Michael Sloan
Travel Sketchbooks
Black & white sketches
Here are some sketches from the past month.
At my son's soccer tournament on Randall's Island, NYC

Airport in Denver, CO.

Calistoga, CA.

Santa Fe sketches
Here are sketches from a recent trip to Santa Fe, New Mexico.

Albuquerque Isotopes vs El Paso Chihuahuas, minor league baseball game. 102 degrees F. at 7PM.

Santa Fe sketches


Here are some of my sketches from the past week spent in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I'd like to do a whole series of sketches of small regional airports like the one in Santa Fe, so charming and full of character. I love walking from the terminal across the tarmac to board the airplane.
Street market in downtown Santa Fe.
The church ruins in nearby Pecos National Historical Park.
Sunset looking south west towards Albuquerque.



We arrived in Santa Fe at the summer solstice. The intense sunlight and the 7000 foot elevation led us to seek out shade. Here's my son with a hat purchased at a street market.

Conference sketches
This week I was invited to sketch during two sessions of the China-Yale Healthy Cities Leadership Program at Yale University. Here are some of my sketches.

I completed all my sketches during two 90-minute sessions. I worked quickly, relied on my intuition, and was very aware of the element of risk, especially when I was using watercolor washes.

I enjoyed meeting some of the conference attendees from the China Association of Mayors. The presentations about building strong community infrastructure and environmental sustainability and resilience were fascinating.

Fenway Park
Here's a sketch of Fenway Park at my 9 year old son's first Red Sox game last Monday. It was great to be there together.

Sketching in Hong Kong
We're back in Hong Kong for a few weeks. It's HOT! 94 degrees and humid with tropical cyclone Soudelor gathering strength nearby in the South China Sea. Here are some of my sketches.
Left: sketches of passengers on the Hong Kong MTR subway.
Seen in Sham Shui Po, Kowloon.

I’m fascinated by the elderly men and women in Hong Kong who work on the street gathering cardboard boxes and plastic bottles for recycling. Are they all from a single ethnic group? I see them frequently in Mong Kok East, one of the most densely populated urban areas in the world:

Sketch of a recycling shed, in Central, Hong Kong. A majestic banyan tree is growing up and over the shed - truly amazing.
View of Kaohsiung, Taiwan, from our hotel window.

Trees seen from our apartment window.

Stall at a night market in Kaohsiung, Taiwan.

The money changer, Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon.
Cobbler, Central
My sketch of a cobbler's stall in Central, Hong Kong. This stall qualifies as the smallest shop I've seen here in Hong Kong. The floor measures about 3 feet wide by 2 feet deep. The cobbler's lap is his workbench. Re-soled shoes waiting to be picked up by customers advertise the quality of his work. The stall is festooned with shoe laces, inner soles and heel cushions hung with bits of wire and clothes hangers.

Wet market fish
My sketch of a fishmonger in the wet market, Tai Po, Hong Kong, seen a few days ago. I like the care that she took in the artful placement of the fish on display in her booth.

Return to Hong Kong
We're back in Hong Kong for the month of August, and here are some sketches from the past week. I was hoping that I would be able to pick up where I left off when we lived here last year. So far I've been able to find the same groove, sketching in local street markets. It seems like I never left. Most of my favorite shops and characters are still here:
Sketch of a jolly fishmonger, Mong Kok East wet market, Hong Kong. This man hummed tunes and engaged a small crowd in front of his stall with his repartee while he deftly butchered a fish for a waiting customer. Signs of the messy butchering process are everywhere which led me to use stronger colors than usual.

Tailor shop, Kowloon, Hong Kong. This tailor's shop is in a metal shed in a dark alley about 10 yards off very busy Mody Road. It's right near the Hui Lau Shan juice bar where we went to get mango drinks.
Venice sketchbooks
I've just returned from a week in Venice with two of my children. Here are some of our sketches:
Above, the entrance to the Grand Canal at twilight. Below, boat traffic on the Grand Canal.

