Wednesday, October 24, 2012

always take a sketchbook

Mark Adams, Traveler-Cartographer with the National Park Service, quoted in an interview on

What is the one thing you never travel without, and why?

A sketchbook. Whenever I open the sketchbook I know I belong exactly where I am at that moment. My intuition is a perfect guide and I am rooted to the ground.

Not only does the movement of the pencil connect me to the place, the act of drawing brings local people to me through some wordless sense of shared interest and knowledge. I feel like the attention I pay through drawing is something I can give to the place.

More than once, drawing in a marketplace, as I broadened my focus I became gradually aware of a crowd -- glancing behind me, a gathering of people exhale and chatter, pointing at the page. We all laugh and vendors and cops lean over to see how I have treated them. Rickshaw drivers, shoeshine children, and monks sit down next to me.

I usually try to get them to draw or to just sign their names on my page. Chanting monks in a temple craned their necks to see my book. Schoolgirls at an Imperial palace in Kyoto wrote the characters of their names and drew a cartoon Snoopy.

What ends up on the page comes directly from the experience and is seen directly -- unlike a photo. Precision and accuracy are beside the point -- it's a first-hand account.

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