Travel Journals at the MCBA Visual Journal Collective and a Stonehenge Surprise!

September 23, 2010

See the full post for photos and details from this great meeting!

Above: Members of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective were greeted with a surprise at Monday's meeting. Legion Paper sent us all 7 x 7 inch Stonehenge journals! You can read my various reviews on Stonehenge paper by using the blog's search engine. Also check out yesterday's post for suggestions and tips on how to go about "dressing" those wonderful naked cover boards! If you are looking for a Stonehenge journal of your own Wet Paint in St. Paul has the complete line. The 7 x 7 sells for about $15. If you buy via the internet check Blick and other large art supply vendors. The journals are a new product and are working their way into more and more locations as production ramps up.

Monday we had a great meeting at the Collective, discussing Travel Journals. Despite the limitations of my tiny pocket camera (light, distance, a forest of heads to shoot through, and a wobbly hand) I'm going to share the photos I took because they are clear enough that you at least get a sense of the various journals. And I hope you'll be inspired to look past the blurry images and think about how you want to approach your next travel journal!

Mary2232 Right: Mary Hanson holds one of her collaged travel journals up during her talk.

We began the evening with Mary Hanson sharing the evolution of her approach to travel journals. She used to take a fresh journal of blank pages on her trip, but found that the reality of traveling with four children and a spouse left little time for journaling. Smaller Hand•book journals were then used because of their portability—but even they fell short. A couple years ago Mary embraced the idea of collaged journals she began at home, often sewing papers together rather than gluing, and which she then took on her trip, adding to as she traveled. She would insert sketches made on small scraps of paper, ticket stubs, and other ephemera. In this way Mary left her frustration over books half-filled with sketches of coffee cups in various cafes behind and moved on to a more relaxed approach to travel journaling. The trips became more of a scavenger hunt. Mary carries one signature at a time and completes the book cover when she returns home. She loves that she has no blank pages to deal with. And she enjoys giving up the construct of chronological order to create what she feels is a more complete picture of her trip.

NanPanama2241 Left: Nanette Lee holds open her journal from her Panama trip.

Next up Nanette Lee talked about her approach to travel and regular journaling. She tries to maintain a daily journaling practice—difficult at the start and end of the school year as she is a teacher. In general her travel experiences are blended into the chronologic flow of her journals, but she does have a couple journals that are trip specific. One included her Panama trip, a three week trip to visit her daughter. The book is filed with watercolored, hand-drawn maps and landscapes and of course buildings and machinery.

"I was taking a nature journaling class from Roz up in Grand Marais," Nanette said, "And I realized how much I didn't like drawing nature—I prefer drawing buildings and machines!"

Nanette pointed out the pitfalls of drawing in the tropics (the heat and humidity prevent the pages from drying quickly, and melt your paints!) and also encouraged people to start drawing from their cars. On a trip to Iowa when Nan broke her foot she found that while she couldn't walk places to draw she could drive with her other foot! She came back with a book filled with views of the Iowa landscape and farm buildings and machinery!

Traveling now that her children are grown up, Nanette finds that she likes to get away by herself and sketch for hours at a time, really studying a building or scene.

After our two speakers and a question and answer period other members got up to show their travel journals. Again, I apologize for the poor quality of the photos but I still believe you can get a sense of the rich diversity that people bring to their journals.

BertFairFood2244 Right: Roberta Avidor with a State Fair sketch.

First up was Roberta Avidor who brought along images from the recent Minnesota State Fair (I told her it was totally appropriate because the Fair is like going to another planet!).

One page spread showed different people eating. Roberta explained that she started to notice people all ate corn the same way. She also explained that she would start a page, work on a few figures, go and sketch the animals on another page, and then later return to the food page to sketch more people eating. The result is a wonderfully detailed montage of people eating Fair Food!

Ken Avidor dug out a travel journal from 1981 to bring to the meeting. It was a trip to Florida in a wirebound, blank-paged notebook. Since 2000 Ken has worked in casebound books on better quality paper, so it was fun to see his earlier work and the changing approach to how he handles his page.

The following images are presented with captions only, as laying out multiple photos with little text gets fussy on Typepad. Several other folks shared journals but because of my position in the room I wasn't always able to take photos. I hope the evening helped encourage everyone to be as individual as they like in their travel journals. Chronological order or not, writing or not, handbound books or commercially made, and any media you enjoy working with—it's all great. Create a unique journal on your next trip!

KenFLACover2225 Left: Ken Avidor with his 1981 journal.

KenInterior2226 Right: A page from Ken Avidor's 1981 journal. You can also see through the paper to the flamingos on the previous spread.


Lynn2246 Left: Lynn Fisher shared a travel journal she kept on a trip out west to Yellowstone, through the Badlands. She collected cards, and ephemera as well as stamp impressions at various locations. She also made sketches of various scenes and wrote about her experiences.

Theresa2257 Right: Theresa Harsma created a travel journal with a wrap cover made out of her paste paper, heavily sewn with threads. She filled the journal with sketches and ephemera from her trip.



Judith2252 Left: Judith Favia shared a journal that actually made two trips to the same location with her! She was able to use the journal as a personal guidebook on the second trip, to recall where her favorite restaurants and such were located.






Right: Judith Main took a river trip and captured the sights in her journal with watercolor sketches.


NewPersonTravel2256 Left: A new attendee whose name I didn't jot down (please let me know if you read this) shared a visual travel journal filled with ephemera and sketches.


Below: Patty Scott unfurled an accordion fold journal she kept on a trip to Germany. She made her travel journal by gutting an old German book (that happened to be on traveling!) and inserting her own accordion into the cover. On her trip she sketched, inserted some ephemera, and also included rubbings made on the spot. Patty recommend taking some sort of clip to hold the pages open when you are working on site.


  1. Reply

    Fun post Roz – I’m glad you shared the pictures even if some were blurry – they were still a lot of fun to look at!!! Wish I could have been there in person!

  2. Reply

    lee, so glad the travel journal report arrived in time for your upcoming trip—and that you have some new ideas!

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