Welcome to Moment Sketchers

Hello! My name is Candace, and I’m a sketch artist with a passion for helping you connect with the world through art. Pull out your sketchbook and watercolors and find your favorite view — I’m glad you’re here!

“Every moment is enormous and is all we have.”

— Natalie Goldberg

Friends, my biggest vision for our community this year is to help us all catch more moments from our lives. I’m not sure about you, but for me it often feels like life is moving so much faster than I can take hold of it — how can we slow down, catch more of our favorite moments, and creatively document them to look back on in the future?

As you might’ve already guessed, one of my favorite ways of catching moments and making creative memories is through my sketchbook. That was exactly my motivation for starting the Moment Catchers sketching challenge this year, and I’m thrilled to see the project resonating with so many of you this early on.

Today, I want to share my other favorite way to catch moments — by keeping an art journal.

art journal collage

Art journal before-and-after shot: transforming collected memorabilia from around Montevideo into a collage in my journal.

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While a sketch takes me a couple of hours to complete, I’ve found that creating an entry in my art journal can take less than five minutes — and the rewards are just as great. I love feeling like I’m honoring life’s little moments, instead of letting them slip by me.

If you’re interested in starting an art journal — or are looking for fresh ideas for your existing journaling ritual — here are three simple ways I catch moments in my own journal:

1. Day-markers

Time needed: 5 minutes

We use bookmarks to mark our place in a book; placemarkers show us where we are on a map; and for me, “day-markers” are how I set one day apart from another — they help me mark my journey through the year, by giving honor to each singular day.

First, I use some simple paper element from that day — it might be a note from a friend; boarding pass or ticket stub from an event I went to; or any other piece of paper usually about the size of a postcard or smaller. For example, last June I created a day-marker with two butterfly-shaped business cards from a children’s bookstore in Madrid, in honor of buying a book for my newborn godson in Spain. It was one of those small but significant moments that are the true building blocks of our life’s story.

The next steps are simple: I paste the piece of paper in the middle of the page, and then I write the day’s date above it and a short phrase below it, in commemoration of what I want to remember from the day. Finally, I draw a two-line border around the page; for me, it’s a simple visual way to feel like I’m setting that day apart.

This process usually takes me no more than five minutes, but it makes me feel like I’ve paused just long enough to honor that day — and to recognize whatever small moment or event it held as one worth remembering.

Art journal examples

A couple of day-markers I created while living in Norway last spring, in honor of fellow travelers I met.

Art journal examples

Honoring my time in Madrid with my godson last year (madrina is “godmother” in Spanish), and my flight to Paris afterwards.

Art journal examples

A two-day delay to my flight to San Francisco last summer — and eventual departure! — definitely felt worth recording.

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2. Memorabilia collages

Time needed: 30 minutes

Another kind of art journal entry I started doing last year was collages, specifically of memorabilia. By memorabilia, I mean all those little pieces of paper we often collect during a trip or even in our hometown — be it business cards, beer labels, ticket stubs, boarding passes, receipts, stickers, paper sugar packets from cafés, handwritten maps or notes, and the list goes on…

For me, memorabilia is essentially anything that has meaning or represents a memory — and is thus hard to part with.

In the past, these little pieces of paper would float around the edges of my life after a trip — they’d accumulate everywhere, pile up on my desk, get crumpled in the front pocket of my backpack, until I finally forced myself to throw them away. Until, that is, I made my first memorabilia collage last spring, and I haven’t stopped since.

Again, the steps involved are simple: I bring all the memorabilia together I want to use for a particular collage, spend about 15 minutes arranging it on a double-page spread in my art journal, and then spend the next 15 minutes pasting the items down with a gluestick. I also keep a pair of scissors nearby, in case I need to do any trimming to make a certain item fit.

I love how collages feel like we’re putting a puzzle together — and on a deeper level, creating collages is a way to put the pieces of our days or journeys together, too.

Travel collage of memorabilia

I loved celebrating Easter with new and old friends on Norway’s Lofoten Islands last year.

Travel collage of memorabilia

A week with my dear friend Erin and her family in Madrid called for another collage.

Travel collage of memorabilia

Celebrating a summer stay with my family in Virginia…

Travel collage of memorabilia

…and my parents’ visit to San Francisco afterwards.

Travel collage of memorabilia

Recording a few favorite things from my time in Buenos Aires last September.

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3. Creative headers

Time needed: 10 minutes

Finally, for those days when we’ve got a few thoughts we want to record, but we still want to embellish the page we’re writing on with a little art — there are creative headers.