I once worked in Venice for half a year and fell in love with this magical city. It's an important place for me, and I want to share it with my family. April is such a nice time to go since it's neither too crowded nor too hot, and the wisteria is in full bloom.
My two children were the best travel and sketching companions. We walked for miles exploring remote parts of the city and loved riding on the boats around the lagoon.
The weather was perfect. For two days it was clear enough to see the entire range of snowcapped alps across the horizon to the north.
Rush hour on the Grand Canal.
We visited "The Point" at the entrance to the Grand Canal at least once a day to sketch and watch the boats.

My 7-year old sketches the Grand Canal.
Here's his sketch.

My daughter's sketch of a courtyard in Castello.
My daughter's sketch of a ferry on the canal.

Accordion player, Murano. There were wonderful street musicians everywhere.
View of the Lido from Sant'Elena.

The cemetary island of San Michele.

Two lovers sitting by a canal, Castello.

We had such a great time, and I want to return again soon.
Farewell, Venice. A dopo!
Hong Kong sketches April
Here are some recent sketches from Hong Kong and China:
Rugby fans under the grandstand at the Hong Kong Rugby Sevens tournament in March. This 3-day tournament hosts an audience of 40,000 rugby fans at Hong Kong stadium and has the atmosphere of a rock concert (The Beach Boys performed this year) and a Mardi Gras festival. Fans dress up in outrageous costumes, consume vast amounts of beer, and watch outstanding rugby teams from Wales, Fiji, South Africa, New Zealand, Canada, Samoa, and over 20 other countries. We've become rugby fans, too.

Seen in a Hong Kong subway car, one of many advertisements for luxury and fashion products. I'm struck by how sexually provocative these ads can be. Most people such as the passengers on this train respond to them as just another example of visual noise, and ignore them.

A parallel trader waiting for the train to mainland China. These traders are Hong Kong and mainland Chinese citizens who shuttle across the nearby border with products purchased in Hong Kong such as infant milk formula that are scarce or whose quality is not trusted on the mainland. They sell these products on the mainland for a profit. Such activities have caused a shortage of these products in Hong Kong which has angered local citizens and the government, and resulted in a recent crackdown on parallel trading. To some this man is an object of derision, but to me he looks noble and dignified. I empathize with him. This may not be his chosen profession, but in all likelihood he is just trying to provide for his family as best he can.

Seen at the entrance to the Mong Kok MTR station, Kowloon.

Sketches of people on the MTR subway.

Two o'clock in the morning in the corridor of a hard sleeper train between Changsha and rural Anhui province.


Back in Hong Kong, at my son's soccer practice.

Fisherman repairing net, Sai Kung. I was attracted to the tranquility of this solitary man working diligently on a pier across the harbor from the crowded waterfront restaurants.

Evening fog in Cheung Chao harbor.

6 days in Paris
Here are sketches from a trip to Paris with my family to celebrate the 50th wedding anniversary of my wife's parents. Thank you for giving us the opportunity to celebrate your anniversary together!
Not long before this trip I had a daydream about what my black and white sketches would look like if I added color to them. I thought that this would be very satisfying to me and take my sketches to a new level. It feels like these Paris sketches are the ones that I imagined in my daydream.
My sketchbook work really rejuvenates me. I wish I could do more work like this, very loose and in the moment, very soul-satisfying. I'm not sure how I can apply this to my assignments, but we'll see...
The Winged Victory of Samothrace at the Louvre.

The Mona Lisa at the Louvre. This is as close as I could get to it.

I used a moleskine watercolor sketchbook for the first time. I liked how easily it fit into my pocket, and how the format of the sketchbook allowed for panoramic views spread across two pages.
View from our apartment at 10PM. It didn't get fully dark until 10:30. We appreciated the tranquility of our neighborhood which was away from the more crowded parts of the city where we spent most of our days.

