Traveling as an Artist

I recently returned from a Norwegian Cruise Line weekend trip to the Bahamas, and while I always struggle with packing light (but my 10 step Korean beauty ritual products!), it’s particularly challenging as an artist.

Photo of a Miami Vice
We had a really good time, okay?

I want to make sure I stay sharp, so creating even a little bit helps. The problem is that I use a variety of media, so I’m never sure if I should bring watercolors or ink, what kind of paper, and how to compartmentalize it all? Fortunately bullet journaling has trained me to organize my ideas more concretely, so this time I felt ready. Here’s what I brought for a four day cruise.

Pen case, travel journal, and cruise itinerary.
Travel supplies

Travel journal. I wanted to ensure I had enough paper to work with, but I knew I’d just forget to use a sketchbook if that was it’s only function. So I built a travel journal using watercolor paper (halved, then folded in half to create folios), mod podge, and galaxy printed card stock. There are lots of book binding tutorials out there if you want to give it a try, but you don’t have to be extra like I was.

Travel journal.
I made this specifically for the trip. It’s not the prettiest, but it was sturdy and gave me no trouble.

A purchased sketchbook works too, as long as it is small enough to carry but spacious enough for you to include collage elements and notes about your trip alongside your artwork. This paper is thick and toothy enough to handle watercolor easily. You could always mix it up by adding a few extra pages of mixed media paper too for, well, adding marker or ink drawings. Building it myself meant I could customize it to my particular artistic tendencies.

Inside the travel journal I included drawings, notes, and photos.

Pencil case. I’ve invested in a few pencil cases over the past year (again, thanks bujo community!) and they are invaluable when traveling. Everything is organized and you don’t have to worry about a cluttered space. The trick though is to choose what you’ll put in it. I brought this floral one I use for everything.

It fits so many pens!
It fits so many pens!

Markers and pens. I brought a selection of ink pens, but this is always tricky: I’m always afraid I’ll need something! But not to worry: if you pack carefully then it’s not a problem. Besides, packing limited colors forces a limited pallet challenge. It also means that if I really want that extra color, I have to wait until I get home to use it. This gives me more time to plan what I want to do and why I think that particular tool is so essential. Most of the time, it’s not as essential as I expected.

I was able to bring a good variety too.

For pens, I chose colors and widths that I use most frequently, leaving duplicates or anything too similar at home. Micron of course, but also Fudenosuke, my Pilot in gold and silver, some fine-liners, and Faber-Castell brush pens for variety.

Watercolor pallet and water pen. Water pens make using watercolors while traveling easier than ever before! Simply fill with water and use as necessary. The pallet is the harder part for me, really. I gave away my travel pallet, so I’m torn between making my own or using one I’ve purchased in the past. In the end, even though I don’t own a wide range of tubes, I should have gone with a pallet of my own for a limited range challenge. Instead I brought this one which, while awesome because of the mix of neutral and fluorescent colors, was really hot if in the sun too long because its case is made of black metal — ouch!

Watercolor sketch of the beach.

Most importantly though, be realistic about how much time you’re going to spend on your travel journal. If you’re traveling solo, you have more time than if traveling in a group like I did. And of course, safe travels!

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