Category Archives for Creativity

Getting Started With Expressive Travel Sketching

Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop in Adelaide

Although I've been travel sketching on and off for most of my life, I didn't really take it too seriously until I made the decision to do so. I remember the exact circumstance: I was turning 40 and my husband encouraged me to go on a life-changing art trip to Italy. It was one of those major bucket list things: To go on a trip specifically for my art practice.

I decided that since I was going on an art trip with a group of fellow artists - sans husband and kids - I was going to live out my fantasy of spending most of my days during the trip in the pursuit of art.

Before going on that trip, I prepared for it by researching what would be the best art materials to take with me for travel sketching. I also tried to read as many blogs and books about sketching that I could find. That's when I discovered all about the growing movement of Urban Sketching. I was hooked.

Unfortunately, at the time, I couldn't find any travel sketching or urban sketching classes in my city or online. There weren't as many books available either. So, I just tried to learn as I went along.

So, I packed my travel sketching kit and went on an art adventure. I tried recording my trip from the moment I got on the plane. And, I tried to sketch at least one thing every day - from the streets of Rome and the ruins of Pompeii to the coast of Amalfi and the Tuscan Hills. It was bliss!

My fellow art tour mates were very supportive of my travel sketching practice. They looked at my sketches from the day and asked a lot of questions about sketching materials and techniques. It was then that I began playing with the idea of teaching sketching classes.

I didn't act on that idea immediately. However, I did get invited to teach art classes in a local art studio (the same people who organised the Italy trip). Since then, my art life has evolved and grown a lot. But, that travel sketching class idea was still put on hold.

Then, a couple of months ago, I received a very exciting invitation to hold a workshop at one of Adelaide's wonderful art supplies shop. The manager of the shop is one of my lovely Italy art tour mates. And yes, the best part: I get to teach Expressive Travel Sketching, live in Adelaide.

So, yes, come 4th of March 2017, Saturday, 1 to 4pm, I'll be holding the first ever Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop at Art Stretchers Adelaide. To learn more about the workshop and/or to book your spot, go to this page: Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop (Adelaide).

We're only able to allocate 8 places for this workshop and a few of those places have already been pre-paid and reserved. So, if you want to join us, do book your place soon.

It's our fifth day in London and getting ready for another full on day. Trying to keep up with my #DailyArt posts, even though the order is all over the place. This one's from Day 220.

What Is Expressive Travel Sketching?

In a nutshell: It's all about travel sketching using your own way of expressing what you see in the world.

It's not about getting perfect perspectives and straight lines. It's not about drawing and sketching in photographic ways - you have your camera for that.

Expressive travel sketching is all about recording your experiences using lines, shapes, textures, and colours that speak to you. It's about putting down memories on the pages of your sketchbooks. To make your experiences last longer, better than any photograph could.

In the workshop, I'll be sharing some materials, tips, and techniques to help participants learn how to record their travels in their sketchbooks with confidence and joy.

Realised my last #DailyArt post was from Day 219. It has been so hectic, so haven't had time to post more. Now, here's my first attemp at urban sketching in London. Unfinished sketch of Tower Bridge after a tour of Tower of London, on Day 222. And Day 2 o

How Do You Get Started With Expressive Travel Sketching?

There is no magic formula: You just need to start where you are!

Over the last couple of years, I've been privately sharing information to friends and peers whenever they ask questions about my travel sketching practice. What are the best materials to use and take with you? How do you begin a sketch? How do you sketch quickly?

When pressed for time, all you really need for your travel sketching are two things: Your sketchbook and a pen. They're the only materials I use consistently.

Basic Travel Sketching Kit

When I'm able to take my 'extended' travel sketching kit with me, here's a list of additional basic things I use:

  • Portable Sketchbook - Usually, A5 size or smaller; my favourite right now is a 4x4 inch travel sketchbook I bought from Paris a few months ago. Yes, it's great if you can start collecting sketchbooks and other sketching materials from places you travelled to. I bought my first pen nib and ink in an old paper museum in Amalfi, Italy. And, during a recent trip to England, I bought a set of coloured pens. Such purchases become part of your travel memories.
  • Black Felt Tip Pen - Preferably, one that can create varying lines like a metal pen nib or fountain pen. But, your regular black pen would do (Sharpie, Micron, Artline, Uniball - 0.5 or 0.4). Try to bring at least a couple of back-up pens, in case you misplace or lose one. But, one pen usually lasts a while and they're generally easy to replace (unless you're going some place really remote like the middle of an African bushland).
  • Portable Watercolour Paint Set - You can buy pre-packaged ones with 6  to 12 half-pans of watercolours. Or, you can create your own using an empty travel palette and tubes of paint. Make sure to have your primaries: Red, Blue, Yellow. Other recommended colours: Green, Brown, and Grey or Black. Orange and Purple tend to be easy to mix. But, a nice Pink, Fuschia, or Magenta, as well as Turquoise and Teal  are all a bit tougher to mix. If you think you'll use those colours, best to get them pre-mixed. Some brands to consider include: Winsor and Newton, Golden, and Daler-Rowney.
  • Waterbrushes - These are paint brushes that you can fill with water, so all you need to do is to squeeze it a little to moisten your paints. They're absolutely amazing! I love mine. At a minimum, I like having at least two: one with a fine tip and another one with a broader tip. Usually, round brushes, not flats. If you can only bring one: choose the one with a fine tip. Some recommended brands: Pentel, Sakura, and Art Spectrum.
  • Tissues (Travel Pack) or Rag - For cleaning your brushes between changing colours and at the end of the session. For blotching and/or keeping pages dry. Lots of uses for this!
  • Watercolour Pencils - These are especially handy when you visit places that only allow dry medium (like museums and galleries), so you can add colour to your sketches without dealing with water on the spot. You can always soften the pencil marks with a waterbrush later on. Just 6 to 12 colours would do. There are varying quality and prices for watercolour pencils. For the cheaper range that are still decent: Steadtler, Micador, and Crayola. For higher end and better quality: Prismacolor and Daler-Rowney.
  • Sharpener - Ones that have a case for holding pencil shavings would be best.
  • Mechanical Lead Pencil - Preferably, one with a fine lead (0.5mm). I usually go straight to paint or pen when travel sketching, or use watercolour pencils. But, occasionally, I feel the need for good old pencil for certain techniques and styles. Try to bring at least two, so you have one back-up. Any brand would do. I usually just buy the cheap ones from Big W, Target or any supermarket and newsagent.
  • Water - To keep hydrated and for refilling your waterbrushes. Though you can always refill your waterbrushes during toilet stops or back at your travel accommodation.
  • Travel Sketching Kit Case -  A place to put everything in securely. Mine's an old pencil case that my daughter owned but wasn't using at the time.
  • Camera Phone or Camera - Technically not a sketching material, but it's handy to have. Especially if you wish to record the scene you're sketching, so you can refer to it later if you need to add finishing touches to your sketches. It's also a good tool to use for remembering your sketching session (see photos above, like the one sketch with Tower Bridge).

