You know when you discover an artist whose work really speaks to you? To me, it’s like finding a new friend; one that shares similar interests, tastes and aspirations, which is how you connect with their work. As a fan of road trips and taking the road less travelled to discover bizarre hidden gems, I’m adopting Washington-based illustrator Chander O’ Leary as my new best friend.
Chandler travels around the USA a lot. She also carries a sketchbook wherever she goes. One day, 20 years’ worth of trips later, she realised she had “literally hundreds of drawings hidden away, that only a few close friends had ever seen them all”, so with encouragement from one of these trusted friends, she created a travel blog, which I’ve just lost myself in for the past few hours, travelling the 50 US states. Phew!
Drawn the Road Again is filled with scanned copies of her atmospheric watercolour pictures painted in her Moleskin notebooks together with thoughtful travel notes, tips and historical anecdotes about the various sites she visits. It’s a beautifully illustrated homage mostly to road trips. “This is my favourite way to travel, but I also post pictures from plane trips, and boat trips, and train trips, and other trips, too,” she says.
None of them are posted in real time, either. She prefers to post her sketches thematically, rather than chronologically. So if you keep up with her blog, you’ll find posts jumping around from place to place, and back and forth in time.
The best part about her work for a curious bunch of folk like us? There’s not a top 10 best tourist sight in sight. For Chandler, the beauty of road trips is discovering hidden back roads, bizarre local gems, roadside randomness such as crazy roadside attractions like giant fiberglass animals, local secrets, fascinating landmarks and architecture as well as the odd breathtaking panorama. As she explains:
I am the one who will choose the squiggliest line on the map, rather than the Interstate highway, every single time. I am the one who gets excited about driving 200 miles out of my way to see a giant concrete prairie dog. I am the one who will add an extra day to our trip to make sure we have enough time to spend at Wall Drug. I also have a thing for jackalopes, I brake for any coffee-pot-shaped building, and I have a bright yellow hat shaped like cartoon Swiss cheese.”
What’s also incredible is that most of her drawings are done on-location, from memory or with the aid of her travel snaps. Because that’s the thing – everything she documents is something she’s actually experienced herself.
Follow along with Chandler’s travels on Drawn the Road Again.