Before I start writing an entry, I often create a header at the top of the page, but I do so in a few different ways. Like with day-markers, I might use a small piece of paper from that day that holds meaning. For example, in the first sample below, the piece of bright red cardboard on the right is from the packaging of a chocolate cake mix I tried to make in Norway last spring (“tried” being the very operative word in that statement, as you can read about…).

I might also do some hand-lettering or make a mini-collage, like I did in the first sample with colorful stickers from a cafe; or in the second sample, where I glued down an image from a tour company’s brochure, along with a quote I’d photocopied from a book.

In a way, creative headers combine the best of both day-markers and collages — they only take a few minutes to create before you start writing, but they’re still a beautiful way of holding onto a day’s favorite moments.

Keeping an art journal

Cafe stickers and cake mixes made for two perfect creative headers in Norway.

Keeping an art journal

I love collecting brochures and pamphlets from tour companies as I travel, to kindly “borrow” their images for my journal later.

Keeping an art journal

A few more images from a tour company’s brochure, along with some hand-lettering at the top.

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I’ve been keeping an art journal on and off since I was about 14 years old, and during the times I have kept one, I feel so much more grounded in each day — grateful that life’s little moments aren’t slipping through my fingers so easily.

And yet as soon as life gets busy again, journaling is one of the first things that falls to the wayside for me. It can be hard to justify the time for it when there are work projects to be finished, a sink full of dishes to be cleaned, or laundry waiting to be hung. But as the above ways have shown me, I’ve learned a consistent art journaling ritual is possible, even in life’s busiest seasons.

I hope these simple suggestions might inspire you to keep an art journal in 2017, and that we’ll continue catching creative moments and memories together.

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  • Amanda Kendle

    Oh Candace, all of these are just gorgeous! Love all the different ideas and will share your post with my Travel Journal School students who will love it. I very much love the “day marker” idea. How doable but different and memorable! Love it. xx

    • Thank you so much, Amanda! I’m thrilled to hear these ideas resonated with you, and I’m especially glad they’ll be relevant to your travel journaling students 🙂 I hope 2017 is off to a wonderful and inspired start for you so far! xx

  • Nothing but love. I am going to share this post with my Art Appreciation students! I’d love to add this into the curriculum, if possible. Going to see if I can make that happen! I want MORE of these posts…so very helpful for me, a “non-artist” who loves to create! 🙂

    • Ahh, I love that, Mom! I’m so glad these ideas will be helpful for your art appreciation students. And yes! Lately I’ve been realizing that so many of my favorite art journaling rituals don’t actually involve drawing, so I’m excited to keep sharing them for people who might be hesitant to start an art journal of their own 🙂 Thank you!! xoxo

  • Beautiful post!

  • Syowoe

    Love this. Great idea. I’m not a visual artist (except for photography) and last year, I feel like the entire year went by and when I had to sit down and think about it, to reflect on it, I had trouble remembering. This can be especially true when the year wasn’t filled with “big” events. I’m going to buy a book today and give this a shot. Great post as always.

    • Thank you so much, Gayle! It’s wonderful to hear this post resonated with you, and especially that you went out and bought a book yesterday–I can’t wait for you to get started 🙂 What you shared about your process of reflecting on last year was so interesting to read, and reminded me again why art journaling has become so important for me. For me, life is most about the little moments in between the big events, but they’re also the moments that are easiest to lose hold of as the year goes on. I loved catching more of them last year with my journal, and I so hope journaling might be a way for you to do the same this year. Thanks again for sharing that!

      • Syowoe

        Thanks Candace. Any recommendations on best size and what kind of book. An Art drawing book with thicker paper? I didn’t make it to the store yesterday. Just curious because I’m sure you’ve experimented and come up with the best size and quality of paper, etc. I know this is getting a little too specific, perhaps.

        • Not too specific at all, Gayle! I thought those were perfect questions 🙂 I can definitely recommend my favorite size for a journal–my previous and current journals are both 6″ x 8″, and I’ve come to love it. It’s just big enough to hold standard greeting cards (another thing I love to collect!), but not too big that I can’t slip it into whatever bag I’m using on a particular day.

          In terms of paper, though, I’m much more open-ended…my journal last year (here’s a link to it, in case you’d like a look–sadly it’s no longer available: https://www.anthropologie.com/shop/monogram-crest-journal) had pretty standard printer paper, nothing too official or high quality at all 🙂 This year, I’m using one that has paper that almost feels like cardstock–it’s much thicker, but is again just smooth and white…not actual drawing paper.

          Please let me know if that helps at all, and I can’t wait to see what you find!

