Can I be a mother and a successful artist? Hmm, let’s see

mother artist

mother artist

This piece of graffiti is a fairly new addition to an underpass on one of my running routes. I enjoy graffiti and street art well enough, but my goodness, I don’t think I’ve ever seen a piece of it that spoke so directly to my own concerns. I’d like to meet whoever scrawled this and have a good long chat with her.

I’m not sure whether the big ‘NO’ underneath it is in answer, or whether it’s part of a previous piece of graffiti. Either way, it adds some hollow humour that I also enjoy.

Anyway, with all of that in mind, here’s my review of how I did on the ‘artist’ side for 2015 (the parenting side is always a work in progress, and another matter).

Comics

wild flowers by Myfanwy TristramLots of my work comes directly from motherhood and this year that was reflected in two cartoons: one about the school run, and one about my own mum.

In 2014, I drew Underdog, which relates a true experience of sewing with my daughter, and this year it was placed second in a prize, which is very gratifying.

I once again had a shot at the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic short story contest, but feel more and more resigned to the fact that I’ll never make a dent in that one.

I made a four-page comic about what happens when you take synchronised swimming to an extreme.

Feb 3rd brings the annual challenge of Hourly Comics Day. I’m looking forward to this year’s, although as it’s a working day, I’m a bit concerned as to how I’ll manage it…

Clothes

Clovember - illustration by Myfanwy TristramThe 30-pictures-in-30-days Clovember project was also a motherhood project: I drew everything my daughter wore (far more interesting than my own outfits).

This year I was lucky enough to work on a couple of projects with the Swedish fashion label Gudrun Sjoden, purveyors of beautiful, sustainable clothes. In March, I painted customers in their shop, and then of course in August I had an amazing two days pretending to be a model. This has to be the wildest and most incredible reward that drawing has brought me yet.

The sketch diary I made around that trip has had an amazing amount of comments, likes and shares: it’s wonderful to have had it enjoyed by so many. And that’s not the last of it: I’ll be working with Gudrun Sjoden again this year, and I’ll share more details when that happens.

Travel

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy TristramWe had family holidays in Frome and Barcelona, and I drew a sketch diary for each (16 pages and 26 pages respectively). The Stockholm diary added another 12 pages.

I also recorded a trip to Madrid for work (26 pages). I was particularly pleased to find a way to combine my very interesting day job, and my drawing.

I love having my sketch diaries, and I do enjoy the process of making them, but as my drawing ability improves, so do my ambitions, until I am in the silly situation of having to spend a couple of hours a day on them for weeks after our return.

This time could be used for other types of drawing, so this year I will have to think carefully about whether to continue.

As it happens, my favourite type of sketchbook appears to be really thin on the ground at the moment: I haven’t been able to find any in TK Maxx and Homesense, where I usually pick up two or three at a time.

I have two unused ones in a drawer at home and after that it’s entirely possible I won’t be able to find any more, which is a real shame as I’ve never seen any other sketch book that’s quite as well-suited to sketch diaries. Maybe it’s a sign that it really is time to give up.

Other stuff

petting party birthday invitation by Myfanwy TristramAs I only just posted, I drew my daughter’s stocking and all its contents (twice in one year, as it turned out, as I only completed 2014’s stocking on January 3rd 2015).

I also made my daughter’s party invitation – more happy combining of parenthood and drawing.

People and events

This blog was given an incredible boost by WordPress when they featured it in a round-up post at the beginning of the year, and then in a couple of subsequent features. That recognition has brought almost 5,000 subscribers to my blog. That’s great, and makes me think of ‘success’ and ‘exposure’ in entirely new ways.

But sometimes you also have to meet people in the real world, right? Even if parenthood has put you in the habit of staying in of an evening.

I went to a few excellent drawing-related events this year: an talk put on by the Lewes Children’s Book Group, and the inspiring Graphic Brighton conference.

Then there was the Brighton Illustration Fair which had a strong comics slant. This year, I’m going to try and be on the other side of a table.

Finally, I rediscovered Cartoon County, a group specifically for cartoonists, and right on my doorstep – I really should make more effort to go.

