Travel Illustration: Draw a Scene from your Favorite Place | Sarah Shaw | Skillshare

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Travel Illustration: Draw a Scene from your Favorite Place

teacher avatar Sarah Shaw, Artist & Educator

Watch this class and thousands more

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Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Watch this class and thousands more

Get unlimited access to every class
Taught by industry leaders & working professionals
Topics include illustration, design, photography, and more

Lessons in This Class

8 Lessons (24m)
    • 1. Introduction

    • 2. Your Illustration

    • 3. Brainstorming

    • 4. Researching

    • 5. Sketching & Drawing

    • 6. Exploring Materials

    • 7. Adding Color & Texture

    • 8. Final Thoughts

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About This Class

Join illustrator, educator and adventurer Sarah Shaw for a 25-minute class that explores travel illustration! Take your drawing materials outside or travel vicariously through your photographs as you create a unique scene from your favorite place, whether it's from home or abroad. 

This class will encourage you to think creatively-- first envisioning and brainstorming details about your favorite place, researching imagery, and using those ideas to construct a dynamic composition. Anyone can excel in this class, even if you're convinced that you can't draw. Believe me, you can.

We'll explore techniques for sketching compositions, drawing with pen, and applying bold colors with either watercolors or markers to make your scene come to life. Your final projects can be framed, gifted, or scanned into a header for your travel blog or website. There are so many possibilities! Take this class and illustrate your story.


Meet Your Teacher

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Sarah Shaw

Artist & Educator



Sarah Shaw is a comics artist, illustrator, and visual arts educator who has lived and worked internationally in Korea, Colombia, and Nepal for the past ten years. She is a graduate of Pratt Institute's BFA Art & Design Education program and the School of Visual Art's MFA Visual Narrative program. Her work has been exhibited in both domestic and international solo and group shows, and often incorporates themes such as history, family, travel, adventure, and world cultures. Currently, she lives and draws in Boston, MA and teaches a graphic memoir class at the School of Visual Arts.  

