Many of us artists dream about traveling the world to see other cultures, try different foods and sketch our experiences.
...but what if it wasn’t a dream?
Alicia Aradilla, a 29-year-old Spanish artist, and also a graphic designer for Samsung, grew tired of thinking about the possibilities and decided to take action. Together with her partner Sergio, who is a journalist and photographer, they decided to take a 1-year break from their careers to go on an adventure throughout Europe and Asia.
Japan, China, the Philippines, Portugal, Spain, Italy, Greece, Turkey, Jordan, Iran, India, Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia… You name it. The result was amazing: 19 countries, 13 sketchbooks and + 700 illustrations.
...plus, she built over 45 000 followers on Instagram !
How did she do it? Let’s find out!
How do you plan a 1-year journey?
Alicia and Sergio started their journey in June 2017, but the planning began 5 years ago when they decided to save up for the travel of their dreams:
“The hardest part was committing to something we’ve been dreaming about for ages. We’re an artist and a journalist who accomplished financial stability after working hard for several years.”
According to them, after that milestone planning the travel wasn’t that hard. Every 3 months they would decide on new flights and search for more information about their destinations. Then, Alicia and Sergio would plan a new route.
In other words, instead of planning one big journey, they planned many smaller ones.
“Such big travel can’t be planned like a summer trip. Neither the times or the way you plan are the same. For us, the travel experience is way more important than hitting every touristic attraction.”
How is sketch traveling different from traditional tourism?
“It’s a very different way of traveling. When you’re sketching the places you visit, you do it in a more relaxed manner. If you sit down for an hour to draw a place, you learn a lot about the country’s culture and the daily routine of the locals. They are very kind and are usually interested in what you’re doing and love to start conversations.”
With experiences like that, no wonder Alicia made so many art pieces. In fact, she drew every single day!
“To be honest, this kind of travel has nothing to do with those tours where you have to take in all the monuments on the same day. That’s good if your goal is to have a super fancy photo album in your phone, but it doesn’t have the same kind of impact. At least not at a personal level.”
The impact was real: by sharing her artwork every day on Instagram, Alicia grew a huge online following of over 45,000 people and counting!
Any unusual stories you’d like to share?
While browsing Alicia’s Instagram feed, I noticed an interesting description concerning an illustration created in Hong Kong. It said that she was asked to leave a garden because she wasn’t allowed to draw it…
“I never thought that drawing outdoors at a public place would be prohibited! But apart from rare experiences like that, everything went down really well.”
Sometimes Alicia was by herself, but other times…
“I did many drawings in areas close to schools, and it was insane. I had dozens of kids surrounding me, closely watching every stroke. Some of them were very curious about the materials: they wanted to touch the watercolors and had fun trying to guess what part of the building I was drawing. In Laos, when I was sketching some temples, a lot of monks would come closer to watch.”
“Drawing is a way to break the ice with people you don’t know and who do not speak your language. One time in Iran, this man invited us to go inside his carpet shop for a cup of tea. He just wanted to see my sketchbook, but because he didn’t know how to speak English, he called his nephew to translate. It was a fun afternoon.”
What were the biggest challenges you faced while doing plein air?
“The climate. I drew in such extreme conditions that the watercolors would dry immediately upon touching the paper. It was surprisingly hard to paint. In Varanasi (India) it was impossible to go outside after 9 am - over 40ºC (104ºF)!! While on the Ganges I had to wake up at 5 am to get the most out of the first rays of the sun.
In some countries like China, the minute I made the first brush strokes, a crowd would surround me. It was almost impossible to see my subject. It was madness! At the end of the day, you learn how to focus and it’s even fun.”
What’s different now that you've concluded this dream journey?
“This travel was an incredible experience - a dream come true. Something like that changes you.
At a personal level, I believe I grew a lot because of the people I met, the different cultures I discovered in every country, the extreme situations that take you out of your comfort zone and test you… Every day was an adventure.
Artistically, I developed my craft immensely by practicing so much on all sorts of different places every single day. If I look at the first and the last drawing I made, there’s no doubt that you can learn a lot by doing!
It’s a shame that I only discovered Etchr Lab at the end of my trip. I think it’s a great brand for urban and traveling artists. I’m more than happy with my Field Case and use it to carry my essential art supplies every time I go outside to draw. It’s very handy and resistant, and I also use it to keep my pen collection ready to go.”
This concludes our interview with Alicia. I don’t know about you, but I’m eager to grab my gear and go out to explore!
- Ânia, Etchr Community Influencer
Alicia mentioned how art brings people together and breaks down cultural barriers.
What do you think? And do you have any stories where art making helped to facilitate communication?
We are very much looking forward to getting to know your stories, so please share them in the comment section below!