So, can you be a successful artist and a mother? To answer that question quite seriously, I’d say that yes, you can.

I’m not pretending that I’m a successful artist myself – that must depend on your definition of ‘successful’, but I’d bet that most people’s definitions would include making a living from it. I am an artist who’s becoming more content with her work, and enjoying a burgeoning readership though, so that must be a good thing.

If I had to guess, I’d say that the anonymous graffiti artist is probably in the early stages of motherhood (or maybe even pregnant, and thinking ahead?). If that’s so, then my answer would be to hang on in there. The first few years of motherhood do not allow for very much else, but that’s not a permanent state. And motherhood will inspire your art in new ways.

 

 

A week in Barcelona, final part: rainbows, closed doors and iconic pavements

Barcelona SagradaFamilia by Myfanwy Tristram

Here’s the final pages of my Barcelona sketch diary.
You can see part 1 here.

Part 2 is here.

Part 3 is here.

And part 4 is here.

As always, click and click again to see each page at a larger size. Now read on…

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

A week in Barcelona, part 4: giant heads, small press comics, and food colouring

This is part 4.

Part 1 is here

Part 2 is here

Part 3 is here

Click each image and then click them again to see them at a larger size.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

That blue sketchbook ends up being the one I did my Clovember drawings in.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Tomorrow: the final installment.

A week in Barcelona, part 3: flea market, Parc Guell and a gypsy’s arm

Click each page and then click again to see bigger.
This is part 3 – part one is here
and part two is here
Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Tomorrow: an incredible stationery shop and a nice bit of Miró.

A week in Barcelona, part 2: Gaudi, selfie sticks and a rainbow of shoes

Here’s the second installment of our holiday in Barcelona. Part one is here.

Click each image and then click again if you’d like to see them in more detail.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram - page 5b

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram - page 6

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram - page 7

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram - page 8

In case you can’t see that very clearly, I learned that Peppa Pig is Peppa la Cerdita in Spain – Peppa Piggy.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram - page 9

Tune in tomorrow for the flea market, Spanish sweets, Parc Guell, more friends and a hamster that stole Tabs’ heart.

A week in Barcelona, part 1: it smells of wee

In autumn half term we rented an Air BnB in Barcelona. It was a nice holiday – it gave us an extra little burst of summer weather when the UK was just starting to turn grey and damp.

As usual, I made a sketch diary of our activities; as usual, it took me several weeks after our return to complete it. But finally, here it is.

It’s twenty-something pages long, so, in order to spread the pain of scanning, I’m dividing it into five parts. Here’s the first, which just covers our arrival and a quick stroll around the neighbourhood.

Hope you enjoy it. As always, click and then click again on any image to see it larger.

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 1

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 2

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 3

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 4

Barcelona sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram page 5

Tomorrow: a bit of Gaudi, a trilingual boy, and lots of shoes.

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part 5

This is the final part of the sketch diary.
See part 1 here
part 2 here
part 3 here
and part 4 here.

p22 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p23 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p24 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p25 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p26 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Postscript:

p27 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

If you enjoyed this diary, and you live in the UK, you might want to check out www.WhatDoTheyKnow.com, where you can make your own FOI requests, or browse those of others.

If you live in one of the other countries mentioned, why not visit their sites and give them some support?

And if you live in a country where there’s no online FOI website, take a look at Alaveteli.org: with a little commitment and some help from mySociety, you could set up your own!

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part 4

It turns out today is International Right To Know day. Well done me for organising these posts to go out at such an apposite time (let’s pretend it was deliberate).

This is part 4: see part 1 here
part 2 here
and part 3 here

p20 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p21 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p20 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p21 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

The fifth and final part is here!

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part two

Here’s the second installment! You can read part one of this sketch diary here.

p6 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p7 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p8 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

[I don’t usually Photoshop my sketch diaries, but I deliberately drew these figures in closed lines, knowing that I’d be able to drop in a background. The floor where we had lunch was this kind of crazy paving – much easier to do like this than to draw laboriously].

p9 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p10 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p11 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

See part three here.