  • Teresa Gregus

    Such a great way to “be all there”–living present in the moments of life! Thanks for the reminder and the inspiration.

    • Yes! Jim Elliot said it best, didn’t he? 🙂 “Wherever you are, be all there.” My art journal has become such a sacred way for me to honor the “wherever’s” and little moments of life, and I’m so glad to hear this resonated with you as well, Teresa.

  • I love this, Candace—thanks so much for sharing! I especially like the concept of “day-markers.” And great opening quote—I just finished reading her “Writing Down the Bones” the other day, and I’m so inspired.

    What sort of adhesive do you use on the road? Glue stick? Something else? I’m leaving in a week with a backpack, trying to figure out which supplies to bring and which to leave.

    • I’m so happy to hear this post resonated with you, Rebecca! I know we share a love for all things visual storytelling, so I hope these might be a few new ideas for you to explore, in addition to your awesome mind-maps and post-it note stories 🙂

      And yes! I actually just use your very basic, elementary school-style glue stick, which I love because you can easily pick one up in so many different corners of the world. I love keeping my journaling supplies simple–just a glue stick, children’s scissors (which can usually be carried onto flights without a problem), and black Paper Mate flair pens. I keep it all in the front pocket of my backpack, so it hardly takes up any room but is always within reach.

      PS – it’s exciting to hear you’re hitting the road so soon! May I ask where you’re headed first? 🙂

      • Thanks for this! I’ll check on the children’s scissors—I hadn’t thought of that.

        And I haven’t decided yet! My flight goes to Madrid (it’s the return leg of my flight home this fall)—where I can crash at a friend’s place to get over jet lag, but then I want to get out of Spain (I lived there 2 years) and stretch myself with a new country—leaning towards Italy first. We’ll see! 🙂

        • I’m glad the tip was helpful, Rebecca! I realized how useful the children’s scissors were myself last year at Gatwick Airport, when I got pulled aside at security (extra metal tubes of paint always seem to look suspicious to them…). The guard mentioned they let scissors with less than a certain blade length be carried on, and children’s scissors certainly fall under that–so now I always carry them with me 🙂

          And I can’t wait to start following your time in Europe, wherever your journey may lead you! Italy sounds like an excellent first option, and I also love Croatia next door, in case you’re thinking of checking it out, too 🙂

  • Pauline Susanto

    AAAHHH… So many ideas to try out! I’ve always kept a journal but it’s always filled only with words. I also often collect all these different paper paraphernalia but never really know what to do with them… but now I do all thanks to you, Candace!!

    • Pauline!! I’m just thrilled to hear this post resonated with you…and yes! I have a terrible habit of collecting a ridiculous amount of memorabilia when I travel, so these collages have truly become my saving grace in keeping me organized and clutter-free 🙂 I love the process of putting them together, and so hope you will, too–can’t wait to see your first collages! <3

  • Kim

    Thank you so much for sharing these ideas, Candace! I’ve collected little bits and pieces of memorabilia in a center pocket inside my journals for years but I never considered using them as day-markers. Thank you for sharing inspiring examples and nudging me towards making a little more of my memories! <3

    • Kim, I love how you just put that–“making a little more of my memories.” As I’ve started to share more of my art journal here, it’s also forced me to think more about why exactly I love the process of journaling so much in the first place…and I think you just helped me get straight to the heart of it 🙂 I’m also so happy to hear you’re a fellow collector of memorabilia! I so hope you enjoy creating your first day-markers, and I can’t wait to share more journaling and memory-making ideas with you here soon. <3

  • Jamie Chan

    Thanks Candace, so beautifully written. It just inspires me to carry on with my art journal in 2017.

    • That’s wonderful to hear, Jamie! I’m thrilled this post resonated with you, and I so hope you’ll continue keeping an art journal this year 🙂

  • Treava

    Again, thank you Candace for the inspiration! You are right. Life is just flying by sometimes and we need to slow it down. I am going to give it my best shot to get back to keeping a journal. It is so grounding and I believe it is a way of being grateful for each day we are given and to inspire us to make each day meaningful.
    Thank you Candace.

    • Treava, I’m not sure I could have summed up the rewards of journaling as perfectly as you just did here 🙂 It truly is such a grounding ritual, and I too love using it as a way to practice gratitude more often each day. I so hope you’ll have a chance to start journaling again soon, and thank you as always for your thoughtful encouragement!

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  • A quick question for you, Candace, for after the holidays: Are all of these pages from the same journal? Or do you have a journal for day-markers, another for full journal entries, etc.? I will probably be getting a new notebook (or rather, notebooks) soon—so I was curious about your “system.” Thanks!