So who is the sketchy traveler?

For a while now I have been getting to know a character called the Sketchy Traveler. This began before the pandemic, but during the isolation of lock down he took on new dimensions in doodles and ramblings in my journal. I often find it difficult to share this creative side of me, but as I have gotten to know the Sketchy Traveler, I realized that I find it easier to express my playfulness and joy through this character. Drawing is only one part of my creative practice and the Sketchy Traveler more fully represents this practice.

A few summers ago, I took a trip up to Portland to draw the International Rose Garden and stayed in Nob Hill at a hotel a short walk from the garden. I arrived the day before to check-in and explore the neighborhood. Nob Hill is filled with stores and restaurants that are a pleasure to peruse and experience. The Ram Head Pub by McMenamins on 23rd Ave sits in the bottom of a beautiful apartment building and the Yokai Musubi makes great onigiri and musubi to take for a lunch break.

The next morning I took off early to the rose garden to beat the crowds and explored the garden. It was a cool summer morning that smelled of drew and had that quite before the day really begins. I spent about an hour walking the gardens and remembering their layout and sights. Finally, I sat down at a spot I had enjoyed the view from and spent the rest of the morning drawing.

I enjoyed my time so much that when I got home I decide to immediately go to the Owen Rose Garden in Eugene. The Owen Rose Garden is indeed beautiful if not as large as the International Rose Garden. The day I was there a church was having a service in one section of the garden while I shared a lawn with an AA group. Yet despite the beauty around me the painting I produced felt rushed and plain because I was drawing with a purpose instead of the sense of play I had at the International Rose Garden.

A psychologist would say I had entered a state of flow while in Portland that was missing when I went to Eugene, but I find it more meaningful to say I was missing a sense of play. In Portland I was having an experience where I followed the things I enjoyed through the city and that happened to include drawing. Then ironically I wanted to reproduce this sense of play and latched on to the activity of drawing, but this was forcing an action instead of acting from a place of joy. The result was a drawing that was lacking the energy I had in Portland and an experience that did not engender the same feeling of happiness.

Drawing is never the single activity of my travel. Instead it is one part of an experience rooted in a feeling of happiness. The Sketchy Traveler is the expression of this feeling and is the voice I want to write about this way of experiencing yourself through the urban. Writing as the Sketchy Traveler, I want to share this sense of joy not only through my drawings, but also writing about the happiness to be found in embodying places and communities. My deepest wish being that this will inspire other people to find their own play space.

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