Ponderings

My Journey with Travel Sketching.

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As a Travelers Notebook user you can’t help but lose time admiring the way other people use of their notebooks. One of the many things I enjoy is the ways they are used for travel journaling and sketching. There are numerous benefits to sketching when travelling such as observing your surroundings in detail, really looking at the architecture, getting a feel for a place...the list goes on. I have just never been that good at it.

With this in mind I decided recently to take a punt on this elusive task. I would be travelling, first on my own on a work trip which is highly unusual, and then again on our annual family trip. This was ample opportunity to draw and I wanted to take advantage.

The ‘well-travelled’ travelers airport sketch.

Now from my online observations the airport sketch seems to be a travel sketching essential. You need this sketch in there for a multitude of reasons. It shows you have time to sketch in the airport. You can show what airline you fly with. It shows that you love drawing so much that you’ll draw planes.

For me this was a challenge on perspective. My airplane sketch was not done on location but from a photograph I had taken. I did want to try and capture some of the detail of the gate without getting bogged down in the minutia.

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For my second airplane sketch I took a different tact. Again this was done from a photograph but this time my son was the focal point rather than the scenery.

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The inflight sketches I actually did on the flight in a bought of boredom. There are loads of things wrong with these sketches, but they were fun and they were definitely a challenge.

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The hand drawn map.

Another thing that has fascinated me are people who sketch maps. The ability to look at a real map, pair this back to the essential areas, make this fit on a small page and illustrate landmarks is fascinating and frankly a little mind boggling. I attempted this with a route I had walked in Austin to minor successes. It’s definitely something I want to develop and work on, it’s like a small puzzle to solve and fun at the same time.

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Page layouts.

Trying to find the right format for the travel journal, while not thinking too much about it was tricky. I wanted the journaling to be the priority and not the decoration. I wanted to include some drawing and try to be varied. I did this to varying degrees of success. Some pages I really like and others ended up looking too flat.

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I also tried to vary the orientation at times and flip the Travelers Notebook on its long edge. This helped with some of my doddles, one in particular from my family holiday in Portugal.

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Photos.

One element I really struggled with for my travel journal was trying to incorporate photos in with my doodles and journal entries. I printed out a series of photos after these trips but what I have found is I hadn't planned space for them. The prints I have are also too heavy and end up pulling on the page.

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I think to really have a good travel journal with photos you either need your Instax on hand all the time, which is an additional item to carry, or to use a photo printer and print off photos I take with my phone. I don't own one of these, but I think it’s something I will invest in for future trips and journaling. The inclusion of photos for me would really elevate my travel journals.

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What I have learnt.

There is an element of travel journaling that can appear stressful which defeats the purpose. I have stopped comparing my spreads to others and worrying that it’s not perfect. Only by playing around with different layouts and attempting to draw, do you learn and know how to improve on it for the next time. The fear of it not being perfect only stops you doing something rather than taking enjoyment from the activity.

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I have enjoyed travel journaling over the past couple of months. Giving myself some time in the day and having my regular Travelers Notebook with me has helped, as this isn't something I normally do. I really like attempting the maps. It’s easy to get overwhelmed but it helps me get a sense of a place, and to mark out those important places I visited.

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I have a trip coming up in the next couple of weeks and I will put a small element of planning into the travel journal, but on the whole I will take it as it comes while I am on the move.

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My travel journal essential tools.

Part of my pre-trip planning was to keep the stationery to a minimum. What I have found useful was to have my usual Travelers Notebook set-up (for this trip I have the dated weekly + memo planner and the new cream paper insert), one drawing pen, one pencil, a couple of rolls of washi tape and a few pens that I like writing with. This gives me everything I need to journal on the go.

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The Sweet Setups All The Things Productivity Course. A Review.

I have never reviewed an online course on the blog before but I wanted to share my thoughts on The Sweet Setup’s All the Things course. This course caught my attention for lots of reasons. I knew Shawn Blanc used notebooks as part of his productivity method, but the element I wanted to delve into was how he incorporated his digital tools as well.

I had looked at the All The Things course a lot before I eventually bought it. I had watched the trailer several times and kept mentally committing myself to buy it for months before finally doing so. It seemed a little silly, perhaps even wasteful, to buy content on being productive. There are plenty of YouTube videos I could reference and work through but the dodgy shooting styles, questionable content and the authority of the YouTuber put me off. Productivity pointers and advise can feel condescending and a little obvious. However I was pulled back to this course because I had seen content online from Shawn Blanc and knew he was well thought of and respected, which really is why I eventually tried this out.

I had Things 3 downloaded on my phone and had used it a little, mostly to just throw in big to do items that I needed to tackle at some point. As Things 3 made up part of this course, and I was interested in how Shawn combined both the analogue and digital tools in his productivity process. Like most people, I have too much floating around in my head and managing the day to day tasks alongside the longer term ideas, or plans, or places to go, was something I never felt like I mastered. I think it was this that eventually made me check the course out.

All the Things course content.

The course is held in a personal Dashboard on The Sweet Setup website. The content is broken into two parts, All the Things Pro and Screencasts. You can buy these elements individually but I opted to buy both and take advantage of the small saving.

Screenshot taken from my personal dashboard, for illustration purposes.

Screenshot taken from my personal dashboard, for illustration purposes.

All the Things Pro portion of the course.

This is the section dedicated to productivity learning. There are a series of videos that vary in length from 7 through to 20 minutes covering topics including being productive, a hybrid method of planning, scheduling, planning and journaling. Also included is some written commentary to support each video. All but one of the videos are shot interview style with Shawn talking to the camera and sharing his experience and recommendations for being productive. The final video is shot overhead looking into his notebook, which unsurprisingly is the video I was most interested in.

Screencasts.

You then get the same set-up with the screencasts. Shawn walks you through using the Things 3 app on Mac, iPad and iPhone. In this section you get the basics of the app and what it can do, progressing onto some helpful hints and tips on how to get the most from the app’s interface.

Finally there is access to a series of interviews Shawn conducted with other people who use Things 3. These are written interviews and not audio or video. Something I was surprised by and I feel that it’s worth highlighting.

Is it worth it?

I keep coming back to this question when trying to settle my thoughts on the course. Obviously this is a subjective question and really depends on the person. The content is useful and production quality high making it easy to watch and digest. There are helpful suggestions and insights on how to become more productive. For obvious reasons I found this interesting.

I am not sure I needed this course. There wasn’t enough new content to add to the information that I had gathered over many years of reading blogs, books and trying to improve my own productivity. Ultimately these skills are honed and practiced and what works for me won’t work for everyone.

I think the free trailer is helpful and really does give you an idea of the content you get from the whole course. As with most of these things, the video fades just as you’re getting to the interesting stuff, but it is a good marker to understand whether you need this content.

Overall thoughts.

The All the Things course is good there is no doubt about that. The content is helpful, the production quality high and Shawn breaks things down really well into manageable sections. I would have loved some more notebook specific content, but I would say that.

With the interviews it would have also been great to have these in a media format, video or audio. I think this would have enhanced and really elevated the usefulness of these interviews.

I hope you found this post interesting. It’s not going to be a regular on the blog, because I don’t think there are many course relevant posts that would work here. I wanted to share my thoughts on this specific course because some of you may have come across it, or bought it already or looking for something just like this. Either way the next post will resume the normal format here at The Finer Point.

2018: My Favourite Tools.

I’ve reviewed my 2018 planners and explained what I have lined up for 2019 in my recent posts and this got me thinking about all the tools I have used this year. 2018 feels like a year of consolidation. I’ve acquired less stationery and tried to focus on using what I have stored in my drawers and cupboards. Today’s post is reflective and about sharing my year in stationery.

My paper use.

I use a lot of paper and I always feel like I have too much paper on the go. I enjoy trying out new notebooks and paper stock but I also like what I like.

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Baron Fig notebooks have become a staple in 2018. I use one Baron Fig Confidant as a journal, at the moment this happens to be the big Fig, or the Baron Fig Plus (small side note, I really wish Baron Fig had called this the big Fig). I also use one of the Confidants or the Vanguards for work because the paper works so well with pencils, ballpoint or rollerballs as well as fountain pens. I like that I don't have to consider my writing tools at work.