Madrid/Freedom of Information sketch diary, part one

Did you know that in the UK, as well as in many other countries around the world, you have the right to ask for information from public authorities, and by law they must respond?

Wait, you’re thinking, isn’t this a drawing blog?

Well yes it is, and hold tight for quite a bit of drawing: my longest sketch diary yet, in fact, which I’m going to split over several posts in an effort to make it more digestible.

But as long-term readers will know, the reason I get to travel is often because of my job, working for an NGO. I’m extremely grateful for this, but I’m also just as grateful for the very interesting work we do.

Yes, that’s right, I said ‘very interesting’.

And I am indeed talking about Freedom of Information. If that phrase sounds dry to you, I really hope that you’ll read on, and maybe even change your mind. And if not, well, there’s plenty of stuff about Madrid, in between the FOI stuff.

Oh, one last thing: I probably ought to say that what follows over the next few posts is in no way an official account of the work of the organisation I work for, mySociety. It’s my own visual representation of an event from the point of view of an attendee – me.

Click on any picture to see it larger.


p1 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p2 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristramp3 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p4 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

p5 Alaveteli sketch diary by Myfanwy Tristram

See part two here.

 

Graphic Brighton: Drawing in the Margins

On Friday night and all of Saturday, I was at Graphic Brighton, a conference about graphic novels and comics creation.

The overarching theme of the conference was “Drawing in the Margins”, and it brought together practitioners who represent some form of minority or marginalised group.

Brighton living up to its name

“I’m going out to a discussion on gay manga” may be the kind of archetypical Brighton sentence that makes most of the country mock us mercilessly, but it was very interesting, and I say that as someone with very little knowledge of the form.

mangapanel2sfwNote: I think I got Inko and Chie mixed up in this picture – apologies

There was quite a bit of talk about Yaoi, comics about gay men, usually drawn by women and aimed at a female readership.

One apparent contradiction I found very interesting: it was said that these comics grew from the longstanding cultural repression of women in Japan, and represent women taking control of their own fantasies.

I asked whether women who drew these comics would be frowned upon, but I was assured that that’s not the case; on the contrary, they are celebrated. The comics are available everywhere, even in corner shops.

And yet, I was told, although ‘everyone reads them, no-one talks about it’. I think there’s something cultural there that I haven’t entirely understood.

Difficult lives make good comics

After the panel, there were five-minute talks by 14 different cartoonists. These also acted as a series of enticing previews of comics I’d like to read (I’ve pinned many of the comics mentioned throughout the event on Pinterest, if you’re interested in doing the same).

5mintalkssfw

Subjects here included working with people with learning difficulties (Brighton’s own Joe Decie); having a child with Down Syndrome (Henny Beaumont, of whom more later); being brought up by a single mum (Wallis Eates); working with the elderly as a doctor (Ian Williams), and motherhood and birthing (kudos to Kate Evans for pointing out that this is not really a minority pursuit, although one can certainly see the case for calling aspects of motherhood marginalised).

fivemintalks2sfw

There was only one downside to listening to people talk about all these fascinating, human-interest topics for their work, and that was being left feeling that my own life isn’t troubled enough to base a graphic novel on!

karrieFreesmansfw

Hustling

The next morning, I met up with my friend (and super-talented illustrator herself) Zara for the luxury of another full day of comics chat.

This began with Karrie Fransman in conversation with Tim Pilcher. Most relevant to the topic was Karrie’s cartoon about a refugee, Over Under Sideways Down, but I also really want to read her The House That Groaned and Death of the Artist now.

I did find Fransman’s approach to getting work interesting: it could basically be summed up the single word, “hustle”. She describes sending her cartoons (which she says, in retrospect, were just scrawls in biro) to every national newspaper in the country, then following up with an email a week later. This bagged her a strip in the Guardian.

She also tried pitching for comic versions of newspaper standbys such as book reviews and articles, but found that papers didn’t want to pay any more than they would a written-word journalist, so that was a non-goer in the end. Pilcher also pointed out that these days, we’re used to a much quicker turnaround on a news story than an artist can provide.

