I wrote this article for Craft Critique, where it appeared two weeks ago.
It’s a wonderful treat to come home from a vacation with a nearly completed scrapbook. I recently attended The Bead & Button Show in Milwaukee and thought I’d share a few “how-to’s” on creating your own travel art journal.
CHOOSING YOUR JOURNAL
This is a deceptively simple task. You have to ask yourself several questions:
1. Will I be working on my journal in a single location (ex. always at the hotel) or will I be working on my journal in various locations (ex. on a bus, in a park, at lunch)?
If it’s the latter, you’ll want something small and portable with a sturdy back so you can work without a table. If it’s the former, you can go with any size or format you feel comfortable with.
2. Do I want to include full sized ephemera?
If you do want to include all those maps, brochures, postcards, etc. that you gather on your trip, you need to choose a journal that can accommodate the size of those items. Consider a journal that you can attach a legal sized envelope to. This way it’s still portable, but you can fold up any larger ephemera and place it into the envelope.
3. What media will I be using?
If you’re going to be painting in your journal, you need a heavier weight of paper. There are many beautiful watercolor journals and pads out there. If you’re just going to be writing and drawing, you can go with a much lighter paper.
4. Will I be gluing in a lot of photos, found objects or other ephemera?
If the answer is, yes, then you need to pay attention to your journal’s binding:
• A spiral binding will give you some wiggle room when your book begins to expand (though it may get crushed in your suitcase or bag).
• A sewn binding is very sturdy, but leaves no room for “stuff.” (One solution to this dilemma is to cut out several pages from the binding before you begin your trip.)
• A binder type book is also very sturdy, but can be bulky. One of the advantages to this type of book is that you can slip ephemera into page protectors as you go.
• You can always make your own book too. This way you get the type of paper, the size, and the binding that works for you.
Be realistic. What are you actually going to use? This is not your masterwork, just a fun place to keep ideas, receipts, pictures, etc. My tendency is always to bring too much. But, trust me, your creativity will be better served by a few really good choices. Here’s what I packed:
- Black Pens (Sakura Pigma Micron 01, 03, 05, 08)
- Watercolor Pencils
- Water Brushes (these things are GENIUS for travel)
- Pencil (I prefer a mechanical pencil, no sharpening)
- Adhesive (Herma Dotto)
- Adhesive Refills (a must!)
- Scissors (I like small detail scissors, like my cutterbees)
- White Eraser
- Adhesive Eraser
- Ink Pad (dye ink, black)
- Stamps (I brought a small acrylic alphabet, some acrylic labels and a few decorative ones I carved myself and a 7 gypsies rolly one)
- Acrylic Block
- Scrap Paper (important!)
- Envelopes (for keeping memorabilia)
- White Pen
- Galaxy Marker
- Rub-ons (I brought two alphabets and some colored decoration ones)
- 7 gypsies label stickers
- black marker
- popsicle stick
- 7 gypsies tags
Whew. That's a lot to fit into a tiny traveling tin! My tin is one that cookies came in and is 9x6.5 inches. What I really want is a lunch pail style tin, but they're either too big or too small. I want the handle and the ability to put things in vertically! Until I find the perfect one, I'll keep playing Goldilocks.
In retrospect, I wish that I hadn’t brought the tiny acrylic alphabet. I would have preferred a tiny wood mounted alphabet. Even though it would have taken up more room, it would have been more user friendly in this environment. Those tiny stamps get lost so easily and are hard to keep clean on the move.
I wish that I had brought a pencil sharpener (for the watercolor pencils) and a tiny stapler (to keep the rub ons together).
PREPARE YOUR JOURNAL
This is an easy, easy step to ignore. But, in the long run, it makes your life so much better to do it!
For me, I like my books to have some color. But, painting backgrounds can be a tedious process on the road. It takes a long time for stuff to dry. You have to have paints or dyes with you, etc. My simple solution is to pre-paint three-quarters of the book. I like to leave some pages blank because I find it pleasing to have occasional white pages.
I pre-painted my book with Walnut Ink TintZ from FiberScraps. I didn’t think about anything specific or worry too much about it. I simply poured on the color and let it dry.
PREPARE YOUR PAGES
Huh? What does this mean? Didn’t we just prepare the journal? Yes, you prepared the book, but not the daily pages. One of the secrets to creating satisfying pages is to prepare them each night. What do I mean by that? Well, it’s easier to show you.
Let me take apart the page below as an example:
I pre-painted the page at home before leaving on the trip (the blue spots). The night before I went to this Bead & Button Show class, I prepared the page:
• I applied a rub on quote to the top of the page (“Follow Your Bliss”).
• I wrote the name of the class on a label sticker and adhered it.
• I created a pocket out of scrap paper, stamped two label images on it, applied the blue and red rub ons to it, and stuck several tags in the pocket.
This left me free to take notes, etc. in class and not worry about neatness or artistic value because the format was already there. I know what you’re thinking. Why can’t you just do that at home? Why do you have to do it the night before? Well, you never know how much room (i.e. how many pages) a particular event is going to take up. You also don’t know when you’re going to want to do a drawing or glue in a brochure, so I find it easiest to prepare your pages the night before based on the next day’s agenda.
For example, if you were in Paris and planning on going to the Eiffel Tower, you could save that fabulous laser cut Eiffel Tower sticker for the page about the Eiffel Tower instead of simply having it randomly in your book.
Another good preparation trick is to create titles on scrap paper. That’s what I did with “Fine Feathered Friend” below.
I created the title block on scrap paper and carried it in my bag because I wasn’t sure how much room the previous event was going to take up. Once I was ready, I simply adhered the title and voila, a prepared page.
FINISH YOUR PAGES EACH NIGHT
It’s impractical to take your entire kit with you if you’re working on it all over the place. I like to just take the journal, a pen, a pencil, scissors and some adhesive. With a prepared page, this means that I can just scribble stuff down or glue it in and not worry a lick about design. It’s already laid out for me. However, there is still some finishing work to be done.
In the example above, you can see that I pre-painted the page, but I didn’t do much else. As the title says, “More Fine Feathered Friends,” this is a continuation of the previous page. I hadn’t planned on having more than one page the night before. So, I took my notes on the left side of the page. When I got back to my hotel room that night, I added the label title, doodled the border, stamped to fill the space, and added rub on designs. An easy finish to this page.
Sometimes there’s no finish work, as in “Talisman Bracelet” below.
WHEN YOU GET HOME
This is strictly a personal taste issue. You can embellish your cover. Or not. You can print all the photos you took and add them into your book. I only created pages on the right side of my album, so all the left (or backside) pages were available for photos. Or not. You can do a “wrap up” page at the end of the book where you analyze the trip or list favorites. Or not. You can go back into your book and embellish. Or not. You can add new pages that you never got to. I added a general description of the hotel we stayed in (below). Or not.
MY TWO CENTS (more)
Personally, I love coming home with a complete journal of my trip. Keeping up with is every day can be annoying, but it’s such a great memento. Everything is “of the moment” rather than clouded through remembrance. I hope that you will try a travel art journal of your own. Here are a few more pages from mine: