Creative practice

My Journey with Travel Sketching.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.



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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


NaNoWriMo: My plans this year.


Last year I took part in NaNoWriMo for the first time. I was drawn to this challenge after completing a Creative Writing course and I had an idea floating around in my head that I wanted to explore. I took the decision to write by hand, believing this would slow down my thoughts, allow my mind to digest the ideas and also not increase my screen time any more than I needed to. It was a great way to use my fountain pens and notebooks - I went through the full set of Baron Fig School Set three pack of Vanguards during the month. I wasn’t successful in completing the challenge but I did come out with a story more developed that I ever thought I could.

One year on, this half completed rough, first draft sits partially in my markdown editor, partly still in notebooks, completely unedited. I already feel a large amount of guilt because I’ve done nothing with this over the course of a year and I don’t want it to continue to sit there.

For this years NaNoWriMo I am going to get my first draft into my markdown tool - edit it, spot the gaps, see where extra content is needed, re-write sections, add to it, plus a whole lot of other things I am blind to at the moment. This year NaNoWriMo is a chance for me to focus and figure out whether my story is any good. Honestly I am a bit nervous about re-reading it, but that’s my inner critic and that person is completely unhelpful. It’s a start point and something to work on and improve.

The back end of the year always feels like challenge central and after just completing my first Inktober it does feel like I am flitting from one creative pursuit to another. I do find these collective challenges helpful to focus and in giving me a degree of accountability and that is how I will approach NaNoWriMo this month. No 50,000 word goal, no new story, I’m just using the month to work on the foundation I created last year and perhaps find a way to develop my story.

The tools.

Now this is a stationery blog, not a blog about writing, so I will be using some tools to try and complete NaNoWriMo this month. As one of my goals is digitising my draft I will be using my laptop or iPad to digitise everything, Ulysses is my markdown editor of choice.

However for the things that come up and that I spot for development I will use the Baron Fig Strategist notecards. I plan on putting one point on each card in order to keep everything very simply and so I can move things around if I need to. For anything that needs more thought and brainstorming I will venture into a Confidant notebook.

Overall thoughts.

I will of course share my learnings from my second NaNoWriMo and anything that I accomplish during the month. As always I enjoy hearing of other peoples experiences and pursuits too so please share and good luck to anyone who is taking part.

Brave New Work by Hallie Bateman Book Review

I was sent Brave New Work by Hallie Bateman by MoMA to review on the blog. My thoughts on this book shared in this post are completely my own.


Brave New Work is a kind of workbook that aims to help you find your inner creative style. The book is filled with monochrome pages of activities that encourage you to think and work differently. There are lots of different prompts designed to get you scribbling, doodling, writing and generally having some fun.

The book begins with some simple tasks such as choosing your artists name, creating your artists signature and an urban sketcher style activity of drawing your kit. This is a nice introduction to the book beginning slowly but getting your creative mind working. You can work through whatever pages you want, there is no order or path to follow which I really like. If an activity feels too difficult or requires too much brain power you can move on and skip it.


Some of my favourite pages are drawing pots for plants, turning a squiggle into something, filling a wardrobe with clothes and making a list of random words. Each activity is small and takes a few minutes to complete but they really get you thinking differently.


Throughout the book you’re encouraged to make mess, to not be perfect and to be inventive. The style of the book looks like it has been handwritten, there are no perfect edges or lines and no neat and tidy handwriting. It helps remove any hesitation the user may have about ruining the perfect pages. This book screams out to be used and as the title suggests, asks you to be brave when creating your new work.

My hand drawings remind me of The Witches clawed hands from Quentin Blakes drawings (I am in no way saying I can draw like Quentin Blake!)

My hand drawings remind me of The Witches clawed hands from Quentin Blakes drawings (I am in no way saying I can draw like Quentin Blake!)

The interior paper stock is good. I mostly opted for a drawing pen, my Uni-pin or the Artline pens, when playing around but I carried out a simple pen test and the paper stock could handle most things quite well. The only thing that gave some real bleed through was the Sharpie permanent marker which is to be expected.

Pen test 

Pen test 

I really like this book and its goal in getting the user to be creative and become an artist. It’s a great gift for the friend who enjoys drawing or is a little creative.

One of the opening pages 

One of the opening pages 

For this post I will sign out with my artists name - Jen Pen/Lucy September Kamala/Pomplamoose!

A big thanks to MoMA for sending me this book to review on the blog.