A&E » Arts

Quick, expressive sketches trigger memories

Artist Carol Roberts teaches travellers how to construct their own visual diaries



What: Creating Visual Travel Diaries

Where: Expressions Art Studio

When: Sept. 26, 1 p.m. to 5 p.m.

Cost: $25

It started during a two-week trip into the Borneo jungle to meet the Penan people.

Carol Roberts was studying the effects that deforestation was having on the group of nomadic people on the island in the South China Sea. She wanted to paint the Penan in their traditional homes, but she didn't have enough room in her backpack to lug an easel and canvas with her.

That's when the idea of miniature travel sketches hit her.

Roberts decided to create small, quick watercolour pieces instead of larger, detailed paintings. She packed a small watercolour pallet, paintbrush, permanent marker and cloth into a Ziploc bag and set off with her husband into the rainforest aboard the narrow, wobbly longboats found in Borneo.

"We would be on longboats going down the river and I would be sketching people as we went by," recalls the Whistler- and Mexico-based artist. "They had great, big earrings and their faces are very different from our faces."

When Roberts returned to British Columbia later that year, she was delighted with the miniature travel sketches she brought back with her and she felt her memories from Borneo were captured more vividly through her brush strokes than if she had snapped away with a camera.

"I continued it and I started to give workshops in Vancouver and West Vancouver," said Roberts, who holds a degree in Art Education from the University of British Columbia and is a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine. "People really took to it."

Sixteen years later, Roberts continues to practice the art of creating travel diaries - which are a collection of quick, expressive and spontaneous paintings - and she has painted the Queen Charlotte Islands, United Arab Emirates, Spain and Thailand. The materials she uses are small, and she does most of her work in the palm of one hand.

The feedback she has gotten from her workshops has been similarly glowing. One of her past students created a visual diary during a kayaking trip in the Sea of Cortez, between California's Baja Peninsula and mainland Mexico, and when she returned home, the student said she could still remember the smells because of the process of creating a travel diary.

Roberts hopes to teach people in Whistler how they, too, can create their own quick travel paintings and put together visual diaries.

On Friday, Sept. 25, Roberts will hold an open house at Expressions Art Studio for people to learn about travel sketches and try the equipment. Roberts will then hold a four-hour workshop the next day, Saturday, Sept. 26.

"I would like to teach people how to do this quick drawing and water colour painting for when the Olympics come so they can make their own fast sketches of athletes in action, and they can have heir own personal memoir," said the artist who has also taught Art in the Wild workshops in Whistler for several years.

"I am not teaching people to be artists. I am teaching people to enjoy making picture memories of their experiences."

The requirements to participate in the workshops are small: just show up with your smile. Roberts will have enough supplies to go around, although people are welcome to bring their own equipment. Participants are also encouraged to bring old travel photos for inspiration.

To find out more or sign up for the workshop, contact Carol Roberts at 604-905-4221 or carol3cs@gmail.com .