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1. Introduction: Hi, everyone. My name is Sara Shaw, educator. I've been drawing, painting and crafting ever since. I could hold a pencils thes days. I mainly draw scenes of places where I've been living abroad, and I also sketched daily and draw comics. I started drawing on a daily basis about a year and 1/2 ago when I was living and working as a Peace Corps volunteers a North. At the time, I was reading a lot of nonfiction graphic novels, and I started playing around with prisoner color markers. I had an idea to start documenting my stories through illustrations. I noticed that friends and family outside of Colombia were paying attention to the drawings that was sharing on social media. So I felt a responsibility to share the stories that don't appear in negative international news reports. Stories of daily life. My illustrations are reflection of the human experience in various contexts and cultures. I tend to illustrate people because I'm interested in our daily interactions with the space around us for your project. In this class you'll illustrated, seen from your favorite place, what kinds of places interest you, you're going to begin by envisioning your favorite place. Spend 5 to 10 minutes brainstorming everything you can possibly think of using your five senses. You can sketch your ideas, or you can simply make a list. Next, you're going to take your ideas and research imagery, either online in books through your own photography. Or you can make some sketches on site. You'll combine images from your research to sketch a balanced composition that clearly portrays your unique story. You'll use pen to transform your sketch into a detailed drawing. Lastly, you'll apply color with either marker or water color and texture with colored pencil and pen. Really, you can use whatever materials you have on hand, whether you're a beginner or an experienced illustrator. This class is for anyone who is interested in exploring ideas, exercising their creativity and constructing a visual narrative about a place in the world . Drawing by hand is a great way to slow down and really reflect on this place in your life. I hope that you enjoy this class work in your project. As much as I enjoyed making it, I can't wait to see what you are 2. Your Illustration: the project for this class is to illustrate your favorite place. It really could be anyplace, but I figure that your favorite place would spark a lot of ideas and inspire you. What you'll need for this class is a pencil and eraser. You'll need some black pains, whatever kind of drawing pens you want to use, and you'll need something to color with, whether it's with water color aren't markers, and I like to use color pencils to layer on top of my watercolor marker just to add some highlights and some texture, specifically lighter colored pencils like white or gray. And, of course, you'll need some paper. I prefer using heavyweight white paper like to draw 11 by 14 but any size will work. If you're using watercolor, I would suggest getting some special watercolor paper. It really doesn't matter what brands you use. I personally prefer using heavy waste sketchbook paper, Faber Castell Pitt pens, prisma color markers and prisma color colored pencils. But as long as you experiment with your materials before beginning your final illustration , you can utilize whatever you have around. Now is time to tell your story for me. This scene as meaningful because it's a portrait of my Peace Corps site here. I wanted to show how lively, colorful and chaotic the market is. While this scene is a bit more quirky, once you've chosen your place, you'll begin by brainstorming ideas, researching imagery, experimenting with your materials, sketching various scenes, drawing and finally adding color. My advice for you is to spend a lot of time playing around with your materials experimenting. Don't worry about your drawn being perfect. Keep your sketches nice and loose and just go with it. You can always fix something later. It can be simple or complex. There could be a lot of color or little color. Just be creative. And don't be afraid to stray from the rules. The difference between a good drawing and a great drawing lies in the composition. Pay attention to how you arrange the space on your page. Try to have lines, touch at least three sides. This project can essentially take however long you wanted to. You could spend a lot of time brainstorming and researching and constructing a composition . Or you could do this whole project in a weekend. It depends on how long you want to spend on it. I want to see all the steps to process. I want to see your brain storming your research, your sketches, your process while you're drawing and coloring and your final illustration. I think that the process is just as important as the final product up glued different phases in the project section. Choose a place that really gets you excited because that's when the magic happens. 3. Brainstorming : first, we're going to do some brainstorming. Could be visual brainstorming like this. Or you could just write a list of everything you think about about that place. Brainstorm with your five senses. If possible, go to your favorite place with your sketchbook and observe your surroundings. What do you see? What do you hear? How does it smell? Can you taste something? How does it feel? I'm going to take you through my brainstorming process. As I was coming up with ideas for my Cartagena market, seen the first thing I thought of where the vendors with bright umbrellas over there stands to protect them from the sun. The umbrellas air usually red, green, yellow and blue. Because Cartagena is a coastal city, there are always selling lots of fish when I'm passing by the market on the bus, all the passengers usually plug their nose to avoid the smell. They sell a lot of clothing like bright patterned leggings. Women are often wearing these colorful leggings to their often eager it's scavenging in the colluded water filled with trash. Next to the market, local Islanders arrive in small wooden boats to do their grocery shopping. They're often fruit vendors pushing carts full of papaya or watermelon with religious slogans painted on the front. This market is very chaotic, and it's very easy to get pickpocketed, so I've been advised by many people never to bring anything valuable and not to make myself vulnerable. However, sometimes there are tourists in the market taking photos. They're plastic bins and crates of various colors filled with fish or fruits and vegetables . I always think of plantains, the vendors air, usually yelling out prices and trying to get you to buy their products. Brainstorm for about 5 to 10 minutes. When you finish, think about the specific imagery that you've like to research. 