Map Out Your Travel Journal Backgrounds

My husband and I only argue in two places; one of them is the car. (The other is the kitchen, if you must know.)

travel journal page
Detail of my travel journal page using a map.

In the car, we used to argue over map reading. I could keep an entire travel journal just on the bickering and muttering and wrong turns that have occurred over the years. Nick loves maps and knows what each color, symbol, and abbreviation means. He also insists on proper folding. Not me. I'm a directions kinda gal. One piece of paper with words telling you what to do-no folding required.

I thought that when we got the GPS we could avoid directional discord. But no. Now we argue over whether the GPS is right, or is giving us the best directions, or whether we should be using the map anyway.

It's not that I have something against maps, per se. Many are gorgeous works of art. We have several of them framed and hanging on the walls of our home, and I used a ordinance survey map from our honeymoon in Cornwall on the English coast to paper the back of a bookcase.

And, of course, maps make terrific backgrounds for travel journals. All those wiggly lines, symbols, numbers, and colors make a great graphic backdrop. Plus, if the map is of the place where you journeyed, it contributes to the meaning of your art journal.

Art journaling on a map presents some challenges, though.

First, be aware that most maps are copyrighted material. So don't use them for commercial art purposes without getting permission (or making sure the map isn't copyrighted).

Second, map paper isn't always that sturdy, and if you paint over it, the paper can buckle. So either mount the map on watercolor paper first using gel medium or be prepared to attach the page or piece to sturdier paper with adhesive or stitching later.

Travel journal page by Jacqueline Newbold.

Third, unless you want the map to be center stage on your art journal page, you'll probably have to knock back the color somewhat with paint, ink, gesso, or a combination.  A thin layer of gesso will give you a muted background onto which you can paint, stamp, write with gel pen, and so on.

To give the map an aged look, gently rub off the gesso in places, rub some brown or yellow ink (or walnut ink) over the gesso layer. You can also use a slightly wet paintbrush to flick droplets onto the page.

In my example, I took a free, cheaply made turnpike map from last year's trip to the Midwest. I covered the entire page with slightly watered-down gesso, rubbing it off in places. I also added a little watercolor paint here and there to put some color back in the land area and painted the Lake Ontario area with watercolors.

When that dried, I used white ink and a stencil to write the word Journey over the lake. Then I cut out a destination spot from another part of the map in the shape of a tag, backed it with a frame of scrapbook paper, and added marks with a black gel pen.

This is a wonderful art journaling technique to use to help evoke a sense of place through your background.

In her Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video "Art Journals On-the-Go," watercolor and art journal artist Jacqueline Newbold shows how to use maps, book pages, and other ephemera to add depth and interest to your art journal backgrounds.

Using maps in your art is also a great way to recycle these ephemeral treasures that, due to technology, may soon fall out of use. But don't tell my husband that, unless you want to start an argument.

P.S. Do you still use maps when you travel? Do you use them in your art? Let's have a discussion below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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