Book Review: The Art of Sketching: 400 Years of Travel Diaries

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I wasn't able to read this book without feeling sleepy. The writing style is academic and similar to those used my museums to describe their work.

Here's one of many reference to the travel diary:

The journey that a travel diary focuses on is the pivot of its iconographic narration. The desire of the explorer to share his or her discoveries engenders the writing of the story, the compiling of fragments and the representation of the things seen. Illustrated reports disseminate knowledge of terrae incognitae, popularize natural and geographical discoveries and bear witness to the horizons and the world beyonds the seas and physical and mental borders.

In general, the book looks at the role of travel diaries, or travelogues, as they have been used in history and how they have evolved to present day. It also looks at the subject matter, and also the different ways they have been used, such as for reportage, recording heritage or history, or just as a way to record memories from a holiday trip.

The last section of the book features a gallery with artists who keep travelogues. This is the most interesting section to me because it's always fun to look at other people's sketchbooks. Many of the artists included are those that I do not know of so it's great. In the recent years, there's this increase in the number of urban sketching books and in those books you usually see the same artists submitting their works. It's not the case here. However, the downside is this section is quite brief compared to other parts of the book.

Overall, there's a lot of text to go through. I've no problem with text except when they are not written for the layman. Books like An Illustrated Life or An Illustrated Journey also have plenty of text but they are written in a more accessible manner and I enjoyed them much more.

So if you want to explore the origins of travel diaries or travelogues, perhaps you might find this book helpful. For someone who's looking for inspiration or likes looking at other people's art, there are many better other options out there.

The Art of Sketching: 400 Years of Travel Diaries is available at Amazon (US | CA | UK | DE | FR | IT | ES | JP | CN) and Book Depository

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