“We Recreate Ourselves in the Memories”: Watercolour Travel Notebooks


We all like travelling, visiting new places, learning about other cultures, and having new experiences. However, I might say that what’s even more gratifying than the trip itself is remembering all of it once it’s over.

We recreate ourselves in the memories, knowing that they will never go away and that journey is going to be embedded in our souls forever. Some keep their memories alive with photos, some write journals about their trips, expressing in meticulous detail their experiences and feelings. There are thousands of different ways to do so, and one of them, which is becoming quite popular among the artist travellers, is the ‘watercolour travel notebook’.

Over the Summer, I became interested in this kind of painting, engaging with an online course dedicated to it from a painter that does just that, Alicia Aradilla. Alicia is a Spanish travel-illustrator who decided to dedicate her professional life to travelling around the world and capturing all its colours in notebooks’. I learnt a lot from her course and have already started my first notebook from my trip to Portugal this summer. I will write here, the most important points of her course in a bid to encourage everybody to try this fun way of creating memories.

First of all, find a good spot worth painting and work on your sketchbook for 30-45 minutes, portraying, not only the panoramic views of the landscape or city, but also more specific details that have come to your attention. A vase full of flowers placed on a windowsill, a delicious and creamy breakfast next to the river, the sun rays that sneak into the colourful tiles of the window of an ancient church, the different shells scattered along the seashore. The paintings don’t need to be realistic; they act as a support for all the memories, sensations and feelings conveyed by a particular scene.

It may seem annoying to be pausing your visit to paint but it actually allows you to get deeper into the new culture. It allows you to appreciate and enjoy the little details that make that place unique. It usually happens in my family that when we travel, we end up getting lost. But this always turns out to be the way we really get to know the place and its people. We enjoy it so much that it’s almost as if we’re actually looking forward to getting lost whenever we travel. It’s becoming sort of a habit! Stopping to paint allows you to do just that, stop and really look. If you don’t have time for stopping, taking a picture and paint it later.

Once you begin drawing, plan how you are going to organize your pages, so that all the information aligns to form a coherent story. Depending on the importance of the element being drawn, the pages can be divided in one way or another. For example, if the most relevant element is a panoramic view, it will probably need half a page and only a general view of the scene, without too many details. Then, a smaller drawing with more details and colours might help visualize it.

When the painting is finished, the last thing that’s needed is, of course, to write about it. This is the part that conforms the ‘diary.’ There’s no need for an exhaustive description of the place, as that has been covered with the painting. It’s a creative and fun way to report the trip.

A small watercolour notebook and a compact kit to carry drawing materials is all that you need! Not too many brushes – at least a large one for the more extensive brush-strokes and a small one, to be able to capture the details. A feather pen can also be useful for outlining.

It might take practice at first. But the course will also run through basic watercolour techniques, which are very helpful if it’s your first time doing something like this. One misconception people usually fall into is the belief that only those who have a natural flair can paint. The truth is that everybody can learn, like everything else; it’s a skill that needs to be developed. Some people start their journal with very simple drawings and work their way on to painting beautiful pieces, playing with light, shadows and different textures.

I encourage everyone to try and start a watercolour travel notebook for their next trip. You might find that you actually enjoy it!

As for the online course, although she is a Spanish painter, all the information is also in English and the videos have English subtitles. If you want to take a look, follow the link below:


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