4. Researching: before the Internet, illustrators used to use image catalogs at their public library to research for their projects. Now there are so many resource is available to us that image research is almost too easy for my illustrations. I use a combination of my own photography, observational sketches and online research. Screenshots from YouTube videos and a photo essay about music on the Colombian coast helped me draw this portrait of typical nightlife in Cartagena. When I wanted to illustrate a scene from Colombia's coffee region, I used my own photography, choosing images that portrayed both people and the environment. I shot these two photos in Cartagena's downtown with the intention of illustrating a vendor selling traditional crow shade bags. Sometimes you may not have to do much research. Nowadays, we all have cell phone cameras to use at our own convenience. These photos were taken quickly from a bus because when we stopped to buy avocados, I knew that I had to draw this scene despite the poor quality of the images. With determination you can use your resource is in creative ways to make beautiful final products. When drawing people, you can research imagery for particular positions or movement. However, it's better if you have someone posed for you or even draw yourself in the mirror. Lastly, think about the small details that you want to add your story like this. Stray cats seeking shade underneath the vendor's table or someone shooting a video of the show on their phone. The sparked your illustration lies in these small details. While you're working on your illustration reference, your resource is. But make sure to add in your own style. That's why we draw in the first place, right? 5. Sketching & Drawing: sketching is the most difficult and most important part of the process. In this phase, you will use photos from your research or on site sketches to create a dynamic composition . I suggest sketching three variations of your scene and choosing the best for your final illustration. Let me take you through the sketching process of my market illustration. I researched photos online and chose this for the tables full of fish, colorful umbrellas and death of the walkway. I envisioned a vendor pushing fruit between the tables, as well as a woman carrying a been full of vegetables. When I began, I already had an idea of the drawing that I wanted. You can use any pencil and have an eraser on hand, but don't get too caught up erasing your lines. Just sketch lightly and loosely to figure out the best way to lay out your page. You can begin sketching in many ways. Many people begin with their largest, most dramatic line. I like to begin with the biggest shapes, which is why I'm sketching this umbrella in the top right hand corner while I'm sketching, observing my images to see how I want to place everything on my page. Next, I, loosely sketching the edges of the tables, toe occupy space on the right and left hand sides. I'm thinking about perspective and taking into account the angles of the tables. When I sketch the plastic tubs, I'm thinking about balance. Once you've sketched all the larger shapes, you can begin to add smaller details. It doesn't matter what your drawing. Everything is composed of shape and line. Some images are just more complex than others, but when you break it down, every part consists of simple lines and shapes. It's up to you how detailed you'd like to get with your pencil sketch. Keep in mind you're going to go over your sketch with pen. Also, it's up to you if you want to erase all your pencil lines. I once had a drawing professor who never raised his pencil lines because he liked how it showed the process of his drawing. Here's my completed pencil sketch. It's light and loose, but with enough information to begin outlining with pen. I've thought about balance, rhythm and positive and negative space, and the main focus of my drawing is not right in the center, but rather a bit to the left hand side, where the woman with the plastic bin is passing by the man pushing the cart. Now that you've finished your sketches, choose the one you'd like to draw. Focus on line. Wait. This is where it's a good idea to have a few different sized black pens. I like using the small tip for most outlines and the fine and medium tips to add thicker lines for shadows. Brush pens, air Nice for filling in negative space and adding contrast. Once you have your outline, you can begin to drawing details when I make a mistake. Usually I just make a thicker line. But sometimes I'll use color pencil to cover up the mistakes. The waxy property of colored pencil is great for layering on top of Penn and Marker, but never underneath, or it will ruin your pen. Here's the final drawing. As you can see, there's a lot going on, but it's composed in a way that flows together and is not distracting. There are still places that are lacking pen details like the fish, but I will occasionally use my pens while I'm coloring 6. Exploring Materials: two materials that work really well for applying color are marker and watercolor. I like using art markers because they're bold and graphic. They allow for clean lines. They apply evenly. They can be mixed with other colors and look great. Combined with colored pencils, they're easy to transport and not very messy. However, they can be expensive, especially because you have to buy each color separately. Watercolor is great if you have a looser style, and you like a lot of rhythm on the page that can be bolder. Subtle. You can mix the colors to create various tones, depending on how much water you add. They're also more economical. You don't need to buy as many colors. You can focus on mixing with the primaries and white and black for tones. If you like, they're easier to blend easy transport. You can also layer colored pencil and pen over your colors once they dry. However, you should paying on special watercolor paper because it will crinkle while you're working . Take out all your materials and some blank sheets of white paper and just play around with them. Experiment. Right now, I'm going to explore some color mixing with my watercolors. I'm going to practice with a color wheel. I'm using watercolors from a tube rather than from a set, because I like how they're a bit bolder and thicker. But either works fine. I'm using a basic watercolor brush, and I'm mixing on a pallet, although any plastic surface will work. I'm also dabbing the excess water on my brush on a paper towel. I'm starting off with my primary colors yellow, blue and red. I'm adding a little bit of water, but not too much because I still want the colors to be relatively bold. Now I'm mixing some secondary colors. I'm combining blue and yellow to make green. I'm combining yellow and red to make orange, and lastly, I'm combining red and blue to make purples play around with your mixing. Add more blue than yellow to make a darker green. Add more yellow than red to make a yellow orange. You'll find that blue is much darker and overpowering than yellow and red, so you really don't need to add as much blue to achieve the color that you want. As I'm painting, I'm playing around with the amount of water that I add the more water you add, the more transparent your color will be, which is great for simple washes and adding layers. Now I'm choosing a color to mix with white to create various tints. In color theory, a tin is the mixture of a color