newberry I no longer crave plastic alligators in wooden cages, magnets emblazoned with a city’s skyline and slogan, nor coconuts carved to resemble monkeys. As I’ve gotten older, it seems that not only are most souvenirs made in China regardless of where they’re purchased, but that my house is brimming with stuff. The last thing I want is to own one more thing that will just sit on a shelf and collect dust. But I still want to have something to show that I’ve really been to and explored these places. I yearn to embody the French definition of souvenir; to remember. useless A camera seems a decent tool for the job, and it certainly has its place on a trip, but too often, it takes me out of the scene while I fiddle with the knobs or review a shot. With digital cameras it is easier than ever to capture too much. I rush to get the next shot without considering how well I’ve framed things or if I’d even want to look at that scene again later. (Heck, beyond the first couple of days after a trip, does anyone ever sit down and pore over their collection of digital pictures?) In the last few years I’ve found that drawing satisfies many of my desires to have both a souvenir of my adventures and a means to help recall vivid details about the people, places, and conditions. When I travel, I carry a dedicated book, sort of a personal log, that is only for drawing what I see: no flying elephants, no grocery lists, no abstract designs. totems When I take the time to make a drawing, I consider the angle, the colors, the perspective and my surroundings. I notice things I wouldn’t if I just grabbed an image or a bought souvenir. And because it takes me a while to complete my sketch, I soak in the temperature, the smells in the air, the sounds, and the activities nearby. All that comes back to me when I open my book. smithsonian “Hey mister, did you draw that?” an eight year-old girl with cornrows inquired as I sat sketching on the carpet in the Smithsonian’s Museum of Natural History. “Yes, I really like the spines on that dinosaur’s back,” I replied, “and the teeth are pretty cool too.” She stared at my work as if she had never seen someone drawing before. And when she asked if I worked at there, it dawned on me that it was probably her first trip to a museum. I was flattered and pleased that I seemed to have made more of an impression than the ancient Dimetrodon that stood before us. That was three years ago, but I remember it as if it happened last week.


  1. I love this! I don’t think I am very good at drawing, but I am going to give this a try too. I have got the perfect leather covered blank notebook just begging to have something cool like this on its pages.

    1. The type of paper I use really affects how happy I am with the drawing process. Once I start to add color of any sort, having a thick paper is much more useful. To start, just a stack of good old copier paper goes a long way.

  2. This is wonderful! I too find that drawing captures more than just a visual snap and wish I’d done it more on my travels. The one diary I have which is both drawn and written is the only one to which I return. Heres to having a sketchbook and pencil at all times on future adventures!

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