in a theme park.

As it turns out, Disneyland is not a great place to sketch.

Oh, sure, it might be a great inspiration for sketching. There are a few thousands of people worth sketching. There is colour and shape and light and shadow and trees and architecture and—deep breath.

There are also about fifteen places to sit, total. You never really stop moving, and if you do it’s usually because the ride queue is jammed up, and all the best sight lines are meant to be snapped with a camera and moved out of the way for the next person.

Sketching in Disney kinda sucks.

But also, it was a bit of a challenge.

In 2022 we went to Florida and checked out Disney World and I had it in my mind to do some sketching there. When we arrived I started carrying my sketchbook around but then between my unwillingness to be fast and loose and messy, I couldn’t afford (nor would my family tolerate) camping on a bench for thirty minutes to carefully draw a building or a ride or something. So, I started snapping reference photos and (being that we spent a lot of down time at the hotel) I did lots of painting in the evenings from my phone screen.

loosy goosy

where photography is about pixel-perfect capturing a scene, and yes, watercolour can be that too when the mood strikes, there is a dream-like element to the flow of water and pigment that can be embraced if one is willing to step away from the seeking of realism. I have been trying to relax my brain in this regard for years, always in a little lockstep with the photographic mindset. “how will people know what I’m painting if the colours/shapes/outlines don’t match??!!” I am trying now to embrace my loosy goosy period, that effort to evoke a vibe or a mood or a feeling from a painting while leaving the literal behind. A bit of shape. A lot of squiggles. A lot of water. A dab of this and a dob of that and just let physics take over. It takes some chill, but it can work out.

In 2024, just a week ago as I write this, we went to California to check out Disneyland, and I decided, fresh small-format sketchbook in hand and some ripe thoughts about style, that I would experiment. Fast sketches were on the agenda. No sitting. No parking or camping somewhere to draw. Pull out the book and pen and with a maximum (literally MAX) of five minutes, get as much sense of a scene as I could onto paper and—

Well, I snapped a pic, too, and did all my painting back at the hotel. I wasn’t exactly going to hold a sketchbook open on a rollercoaster while I waited for my washes to dry.

I did the math and for about 28 sketches I clocked in about six hours total over the week, sketching & painting, and filled front to back an entire Moleskine “small” 3.5×5.5 watercolor folio. Every page, usually double wide.

The paintings are messy. Some of them I was a little loose on the detail. Some I was a little heavy on the colours. A few got some leakage through the seams of the paper.

Had I spent even an hour on each of those pics to, you know, make them neater or give them more detail then I would have spent twenty eight hours—two whole waking days—painting everything I painted. As it is, I got it all in between rides and during some hotel siestas. Isn’t that the best way to art, huh?