with white, which increases lightness, while a shade is a mixture of a color with black reducing lightness here of painted a range of blue tints. Now I'm going to mix blue with black to create some shades of blue. You don't need to use much black when you're mixing your colors. Black is extremely overpowering, and some artists don't use black at all. They use a combination of all the primary colors, creating a dark brown. Instead, you don't have to use water colors from a tube. You can also paint with watercolor sets. Thes sets conveniently come with a paintbrush, and there's also space to mix colors. This is a very convenient way to add color to sketches that you might do on location as well as your final illustration. The's colors are not as rich and bold as the colors from the tube, but they're much more economical, great for washes, and you can still create some beautiful colors. Now let's talk about markers. Art markers are full of pigment and tend to bleed through your page, so always put a scrap piece of paper underneath. Your drawing markers appealed to me because there's absolutely no preparation. You can just grab them and start drawing and mixing them together. There's also no clean up. They're perfect for an impatient painter like myself right now on mixing the blue that I just applied with some gray. If you really get into using art markers, I would definitely suggest buying a set of grays. Grays are great for adding tone to any of the colors that you apply to your page. In color theory, any color on the color wheel is called a hue. These colors have not been tainted with white, black or grey. It's best to make similar hues together. If you try to makes a very light color like yellow on top of a dark color like dark blue, you might end up damaging your lighter marker. However, it's OK to mix a dark color on top of a light color, so be careful with your experimentation because, as we all know, Pres Mikel, or markers are not cheap. Now I've taken some white and gray prisma color color pencils, and I'm going to experiment, layering over my Prisma color marker. I absolutely love layering colored pencil on top of marker because I can add interesting highlights and also fix mistakes, I warn you never layer marker over color. Pencil the waxy property of colored pencil over when your marker, my watercolor experimentations, have dry. So I'm just going to do the same thing on top of my watercolor. Draw with color pencil ad highlights. Play around with texture. Spend a lot of time exploring your materials and experimenting. The more you know about your materials, the better your illustration will be. Remember that if you choose to use colored pencil, it will always be the top layer. Do not use pen or marker on top, although you could layer with watercolor if you'd like. I could talk about color and drawing materials all day. So if you have a question, feel free to post in the discussion section 7. Adding Color & Texture: it's time for the final step, adding color. For me, the most important thing to think about is contrast. When people comment on my work, they usually mention the bold, bright combination of colors I love applying contrast ing, reds and greens in combination with grays and numbers. Because red is so powerful, I usually apply in small sections like the man's shirt on the left hand side, the vendors bag and parts of his cart, the red pale on the beach, the strip of pain in the building and the plastic chairs on the right hand side. Sometimes the contrast is more subtle. The red in this illustration is a darker red brown, seen on the trees as well, a small red coffee beans in the farmers hand. This is also why I'm constantly replacing my green markers. In this drawing, I wanted to create an eye popping experience for the viewer. Each Matula or bag was colored with purpose and intention. Also, all the colors are bright and pure, with the exception of shades of purple that I used on the sidewalk to create illusions of gray. On the other hand, most of my later drawings are comprised of many shades of gray in combination with the bright colors. There's no right or wrong method. It's up to you to decide how maney colors you'd like to use. Now I'm going to show you my process for adding color to my market scene. I've decided on which materials I'd like to use, and I have a blank piece of paper next to me for testing out colors. I'm going to start by blocking in the largest shapes. If you want to blend your colors, you should do that immediately, while the pigment is still kind of wet. Otherwise, you can just leave it and go back in with other layers Later. Here are mixing together some yellows, oranges, browns and greens to add some nice coloring and texture to the papayas. I stopped every so often to test out colors and color mixing on my blank sheet of paper. I'm applying bright coral gray and brown to the front of this wheelbarrow in a slight, haphazard way to show its rough texture. My coloring technique is very thoughtful and deliberate. I'm always thinking about color placement for the best contrast and rhythm. This market in particular, is very colorful as there are so many bright colors in one place, I had to distribute them in a balanced way. What is the main color you associate with your favorite place? That's the color that should stand out the most in your illustration. Like I mentioned in the last video, I'm going back into the drawing with pen making sketchy marks with my small tip pen to create texture. Now that I've mostly finished adding color with marker, I'm going to add some layers of colored pencil. I'm using this green to draw over some lines that I don't like in the umbrella and then adding some gray to enhance the texture on the wheelbarrow. I'm adding some light grey highlights to the tires, and I'm also adding some rough lines of light grey to create fish scales. Don't be afraid to lightly use your eraser. If you don't like the line you've made, I'm adding some highlights to the tablecloth into the umbrellas, just making the image pop a little more, as well as making it appear more three dimensional colored pencil is also great for creating texture that imitates would, as you can see in these table legs quick mark making allows for the best texture, so make sure to vary your strokes and don't dwell on it too much. Just remember to relax and have fun with it. 8. Final Thoughts: I'm sure you're getting really excited to start creating your own seen. Don't forget that the process is as important as the final product, so don't hesitate to spend a long time brainstorming researching, sketching several compositions until you have one that you want to take to the final stage . Let me know if you have any questions. The hardest part is getting started, so reach out to myself or our classroom community. If you ever feel like you need some help. If you're feeling really inspired, go ahead and create a series of drawings. Why not push yourself to the limit? I'm hoping to see a lot of comments and feedback from everyone. I'm excited to take part in this community, and I'm looking forward to hearing all your stories.