Recently, someone said they admired the way I kept up with my illustrated journal pages while on vacation. I stared at her slackjawed. No matter how many museums, road trips, hikes, or meal – I can’t not keep up my journal. If I don’t get it in my diary, it didn’t happen, without my pages my journey feels flat and black and white. So I thought maybe it was time to do a little preaching about keeping a visual diary.


An illustrated journal is somewhere between a diary and a scrapbook: drawings, ticket stubs, lists, maps, postcards, and photos combine with handwritten lists, notes, and stories and the end result is a whimsical field guide to your days. Unlike a photo album alone, it provides a strong sense of witness.

While it is invaluable for travel (the French call it un carnet de voyage) and capturing unfamiliar sites, food, wanderings, scenery, memories, it can do these things for your everyday life as well, your day-to-day journey: what you’re cooking, reading, pondering. A map of your neighbourhood with a story. Your shoes, a leaf, your cat, your coffee cup. (Click on photos for larger view.)


In the weeks to come I am going to post a lot about the art of the journal, the many different aspects of diary keeping both written and visual. Hacks, tutorials, pep talks. Reviews of how-to books and art supplies. Ideas, suggestions. Lessons from sketchbooks in history. And later in the year, online courses.

(NOTE: This post was prepared and ready to go before many of us were isolating. In a few days I will be adding to this post with ideas for keeping and illustrated journal while staying home.)