The weather was beautiful and we spent as much time as we could walking, eating in Parisian cafes, and exploring.
Our children sailing toy boats in the fountain at the Tuilleries gardens.

Garden at the Rodin museum, an oasis of peace and tranquility.

Another view from our apartment.
Fountain near Notre Dame cathedral.

My studio in Hong Kong
This July I'm moving my studio to Hong Kong for a year. While there I'll conduct business as usual, continue working on illustration assignments with current clients, and will look forward to working with some new clients in that part of the world.

I love Hong Kong and am very excited. We've visited several times before, though it will be a different experience getting to know the rhythms of life in the city as residents rather than as tourists. We’re looking forward to making new friends, getting to know our neighborhood and our children’s schools, and eating wonderful food. I'd also like to connect with the illustration and art community.

I feel like I'm diving into something unknown and big, a milestone in life that will be a great experience for us as a family. I’m excited about how our move will open new creative paths for me to explore and develop. I’ve been very inspired by Hong Kong on past visits and have done a lot of sketches like those posted here. It's a beautiful city with an incredibly active street and harbor life, great architecture, jungle landscapes, rollicking thunderstorms with huge tropical clouds, and always the sea. I feel so lucky.

Street Fair People
Last summer I went to a local street fair as part of a weekly outdoor sketching class.  There was going to be a good blues band performing, and I was excited to sketch the musicians. When I arrived the band was taking a break so I began sketching the locals attending the fair instead.

I found a shady place to sit on a park bench with good views up and down the sidewalk. Everyone walked past me enjoying the various booths that displayed games of skill, local crafts and products. Everyone was having a good time on a beautiful sunny day, eating fried dough, cheese dogs and bratwurst. Nearly everyone was overweight.

I was particularly interested in one man who was very obese. He stayed slumped in a folding metal and canvas chair for nearly two hours so I was able to unobtrusively draw him from several angles. I wondered if this man was physically able to stand up.

Finally as I was preparing to leave the man stood up… and lit a cigarette.
Time passed and I forgot all about my sketches of the street fair people. 
Then last month I worked on an assignment about obesity for the Yale School of Public Health magazine. This assignment reminded me of my sketches, so I emailed a few to the editor asking if he might be interested in using them? I was very happy when he agreed to publish five.

My Venice Sketchbook
I've just returned from five days in Venice, Italy with two of my children. Here are some sketches from our trip:
We rented a room on a long wharf called the Zattere which overlooks the Giudecca canal. Outside our front door was a constant procession of boat traffic ranging from one-man dinghys to towering cruise ships that resembled skyscrapers floating on their sides.
Although we were on the edge of the high-traffic tourist zone our room was secluded and peaceful. I was never at a loss for something to sketch just outside our front door.
Here's the view from our apartment window.
Below are two views from our front door:

On our first evening we discovered the view from the Salute at the entrance to the Grand Canal and across from Piazza San Marco. We returned to this place often as it was ten minutes walk from our room and had sweeping views from the Grand Canal to the harbor:
View from the Salute at twilight. Below is a view from the same spot early in the morning.

I love the sound of the churchbells in Venice, especially when many bells ring at the same time, some nearby, others far away and echoing across the city, each with their own unique tone.
Around the corner from our room was a church with bells that had a particularly beautiful sound. We had to investigate. I found a secluded alleyway with a nice view from which to paint the church as my children played hide and seek:
The next morning we returned to the Salute where I experienced a golden moment: we all took out our sketchbooks and watercolors and painted the same view across the Grand Canal in our own way. We were thoroughly engrossed in the joy of the moment, and in our paintings:
The three of us painting. Below: my children's paintings.

On our last day we visit the Lido beach where we watch some locals play a passionate game of volleyball:

Another view along the Zattere near our front door. I never get tired of drawing boats.