Cartoons by the elderly, about the elderly, and for everyone

Next up was a sessions about the representation of old age in comics, with Corinne Pearlman (a cartoonist herself, and also Creative Director at Myriad Editions), Julian Hanshaw (The Art of Pho, mentioned in a previous blog entry) and Muna Al Jawad, who works as a Consultant in Elderly Medicine (the new word for Geriatrics?) and uses comics to educate both colleagues and the wider world about associated issues.

Books I’d like to check out following Corinne’s talk include Paco Roca’s Wrinkles and Roz Chast’s best-seller Can’t We Talk About Something More Pleasant?

“Ageing is the new black”, said Corinne, and made the point that a generation of comics artists is entering old age, having become used to chronicling every other stage of life. Meanwhile, Hanshaw pointed out that the subject need not have a limited audience: we middle-aged readers are happy to read comics from younger makers, and there’s no reason that that shouldn’t go both ways.

The Yes! project

yes projectsfw

After lunch, Laura Malacart and Dan Locke talked about a project they’d collaborated on. As you can see from the image above, I found Malacart’s look (and especially her hair) really beguiling to draw, but I just could not quite get it down on paper!

Malacart was commissioned to make a film about a real-life case of a non-verbal person with autism who was found to be able to vocalise through singing.

After filming the footage, she decided that actually, film wasn’t the right format. That’s when she found Locke and they worked together, instead, on a graphic novel, which can be read online at the Yes! project website.

 Challenging the motherhood narrative

motherhood panelsfw

In the final presentation of the day, three women came together to talk about representing motherhood in comics.

Henny Beaumont will shortly have a book out which tells her story of having a child with Down Syndrome. From the excerpts she read and showed in this session and on Friday night, it looks very funny as well as beautifully-rendered.

Beaumont used the Brushes app on her iPad to draw much of the book. Previously, she has worked as a portrait artist, and this showed. There were times when she was standing in front of one of her pictures of herself on the screen, and the posture, face and expression were identical.

This book, like the one about autism, has an interesting side-purpose in that it will inform medical practitioners about how better to approach such scenarios.

Evans (who, I ought to mention, I know from way back when, when we both lived in a Brighton housing co-operative) and Cassavetti both had a similar point to make, really, and that is that motherhood/parenthood can be a massive shock, a time of extreme worry, and an opportunity for everyone to prescribe the One True Way of birthing a baby, keeping them safe, and getting them to sleep through the night.

Given the harsh realities of everything from morning sickness to poopy nappies, it does seem extraordinary, they pointed out, that mainstream publishers still insist on selling us the image of motherhood as a constant source of delight. I have to say, if I’d read Bump instead of Gina Ford, Jools Oliver et al, I might have side-stepped a lot of misery and self-flagellation about the fact that my daughter barely went to sleep for about three years after she was born.

The day ended with a wrapping-up session (plus the question of what topic people might like next year – ‘war’ being mooted), and then I made Kate and Zara come home with me to eat cake and meet the kitten. These being modern times, I knew that the pair of them had hit it off when they followed one another on Twitter.

I could easily have sat through another full day of talks, but it’s probably a good thing that the event ended where it did, as this blog post is already probably longer than anyone will read all the way through.

Finally: my Frome holiday sketch diary

summer dresses by Myfawy TristramWell, this has to be some kind of record: I’ve only just finished my holiday sketch diary, 22 days after returning home. I think we can safely say that it’s time for another holiday now!

I’ve been thinking about why it’s taken so long, and my best guess is that I broke my own guidelines for making sketch diaries: I hardly collected any labels/leaflets/tickets this time, and did a lot more painting. I cared too much about pictures looking right (not that this means they all ended up perfect – far from it!)

Never mind, it’s done now, so here it is, a week in Frome (Somerset, UK).

Continue reading “Finally: my Frome holiday sketch diary”

People-watching and people-sketching on the Level

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

Have you ever tried to draw while your pages are gently splattered by the spray of a water pistol? Me neither, until last week.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

Here in the UK, we’ve had an unusually consistent, hot summer, and for residents of Brighton, one obvious place to find some relief is at our new playground, the Level, where, every half an hour, fountains spurt up from the paving slabs.

