbook alongside my giant (32x32cm/ 13×13 inch) daily sketchbook. I have finished the big sketchbook by now, but I started the current sketchbook when I was just a few pages in, because I came to realize I couldn’t bring it with me everywhere due to its size. So in my current sketchbook, I’ve mostly drawn in it on location and during the weekends, so the first half of it has unintentionally become almost merely a travel sketchbook.

Here’s a recent page from that sketchbook; a quick drawing using Faber-castell brush markers.

Looking at this sketchbook as well as many of my previous sketchbooks, it seems like I spend a LOT of time in cafes.

family dinner


I do love coffee and I do like to take myself on a lunch-and-sketch-date.

But sure enough I spend my spare time at home, with family and friends too. Only it’s the choice of when to draw that makes these locations occur so often in my sketchbooks.


When traveling, finding the best coffee bar or coziest place for a drink or a bite is so fun – and then the drawing done there contains so much more memories than the quick snapshot taken on my iPhone.

So these are some drawings I did in the past weeks:

Arnhem is smack in the middle of the Netherlands. I went exploring the city with my husband. We had a drink before going to a restaurant for dinner in this busy bar. We sat here in a corner of this large cafe. Great view of the bar, people coming in, and people sitting and chatting over drinks. I decided to use a technique used a while ago in a bigger sketchbook, using three colors. One for the foreground, one for the background and one for the far background. Using a (mostly) continuous line, I could work pretty fast and thanks to the three colours the drawing gets an ice feeling of depth.

Inspite of a certain rivalry between Amsterdammers and Rotterdammers (mostly to do with soccer teams) that I don’t care about, I am a big fan of the city Rotterdam. In 2017 I’ve been there quite often. It’s just an hour away from Amsterdam and it feels like you enter a different world.

Sometimes you start a drawing and you just get lost in the details. I could have easily spent another hour to fill the page drawing that wall behind the bar, and maybe add some people sitting at it. But I ran out of time – we had dinner reservations so I had to leave the drawing unfinished. Some people would decide to take a picture and then finish the drawing from the photo but I don’t enjoy doing that. Plus an unfinished drawing also tells a story in your journal.

After dinner, we had drinks at another bar. I decided to fill the white space with this second bar of the day, using a different pen to tell the two locations apart.

My husband and I like to escape Christmas by going away together. We love to warm up and relax (after the initial culture shock) in Southeast Asia. Thailand is favorite. The food! The people! All the amazing places to go to and see! The ocean! But this year we took a short one-week break and we looked for a cool place in Europe. Christmas markets and ski resorts galore, but those we wanted to avoid, so we decided on Madrid. We’d been there before and loved the vibe of the city and of course the food (you can eat your way through all Spanish cuisines here!). 5 days in Madrid sounded perfect. We rented an apartment so we felt quite the Madrileners (even though our Spanish seriously sucks and is basically non-existent)

Beers and bites is what the cervecerias, markets and cafes in Madrid are all about. So while observing people at the bar, I tried drawing them using watercolor pencils. I’m not that used to drawing with those, but wanted to try something different than my fountain pens, as I noticed that on this type of paper (Stillman&Birn Beta series), which is nice and thick and suitable for many media, my ink lines don’t flow as smoothly as I like them to.
To add a bit more contrast to the drawing, I added a few strokes of black with an ink brush pen.

Of COURSE I couldn’t walk past the awesome art supply shop I accidentally found during one of our walks and I bought myself some goodies. Amongst which a few brush markers from Faber-Castell. When we sat down in this wonderful cerveceria for a drink, I used them right away to discover that the bold lines work really well on this paper.

Koosje Koene

Hi I'm Koosje. I'm an illustrator and art teacher in Amsterdam, where I was born and raised. I went to school to study graphic design, then worked for ten years as an award-winning professional photographer. But eventually my love of drawing and painting took over and I became an illustrator. My illustrations have been published in many Dutch magazines and in 2011, I began blogging and started developing and teaching online art classes. In 2014 I founded Sketchbook Skool, which is a flourishing community of artists from around the world of all skill levels.