Creativity on the go (how to create a travel journal)

One of my favorite things to do is to travel. Living in London for the past year and half, it seems that I have had a bit more opportunity to head out of town and venture to a new place.  Last year it was Iceland, this year Mexico and then to Morocco.  Before I even start to pack my bags, I pack my art journal and a small bunch of supplies.  When I was a teenager, I remember lugging a big sketchbook across Europe in a backback.  Years later, my mom gave it back to me and it was bulging with ephemera from my time and musings about the travel.  Mostly, it was a place to house all of the goodies that I collected. 

Since then, I have been a bit more intentional when it comes to my travel journal.  It’s no longer an afterthought, but something that I anticipate along the way.  It’s a traveling art project, capturing the essence of the place and time and feelings that I experience along the way.  

Often I start writing in my journal before the trip... a packing list, the flight itinerary, places to visit that friends have suggested.  I keep it super simple because I know that the trip itself is going to provide plenty of tidbits to pick up.  I always believe that art should be fun and not a burden.  Supplies should be kept to a minimum.  

Here’s what I typically pack:  

- A5 size (5.8” x 8.3”) spiral journal on mixed media paper.  

- Glue stick

- Scissors (cheap kids ones with rounded edges).  Cross your fingers, sometimes TFL is kind and let’s you keep them.  Otherwise, so long scissors.   

- Water soluble colored pencils or crayons...  I love Faber Castell and Caran D’Ache.  

- Pencil sharpener 

- Water pen

- Washi tape 

- Posca* 8mm thick marker in black (good for backgrounds)

- Gellyroll pens by Sakura

- Micron pen in black (the ink doesn’t bleed)

- White pen by Signa

- Baby wipes (easy cleanup, and blends colors nicely, too!) 

- Couple of pieces of wax paper 

- Zip pouch to keep it all organized (and to collect ephemera along the way)

Optional:  small Posca pens (better to use not in flight as they tend to leak), stamp & small ink pad, small tube of acylic paint, sandpaper...

The bits of paper and ephemera tend to present themselves along the way.  A travel map, business cards, in flight magazines, flight tickets, and on and on.  Believe me - there is plenty of stuff to put in the journal.

As I travel, I tend to collage and glue down bits of paper as I go.  I recently flew EasyJet and the tray table was super small.  With minimal supplies, I was able to do a quick collage and play with some of my supplies.  

From there, I add washi tape and written musings inspired by my day.  I often embellish and doodle on top of the pages and stop when I’m ready to move on.  I don’t make my pages too precious.  It’s about capturing the moment and my mood vs. creating a masterpiece.  Sometimes I do a quick sketch of a time or space, sometimes I simply do a whole page representative of the colors of the place I’m visiting.

If I’m lucky enough to create in flight, the hours tend to slip away.  I also make time in the morning, in the evening, and at an afternoon cafe.  Because the supplies are self contained (yay for a zip pouch!), it’s easy to travel with little mess and to focus on what’s around you. 

Usually the ephemera that I gather inspires the artwork, but sometimes it’s images and the sights around me.  In Morocco, a walk around the souks sparks doodles of color and texture.  

I also love how this technique works for me, but I spend quality time with my daughter (and pack a separate kit for her as well).

If you’re still not sure where to start, you can also use a prompt technique to get a page started.  Here are some questions to ask yourself:  “Today I felt...” “On this day, I felt”...”Something new that I saw/heard/discussed/tasted today” ... “Today I will”... 

I taught a class recently at Great Art in London and loved it.  This is my second time teaching art journaling there and I love the community and sense of play that comes together with this type of art. From a four year old to retirees and everyone inbetween, we spent time creating our our travel journals.  I like to stress that the “travel” part can be a journey... one that you have taken, one that you are going to take, and that it can be an inward journey as well.  

Have you ever kept a travel journal?  Tell me, tell me!  And yes...ask me all of the questions.  I love to help

 *My experience with the smaller Posca pens is that they can leak/pool colors in flight.  Best to do this before you go or when you’re on the ground.  

XO, M.E. 


1 comment

  • I am so excited to start my journal! Thank you for the inspiration. Off to the art store now!

    Brittney Banks

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