Suntree artist makes travel experiences a pleasure forever



Diana Gessler enjoys creating masterful pieces of travel art in her Suntree home. | PHOTO BY MARC RHODESImagine hiking through dew-lined woods, sipping a bold espresso in a busy sidewalk café, or sitting in a quiet church pew contemplating a stained glass window. Local artist and Suntree resident Diana Gessler teaches others that moments like these can be remembered through the art of travel journaling. 

Gessler began drawing her own observations and penning her thoughts in her personal travel journals nearly 40 years ago, a time when such an art was unknown to most. Today, it has grown in popularity. 

“What I teach in my classes is that journaling is for you and, yes, it doesn’t have to be perfect. It’s really about capturing the moment,” said Gessler, a watercolor and oil artist who has been represented by Shaw Gallery in Naples for 26 years. “That is what is freeing for my students.” 

Diana captures the simple details of Cocoa with colorful detail. | PHOTO BY MARC RHODESThe simplicity of travel journaling also makes it appealing. 

“Say you are looking at a building but you don’t have time to draw the entire thing. What moves you? Is it the windows? The geraniums in the window? You might only have time to draw one geranium,” Gessler said. 

Students are encouraged to draw whatever captivates them. The object is not to rush, but to take in as much as they can in as little as three to five minutes. The key is to capture the moment by keeping things simple: Only short phrases or quips accompany the drawings. 

And, travel journaling can also be about places experienced in one’s own backyard. 

“It could be as simple as going outside and looking at a flower just because it delights you,” Gessler said. 

Even the artists’ tools are simple, easy to use, and are kept within a moment’s reach. Gessler recommends Micropens and Sakura watercolors, which she packages into a simple kit that can be kept in a purse or a small folder. 

“A spur of the moment type of art. Somebody once said, ‘if you have your journal with you, you will always have something to work in.’ You can flip back and finish something, going back and refreshing just because it gives you pleasure,” Gessler said. 

This inspirational sign greets you when you walk into Diana's studio. | PHOTO BY MARC RHODESIn 1999, after two decades of doing her own travel journaling, Gessler was asked by Algonquin Books to create travel guides based on the style of her journals. She did a series of four books, the first of which was Very California. These guides led to a decade of commissioned work by an Indonesian family on their business and family history. 

Yet, whether the recording of experiences is published in books or penned in personal journals, using Gessler’s method of artistic style certainly brings joy and delight to the soul. 

“If you see my students drawing in their journals, they will have a smile on their faces. People gather around and are happy watching them doing what they do.” 

For more information on Gessler’s upcoming virtual travel journaling class, go to artfulgathering.com