Sunday, 3 June 2012

Continental Creative

Journaling in the motorhome

As we ready ourselves for our long continental press trip I have been refining my travel journal techniques, simplifying what can and can't be done when most of the itinerary is not under one's own control, and when 'luggage' space is at a minimum and weight must be controlled. Our recently acquired motor home works extremely well as a studio for work or play, but the check list of technical requirements when working away from home proliferates. (That's for another post, and on another blog, but more weight equals extra fuel!)

Pages from this book will form
the basis of my Continental
Travel Journal
But I knew I had to record our journey and time away somehow, not just in words which I am always scribbling in my latest little notebook, but in photos, sketches, stitch and napkin embellishments. I knew I wanted to use an old book as a base (I collect second-hand ones for just this purpose) and I knew that if I wanted to add stitch to the pages, they would have to be removed, worked upon, and then put back together. But what sort of book would best reflect a travel subject? Pages had to have a background text too which I could overlay my images, a surface on which to sketch, and that would accept the napping embellishments I love to use. And then, as if waiting for just this moment, my hand fell upon 'Imagined Corners' - a history of map-making which I had bought because of my fascination for maps; a remaindered book and very inexpensive. I bought three copies -and perfect for a travel project.

First thoughts
Once I get an idea swirling around in my head, something has to go down on paper; it's a start. I know that on this trip there will not be time to complete any finished artworks; but the techniques that I have been working upon over our last two away-from-home visits will be brought into play again. These involve no more than planning the layouts of what will then become a finished book. I use layout pads (very tough but lightweight paper) and tracing overlays, photos printed 'in the studio' (yes, we take a printer with us for the real work upon which we are engaged), napkins, crayons, etc - but nothing wet or messy so we can pack up and move at a moment's notice. Oh, and a small brand new notebook with waterproof covers that I can take around with me on the press tour days to record journaling thoughts. And camera.

Trying out techniques
I then make a trial page to check my ideas - a couple of sketches from photographs (not Germany actually but two I had took in Ludlow, and including people which is something I have never done, so a new challenge for me). I stupidly stripped away the blank margins from the page which makes it look cluttered and mean - but it is only a trial, not a finished page. So next, I prepare a template around which to outline the correct page size on the layout sheets, including 'type area' - i.e. it will still show the margins. Once back home, my layouts will be recreated on the pages stripped from 'Imagined Corners'; with stitching around the margins.  It came to me that these layouts, one they have served their turn as the catalyst for the finished 'book', could become a book in their own right, with text and notes and everything else thrown in. Stitched to heavy cream coloured furnishing fabric that I bought for next to nothing in a charity shop, a journaling portfolio. For all my work these days has to combine fabric and paper and stitch. This book-about-a-book will allow me to work with a joyous freedom, a release from my daily working life; and because all I will be doing will be layouts, I need not fret that there will be so little time. 

Title page for my rough layouts - and maybe for the actual altered book

But this extra book will need an introduction, and in a moment of madness after my day spent in hospital this last week, I created a title page. I am a wordsmith, not an artist, yet I vividly remember the day at school when we were all told to sketch two bare twigs - ash and horse-chestnut. Only seven at the time (1944), this taught me to open my eyes and really look at what is all around me, learning also to annotate what I drew. Since that day, I have kept journals and made books and ... well I think you can guess the rest. So I don't offer my work as 'art' but a sharing.

I will attempt to photograph the layouts and post them whilst we are away, but may not have adequate WiFi coverage; and of necessity, they may appear on my travel blog. Wherever, I will post a link on this blog, alongside my 'pages cartouche'. Do visit and share my journey; it would be lovely to think you were touring alongside of me.


  1. This is wonderful Ann. Great tips and ideas.
    I plan to follow along with you.

  2. Looking forward to hearing/seeing your travels.