They run for thirty minutes, and then, in some sort of energy-saving or equipment-protecting policy, they disappear again.

level sketch2sfw

You can tell when they start up, because there’s a ragged cheer and children run from every other part of the playground. Toddlers walk blithely through the columns of water; cheeky kids figure out how to obstruct part of its exit so that it squirts violently in unpredictable directions; hot kids just stand blissfully on top of a fountain and let it soak them to the skin.

character sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

As a sketcher, it’s a blessing of a subject but also an immense challenge. Kids, especially excited ones, never stop moving. And it was hot, which makes one feel lazy.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

My friend Giuseppe – who happens to be an art teacher – and I sat in the only bit of shade, and we had a go at sketching  anyway.

I gave up on the actual children pretty early, and started drawing the adults around the periphery of the area instead – they were far more likely to stay still (well, relatively speaking.. under normal circumstances I’m sure I would have been complaining that they were moving too, but compared to the comet-like accelerations of the children, they might have been statues).

Afterwards, Giuseppe said that what he liked best were my small sketches showing parts of children before they had moved off. I looked at his sketchbook, and he’d managed much more complete compositions, including the actual fountains themselves – quite a different approach.

Sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

I think if I’d been less lazy that day, I could have made some composite children that wouldn’t have represented any single one of the kids who were really in front of us, but which took some generic stances and movements and put them together. Hmm, maybe next time.

Meanwhile, back at home, I have been doing some first exploratory character sketches in watercolour, for a children’s book idea.

character sketches by Myfanwy Tristramcharacter sketches by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Sketch of plants that grow by the sea

Sketch of seaplants by Myfanwy Tristram

Sketch of seaplants by Myfanwy Tristram

Click if you’d like to see it bigger

Scanning doesn’t do full justice to the white and lumnious yellow inks. But anyway. I enjoyed drawing something other than my comic strip.

I wonder if those blobby leaf shapes are under the influence of the Matisse cut-outs exhibition that we saw last Thursday.

Drawing stuff you don’t like

towerblock by Myfanwy Tristram

towerblock by Myfanwy TristramI was thinking of something Emily Gravett said at the Illustrators’ event I attended, the whole time I was drawing this tower block.

Each panellist was asked to talk about how they got inspiration for their next illustration project. “I think of something I like drawing”, said Emily, or words to that effect – that is to say, if you are going to embark on a picture book, it might as well feature something you know you enjoy depicting.

And yet, despite having been present to hear that pearl of wisdom, tonight I found myself tackling a towerblock. No, I don’t like drawing towerblocks – I don’t really even like looking at them very much, except maybe late at night when they are all lit up. I do not particularly wish ever to think about complex perspective.

In the end, I quite enjoyed it, though. It’s certainly new ground for me, and that’s always interesting, if nothing else. So I think I have to add to Emily’s proposition, and say that sometimes it’s good to draw stuff you think you don’t like drawing.

More about sketch diaries – from Katriona Chapman

twitterheader

Since finishing my Chile sketch diary, I haven’t drawn a thing.

That’s partly because I am thinking through exactly what I am going to do for the Cape/Comica/Observer graphic story competition. For the first time, I am very consciously examining where my ideas come from, too – it’s hard work, creating a cartoon world out of nothing! No doubt I will write a bit more about that once my concept is a bit more fully-formed.

To make up for the lack of drawings, though, I am sharing a great post from someone else. I think I came across it via Twitter, and the correct phrase to use here would be relevant to my interests.

Katriona Chapman is a London illustrator who recently made a cartoon diary of a trip to the Scottish Isles with her mum. Not only that, but she published a post sharing her inspirations for the project, and thoughts about how she approached it.

Here it is – if you enjoyed my recent post on ‘everything I know about sketch diaries‘, you’ll love this.

Once you’ve read that post, be sure to go to the beginning of the Scotland comic and read it all. The photos are breath-taking too!

Scotland Comic b y Katriona ChapmanImage: Katriona Chapman

Lizzie Stewart travel diaries
Image: Lizzie Stewart

As an extra bonus, that original blog post also introduced me to the stunning travel diaries of Lizzie Stewart. Why, this holiday sketch-diary malarky is a whole movement! And a very inspiring one, too.

