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  • 08.13.13

Sketchagram: Travel-Happy Artist Draws Everywhere She’s Been

Chandler O’Leary’s blog Drawn the Road Again offers a detailed account of her travels, in watercolor sketches.

Nobody is clear on the exact ratio of picture-to-words worthiness–some estimates have it as high as 1:1000—but it’s hard to argue that your average travel writer could capture the essence of a place as well as Chandler O’Leary does with her ongoing series of watercolor artwork.

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As a child, O’Leary traveled a lot with her military-affiliated family. Now, she takes to the open road as part of a quest to see as much of the world as possible. Drawn the Road Again is a blog that documents the artist’s travels using illustrations. Just as with a great essay, the joy of her work comes from seeing the details from the various stops on her journeys that she chooses to include. In addition to the vivid imagery, the proprietor of Anagram Press also includes notes about precisely where the view we’re seeing was glimpsed from, perhaps what kind of trees are in the frame and what about the area captured her attention.


O’Leary had been keeping travel sketchbooks for years, but since they didn’t really fit within the existing portfolio that her clients and customers see, she wasn’t sure what to do with them. Eventually, enough friends prodded her to put them online that she started doing so.

“I’d been feeling somewhat burned out after years of doing labor-intensive hand-printed editions in my professional work,” the artist says. “I missed the immediacy and fun of drawing. So I finally just decided to create an online home just for these travel sketches and see where it all takes me.”

A little research into places and sights goes into the planning, but generally the Rhode Island School of Design graduate is playing it by ear, heading out on the road and stumbling across sketch material by accident.

“There are a few things I’m always on the lookout for, like roadside attractions, vintage signs, or beautiful panoramic views,” O’Leary says. “But mostly I just try to rely on my instincts and be on the alert whenever I can, in case something interesting comes my way.”

Although the artist’s redolent, colorful sketches leave out a lot of information about the areas she visits, perhaps this absence is ultimately beneficial to a viewer’s sense of adventure.

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“A drawing can instantly evoke the feeling of a place on a deep, visceral level, without necessarily having to go into minute, specific detail,” O’Leary says. “Illustrations tend to be more abstract, whereas photographs and essays are usually grounded in detailed realism. It’s one thing to read about someone else’s travel experiences, or see beautiful travel photography, but with sketches, there’s room for the viewers to bring their own imagination to the table to complete the experience.”

Have a look at more images in the slides above.

About the author

Joe Berkowitz is a writer and staff editor at Fast Company. His next book, Away with Words, is available June 13th from Harper Perennial.

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