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I thoroughly enjoy using the Travelers Company notebooks. Their paper is high quality and is perfect for pairing with fountain pens. I enjoy the cream paper, which is not to everyone's taste.

That is supposed to look like an ‘18’.

That is supposed to look like an ‘18’.

I have used a lot of Field Notes notebooks this year but this is because I have a lot to get through and not because I am a super fan. My love of Field Notes has waned over recent years. I buy what I like, the Coastal edition was a favourite of mine this year, but I am no longer concerned with acquiring any notebook that they release.

Finally my exploration into sketchbooks has expanded my experience with paper. Finding what I like to sketch on, what paper works best with watercolour and coloured pencils has all been part of the journey. Currently I am using a pocket Baron Fig Confidant as I am mainly sketching with pencil and black pen and I was interested to see how I fared with a small sketchbook. I think as I go into 2019 I will only increase my knowledge in my sketching materials and really find what works well for me.

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2018, the year of pencils?

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My pencil use has increased a lot in recent months. I use these mostly with my pocket notebooks for daily note taking but there is also sketching use in there too. I tend to use one pencil for a while and then rotate when I fancy a change. Lately I have been really enjoying the Tombow Mono 100 2B. The softer graphite is not usually a pencil I am drawn to but this pencil is so smooth to write with.

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I have loved using the Blackwing 54 in part because of the colour choices with this pencil and the hard graphite that makes it a great note taking pencil.

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The Craft Design Technology pencil has been another favourite. The mint coloured barrel is just beautiful. And finally the Staedtler Mars Lumograph in H, I love this pencil for its simplicity and its ability to hold a point. It’s an old reliable.

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Fountain Pens and Ink.

This is one category where I’m happy with what I’m using. Unusually, I don't feel a pull to acquire more pens or inks and find joy in using the pens I have.

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The Lamy LX with Sailor Blue Black is my go to fountain pen. I have been using this combination for most of the year, it just works.

The Pelikan M400 and Sailor Wagu-Uguisu is a great match. The gold nib, and the softness when writing means I get a good view of the green Sailor ink and can appreciate the shading. It’s so much fun writing with this pen and I usually admire my scrawl once complete.

Finally the Kaweco ART Sport inked with Pilot Iroshizuku Ina-Ho. I love this combination as the colours work so well together.

Drawing Pens.

The final category that I felt was worth a mention was drawing pens. In my effort to learn how to draw, drawing pens have been vital tool that I now use more than I ever have. They are so versatile and useful to have as part of any stationery nerds toolkit, but for drawing they are a dream. I have used fine tip drawing pens and brush pens to experiment. The Tombow brush pen has been a personal favourite and the Faber-Castell PITT Artist pen continues to be my preferred sketching pen. Recently I have tried a Pentel marker and the Pilot Finerliner to experiment with line width.

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Overall thoughts.

My tools of choice have changed a bit this year which is down to a shift in the way I use my analogue tools. I used to be fully immersed in fountain pens and ink and couldn't get enough, but now I happily use other tools alongside my fountain pens. They all have a certain purpose. I’ve been most surprised by how much I have used pencils and that’s in part as I am sketching more now, but also because they’re so easy to use with a pocket notebook. It makes my daily carry easy.

2018 has been less about acquiring new things, although I have done a bit of that, but more about finding what I like and using it more and more. In 2019 I want to continue this and really hone down the tools I enjoy using.

Finally I would like to say a big thank you to everyone who reads, shares, likes and comments on my posts. I really enjoy sharing my thoughts on stationery and hope you enjoy the content. I'm looking forward to sharing even more in 2019!

Using my Hobonichi Techo as a Wellness Tracker.

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It appears I have gotten a point (age) in my life where I need to be more mindful of my health, be more aware of the things I am doing to my body and to take better care of myself. There have been some ongoing ailments I have been dealing with since my son was born. They are relatively small but, now 2 years later, they feel like they’re hanging over me. In part I was not doing enough to get rid of these things, and on top of it there were new challenges that I had to cope with. This reached a boiling point in May when a ridiculous bout of eczema and psoriasis cropped up out of the blue and left me feeling quite down.

