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April 2007

April 2007: Travel



  • EMG News:
    News for April
  • Healthy Green Artists:
    Dye Trying
  • Behind the Art:
    Vector Art in Flash
  • Myths and Symbols:
    A Harmonic Connection of Body and Soul
  • Wombat Droppings:
    Studio Space


  • Creative Commons
  • Traveling for Inspiration


  • Fiction: Travel Advice
  • Fiction: Pieces of Who I Used to Be
  • Fiction: ALCAN Daisy
  • Fiction: The Path


  • Movie: Hantu Jeruk Purut
  • Movie: Ghost Rider

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  • Traveling for Inspiration
    by Megan Myers

    I love to travel. Who doesn't? Travel is one of the best ways to refill yourself mentally and creatively. Whether you're running on empty or you just need a quick top-off, exploring a place that is new to your eyes can do wonders for your art or writing inspiration. But the question is, once you've arrived home again, how can you keep using that inspiration to your advantage?

    Before You Go

    Decide beforehand how you're going to keep track of all those places you see and people you bump into. Depending on where you're going, there are a few factors to keep in mind.

    Portability. If you'll be traipsing all over Europe you might want to consider leaving your gigantic sketch pad and portable easel behind. Chances are, by the end of the trip you'll have already chucked your supplies into the nearest lake. On the other hand, if your vacation consists of a quiet week at a beach resort or mountainside cabin, bring as many supplies as your heart desires.

    Ease of use. Sure, traveling to a new place is a great excuse to really get to try all the features of that new digital SLR camera you got for Christmas, but aside from being marked by the street con artists, fiddling with your camera's settings is probably not how you want to be spending the bulk of your trip. Even small, autofocus digital cameras can take great photos, and if you're only using these photos for later reference in your art or writing, a couple of megapixels less in quality aren't going to be detrimental. Also, even though I love using film, digital is often going to be your best choice. Aside from having to carry all the film, keeping track of what is on each roll, taking the time to change the film in ideal conditions, etc., digital photography has the wonderful option of instant delete. You'll still need to have a large enough storage card, but at the end of the day you can always go through and delete any of your less-than-stellar pics. No one will ever know you took six photos of your thumb.

    Durability. Watercolors might not be best if you're visiting Southeast Asia during monsoon season. Dust and sand are the scourge of cameras and their lenses. Consider where you are going, learn what the weather will be like, and try to match your equipment to that. Keep soft, clean cloths on hand and if you're a serious photographer, consider buying a professional-level cleaning kit. Do not used compressed air, like what you would use on your computer keyboard, on your camera! Likewise, find a way to keep your sketches and paintings safe from rain or whatever else might come up.

    With all these things in mind, I felt well prepared for my trip to Paris last month. I ended up bringing a small (though not pocket-sized) digital camera, a mixed set of sketch pencils, an eraser, and a moleskine.

    Moleskine notebooks are wonderful for their durability and quality. Although the price is a little bit shocking for a notebook, considering how long it will last, a little investment on your vacation won't hurt. Moleskines are available in a wide variety of styles, and I opted for the sketchbook – that way I could write my journal entries and sketch in the same book.

    On the Road

    Traveling can sometimes be overwhelming, especially if you are traveling to a country where the main language is not one you are familiar with. Also, many of us have a tendency to just record the "most famous" landmarks because, well, that's where we're going. But we're artists and writers! Make sure you take the time to visit the "normal" places of a city and really get a feel for life there.

    Don't be afraid. As someone who frequently takes photos of her food at restaurants and of things I find laying on the ground, I often get odd looks from strangers (and tsks from my husband). But it doesn't matter. You never know if you'll find inspiration in the sun-filled windows of a church or a flower that has been trampled into the pavement. Don't be afraid to record anything that interests you, no matter how weird. You're a tourist – there's no better excuse to act weird!

    Variety keeps things interesting. What you see through the camera lens might not be how you envision it on paper, or how you would explain it in words. Make sure you don't spend the entire trip with one medium. Sometimes what your mind's eye sees is more interesting than what reality is, and you don't want your trip to only be a memory captured by the camera, with everything else forgotten.

    Slow down. Unfortunately, traveling never lasts as long as we want it to. There is always so much to see in so little time that we often feel like we have to rush from stop to stop in order to get the full value of our vacations. Americans especially – no wonder we're always so tired after a vacation! Take the time to sit in a café and gather your thoughts, stroll leisurely through a park, or watch some locals play horseshoes or boules.

    Save everything. OK, maybe not everything, but it's amazing how useful a used metro ticket can end up being. Or you might realize three months down the road that the plot of your novel hinges on how many composers are buried in that cemetery you visited. Most places of note will have maps or small pamphlets with loads of useful information. Receipts from restaurants can prove handy as well, as well as free newsmagazines, real estate papers, or postage stamps.

    Home Again

    Of course, when you return home there is the incessant clamor from friends and co-workers for photos and tales of the voyage. But hardly anyone wants to go through 500-plus photos and get them online the day after you get home!

    Take the time to process the trip in your mind before you dive in and start creating things from all the sources you gleaned. Read over your journal and look at your sketches and photos. There might be something you forgot to write down before – now's the time to do it, while the memory is still fresh in your mind.

    Travel is always worthwhile, especially for those of us who love to create. Taking care to record the trip can keep us inspired for years to come.


    Megan Myers is a copy editor at an educational publishing company, edits articles for EMG-Zine, and begs her friends to let her edit their stories in her free time. She thinks this is completely normal.

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