Have sketchbook..let’s travel

Sketching at Deux Maggotts cafe in Paris May 2019

So…how do you travel?

I just love sketchbook travel. I put this passion to paint in my little sketchbook into action earlier this year.

In May I took my group on a sketchbook tour of Paris, Brugge and Amsterdam

What can I say? well, it was an amazing experience that will be long remembered by the group as well as myself.

It was a fabulous group of diverse people who enjoyed this tour. If I’d had the luxury of handpicking each person to come on this trip I couldn’t have done a better job as these people were a delight to travel with. It has been great to see friendships develop and I know that we will all remain in touch for many years to come…A big Mwah and thanks to you all!

Now not all were painters but all were inspired by art and loved visiting the ‘art trail’ through these European cities and countryside that had been specifically planned in collaboration with my travel manager, Mary Anderson

So why you might be asking why do I prefer sketch booking above all other mediums when I travel?

The reason is that it is so transportable

On a previous trip to Italy, I took my paints, A4 and larger watercolour pads, a roll of brushes, board, tape, pencils, sketchbooks and an easel..good lord! I laugh at myself looking back at the art materials that I lugged across to the other side of the world. My back and neck certainly told me not to do that again. By the end of that trip which was a beautiful tour, I decided then and there that there must be a better way to enjoy and record a trip in paint

Yes, friends, that was the turning point that ignited my passion for sketchbooks. I realised that this was actually all that I used on the Italy trip and the other supplies just became extra kilos.

I became a sketchbook convert

My travel art supplies- Our beautiful hotel in Brugge, Belgium
Some quick sketches using the non-permanent Artline pen

My sketchbook travel supplies

  • 1 x A5 Strathmore or similar 300 gsm softcover watercolour journal
  • 1 x Sennelier or similar concertina sketchbook ( these are also easy to make if you have time)
  • 1x travel watercolour palette. I like Winsor and Newton basic Cotman set of pan colours. There are many brands that are suitable..just keep it small
  • 1 x dog clip to hold pages down (I find this essential)
  • 1 x water brush- the ones that have a water chamber to fill before heading out for the day and can be refilled
  • 1 x size 6 Neef squirrel mix watercolour brush. Mainly because I love these brushes and can’t be parted from at least one on a trip! NOTE: I cut the handle to size to fit into a small zippered pouch along with a pencil, eraser, sharpener and two pens
  • 1 x permanent ink fine tip pen. I like a size 0.4 Unipin or a 0.8 Micron pen
  • 1 x Artline 200 fine 0.4 non-permanent pen
  • a small packet tissues
  • bottle of drinking water that you can use to refill your water brush or to use with another brush
  • all of these supplies fit neatly into a see-through clip lock bag which I simply pop into my crossbody bag. This goes everywhere with me ready to sketch and paint  

More reasons to sketchbook travel

  1. Easy to transport – travel light and enjoy the experience
  2. Easy to set up and sketch in cafes, sitting on a stone wall, on planes, trains and buses
  3. Easy to do quick sketches if you have limited time, take a photo and paint later
  4. If you are consistent and do some sketching and painting each day you will have a lovely record of your travels that will mean so much more to you than a hundred photos stored in your computer or on your phone
  5. when you return home and look at your journals months and years later you will remember with all of your senses the lovely time you had while sitting at that spot sketching and painting
  6. It is quite easy to develop larger paintings from your sketches when you return


If you like to paint and travel, then sketch booking in pen and watercolour wash is certainly something to consider.

The art of sketch booking is gaining popularity worldwide with groups gathering to paint together. Recently there was a sketch booking symposium in Amsterdam (darn I missed it!) where hundreds of artists gathered from all over the world to sketch around the city.

The next symposium will be in Hong Kong in 2020

There are many ways to use your art journal. You can paint, use mixed media, sketch, draw, create and use text to tell your personalised story..the sky is the limit!

When travelling save maps, tickets and anything of interest that relates to your travels. These can be used to enhance your sketches


I suggest if you have a trip planned and you are thinking of taking a journal to sketch in to get as much practice in as possible before you leave…just like getting in shape and organised for a trip, do the same with your sketching.

Take your journal and supplies with you and practice sketching sitting in a cafe or at the beach or on the train. Keep it simple. Just 10 or 15-minute sketches to get your hand in.  remember this is just for you!

If you practice this regularly it just becomes second nature after a while and gets you used to sketch with people around ..and a note on that..I find that most people don’t take much notice of me when I am sitting at a cafe working in my sketchbook. Look around you. Most people are either engaged in conversation or on their phone or laptop to even notice what you might be doing!

My name is Kathy Karas

I am an artist, teacher and travel sketchbook blogger

I hold workshops in travel sketch booking, watercolour and acrylics

I also have a  Facebook group, https://www.facebook.com/groups/thetravellingartists/ for artists to connect and share their art travel experience

Website  https://www.kathykaras.com/ 

My next sketchbook tour is to Greece June 2020.

For the itinerary please contact my travel manager Mary Anderson mary.anderson@travelmanagers.com.au 

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Kathy Karas

Kathy Karas is a visual artist and teacher living and painting in New South Wales, Australia. Kathy works in a wide selection of media including oils, acrylic, watercolour and pencil drawings. Her style has evolved over the years to modern impressionist and most recently she has developed into contemporary work.


  1. Kathleen McCue on September 12, 2019 at 8:06 am

    Hi Kathy,
    I am leaving for a trip to India shortly and found your post very helpful.
    I am going on a sketchbook tour but the list of art supplies is fairly cumbersome, I am trying to fit a studio into a couple of small bags for booked luggage and have a small zip bag to carry onto the plane. Hopefully they will let me paint during the 28 hr flight.
    Kathleen McCue

    • Kathy Karas on September 12, 2019 at 10:20 am

      Hi Kathleen. That will be an amazing trip. The colours, sights and sounds of India are so inspiring for artists. May I ask what medium you will be using? I tend to only paint in watercolour when travelling.
      Thanks for commenting. I am glad that you found my post helpful

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