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.