That Transition Page. And, I’d Love Some Advice.

I’m back from a fabulous four weeks in Spain and Portugal, with a head full of memories and images and close to four full sketchbooks, waiting to be blogged (something I love doing because I get to re-live my travels).

But first this important page in my sketchbook. The transition page. On the face of it, just two pages of notes and little sketches, done while eating and drinking. But the similarity ends there.


On the left, a page from Belém, Lisbon. Sketched while gorging pastel de nata. My sketchbook is never far, anything and everything is worth capturing.
On the right, taking a break from my computer, picking up my pen for the first time four days after coming home, little sketches and notes at my local coffee shop. It’s hard to keep going after a big trip.

So here’s a question: How do you do this? How do you keep your sketching practice alive and interesting when you are not traveling or at a special event? Do you set yourself goals and challenges? Do you set aside daily or weekly drawing time? Work from a library of images or from your imagination when you can’t get out?

What keeps you motivated, experimenting, learning?
I have a pretty long list of things I’d like to work on, but it’s just harder to get myself to sketch in the middle of everyday life.



Maybe you have some ideas you can share, things that work for you, challenges you will try? I’d love to hear from you and learn from you. And I’ll share what I do over the next few months that seems to help.

Thanks in advance. And those sketches from Spain, they’re coming up next.

About Suhita Shirodkar

obsessive-sketcher. graphic designer.
This entry was posted in california, Close to home, Everyday Sketches, people, san jose and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

46 Responses to That Transition Page. And, I’d Love Some Advice.

  1. I feel like I want to practice what I learned in Porto. San Francisco is a great place to find red tile roofs and great architecture.. I have a ton of art fairs coming up but I am also finding time to continue to sketch.. I also think it is fine to take a break and let your brain rest from your travels.. great seeing you in Porto, what fun!!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Lee Kline says:

    At the advanced age of 78, I do not fill my journals as quickly as I once did. Aside from travels with their dedicated journals (see Albums on my Flickr page) I generally draw what is around me. So, two or three pages a week is a good week for me. I am in no hurry and that is a good strategy for me. Thanks.

    Liked by 2 people

    • “don’t rush it” is something I need to learn, Lee. And totally separately, do you still have family you visit in Saratoga? Id’ love to meetup for a quick sketch and coffee the next time you are here!


  3. Anneli says:

    I am a newbie sketcher (I started in June…) and I am going to follow this subject with a lot of interest. Making a small daily drawing was my first exercise in June, and then I did the Worldwatercolormonth challenge. I come from a couple of years of abstract painting when a painting would need to wait in order to be finished so this is new to me. Yet, since I have started sketching, my motto is “Play & Learn!” and this seems to be releasing so much inspiration and joy for me. A couple of days ago, I came home having made my first travel sketchbook (I am going to add a couple of sketches/paintings in it) with no stress and no need for perfection. That is what has helped me so far, my journey is still long, but this is such a fun adventure!! Looking forward to reading everyone’s answers and your blogs, Suhita! I always enjoy watching your sketches!!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Rita says:

    I keep my painting things out, and try to “do something” in them every day. I also keep a small sketchbook in my car, so that now and then I can get something quickly in there. I do not get out and paint from observation as often as I’d like to. I am not good at drawing or painting from imagination, so I keep a few books near my painting things and will copy paintings I like..that achieve the result I want in my work. . I’m hoping as I do this that I will learn how to better capture similar scenes or subjects.. I also like to watch videos. There’s nothing like watching an artist actually DO it, since there’s a lot to how they handle their brushes and deal with the water-to-paint ratio that they do instinctively, which they may not even think to SAY.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Dana says:

    I enjoy going out on “sketch crawls” with a few friends once a week. We limit ourselves to 20 minutes at each stop. That forces us to really focus on what we’re doing and there’s no time for dithering about “what shall I sketch “!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Brenda Seek says:

    This was exactly what I needed to hear today. I just returned from a trip which gave me lots of interesting things to paint, though not Porto (so sad). Now life seems so humdrum and not worth the effort. Plus, there are so cute many neglected errands and things to catch up on, it seems like there is less time than usual for creative pursuits. But this too shall pass. Thanks for encouraging me today.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. pbass wil says:

    I’m just a beginner, but everyday I browse Pinterest, and save interesting images to my various collections. (It learns my tastes, and serves me more of what I like.) I _always_ see something I want to draw. At my stage there is no end to visual interest!
    Of course you’re in a different place than me, you’re very experienced and very skilled. But it seems to me: If you’re asking about motivation, then maybe you’re a little bit burned out. When you’re at a sketch event, you have teacher responsibility, and everyone esteems your talent, so you don’t want to disappoint anyone. Now that you’re home, why don’t you give yourself a break? Lift the self-expectations, pause the structured projects/challenges. You love visual creation; that’s not going to change. How ’bout letting your natural enthusiasm swell back up when it’s ready? Meanwhile, only draw what you want, when you want – and only for as long as you want. That way, the inner spark can reconnect, organically.
    This is just my way of thinking – ignore if it sounds flaky! :^>

    Liked by 2 people

    • Not ignoring it: there’s some of that “let it happen” that I need to allow for, right? Or the fun of sketching will be gone. I love teaching and it gives back a LOT but what I don’t do enough of at a Symposium is experiment: I teach what I do well, but as Susan said in the many fantastic comments here, it’s now time to experiment and play.


  8. Blogging and posting on Instagram helps me to keep showing up for sketching. I also came back from the Symposium with a LONG list of things to try. I go back to that list as a prod to try more things. Like yesterday I took dip pens and a bottle of ink out sketching with me. It always seemed to “dangerous” (black ink spillage) but it was fun! Finding new local places to sketch is an important part of keeping the flow when you’re home, which for me is most of the time!

    Liked by 2 people

    • Thank you Susan, that’s a good idea to make a ‘try this’ list while the Symposium is fresh in my head. And about local places, yes: in fact, I have a few local signs on my ‘not ye\t sketched’ list…


  9. Suhita, at the tender age of 62 (63 in September) retired, I’m under no pressure to do anything really except the needful for my husband and me – tidy up, laundry and meals, occasional errands – and none of those I do everyday. Sketching is my passion and I dedicate my mornings to putting butt in chair to do just that. Sometimes, I’m stumped as to what to sketch, but if I sit, relax, look around, browse Instagram, page through a magazine, … something will click, something will inspire. Girl, sometimes, we just have to take a moment and breathe in the midst of whatever our daily lives look and feel like.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheryl, thank you! I know I often mention the schedule of juggling work, kids and all of that, but I think the real part that makes a difference is the same for you and me: putting that butt in a chair and calling it drawing time everyday. I will now think of you when I try to put ‘butt in chair everyday ‘ 🙂


  10. msraaka says:

    When I return from a trip, my sketchbooks often still have a few empty pages. I use photos from the trip to practice a bit more and add info about special spots. Since I’ve just been there, my memory is a bit clearer. I write a travel blog, so sometimes I want to do a sketch for that.
    I also go out with my local urban sketching group. And I keep taking online classes that keep me inspired!


  11. pbass wil says:

    By the way, I _love_ your simple journal teacup with the blue shading. Thin ink, quick gestural line, and limited colours, nails my personal tastes!

    Liked by 1 person

  12. dapplegrey says:

    I give myself a project. Just something to give me a theme, really, so that I’m a bit more focused. Sometimes nothing more than concentrating on, say, mouths and noses(!) which is fun because it’s just quite fascinating looking more intently on those features everywhere I look. Or something much bigger and more tangible like a project I’ve invented for myself, doing a perimeter walk around my local park and sketching as I go (this could take months, which is fine, little bits at a time will fit my erratic ability to get out). Does this make sense to you? I absolutely know what you mean.

