Thursday 8 October 2015

An Illustrator in Italy - travel, sketching and snapshots from Lake Garda

When I’m travelling, you’ll almost always find a good portion of my suitcase brimming with sketchbooks and pencils. There’s something so personal about documenting your experiences through a sketch. I find it really builds a memory and captures the atmosphere as you study each detail and transfer it to paper.  Reportage and travel sketching has become an integral part of each trip I take, and looking back over my sketchbooks immerses me in the memory often far more than a quick snapshot can.

Well, after this near disaster at a festival recently (and only taking hand luggage) I opted to leave the ink pot at home and stuck to pencils, brush pens and a watercolour set as I took a week in Italy last month. I’d never visited Italy before (despite dreams of going to Bologna book fair each year). This trip was purely for family-time (and a much-needed break from work!) so we headed to Limone on Lake Garda for lake-swims, mountain climbs and castle adventures.

There aren’t many views I love more than mountains and vast stretches of water. I love the variety of weather, the way the light plays on the peaks and the array of colours as the day cycles. The lakeside beaches were calm enough that I could sit for a few hours to read, paint and brave a swim.

Limone is famous for its gorgeous lemon groves, and it’s one of those places where the tourist shops grab a theme and run with it (doesn’t everywhere?). There were bundles of lemon themed gifts, the best lemonade I’ve ever tasted and the town centre had wafts of sweet citrus as you walked along the cobbled streets. Luckily, I love lemon! I really enjoyed learning about the heritage and history of the town at a few of the restored lemon groves/museums where I also found this little guy below (the cat not the grapefruit, but yes, also the grapefruit). I won’t pretend my travel photos don’t always contain at least two pictures of cats.

We hired a car for the week, so we had the freedom to explore the less-touristy spots and visit other towns on the far stretches of the lake. I picked up these beautiful illustrated postcards in an old bookshop in Riva! It was a bit intimidating navigating the narrow tunnels with ginormous coaches hurtling at you like a stampede, but we made it through with only a few near misses.

Illustration by Ricardo Guasco [left] and Antonio Simeoni (1926) [right]

I’m back at work now, my family returned to their respective opposite ends of the country, and the memories of feeling warm in a t-shirt are gradually being swaddled in coats and knitted scarves (hey, it’s fine, I love Autumn!). One day I’ll put together a book with all my travel sketches, but until then, I’ll just look forward to my next adventure.

Just a note to say many of these photos were taken by the wonderful Andrew Jolly

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