A Travel Journal Adventure with Gina Lee Kim

It’s Gina Lee Kim week here on the Cloth Paper Scissors blog, and the fun continues today with a travel journal adventure! The travel journals Gina creates are nothing short of spectacular, featuring mixed-media layered pages with transparencies, watercolor, collage, and more. Follow this tutorial from our July/August 2017 issue to try out Gina’s journaling techniques.

travel journal

A Travel Journal Adventure by Gina Lee Kim

A journal is a beautiful way to document my travels, honor the journey, and celebrate my love of nature. Before I leave for a trip, I prep a few blank pages with watercolor. I may include an abstract wash of my favorite colors, or a specific landmark I intend to visit. Pre-painted inserts are a great way to save time when I finally arrive at my destination. I can immediately start to “smash” or build up pages with journaling, washi tape, tiny photographs, collage papers collected along the way, and tip-ins.

As a watercolor and mixed-media artist, I’m intrigued with using non-traditional surfaces. Transparency sheets may not be the first go-to surface for most artists, but when Grafix came out with Dura-Lar, a specialty fi lm that can accept water-based paints, markers, and inks, I knew I had to bring some along with me on my travels. In this article, I’ll share how I incorporate this highly reflective, clear film into a fun and unique layer that adds interest and dimension. Come along with me to Monterey Bay Aquarium in California, where I captured the mesmerizing motion, color, and texture of the iconic jellyfish (aka Sea Nettles), and took the hues of the Pacific Ocean to a new dimension.


  • Paper trimmer or scissors
  • Paper, 90-lb. cold-press watercolor paper or mixed-media paper (I used pages from a Canson® All-Media Art Book.)
  • Transparency (I use Grafix® Dura-Lar™ Wet Media Film.)
  • Paintbrushes (I used various round brushes.)
  • Watercolor paint, a variety of colors (I used Holbein Artist Water Color Tubes in Lemon Yellow, Scarlet Lake, Bright Rose, Bright Violet, Indigo, Brilliant Orange, Cobalt Blue, and Turquoise Blue.)
  • Gouache paint (I used Holbein’s Artist Gouache in Permanent Yellow Orange and Permanent White.)
  • Pencil
  • Tape runner or glue stick
  • Oil pastel, any brand (I used an orange color.)
  • Acrylic paint (I used Golden® Artist Colors High Flow Acrylics in Fluorescent Pink.)
  • Paint pens, water-based (I use a Sharpie® Water Based Paint Marker in Hot Pink.)
  • Collage materials, such as photos, maps, menus, origami paper, etc.
  • Waterproof felt-tip pen, black (I used Sakura® Pigma® Micron® pens in various sizes for journaling.)
  •  Washi tape, various patterns and colors
  • Optional:
    • Rubber stamps (I used alphabet and ocean-themed stamps for this project.)
    • Inkpad, permanent (I used black.)

NOTE: For this project I used 2 pieces of watercolor paper: a 8 1/4″ x 8 1/2″ piece (folded in half vertically) and a 8 1/2″ x 2 3/4″ piece, and a transparency sheet cut to 3 3/4″ x 8 1/4″.  This size page should fit inside a Midori Traveler’s Notebook, or similar journal. If you’re using a different journal, adjust the page accordingly.

1. Create a soft background for the watercolor paper spread. Open the folded paper, and paint the entire spread with a loose watercolor wash. I used a loaded round paintbrush and painted a light puddle of sheer Bright Pink near the center of the spread. I extended the pigment outward with Bright Violet, blending in Indigo toward the outer corners. While the paper was still damp, I dropped in white gouache at the center to form abstract clouds, spreading it carefully with a clean brush. (FIGURE 1) I set the paper aside to dry.

TIP: With watercolor, always paint from light to dark colors. This will help keep the lightest colors bright and clean.

2. Paint a complementary scene on the thinner strip of paper. I painted an ocean sunset. I lightly drew a horizon line with a pencil about a quarter of the way up from the bottom of the paper. Starting at the horizon line and blending upward, I painted the sky with a graded watercolor wash of Lemon Yellow, Scarlet Lake, Bright Rose, and Bright Violet. While the sky was still damp, I painted a few distant clouds with white gouache. After waiting a few minutes for the sky to dry, I filled in the ocean with Cobalt Blue and Turquoise Blue watercolor, and let it dry. (FIGURE 2)

3. Adhere the painted strip to the journal page with the tape runner. Set it aside. I added this piece on the right-hand side of the page.

4. Draw an outline of your design on the transparency sheet with an oil pastel. The oil pastel acts as a resist to the watercolor and helps contain any watery run-off. It also adds texture to the jellyfish. I used an orange oil pastel to outline several jellyfish shapes. (FIGURE 3) I painted inside each jellyfish’s “head” (anatomically known as the bell) with Permanent Yellow Orange gouache, and added some squiggly brushstrokes of Bright Violet watercolor for graceful tentacles. (FIGURE 4). To make the jellyfish look more saturated, I added a glaze to the bells with Scarlet Lake watercolor and dropped in some Fluorescent Pink acrylic paint, allowing the different paints to mingle. (FIGURE 5)

5. Enhance some areas of the transparency painting with water-based paint markers. I built up the tentacles with more squiggly lines in Hot Pink. (FIGURE 5) Set the piece aside to dry.

TIP: A glaze is a layer of paint applied on top of another layer of paint. It’s important that the previous paint layer is dry, to avoid any lifting of that first paint color.

6. Select travel ephemera, such as photographs, collage papers (I cut out a sail boat), and washi tape. Adhere the selected pieces to the planner page with a tape runner or glue stick. (FIGURE 6)

7. Add journaling with pens and markers. Add stamping as desired. When traveling, I like to carry a small set of rubber alphabet stamps and, for this trip, I also brought sea-life images.

NOTE: I recommend using a permanent, solvent-based ink like StazOn for stamping on the transparency page.

8. Adhere the finished transparency tip-in to the journal spread with a strip of washi tape, which will act as a hinge. I added it on the outer right-hand edge. The beautiful sunset colors peek through the window of the swimming jellyfish. (FIGURE 6)

NOTE: Tip-ins are smaller flaps or pages that are taped or glued into a journal spread, providing additional journaling or painting surfaces. Think of tip-ins as page extensions.

May you always have fun in your travels and artful journeys.

Get an up-close look at Gina’s travel journal pages in this online extra.

Gina Lee Kim is a self-taught watercolorist and mixed-media artist with a background in biology and nursing. Her paintings are all about the color and texture found in the natural world. She loves to take the fear out of watercolor and incorporate mixed media. Gina’s vision is to make art that’s joyful and approachable. She currently lives north of Chicago with her husband and young son. Watch for Gina’s watercolor and mixed-media book, available early 2018, from North Light Books.

Visit Gina’s website at ginaleekim.blogspot.com. Plus, follow her on Instagram: @ginaleekim.

Ready for more? Our July/August 2017 issue is filled with all sorts of travel art inspiration, including more ideas and techniques for travel art journals.

July/August 2017

Plus, don’t miss Gina’s new Fun with Watercolor Kit, featuring four instructional videos on using watercolor with mixed media in your art journals.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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