(Last) Postcard From Havana-Part 4: Sketchbook

Here is one last look at Cuba, in my simple, scribbled drawings. If you said your 5-year-old could do this, you’d be correct.

Sketch-Havana capitol
Down a winding old city street, a view of the Havana Capitol.

It doesn’t worry this “artist” (liberal use of the term) in the least. For years  I have kept little sketchbooks of my travels and I find they amuse me as much as any memento I collect. Beats a t-shirt, anyway.

Sketch-Havana pedi-cab
Pedi-cabs are a common mode of transportation in old Havana.

When you look at something to draw it, it engages you in a way that is different from photographing or writing about it, and that changes your experience of it – whether you notice something you wouldn’t have otherwise, or you appreciate its craftsmanship, or you’re just inspired by its beauty.

Sketch-La Imprenta, Old Havana
La Imprenta, the printing press, has been converted into a restaurant. The high, beamed ceilings dimly lit by hanging lanterns were beautiful.
Sketch - Old Havana
Municipal buildings off Obispo Street, Old Havana. The courtyard was long ago paved with blocks of wood to muffle the sounds of horses and carriages.

Most often the drawings are (very) quick line sketches, sometimes done from a bus or car, or during a walking tour, or waiting in line.

Sketch-Havana, old car
Old Chevys and Buicks still rumble through the streets of Old Havana, which really does feel stuck in time. Most of the gas engines have been replaced with diesel ones by now, and spare parts are often from Soviet cars.

Then when I have time I go back and splash a little watercolor over them.

Sometimes in the sketchbook I’ll glue in ticket stubs, or bits of a brochure, or a wine label. But mostly the little books are filled with scribbled impressions, bits of info I find interesting, and these silly drawings.

Sketch - Havana courtyard
View into a lovely courtyard, with palm trees, an old well, and a big birdcage in the back.

I don’t try to record every detail or history lesson. When asked why she didn’t keep a journal, Jackie Kennedy once replied, “I’d rather live my life than record it.” Here here.

Sketch-Presidents Avenue, Havana
Presidents Avenue in Old Havana is lined with trees clipped in topiary forms, and Lord knows I love a topiary.

And yet – it is fun to have reminders of fond memories and fun adventures, and this is – to quote my new friend and Silver Pen blogger Hollye Jacobs – how I roll. And btw, see (click on) her posts on our  Cuba trip if you haven’t already.

Sketch-Havana building
The view from my window at the Parque Central hotel. Moorish influences from Spain are prevalent in Cuban architecture, crumbling as it is.

What do you do to record your travels or special occasions or adventures?

Bosoms, bottoms and bongos: Havana's legendary Tropicana nightclub is totally touristy, but quite the spectacle. (We didn't stay the whole time...)

I’d love to hear – and to share it with other Belle Sisters readers.


  1. Frances,
    I love your drawings, very playfull & lite. It sounds like you’ve fallen in love all over again, with CUBA! I am dying to go there. You should check out the latest edition of CIGAR AFICIONADO. There cover story HAVANA was writen by David Savona, and is very good. Also check out the photographer ROBERT POLIDORI and his book HAVANA. Wonderfull interior shots full of decaying glorious color.
    Take care and let me know what you think!

  2. Frances,

    These are amazing. My views exactly as one of your traveling companions. Wish I had thought of illustrating but I can barely use a camera let alone a pencil. I would also like to steal your comment “not in love exactly but certainly charmed” when describing the trip to my friends. Perfectly put. Miss you

  3. Thank you for this wonderful series. I have laughed and cried, so many memories, long repressed, but still there, still there. Loved the drawings, especially the one of Obispo Street, I remember those buildings and curvy archways!

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