A couple of friends have been asking me about my travel journals and how I do them. I’m not sure that there’s any secrets to be learned but in the spirit of sharing what we do and how we do it (I’m always curious to see what everybody else does) I’ll share a few pages of the most recent one.
Though I’ve tried different shapes and sizes, my favourite is the Seawhite 195mm square spiral bound Euro sketchbook. The spiral is large enough to handle an expanding girth and the pages are large enough to be interesting but not too big to cart around.
That’s because if I’m doing one, I try to keep my journal going whilst we’re travelling. I have a roll of basic art materials: Inktense watersoluble crayons, a few black waterproof drawing pens, pencils, a glue stick, a tiny stapler, single hole punch, scissors and a craft knife. I also try to squeeze in one or two tiny rubber stamps and one cats eye stamp pad but don’t worry too much because often I’ll pick up something like that along the way. This time, I had a roll of the Japanese Washi tape I bought in Tokyo with me and then bought another couple in New York – I needn’t have brought that first roll with me, need I? By the end of the trip, when the photo above was taken, my minimal kit has expanded to include all kinds of stuff: ephemera, extra bits and pieces, fancy paper and stickers I’ve found. Before we pack to come home, I’ve usually a bit of serious editing to do!
A road trip like this makes for perfect journal material. Not only is every day different, moving from place to place provides plenty of stories and experiences to be relived at some point in the future. I don’t consider my travel journals to be anything more than a fun record of the places we’ve been, the people we’ve encountered and a way of saving that experience for a day when all we want to do is sit and remember. Above all, they are created for a very simple audience – those of us who were there!
Although I begin with plain white pages, before long, the ephemera takes over and the borders become a little blurred. I usually open up the spiral and take out the pages first, because working in a spiral bound book isn’t so easy as working on a flat page. It also means I can scavenge other pages from maps, brochures and postcards, using my single hole punch to bind them into the spiral as I go. I try to get some kind of theme going fairly early on, in this case I bought a pack of paper and stuff from Michaels in Poughkeepsie and managed to stretch it out far enough to keep the consistent theme going.
I place great importance in telling the small stories which would otherwise be forgotten but which made us laugh at the time. On this page, the rather lengthy greeting offered when we arrived at the gate of a large mansion we were visiting. It won’t mean a great deal to anyone else: you definitely needed to be there!
I also carry a small hotel memo notebook with me and scribble frantically when we’re visiting stately homes and museums. Often, I’m naughty and don’t pay attention to the main attraction – on this page a rather irritating woman was distracting me from what I ought to have been concentrating on, and I try to capture enough of a likeness to bring all those little observations back later. I used to copy all of this out, “neatly” when I put the page together, but these days, the spontaneity is all and the pages simply get stapled in.
I sometimes include photographs taken at the time, but try if I can to keep those to a minimum. Drawings are more fun and keep the journal different from my blog, my photo of the day and whatever other ways I eventually find of recording the trip. I carry a little Pogo printer with me which is useful on occasions such as this, when the taking of the photographs was the story. I didn’t want to fill a whole page with the pics, so did a small concertina folded bit instead
That needed a little clip to keep it closed but I could as easily have tied it shut had I but thought.
Normally, I try to keep up with my journal as we go. Car journeys usually offer a chance for “the artist in residence” to crack open the kit and get the glue stick going in the back seat, but I’ve nearly always got a couple of days to finish off when I get back. I did this yesterday and put the finishing touches to my Road Trip Journal 2010 in the studio.
So there it is, on the shelf with memories from other trips and the annual Christmas journals.
When I went off to college, my Mum encouraged me to keep a diary to record what she felt would be a very special time in my life. I kept that diary going for years and thought that she was right about it being a way of keeping those days forever. Though the means of recording it all has changed, I am still a bit obsessive about saving all the special times, in journals, my blogs, in photo albums both online and off. All of this is really for my own benefit, even though I’m happy to share some of it with others. Quite what someone will make of it all in the future, who knows?