Letters From The Field

Have pen, will travel. Sending letters.

From the sketchbook: Gadding around Greenland

A letter from Greenland. In which is given another glimpse into the travel sketchbook.

Greenland, summer of 2014


you may remember that other letter and view into the travel sketchbook in which I told you that I hardly ever leave home without pencil and sketchbook in my pocket. Wherever I go. En route, the travel sketch is a great means of capturing a place and scene, sometimes in my opinion indeed superior to some quick photo en passant – well yes, of course I already advocated benefit and use of keeping a journal and spicing it up with an occasional travel sketch extensively in yet another recent letter. So, it shouldn’t really come as a surprise that indeed the sketchbook accompanied me when we left for Greenland, am I right?




To be honest, that first kayak expedition to Greenland on Viking tracks back in 2008 was the moment I was actually returning to more regular (travel) sketching – in the beginning experimenting with some kind of ink pens which were light and promised a decent colorization. While these are absolutely perfect for some quick colour ‘on the go’, I found myself a little bit limited when it came to variety and range of colours – and in particular blending those. Of course, you could argue (and that’s what I indeed did initially) that, naturally, Greenland’s colour palette might be somehow limited anyway. I mean, ice, water, rocks, more ice … how much variety would you expect, right? Well, I was taught better: I mean, it’s not named Greenland for nothing, mind you. So, it did not need much more experimenting until I found a ‘sketching field kit’ which worked well for me: some small rugged 12-pan box with a replaceable set of water colours (allowing to change the palette related to the destination) and a sed of basically three brushes of different size. Add some sketchbooks small enough to fit the pocket – et voilà.



Kayaking Greenland is of course a fabulous experience and more than once I was simply overwhelmed by the breathtaking scenery. Clearly, this demanded to be captured on paper. And while actually sketching in the kayak did not exactly seem like a manageable undertaking (keeping a hand at paddle and pencil at the same time surely would be beyond my limited multitasking capabilities), it almost became a dear ritual to reach for sketchbook and pencil once we arrived at a daily stage’s destination (of course, once the boat was unloaded; and camp pitched up).




Yet there’s so much to discover. From epic sweeping views to incredible little details. Those colourful traditional festive costume of the girls on their first day of school. Bored sled dogs, having not much to do in summer. The fjord unfurling towards that glacier in the distance, unbashful seals curiously peeking out of the water, the mandatory iceberg looming in the mist. Almost some kind of postcard idyll. No, wait. Make that a sketchbook idyll!


11 comments on “From the sketchbook: Gadding around Greenland

  1. ralietravels
    September 17, 2015

    After retiring, I began to do portraits and figures. Even though I often read about the benefits of taking a sketchbook, the best I ever did was pack one. We leave Tuesday on another road trip, and with your inspiration, maybe I will do more this time.

    • Jens
      September 18, 2015

      Glad to hear! I couldn’t overemphasize the benefit of travelling with a sketchbook. A gain! My pleasure if this inspires you to come back with a lot of impressions and scribblings. Would be curious to have a look. ;-)

  2. Norman
    September 18, 2015

    Another beautiful article you got there Jens,

    you really seem to capture the essence of greenland…sketchbook idyll for sure :)

    • Jens
      September 18, 2015

      Thanks a lot for your kind words, Norman! And for the compliments even more. Always surprised and even more glad to learn, people are actually reading this stuff here. ;-)

  3. elbrenzink
    September 18, 2015

    Beautiful sketches! It is really nice travel to new places through a artist’s sensibility.

    • Jens
      September 19, 2015

      Thanks a lot to you as well. It’s quite a pleasure and honour to be considered such an inspiration! I almost blush! ;-)

      • elbrenzink
        September 19, 2015

        Lol! I can’t help, you just got a Brazilian fan.😉

      • Jens
        September 20, 2015

        Haha, glad to know. Very flattering! ;-)

  4. Curt Mekemson
    September 19, 2015

    Loved the sketches. It is indeed a great way to capture your travels. Had I but the talent! But my writing pad is always available. And I doodle. –Curt

    • Jens
      September 20, 2015

      Thanks for your comment, Curt! Not always about talent; but much more about having fun with what you’re doing. First and of all aiming to please myself. Same’s true for the doodles, I’m sure! Wouldn’t mind to see some if you’d like to share.

      • Curt Mekemson
        September 20, 2015

        Most of them disappear. But some have hung around. When I find them again, I’ll do a blog. Thanks for the idea. –Curt

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This entry was posted on September 17, 2015 by in Sketchbook and tagged , , , , , .

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