The days passed quickly, and our many visits to our favorite gelato stand blurred together. Suddenly it was our last evening in Venice.

Thanks to my children for being such great travel companions! I'm so happy that we have shared this wonderful time together.
Wyoming Sketchbook
Aunt Ann’s 80th birthday is the occasion for a great family gathering at a ranch on the Gros Ventre river near Jackson Hole, Wyoming. Here are some sketches from our trip:

I like to spend time around the stables sketching cowboy boots and horses.
Early in the morning the horses are still and quiet as they wait for their riders. The light at this time of day is especially beautiful:

There’s a spectacular view of the Grand Tetons from the ranch:

Afternoon thunderstorms roll in from the west, creating a constantly changing drama of light effects that is wonderful to watch and difficult to paint:

The clouds and light are unlike any that I’ve seen anywhere else.  They change from one moment to the next, just like the weather.
We try fly fishing for the first time. Although I don’t catch anything, it’s heavenly to be down by the river watching the rapids.
Here's my daughter practicing her casting.
I inner-tube down the rapids with my son who acts as a guide (it's his third time). We have fun, and it gives me an appreciation for how strong the current really is:

Finally it's time to take off our boots and go home.
Thanks, Aunt Ann, for sharing your birthday with us in such a wonderful way. It’s a pleasure spending time together as a family. And thanks to all at the Gros Ventre River Ranch for taking such good care of us. See you next time!
China Sketchbook 2010
I've just returned from a three week trip to Hong Kong and southern China with my wife and our three children. Here are some sketches from our trip:
The Star Ferry terminal, Kowloon.
During the first week it rains and rains. Even the locals are surprised by how torrential the rain is.
We recover from jet lag in our own ways.
Rain on the terrace at the YMCA in Kowloon.

Star Ferry bus terminal.
During the rainy season umbrellas are an essential part of one's wardrobe.
When an umbrella isn't available, one must improvise.
Finally the sun appears, and with the sun comes the heat.
With blazing sunshine and temperatures near 100 degrees, an umbrella performs a different function.
Like umbrellas, construction cranes and neon signs often appear in flocks in Hong Kong:

Just around the corner from this bustling thoroughfare, a mother and her twin children walk through a peaceful alley graced by an ancient Banyan tree:
Hong Kong harbor is also a bustling thoroughfare:
A solitary person in a wooden rowboat crosses the harbor between much larger, quicker vessels - a risky business!

On our last day in Hong Kong, we go to the beach on Lamma island.
The water is nearly the same temperature as the air and provides little cooling relief. It's nice to be there anyways.

For our final week we travel to Guangzhou, a two hour trip northwest of Hong Kong.
The next day we visit the local safari park.

It is very hot - over 100 degrees -  but we are brave and are happy to see all the animals.
The university campus in Guangzhou is an oasis of green tranquility with majestic trees providing shade.
Beyond the campus walls is a throbbing, muscular city of 12 million people:

On our last evening we watch the university residents who come out to exercise once the heat subsides:

Thanks to my family, to our friends Mariel and Molly who helped take care of our children, and to our many Hong Kong and Guangzhou friends for making our trip so wonderful!

Figure Skating Class

Every Sunday afternoon I bring my daughter to her figure skating class.

The children wear large, brightly colored helmets that make their heads look very big. Some wear heavily cushioned pants and coats to cushion their falls, courtesy of their cautious parents.

    The instructor cuts a dashing figure on the rink.

She exhorts her pupils to stand straight and assume the proper form.

Progress is slow, and sometimes there are tears.

Sometimes my daughter likes to watch Lily, an older girl who has achieved some mastery and grace on the ice.

We always look forward to the next class.
My Finland Sketchbook
Wheat fields near my uncle and aunt's home in Finland.
Aunt Mimmu and Uncle Jim
My wife, our three young children and I have just returned from a wonderful two weeks visiting our relatives in Finland. My aunt (who is Finnish by birth) and uncle moved to Finland a year and a half ago from the U.S. Four of their children also live there with their families. It was so nice seeing all of our young children connecting, made easy as they are close in age and share English as a common language.