Santiago, Chile: sketch diary, installment 3

twitterheader

This is part three of my Santiago sketch diary: you can read the first installment here, and the second installment here.

Finally, after “just” three weeks, I have finished the Santiago sketch diary.It’s been a real eye-opener to see how much longer it took than the Bath diary- only because I had to fit it around normal daily life.

Click on each image to see it at a readable size.

Santiago Sketch Diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Saturday: La Chascona, house of Pablo Neruda

Santiago Sketch Diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Saturday: La Chascona, house of Pablo Neruda, plus surprise balloon release

Santiago Sketch Diary by Myfanwy Tristram

Saturday: Lunch and the flight homeSantiago Sketch Diary by Myfanwy Tristram

 

Was it worth all this work? Well, let’s see.

On the one hand, as always with sketch books, you’re not necessarily putting out your best or most polished work, which can be a frustration.

On the other hand, such diaries do force me to do a lot of looking at things – copying logos,  and depicting other people’s art, like the fish mural and the bird mural I drew above.

This isn’t something I do much of normally, and I can see that each time you do, you learn a little bit about other ways of approaching drawing.

Finally, I do think that a sketchbook full of memories is a lovely thing to have. Being able to share it on the internet is the cherry on top of the cake, but the object itself is also a fine memory to keep hold of – and maybe hand on to my daughter one day, to help her remember these times, or see where mummy went for that week when she was 9.

How to make a sketch diary: my top tips

Tree by Myfanwy Tristram

Tree by Myfanwy Tristram

 

I’d keep a sketch diary every day if I could, but logistics forbid. After a while, they’d just be sketch diaries about drawing sketch diaries.

However, I do enjoy a splurge when I can: my last post shows my Bath holiday diary; last year I kept a similar diary in St Ives, and my Hourly Comic Day entry was a kind of sketch diary too.

Best Sketch Diarist in the World? Nah. But I have put quite a bit of thought into the dos and don’ts of sketch diarising, if that is indeed a word. And, because it seems silly to keep them to myself, here are my top ten tips.

1. Don’t expect to do your best work

A sketch diary is like any sketchbook. Unless you’re an amazing illustrator, at the top of your game, you are probably not going to produce page after page of beautiful, perfect drawings.

Fortunately, you don’t have to show the bits that went wrong. You can stick something over the top, paint right over them, or, thanks to the digital age, delete the parts you don’t like when you get home.

Or you can keep them in place. I’m getting better at showing everything, even the drawings that make me wince. To my surprise, other people often like them perfectly well – even, sometimes, point them out as the bits they like the best.

I guess that the mere act of doing the drawing, and putting it out there, puts you streets ahead of everyone who never made it that far. Even if your drawing is crap.

But also: if you adhere to point 4, below, you’ll find it makes up for an awful lot of imperfect sketching.

2. Take materials you’ll actually use

There are two rules for travelling with art materials, really: 1) take the stuff you’re already familiar with, and 2) take stuff you can use on the go.

Rule 2 trumps rule 1 if you are used to working in oils, on an easel, with a three-foot brush.

For drawing on trains, felt tips, pens, and pencil crayons are best. You also have to not mind if the train jogs you, or if a woman walks past and knocks you with her bag, causing your pen to draw right across your picture (happened to me on page 1 of the Bath diary. Still bearing a grudge).

If you’re staying in a holiday cottage, you’ll have all the comforts of home: a big table, running water, a receptacle to put water in, etc. In a hotel, you might not be so lucky.

But I tend to find that you can use a box of watercolours in most situations. If you take pens, pencils and paints, you can cover a lot of bases. You have the ability to do line drawings, to colour in large flat areas, and to add more ‘artistic’ flourishes once you’re back in your accommodation.

3. Collect everything

I like to stick things into my diaries. The bog-standard orange train tickets and glossy leaflets might look mundane now, but I’m willing to bet they’ll look historic and interesting within the next two decades – you know, when we’re all using holograms for tickets, and have leaflets beamed directly to our Google Glass.

There’s a different type of collecting, too, and one which can make your diary very readable: gather details of the people around you. Snippets of their conversation, drawings of what they are wearing, descriptions of their behaviour… human nature means that we find such details compelling.

