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.


Another Completed Sketchbook.


I thought about the title of this post for some time. ’Another’ suggested I had completed quite a few sketchbooks, which I haven’t, as I am new to drawing. I have slowly worked my way through a small number with my latest being a blank Baron Fig pocket Confidant. It's the first time I’ve used this brand as a sketchbook.

The sketchbook.

The Baron Fig pocket Confidant made a pretty good sketchbook. I wanted to try a pocket size for its portability and also wanted something with a hard cover. I chose a Baron Fig Notebook as it's a notebook I use for other purposes and therefore one I am familiar with. I was hoping that the familiarity would make my drawing less pressured and more free.


The pocket Confidant has a hard cover, I chose the darker Charcoal colour as I thought this would wear better. The hard cover meant that the notebook had some stability which I would need for sketching on the go. There are 192 pages of the standard Baron Fig paper with their signature yellow ribbon.

What I have learnt from this sketchbook.

As I am new to sketching it is not something that comes naturally to me. With each sketchbook I work through I am trying consciously to learn in the hope that I improve and that it becomes second nature.


With this sketchbook I tried to experiment more than I had done in the past. I set out to use this sketchbook with a black ink pen, inspired by Patrick Vales Instagram posts. I wanted keep things simple and just sketch. I stuck to this for a while but after seeing artists sketchbooks online I introduced coloured pencils.


Coloured pencils felt familiar, from childhood, and easy to use. There are a number of artists that I follow who use coloured pencils as their preferred tools. Like them I wanted to find a small palette that I could use, no matter the subject matter. By not worrying about replicating the colours in front of me and using my imagination, then perhaps my drawing would improve. I couldn’t find a flow with this but it’s something I want to keep coming back to.


I spent some time using only graphite pencils to try and be fluid with my sketches. The loose style you can achieve with graphite has always been appealing and it was also an excuse to use the softer graphite pencils I have lying around. The only thing that ever really bothers me about graphite is the smudging and the marks left over time that start to blur your drawing.

I returned again to a black pen enjoying the feel of the pen tip on the page. There is something very satisfying about it. Using an ink pen makes me more decisive with my lines. The theory then being that this encourages me to learn from my mistakes, wrong proportions and poor imitations and want to make them better the next time.


Due to the pocket size of this sketchbook detail wasn’t a luxury I had. Everything had to be simple. In this sketchbook I have drawn a lot of people and I am awful at drawing people. I enjoy watching people, noticing their expressions, the shape of their features and attempt, poorly, to replicate them. Plus there are always people to draw.


Overall thoughts.

I am starting to understand that the key to my sketching journey is to change things up and to keep finding inspiring artists to learn from. Trying new tools and ideas will open me up to new techniques and styles.


In this instance the pocket notebook was the perfect companion and the unofficial sketchbook nature helped a lot. My next sketchbook will be different again and hopefully will teach me different things. I feel confidant in saying that for a sketchbook that I carry around I want a simple set up. Sketchbook and black pen seems to work pretty well.


Mid-Week Mini: Inktober Progress so far...


In my previous post I gave a brief sketching update and committed to taking part in Inktober this year. Sketching is something I have flirted with since the beginning of this year and I haven’t really found my groove. So the hope is that Inktober will help make my drawing aspirations a routine and eventually improve my ability. Basically I just want to get better.

My initial thoughts was that I would just draw the everyday and with this I expected to draw physical things around me, but this hasn’t quite panned out that way.

The good news is I have kept to drawing each day. I have enjoyed being limited in my tools and not having distractions. I know what I am using and I just get on with it. Finding things to draw has been the challenge. My thoughts beforehand haven’t panned out because I have to want to draw a thing, there has to be a level of interest there. I have also relied on the work of others and worked towards mimicking and trying to use this as a way to better understand proportions, line work and how to get the pen to move of the page. I have lots of thoughts on this and will share more on this in a future post.

Anyway below are each of my photos with a brief description of each…in case you find that sort of additional information interesting.

Day 1.

I drew the exterior of a new cafe that opened up near me. I am always drawn to buildings but I really don’t think I am very good at drawing them. This would benefit not only from improvement but also from some colour as the exterior is a wonderful bright pink.


Day 2.

I was in the office, around actual people, and so drew a colleague who I don’t really know very well (slightly awkward) but I just felt compelled to draw him. The other face was taken from instagram by @ojhaderashish.


Day 3.

I drew over two pages on this day. The first was a lotus flower and the second was a train platform because I was listening to Freya Ridings album and her song Lost Without You was going round and round in my head.

Day 4.

My thoughts on this day were around my body and so I ended up doodling body parts. Sounds a little odd when you write it down. The two head images were mimicked (poorly) from @todoxerrado.


Day 5.

I drew a few pencil sketches again of a body image, a few flowers but the main one was a chicken, again taken from someone on Instagram @drawings.s.p. The chicken is hilarious and I had a lot of fun with this one.


Day 6.

I was rushed on day 6 and ended up drawing pylons. I’d spent a lot of time in the car and it was the first thing that came into my head. Not my best day.


Day 7.

I like drawing little houses. Simple. I found this one through Pinterest by an artist called Chris Lee, who’s work looks wonderful.


Day 8.

I drew my living room. I was watching TV and hadn’t found anything else to draw. Again not my best.

Day 9.

This is a sketch in progress and I did manage to do another. I found this again through Instagram (@jessicalewerin) and I found it very funny. It seemed to reflect how I was feeling.


And so we are up to date. Today is day 10. I have no idea what I am drawing but I am sure I will find something. I hope you have enjoyed todays post. I will aim to do another in a week or so sharing the next batch of questionable drawings.


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.