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Carmela Sunnyvale says:

    Suhita, I have various strategies that work for me.
    1. Reminding my self often that drawing feeds my spirit and that I need to keep drawing to maintain my skill level (such as it is). Drawing is its own reward.
    2. Subscribing to blogs by several of my favorite artists helps to keep me mindful of my goal to draw often. And I get to learn about their techniques, approaches to problem-solving , etc.
    3. To help motivate me I belong to several groups with whom I sketch/draw on a weekly/biweekly/monthly basis. Being with others that share my love of drawing helps me. Plus I get to socialize a bit, explore Santa Clara Valley, and prevent the isolation that can creep in when working from home.
    4. Participating occasionally in online challenges helps keep me motivated–even if I only achieve 50% or less of the challenge. Plus I learn from others.
    5. I carry a small sketchbook, about 3×5 in. and a pen. It goes in my pocket when I go on my walks, and in my purse at other times. I started this about a year ago and have 7 of these little treasures.
    6. To keep my artist brain nimble I vary the use of media: pencil, ink, watercolor, watercolor pencils of various brands, watercolor crayons, charcoal, pastel pencils. Also I like to try drawing over collaged papers, and on various substrates, ie, various colored papers and textures.
    7. To challenge my imagination I participate in an online mail art group. I use my imagination to make postcards that I then send to others in the group. Plus I receive mail art in return–these get posted on my refrigerator and give me a shot of pleasure every morning–better than coffee!
    Thanks for reading!

    Liked by 1 person

    • wow Carmela, so much in here to learn from. #3 particularly hits home with me: I work between school drop off and pick up time, from home, and while there’s big pluses to it, there’s also the isolation of never seeing anyone at work. Thank you for so many useful pointers!


  14. Diane says:

    What a great question and what great answers!
    I’ll have to come back later and see more wonderful ideas. Taking notes…….

    Liked by 1 person

  15. I have been thinking about this subject A LOT, even before we left Porto, because I think the every day/everyday practice informs the big sketching opportunities, maybe even more than the other way around. At the Symposiums we talk about capturing the stories of these places, but the sketches we do during an average day tell a story, too. I try to think of it like that – what am I doing today that I can capture in a quick sketch. When I run errands I try to take a few minutes for a sketch of where I am – stuff like that. If I’m consistent, I end up with a page like yours on the right. It’s not exciting or exotic, but it’s my life.

    Liked by 3 people

    • Elizabeth, I think what you say here might be key for me: to think of it as a record. because everyday is not going to be exotic and exciting, but it’s still worth documenting. Also, I think everyday mundane sketches tend to be where I learn and experiment: they’re of everyday stuff, things I can sketch again tomorrow if today’s version is no good, and that experimenting is key to keeping it interesting. Here’s to more sketching BETWEEN symposiums!

      Liked by 1 person

  16. I have been sketching for a few years. Recently moved to new location where there are no sketchers. So I struggle with being on my own. I do sketch or paint each day. I try to go to the coffee shop each week and we have Sunday market I like to visit to sketch. I sometimes hop in the car and drive to different locations to sketch. Mind you I am retired. I was sketching on a daily basis before I retired. I always have my sketchbook with me and a set of pens. I will sit down in the hardware store and sketch people, waiting rooms to sketch people. One advantage to the move is I can now take a 2 hour train trip. So more people to sketch and then I get to sketch in a city at the end of the train trip. When I can not get out to sketch I will work from photos I have taken to practice. I wake up every morning and have my coffee in my art room. So my supplies are always out and ready. I never have to put them away. I think never having to put your art supplies away is a big help.


  17. Hi Suhita, just found your beautiful sketches in Watercolor Artist. Your question in this post is something I struggle with, because the source of most of my art is in Africa and I live near New York! When I’m in Africa I sketch from life and I’d be happy to do this all year. When I get home again I paint in the studio – paintings based on my sketches and imagination. But I really struggle to make that switch from life to studio. I find it just takes time. But recently I’m finding that a change of medium is helping me out (I just started using pen with my watercolor, which I haven’t done for years). As well as time spent experimenting, with no real agenda.