4. Include the personal

Similarly, people find your own personal thoughts interesting, strange as that may seem to you, when you’ve had to live with them all your life.

It’s tempting to leave out details like doubts, insecurities, stupid in-jokes, things you did wrong or embarrassing encounters, because they don’t seem ‘professional’ – but they are what make the diary uniquely yours, and all the more readable.

5. Nothing is too dull (probably)

I hope this is true, because actually my Bath diary does make my ‘who cares?’ radar twitch a little. Middle class family take a week in a UK city? Big deal.

But I hope that one day, someone from Fiji, or Korea, or Alaska, or, I don’t know, Timbuktu, might read it, and to them, it’d seem as exotic as their own account of a holiday would to me. Context, see. And the great possibilities of the internet for bringing us all closer together.

Then, there are the people *just like me* who might be considering taking their family down to Bath, but aren’t sure what it’d be like. They’ll hopefully find it useful, especially small details about things like where the playgrounds are, and that the swimming pool is good for kids.

And there are Bath natives. I know I’d like to see a diary like this about my own home town, Brighton.

6.  But you don’t have to include everything

..or draw everything. First, you’ll go mad if you try to record every tiny detail. Like why your partner drew a picture of Alan Bennett and an earthworm and stuck it on a noticeboard at Bath Fashion Museum (true story. No, you really don’t want to know).

Second, your audience may not stick around if your diary starts to take on the proportions of War and Peace.

7. Find time

Keeping a sketch diary while you’re on holiday can be a bit too much like hard work – it really can take hours (depending on your style, I guess).

But if you’re having fun you’ll find the time: on train journeys, in cafés, and in the evenings. With a husband and child in tow, I can’t sit and draw on location for hours, so I take photos on my phone to work from later.

It does help if, like me, you have a kid that gets you up at 6 every morning, and then just wants to play Minecraft (and if , like me, you are a lax enough parent to allow this).

8. Don’t worry about blots

You can clean up later when you scan them in. See also: food stains, child’s mucky fingerprints.

9. Choose a good sketchbook

It’s stating the obvious, but you want one that fits in your bag, and it needs to be robust enough to be carried everywhere with you without the cover falling off.

For Bath, I took a book I’d been saving up. I found it at the TK Maxx spin-off shop, Homesense. It’s beautiful: it has a shiny royal blue cover, almost like a tinfoil effect, and such thick pages that no amount of paint would show through. On the back cover it says it’s made by Valentina – turns out it’s a bit of a mystery brand.

Anyway, now I’ve experienced it, I’m reconsidering my What is the Best Sketchbook? post – and I want to dash back to Homesense to see if they have any more. (I have another couple, but they are lined. I like the ‘painting on top of lines’ aesthetic as much as anyone but I have a feeling they might be a nightmare for my kind of scanning – I like to bring everything back to a white background).

10. Be ready to scan, scan, scan, when you get home

And if you have any sense, you can help yourself here by not using a faint grey pen like I did. It probably added two hours to the scanning process, as I rescanned portions and added them back in.

I think it took me about five hours to get the 17 pages scanned in, cleaned up, resized and formatted for web. Not my favourite task.

11. Share!

I’m editing this post to add a final step – sharing your sketch diary. Once it’s online, of course you want people to see it.

Put the link on Twitter and Facebook; grab your favourite page and stick it on Pinterest, along with some hashtags. The right tags will mean that people who are searching for things like your holiday destination, or sketchbook work in general, will find it easily.

Think laterally. If you’ve included visits to museums or favourite shops in your diary, it is worth tweeting the link to them. Maybe the tourist board would be interested too. You may well get a retweet and lots more viewers.

Some favourite sketch diarists

I’d love to have some recommendations for others to follow; here are mine:

  • Lapin (master of the drawing on lined pages aesthetic)
  • Joanna Neary (queen of the personal detail)
  • Joe Decie (life as a dad; may not be 100% true)
  • Sarah McIntyre (great on holiday sketchbooks)
  • Geo Parkin (demonstrating point 7 rather well with this post)