Traveling Light

Last weekend, I competed a 100-mile cycling trip along the Erie Canal in Western New York. My husband and I, and three other couples, began in Tonawanda near Buffalo and headed east, ending a bit past Rochester. The off-road Canalway Trail follows alongside the canal, and there are quaint villages and impressive locks, bridges, and other canal structures to see along the way.

I made a small accordion-fold journal (4.5″ x 4″) that tucked into my bike bag so that I could record highlights of the journey. The long, horizontal format of the journal lends itself well to capturing a sense of the linear trail. Unfortunately, that format is not so good for showing here, so I separated the pages to give you a better view. (Click to view larger.)

Tips and Techniques– Truth be told, I find it very difficult to make time for sketching with a lot of miles to cover. I tend to make a few notes as I go, and sketch at the end of each day, using photos to fill in the gaps. The end result is a bit of a jumble, but it’s fun to look back later and see some of the small things that photos can’t capture. If you are traveling, try not to worry about making perfectly beautiful pages or filling a big sketchbook. A few small sketches and notes might be just enough to bring back your most memorable experiences.

46 Comments on “Traveling Light

  1. This is great! After you introduced me to accordion journals at Hog Island, it is my go-to approach for commemorating trips. And this one looks like it was most enjoyable.

    • Fun trip, indeed. I find accordion folds hard to work with unless they are small. But they sure pack up light and serve me well on trips like this. Glad they work for your travels, too!

  2. I love those little accordion journals!! So handy, and the look of them is especially fun. I’ve never done any sketching during this physical of an endeavor though!!!! Impressive- you always inspire me!!!!

    • It’s really hard to sketch on a trip like this. So many miles to cover and you have to stick with the group. Still, if I don’t do it, I loose the small bits that are fun to remember later. Let’s keep inspiring each other!

  3. Once again you’ve made my day with your beautiful sketches and inspiration. Love the small portable format. Thanks for all your tips too.

  4. I love this! I always take my watercolor journal on trips but never draw/paint as much as I want. I tend to cut and paste a few things and maybe one watercolor sketch. I love your little “snippets”!

  5. Congratulations on the distance. I love to bike and in my younger years, probably would have enjoyed this trip, so thank you for letting me see it through your wonderful journal.

  6. Love that accordion book! So enjoy reading and the journey you took!
    Need to know if their are techniques you use to pick out the high points, charting distance,
    And do you do it at the end of your day or along the way? Fantastic Jean, thanks for the ride!

    • Hi Cindy- I make mental notes when on the trail and I think about what I might want to put in the journal later. For example, big skies and clouds were remarkable on this trip, so I thought about what colors I would use for those. At the end of the day, I put in highlights from that day. I added the canal towns along the way and the mileage for the day based on my bike calculator. I still had space at the end of the trip, so went back in and added a few details here and there. Sometimes I add receipts or names of people on the trip or best quotes of the day. Thanks for coming along!

  7. I found this a wonderful log of your biking journey, Jean! I love your drawings and your text… love the layout and the colors…in short, I enjoyed it very much! We met a couple from the UK in Costa Rica last year and the woman had a sort of visual diary of their whole trip that was done in this style. A marvelous idea~!

  8. „ I find it very difficult to make time for sketching with a lot of miles to cover“
    I know this from my pilgrimage. It took me a long time to find the right balance between walking and sketching – mostly it means for me to plan shorter stages.

  9. What a wonderful way to record your journey. And, what a lovely array of bird species you observed, too! 🙂


  10. I’m intrigued by the accordion journal you made and used for recording watercolor sketches and important memories. What kind of paper did you use? Was it cold press 140#? I wond about 300# but how would you crease that? …..unless scoring the paper with each fold.
    I’d also hesitate to begin…worry about “messin up” and possibly ruining the flow of images and recordings. Just plunge in, I hear my subconscious say…..make it a wonderful experience.

    • You can’t make the journal too precious unless you plan to be perfect with your sketches. I made this with 140lb Fluid 100 hot press cotton paper and two scraps of mat board for the covers. You could use cold press. If you use 300lb you risk having the paper break eventually when it’s been folded and refolded too many times. 300lb would be more than you need for quick sketches too. I say use whatever paper you like and if you mess up, keep going and decide later if you want to collage over it. If you’re traveling, you could paste in a ticket stub or receipt. The journal won’t be perfect, and there will be sketches in it that you may not like, but you’ll record some memories that might otherwise be lost and you’ll see whether you like the accordion fold experiment. Cheers!

  11. This journal brings back memories of joining you all on part of this ride years ago. The experience led to me taking a chance and doing more organized rides…and now I am hooked! Your journals are so beautiful…and I can just imagine the birds and the crunch of the stone dust.

    • We are so glad you and Anya joined us years ago! The stone dust is alive and well (my chain can prove it). We saw a tree snag full of cormorants along the canal, and I scattered a flock of robins one day. Swallows are getting ready to leave us. We need to come and ride the C&O with you!

  12. Love your journal layouts of beautiful paintings! I have done small accordion sketch’Journals for short trips. I am so pleased to know that you too will finish a sketch later which is what I do most of the times. I just want to sketch and paint and feel less restrictions I put on myself the better 😉 Thanks for all the inspiration!

    • It is good to remember that we make our own rules– and we can break them whenever we want. There are so many restrictions that we carry around (faster is better; complete things on the spot; don’t use photos; don’t make mistakes; etc. etc.). It’s good to be aware of that voice in your head and to give yourself as much freedom as you can when sketching.

  13. I’m impressed just that you did the trip, let alone doing sketches at the end of the day. 😉 And nice idea to just list the birds.

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