A beacon in the fog

Hand-drawn memories

I have recently been creating some pencil drawings from travel photos. I find pencil to be a wonderful medium for capturing a sense of memory, a softness around the edges and a richness of atmosphere. I used it here to accentuate the light and atmosphere that is sometimes hard to capture in a photograph. I worked to remain true to the subject while removing any unnecessary elements. This allowed me to simplify the subject down to the essentials. I used very soft pencils on smooth paper.

This is a drawing of the Chatham lighthouse from a recent family trip to Cape Cod. I took out a cumbersome flagpole and parked cars, and unified the trees and gardens. I kept only the minimum architectural details of both the lighthouse and adjacent buildings. This allowed me to focus on capturing the magical feeling of a beam of light from a lighthouse as it swoops by through a damp coastal fog. This drawing captures the most important aspects of this scene and moment, for me.

A black and white pencil drawing of a lighthouse in the fog, rich dark trees, a beam of light cutting through the sky.
Chatham Lighthouse in the fog, Cape Cod. Soft pencil on paper.

This drawing is not my own memory, but based on the travel photo of a friend (Jen Squires -Photographer). I loved the mystical quality of the light shining through the forest gully and the other-worldliness of the place that she captured in her photo. I tried to play these up and used an eraser to create the soft hazy sense of light spilling through the trees.

A suspension bridge through a dense forest with overhanging moss and soft hazy light.
A forest path. Soft pencil on paper.

Here is a path I often walked while in Cape Cod. And, below that, the sight of chimneys and power lines that I remembered from an evening out. In all cases, I kept a soft edge around the drawing to add to the sense of a vignette – a glimpse of a remembered place.

Soft rounds of shrubs and trees. a dark shadowyness ahead on the path.
A path in Chatham, Cape Cod. Soft pencil on paper.


A minimal drawing with trees and housetops across the bottom, a variety of chimneys, wires in criss-crossing lines across the top whitespace of the sky.
Chimneys and overhead wires in Chatham, Cape Cod. Soft pencil on paper.


If you have a travel photo that doesn’t quite capture the light or atmosphere that you remember (or even if it does) and you’d like a hand-crafted pencil drawing of it, reach out. I’d love to hear your story.