We spent our first afternoon in Helsinki at a local beach, and took our first swim in the Baltic Sea with our cousin Samuel. I also sketched some other people at the beach. Some of them were from Russia, which is just a few hours away by car:
Directly above, scenes from another beach on a island in Helsinki harbor. That's my 2-year old son at bottom right, and above him is my cousin Martti.

On our first weekend we took the overnight ferry to Stockholm. Our hotel room (booked online, sight unseen) had - miracle of miracles! – a small balcony where I was able to sit and sketch the rooftops of the city and the sky:

The view from the balcony.
My 2-year old son obliged by taking a long nap in his stroller while I drew these Stockholm harbor scenes below. Stockholm has a bustling harbor, with a rich profusion of boats:

Here are some people seen at a street market in Stockholm. Most of them were shopping for berries, which were in high season:

Some things I’ll remember about our trip: the pleasure of taking saunas nearly every evening with relatives who really know the art of taking a sauna; the food, particularly at the restaurant in Helsinki where our cousin Riku works as a chef; an education by our cousin Goobie on the fun playground equipment in Finland and by our cousin Martti on Finnish licorice and chocolate; and the trees such as this one in front of my cousin Eva Jo’s home in Oulu.

My daughter overlooking a Finnish lake.

One of many golden moments: on a visit to Oulu, which is just below the Arctic Circle, cousin Eva Jo and Uncle Jim serenade us with recorders one evening on the back porch. They can really play!

We spent the last part of our trip at my aunt and uncle’s house in the country. A dirt road through wheat fields became my sketching paradise. After lunch I took walks with my son in his stroller until he fell asleep, and then would find a place to sit with him by the side of the road to paint until he woke up. Just as I was finding my stride with my watercolors our trip was over and it was time to come home.

Thanks to our entire Finnish family for being so gracious and generous, for hosting us in your homes, and for being so welcoming. It meant a lot to us, and we’re happy that we have had the chance to get to know you better. Kiitos! See you next time!
You can see more work from my Travel Sketchbooks here.
My Hong Kong Sketchbook
Star Ferry Terminal, Kowloon.
I spent the last two weeks in Hong Kong with my family. Here are some impressions from my sketchbook.

Here are two views from our room at the YMCA. That's the Star Ferry Terminal in the foreground of the painting above. The ferry became an important part of our lives since my three children were thrilled by the ride across the harbor. Naturally the ferry and harbor became the focus of my sketches.
Passengers on the Star Ferry.

Each day brought wonderful tropical storms with thunder unlike any I have heard before. Umbrellas are an important part of living in Hong Kong in the rainy season, and most stores and restaurants have a place to hang them up to dry by the front door.
I've never seen so many different kinds of boats as in Hong Kong harbor, all going in different directions, day and night. Somehow all the boats seem to know where to go without bumping into each other.
My 15-month old son liked to look out the window at the boats with his babysitter, Clarabel.
Here are sketches of an old woman who swept a nearby beach to keep it clean. I loved the way she moved, and how her huge straw hat completely obscured her face.
View from The Peak looking south. The weather was typical for a mid-afternoon in July: thunderstorms on the way, 95 degrees and near 100% humidity.
One side of The Peak overlooks the city. The other side looks over a sparsely-populated mountainside sloping down to the sea. The port of Hong Kong is so busy that there are always many container ships at anchor waiting for their cargo to be unloaded.
My only regret is that I was unable to sketch some of the incredible food we ate (southern China takes food as seriously as anywhere in Italy or France).
You can see more work from my Travel Sketchbooks here.

Recent Articles

The Travels of Nimbus (17)

The New York Times Op-Ed Letters Art (102)

Nimbus in the Newspaper (18)

Hong Kong People (21)