Travel journals - Suppliesby aisling d'art ©2006
Let's say that you'd like to create a travel journal or other illustrated diary to remember your holiday or vacation.
The obvious first question is this: How do you illustrate them? With your own drawings & sketches? With postcards and/or collected ephemera? With photos that you place on pages facing your handwritten text, later?
We'll talk about the other journalling techniques later, but today, let's focus on drawing and painting. It's the simplest and usually the most personal form of art journaling, in terms of materials you'll need. Let's start with the basics.
I recommend the following:
A journal, preferably one with white pages made of acid-free paper. A hardcover journal will hold up well but a spiral-bound sketchbook is easier to use. For beginning journalists, I recommend the latter because you can tear out any pages that don't work out, and nobody will know.
Pencils, for writing and/or sketching. For writing, the classic #2 pencil is usually fine. But, for sketching, I recommend the following pencil hardnesses from Michael's or any art supply store: 4B (very soft), 2B (an all-purpose soft pencil), HB (perfect medium-softness; buy this, especially if you're only getting one pencil), and 2H (somewhat hard).
That softness refers to the lead (actually, graphite) and how easily it leaves a mark on paper. "B" leads are soft and smudge easily but also erase easily. "H" leads are hard, leave a fairly smudge-free line, but can leave a groove in the paper even after you've erased it. "HB" is a not-too-soft, not-too-hard pencil lead.
If you like a very soft pencil, such as a 4B, you'll probably want to buy a few before you leave for your travels. The point wears down more quickly, so you'll go through them at a greater pace. And, on an isolated Greek island, or even sitting on the grass sketching Stonehenge, you won't want to go find an art supply store.
Mechanical pencils can be fine, but I prefer a traditional wooden pencil. So, I always carry a small pencil sharpener with me, too.
You'll also need an eraser for your pencil sketches. The eraser at the end of your pencil is okay, but it will remove some of the surface of your paper, or at least change its texture slightly. This may not be a problem if you're sketching and that's all. However, if you're going to later apply watercolor, the paint will absorb irregularly in areas where the paper was abraded with an eraser.
For this reason, I like a kneaded rubber eraser. They're usually grey or blue-grey, and come wrapped in plastic. Tear off a piece, work it in your fingers in a kneading motion to get it soft, and then shape it how you'd like it. I like how it can be molded into a small point, to erase--or even simply "lift"--a tiny detail that I want to change.
But, some people are happy with very soft drafting erasers, too. Before travelling, try different erasers until you find one that you like.
Watercolors are perfect for coloring your sketches, and--if you read the Natalie Goldberg book that I've linked to on the right--you'll be delighted with how easy it is to use good, cheap watercolors.
Personally, I buy the least expensive watercolors that come in a tray (with round, oval, or square-ish flats of watercolor pigment) in the kiddie section of Michael's or even Toys R Us. If you pay more than $3, you probably paid too much. Select a good cheap tray of paints with vivid colors and try them before you leave for your travels.
But, some people prefer to buy real "artist" watercolors, and there are many good varieties--tray or tube--and several excellent brands. Winsor & Newton/Cotman is very popular, and brands such as Holbein get great reviews, but I personally prefer Maimeri's Maimeriblu watercolors. Frankly, the pigment in these Italian paints can't be beat.
Still, when you're starting out, try the cheap "kiddie" watercolors before experimenting with anything more expensive.
On other webpages, we'll discuss colored pencils, felt writers & markers, and other ways to draw & paint in your travel journal. However, for now, I recommend reading Natalie Goldberg's book, Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World. Then, get a pencil and some cheap watercolors, and start experimenting.