Travel Art Journaling: My Kit and My Process

I just got back a couple days ago from my fabulous month away in Europe. I spent 2+ weeks in England with my mom and sister and then my husband, Mark, met me in London and we headed to Paris to celebrate our 25th anniversary! I walked (what felt like) a million miles, visited umpteen museums, old gardens and monuments, and ate a lot of croissants! So much beauty and inspiration in that kind of trip and I soaked up every atom of it.

Before I left I was determined to bring along a kit of art supplies so that I could art journal my experience. Since I clearly couldn't bring along all the cool supplies I have at Unfold Studio, I scoured Pinterest and other creative spots on the internet to see what other folks packed into a travel aj kit and also analyzed my own process, thinking about each aspect that I wanted to be able to recreate on the road.

I'm so happy that I made space in my luggage for these materials because I really used them, really appreciated the stress release I got from keeping up my art journaling practice, and also had a place to explore other aspects of my art practice. I found inspiration to return to my fine art watercolor painting and figure drawing and had a place to experiment and play right then and there. The best part is that my art journal is a wonderful record of my trip.

Traveling can be stressful in the best of circumstances. Art journaling is often a great way to decompress and I used it that way on this trip. Cutting out images from the great brochures I picked up throughout our journey, looking through my photos on my phone as another inspiration jumping off point, and copying great works of art from postcards I collected along the way all provided me with chances to play with color and image and pattern. Journaling was a destresser too, and I kept to my usual practice of illegible writing to keep my words process oriented and unreadable to anyone who might venture into my book.

Not surprisingly, I brought along more art supplies than I actually used or needed (because: art supplies!) and I even visited art supply shops in both England and Paris (because: art supplies!!!) to get a few more things...but you don't need to have it all, of course. You now can benefit from my experimentation! Below, I'll give you details about what I would call Susie's Essential Travel Art Journaling Kit with links for purchasing. [Note: I am in no way associated with any of the companies that sell or manufacture these supplies, I just am recommending them to you because I love them and you!]

Susie's Essential Travel Art Journaling Kit

Sketchbook: Strathmore Hardbound 400 Series Watercolor Art Journal, 5 1/2 x 8 1/2"     I love the size and feel of this journal. The cover is a lovely, soft microfiber and the pages are sturdy watercolor paper. It's an unusual shape for my journaling (horizontal rectangle), but I enjoyed how that made me adjust my work.

Watercolors: Peerless Watercolors    These are very cool watercolors (that have been around for over 100 years!) and the perfect addition to a travel art kit. The "paint" is liquid watercolor saturated paper. I purchased several sets of colors, chose my favorites, cut out strips and stuck them on a laminated palette. The palette gets folded up, like an accordion, and easily tucks away into my sketchbook. It's got lots of colors in it, weighs nothing, and takes up no extra space! The perfect addition to a travel art kit! Directions with photos on making this palette will be linked here shortly.

Manila envelope: for collecting papers, tickets, ephemera (bits of this and that), maps, brochures, etc. for collaging. You could also use a ziplock baggie.

Binder clips: 2 large clips I used these for clipping open the pages of the journal when I worked on them. Really helpful! 

Water brushes: Pentel Arts Aquash Water Brush set of 3 (different sized tips) Fantastic invention! These brushes are easy to fill, don't leak, and were wonderful to use on the road. I definitely recommend getting the set of three as I used all three whenever I worked.

Permanent markers, black: Staedtler Lumocolor Permanent Markers in superfine, fine, medium and broad tips.     When using wet media I really think it's important to have a pen that is waterproof and permanent. Pigment pens are NOT. I had used some Sakura Micron pens in my journaling at the beginning of the trip, but the tips are very light and they basically got sanded down to nothingness from the abrasion of the textured watercolor paper in my journal after a few uses. I picked up these Staedtler pens at an art store in Paris and loved them. They are available separately or in sets.

Gel pen, white: 1 or 2 Uni-Ball Signo broad point gel pen    I can't journal without my white gel pen, so I brought 2 along for the adventure. I used them all the time. They are an easy way to perk up a page. And the Uniball Signo is the best of the best for white gel pens.

Pencil: Any soft lead pencil will do (or mechanical pencil--be sure to bring lead for the latter or a sharpener for the former)

EraserStaedtler Mars Plastic Eraser    Nice to have a reliable eraser if you're going to use a pencil. I cut mine in half and only took this little piece with me on the trip. It was plenty.

Scissors: You can't easily collage without a pair of scissors, but you can't bring a sharp pair on the plane, so make sure you get a BLUNT TIP pair, a child's pair is perfect, and you'll be good to go!

Glue stick: UHU stic     Take a small glue stick with you for collaging. You can always find another, if you run out, in stationary stores or art stores.

Acrylic paint marker, white: Molotow One4All Acrylic Marker, 4mm      I love what white acrylic paint does to an art journal page, so this was something I really wanted to use in my kit. You can "paint" over things to soften them, or create milky color with watercolor and wet acrylic paint. Molotows are great quality markers and because they are acrylic--as opposed to oil--they don't wreck your other art supplies. If you do use your water brushes with them (to blend the white paint on the page), though, be sure to run them under water afterwards so they don't dry hard and become unusable.

Mini-mister: Ranger Inkssenials Mini Mister      It's nice to be able to wet a whole page when you're watercoloring, and that's where this tiny little mister comes in handy. It's also great for creating drips. I used it as well on the mixing pages of my palette (the plain white pages) to create a little puddle of water for thinning out color and making a wash.

Colored markers:  Stabilo Point 88 Mini Pens     These are fun to have and they easily turn into watercolor as well. You can get broad or fine point tips. I love that they were small enough to pack into my little zipper bag of supplies. Just in case I wanted some fine point color! 

All of these supplies fit easily into my carry-on bag and purse. They aren't heavy and afforded me so many opportunities for creativity. I highly recommend building your own travel art journaling kit!

The small bag to the right is the backup kit for the watercolors. It contains the sheet sets for the colors and a tape runner for adhering the color strips to the palette. I didn't bring this in carry-on or my purse but would replenish my palette at the end of the day, back in our AirBnB flat or hotel room.