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When I travel, I use a separate sketchbook to record places, buildings, plants, creatures and anything that stands out to me that I want to remember.  Sometimes I have time to sketch it in the moment, other times I sketch it later in the hotel or even back home.  I use Micron pens, graphite pencils and watercolor for most of my sketches with the occasional white gel pen or white acryla gouache if I’ve covered over some highlights.

This past June, my husband and I traveled to Australia before the 2019 GNSI (Guild of Natural Science Illustrators) conference I was to attend.  We flew in to Brisbane and stayed in a hotel across the street from the City Botanic Gardens.  The next day we drove up to O’Reilly’s Tree Canopy Walk in Lamington National Park, a subtropical rainforest.  I got in a sketch at the top of Moran Falls, a peaceful place that was backlit in the sun.  Time got away from us and we were chasing the sunset all the way down the mountain which was challenging, considering we were driving on the opposite side than we were used to.

Brisbane spread
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

The next morning we spent some time at the Natural History Museum and I sketched some of the birds that I’d seen the day before.  My husband enjoyed the space exploration part of the museum.

We flew to Melbourne later that day, spent the night and after scraping frost off the windshield with a credit card, took off for Port Campbell.  We arrived and started exploring the beautiful rocky coastline.  I did quick sketches of several of the rock formations with pencil and watercolor and finished them with ink later at the hotel.  We were treated to a beautiful sunset at the 12 Apostles which I endeavored to paint as it was starting to cool down.

Great Ocean Road spread
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

We were up early for the sunrise on a frosty morning at the 12 Apostles and took Gibson’s Stairs down to the beach.  I was enchanted with the fairy wrens and other beautiful birds that I saw.  Otway National Park is also in the area and we did a gorgeous hike in the rainforest that reminded me of Jurassic Park with all of its tree ferns and giant trees.  Most of these sketches were done at home since time once again ran away from us.

Triplet Falls/Koalas
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

Back in Melbourne, we spent the day on a Koalas & Kangaroos in the Wild tour where we were kept on the move and given lots of information.  Later at home I painted one of the koalas, a couple of frogmouths, and some of the kangaroos that we saw.

Melbourne/Cape Trib
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

Wednesday we spent the day traveling from Melbourne to Cairns and then drove 3 hours to Cape Tribulation Beach House where we stayed for 3 nights.  We had no internet and it was good to unplug and explore the area in a more relaxed fashion.  I was able to sketch at a lookout where the ocean met up with the rainforest and watch a couple of eagles soar high above me before the gnats drove me away.

Highlights of our time there were the night hike, cassowaries, moths, spiders, snorkeling, zip lining, and walking through the rainforest boardwalks and beaches.  Everything was just so different that I found myself pointing and exclaiming wherever I went.  Hard to stop and sketch when there’s so much to see.  I had to think a great deal about what I wanted to include in this spread and did most of it at home.

Cape Tribulation spread
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

Saturday we spent time at the Daintree Insect Museum and Jindalba Boardwalk, ate unique flavors of ice cream at the Daintree Ice Cream Company and worked our way back to Cairns, then flew back to Brisbane.

Daintree/GNSI Conf
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

Having fulfilled his duty to get me to the conference, my husband then returned home.

The GNSI Conference was held at the Women’s College of the University of Queensland.  We had a 3 day core of presentations and keynote speakers on a variety of topics followed by workshops and field trips.  The Australians in the group were amused by those of us who were fascinated by the common bugs and birds all around us.  I must admit it was funny to see a line of us all with our cameras focused on a hedge…

My first field trip was to North Stradbroke Island and the next day was a field sketching trip to the Australian Zoo.  Both were amazing.

GNSI Conf spread 2
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

My last field trip was to Springbrook National Park.  It was a rainy cold day, but I was able to at least start two sketches-one of the Natural Bridge and the other of Purling Brook Falls, which I inked later.  My last day was spent wandering around Mt. Coot-tha Botanic Garden with a fellow illustrator.  We sketched a bit, but I took more photos than anything.  We finished up at the Art Museum and enjoyed seeing the range of styles of Aboriginal art from over the years.

GNSI Conference spread 3
© 2019 Karen A Johnson

Hope you enjoyed this journey through my sketchbook.  I’m hoping to add some of these spreads to my 2020 calendar…what are your favorites?