Every year, Hernán and I go on a trip to explore somewhere new. This year’s trip was to Naples, Barcelona, and Paris — and we wanted to pack extra light. We only took “under the seat” bags so there wouldn’t be any luggage to check (and no extra fees on budget airlines like Ryanair and Easyjet). Of course, taking a small-ish bag meant traveling with only the bare necessities; the only “creative supply” I took was a Pilot G2 pen! When I found myself wanting to make some art and calligraphy while in Paris, the idea for this blog post was born. In it, you’ll learn seven tips for making calligraphy and art on the go with minimal supplies!
1. Use the Faux Calligraphy Technique
In Paris, we stayed in an artistic Airbnb in Montmartre, an area that’s known for its bohemian feel. The apartment was beautifully appointed with artwork, thoughtful textiles, and fragrant peony bouquets. I wanted to show the host my gratitude with a beautiful message in her guestbook, but I only had my Pilot G2 pen to work with. Faux calligraphy to the rescue!
Faux calligraphy is a fantastic on-the-go technique because it allows you to write with any instrument you have handy. In many cases, that may mean writing with a pen on paper; but you don’t have to relegate yourself to this traditional combination. For example, you can create faux calligraphy in sand on the beach with your finger (or a stick), or use the technique to artfully arrange leaves or pebbles on a sidewalk into a word! You can learn how to create faux calligraphy in this tutorial.
2. Use a Cotton Swab to “Paint”
If you’ve read the Elegant Mother’s Day Card Tutorial, then you know that if you add a bit of water to gel pen ink, you’ll be rewarded with a watercolor effect. But … what do you do if you don’t have a paintbrush? Use a cotton swab instead!
To “paint” with a cotton swab, you just need to moisten the swab with some water. Use that water to tease out some of the gel pen ink, and you’ll end up with a nice, watercolor-like effect! I didn’t get any great photos of me using the cotton swab to paint, but I did post a video to Instagram Stories. You can see that video below (it’s not the best quality because it was shot in the evening!):
3. Don’t Underestimate the Power of Coffee
A lot of us appreciate coffee for its taste and/or its ability to boost our productivity. However, it has another use, too: pretty, earthy pigment! If your adventuring takes you to a coffee shop, take along a paintbrush and a sketchbook. Then, ask the barista for a little cup of dark coffee.
Coffee can make some beautiful, rich brown tones on paper. Once one layer of coffee dries, you can brush more coffee on to make a darker color. Alternatively, if you have a dip pen handy, you can use coffee as an ink! Simply dip your pen in it as you would any other ink.
4. Create Watercolor Calligraphy
I’ve said this before, but the watercolor calligraphy technique is a great way to fit in dip pen practice on the go! You’ll just need to plan ahead by bringing some watercolor pans, your calligraphy pen + nib, and a paintbrush.
The nice thing about watercolor calligraphy is all of the supplies required for it pack up beautifully. You don’t have to worry about any ink spills because you’re not bringing along any ink! If you’re only traveling with a carry-on, don’t fret: nibs make it through airport security.
5. Paint with a Water Brush
I’ll be the first to admit that I am not super familiar with using water brushes. I own one, and have never really gotten it out … everywhere I go, I have access to a cup of water to paint with, so I just travel with regular brushes. However, I really like the idea for those who enjoy creating art in untamed environments (for example: in the mountains or in the jungle).
For this tip, I defer to the expertise of Jess at Greenleaf & Blueberry. Last week, she wrote a detailed article over the pros and cons of using a water brush, including recommendations for which water brush to purchase. If you’re interested in one of these tools for creating art on the go, it’s definitely worth a read!
6. Travel with a Tiny Sketchbook
If you know that you’ll dedicate time to writing or drawing while you’re out of the house, take a small sketchbook with you. The sketchbook won’t take up much space, and you can take it with you in a bag or a purse while you’re out and about. Keep a writing utensil with the sketchbook, and you can doodle whenever inspiration strikes!
7. Collect Paper Souvenirs for Post-Trip Sketchbook Journaling
If you go on an adventure that’s jam-packed with activities, you may not have time for art or lettering — and that’s fine! Instead of making things while you’re on your trip, take photos and collect souvenirs that you can use in a sketchbook journal later.
I love making trip-themed sketchbook pages after the fact! Doing so allows you to relive the experiences you had and the places that you visited. If you like drawing, you can try your hand at making illustrated versions of some of the photos you took. Otherwise, you can always just collage paper scraps that you collected while on the trip!
Whether your adventures take you just a few steps out the door or halfway around the world, I hope that this post helps you to exercise your creativity on the go! If you have any questions — or any tips to add — I’d love to hear from you in the comments. It’s always nice to hear what you have to say! Thanks so much for reading TPK, and enjoy the rest of your week. 🙂