    • Thanks for writing in, Alison. Your work is gorgeous, I’m intrigued by what you say about changing mediums when you get home and will think about that more! Just teaching myself to work more in the studio would help: right now I do some studio work but have’t really figured how to translate the immediacy and excitement of on-location work to the studio… and maybe that’s where the change in medium comes in? Thank you for putting a completely new idea in my head, I will ponder over that one!


      • Let me know if it works for you. I try to explain to people that working from life can be easy for 1 simple reason – your subject is right there in front of you and if you don’t start working it will be gone. So you have to plunge in. Back in the studio there’s too much time for me to overthink everything. I have a theory that watermedia artists are actually control freaks – because we need to plan in advance where to retain the white of our paper. So in the studio I find I’m aiming to make my work look fresh and free and simple – by planning it all to the nth degree. I’m thinking about following your example and getting into the city to paint!

        Liked by 1 person

      • If I play with this idea of switching up how I work for studio work, you will see it on this blog: I blog the good and bad, I learn from both. Heading out to the city to work is great, It keeps things alive for me. But being able to create work in a studio that feels fresh is something I really need to learn: there are many, many days that getting out is not a possibility. And then studio work might help. I’m giving that change in how I work idea some real thought! Overplanning isn’t a huge problem with me: I am not much of a planner. But not knowing when to stop is a common mistake, and in the field circumstances keep me from overworking. In the studio I can come back and fiddle with stuff forever… Thank you again for sharing!


  18. miatagrrl says:

    I admit that after all the fun and excitement of Portugal, it was hard to come back to my “normal” (ha) life. But it’s such an ingrained habit that I didn’t really have to think about it much. My first day back, I went to Starbucks early in the a.m. (still jetlagged), got coffee, and drew the barista. Next day, I drew a man ahead of me in the Costco pharmacy line. Today I saw that our neighbors across the street are putting an ugly addition onto their house, so I’m going to sketch that progress periodically. Just the usual day-to-day. Not really about motivation and more about habit.

    – Tina


  19. Hi Suhita, I suffer from the post-Porto blues too, I admit, but I found that a book recommended by Liz Steel, called “Deep Work, Rules for Focused Success in a Distracted World, by Cal Newport” is very useful. It’s written more from an academic’s perspective, and there’s lots of examples for people working in the computer industry. But I found a lot of it resonated with me, and it can be applied to anything. I now set aside 2 hours a day, at the same time every day, to sketch/paint/doodle – anything artistic, it doesn’t matter what. It forces me to sit in that chair or go out into the world, with nothing else demanding attention. The book doesn’t recommend one formula, but shows how different methods work for different people.

    Another thing that I do is try to apply one thing I’ve learned in Porto for a few days at a time- So I’ve even tried a few “Verb” sketches of my husband – cooking, lying in the sun, reading a book, looking at his iPhone. I’ve got 9,997 hours before I reach your proficiency level, but I’ll keep practising!

    And of course I follow a few blogs, like yours, that inspire me and give me new ideas of things to try!


  20. Suhita, so agree with you. I always wonder too how to keep up with various sketches and ideas. When I sit and draw, it just seems too overwhelming.
    Looking forward to your advice on what works for you. Also looking forward to your sketches. They are so interesting. Keep up the good work.


    • Hi, I am not sure i have advice in particular for everyone. But there’s a wealth of ideas in the comments section of this post, and I’m hoping all of us that read through them can find a titbit or two that we can use.


  21. rhodadraws says:

    Hola from San Miguel, Suhita! First of all, thanks for reminding me about those delicious little pastries! Fortunately for me, every-day life here is filled with opportunities to sketch…if I can only remember to bring my sketching supplies with me every time I go out the door.


  22. Terry says:

    One of the distinctions I make between travelsketching and urban sketching, is that sketching from photos taken on a trip is a great way to relive a bit of the moment. So I sketch from those trip photos, and it takes me back to the trip, extending the experience a bit, and providing good material.

    Liked by 1 person

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