So in order to try and make sense of things and understand what was going on I needed data. I turned to my stationery as a way of tracking what was happening. After enthusiastically buying the Hobonichi Techo Cousin in January and, for the first time in a few years, not actually using it, I decided to dig this out and use this as my wellness tracker.

The Hobonichi Techo Cousin was the ideal choice; predated pages, a good size page to record everything and then for an added perk I could use my fountain pens on the sweet sweet tomoe river paper.

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Priority One: Tracking my food.

The first thing I needed to track was my food and drink intake. There are various suggestions that dairy, caffeine and various other things can irritate skin conditions. Therefore I wanted to see if I could find any patterns and truth to this.

Each page of the Hobonichi Techo comes with a 24 hour clock on the left hand side of the page and I have been using this to track what I am consuming and when. This has been fairly simple and just requires a little honesty even on those indulgent days.

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I would also note down my water intake. I am usually pretty bad at drinking enough water, but since tracking this I have noticed a huge improvement. The heatwave we’ve been experiencing may also have played its part here.

Priority Two: Tracking my ailments.

The second thing I needed to keep track of was what was causing me problems/grief/irritation and when. Too often when trying to relay things to doctors or physios I couldn’t quite pin down how long something had been a problem, or when it had started, or the level of discomfort, and where it was occurring.

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Underneath the time bar there is enough room for these notes each day. In here I have been adding in other things during the day that are relevant. For example I am taking a few liquid supplements at the moment, both of which are included in here if I have taken them. One of them is particularly disgusting and so I am not the best at having this everyday but knowing when I have taken it makes me more self conscious of making sure I do.

I also write down if my eczema was particularly irritating and where I was suffering. I would record if and what medication I was taking to alleviate the irritation. I don’t like to rely on medication for my eczema so it’s useful to know what I use and when.

I also have a flat foot from a longstanding childhood condition. Since gaining a lot of weight during pregnancy and all the crazy hormones that come during pregnancy this condition has gotten a lot worse and now requires regular consultations with doctors and physio appointments. In order to get the most from this I have also been using the daily pages in the Hobonichi to note down issues with my foot, any days where I am struggling, any pain I feel. I also track my physio exercises here and when I am increasing the exercises. I hope that by tracking this information, during consultations I am far more aware of how my foot has been during a given period and what exercises help, or in some cases don’t.

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I track my exercise, how long I exercised for and what type of exercise I’ve done. Part of getting back to myself was re-adding exercise back into my life. But there was another reason to track my exercise, I could see if a particular exercise what irritating my foot too.

The last thing I track here is my meditation. I have been using Headspace to try and learn how to manage my thoughts and anxiety, to try and carve out a bit of quite space within my day and generally to be more mindful. In order to ensure I am doing this everyday and taking the time writing it down in my Hobonichi focuses my attention.

Overall Thoughts.

This is all really very simple stuff, I’ve not invented anything particularly special, it’s just something that takes time. I have my Hobonichi by my desk so its easy to note these things down through the day as I need to.

The idea of the wellness tracker is just that, to try and make sure in my Year of Me, I am doing everything I can to be a healthier person and take care of my body rather than being passive through this process and losing more time. There are other things I want to include within this such as my mood for the day, my stress levels and what may be triggering this and my control over them. Given some more time working with this system I will be looking through the information I have gathered and see if there are any patterns. While taking the effort to note these things down I also have to do something with the information in order to really utilise it.

This post has been a little different, with a loose link, to my stationery habits but I wanted to share how my simple stationery tools have helped to focus my mind. There are plenty of digital tools I could have used for this but they have the potential to complicate and distract. Pen and paper means I get down everything I want, quickly, without fuss in the way I need it. And the act of writing this down has forced my brain to acknowledge what’s happening in my body and perhaps is helping in the healing process.

This could prove to be one of my most valued and treasured notebooks.