I usually bring this kit in a separate bag or backpack, together with a DSLR camera and other travel gear. I keep my essentials (i.e., small sketchbook, pen, pencil) in my handbag, so I can easily take them out when there's a quick opportunity to sketch.

Travel Sketching Kit

I'll be sharing more tips and techniques at the Expressive Travel Sketching Workshop. And hopefully, also in future blog posts if any of you are interested. Just let me know through comments or emails!

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Record Your Year With One Word [Free Printable / Interactive PDF]

It's no secret. I'm a big fan of the One Word practice. I love it so much, I ended up writing a workbook and a mini ebook about it.

I'm also a fan of year-end round-ups. I've done it a few times on this blog. Usually, as my last blog post or my first couple of blog posts in the new year.

Sometimes, though, year-end highlights can be a bit overwhelming to write. So, I thought this year, I'd do a different kind of round-up.

This is how I ended up with The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet. It's now available for free in our newly revamped* Content Library. So, anyone who wants to look back on their year and record some words to remember their year can do so in a simple manner.

The image below shows the worksheet as a blank printable, which you can print using your own printer and fill out using pens, pencils, and markers. It also features my own filled-in worksheet, which I did using my computer.

The Year In One Word

I'm really pleased with how The Year in One Word printable/interactive PDF worksheet turned out. It's possible I may have spent way too much time designing it. But, I think I'd enjoy using this every year, so I figure that it's worth it. It would be even more worth the time if other people would find it useful too. That's why it's now in the Content Library.

The general idea is that this resource enables us to come up with one word summaries for the year. It has a spot to write down our Word of the Year. Then, each month of the year has a place where we can write a one word summary for that month. If we'd like to add one word (or a few) notes in each month to remember some things, there's a spot for those notes too.

I enjoyed making - and filling-in - this journaling worksheet. It was lovely to look back on the year (even with some of its tough and painful bits)... without feeling overwhelmed with all the writing and journaling.

So, I hope that you would find this useful in recording your year too!

If you're a subscriber, you'll be getting an email with the latest password for the library. If you're not subscribed yet, just sign up and make sure you watch out for your Welcome Email. That's where you'll find the password.

Happy reflecting! And, may your new year be even more amazing!


* The content library has been through several revamps this year, as new resources become available and taking list members' feedback into consideration. My hope is to design and develop a content library that's super useful, beautiful, and simple to access for list subscribers.

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One Word Workbook – Tips + Video Walkthrough

When One Word Workbook launched last week, I was cautiously hopeful. It's something that I've wanted to do and share for so long, I was really hoping that others would love it like I do.

So far, I've heard some great feedback. My biggest pleasure is seeing the workbook actually used by someone to find focus and inspiration.

To show that I'm actually using this workbook for my own One Word of the Year, I decided to do a video walkthrough (see below). It felt a bit odd, reflecting and writing 'in public' - my thoughts, feelings, and experiences laid bare. Granted, it's all sped up, but I still felt quite vulnerable. 🙂

The great part: I'm absolutely certain that the workbook works! As I went through the exercises myself, I found my mind getting clearer with the words that mean something to me this year. And, ones that would help to guide me for the next year. I'll be revealing my Word of the Year in 2017, but you can see in this video now how I got to that point.

Thing is - I knew it would work. As I mentioned in my previous blog post and on the workbook, it is a process that I have been using for years. I even started writing it all up 3+ years ago, thinking I'd create an online workshop. But, I now think that the workbook format is a good one.

In any case, as I was filling out the workbook, I thought I'd share some tips on making the most out of the process:

Tip 1: Answer each exercise as best as you can.

Even if it's just a few words. You don't need to write in full sentences. If you notice in my entries, I used a lot of a just words and phrases. Incomplete thoughts. But, it's good to work on each concept in the process. It really helps!

There were a couple of times I thought I'd skip some, especially since I was doing a video capture. I thought people would understand. But, I also realised that it is detrimental to my own process. So, I kept at it. And I'm glad.

Tip 2: Don't get stuck!

Even if you feel like you only have one or two things to write for now, that's okay. Keep moving! Don't stop. Just allow your mind to unfurl and open itself up on the page. Don't overthink. Reflect, write, and then go to the next item.

Tip 3: Allow yourself to move forward and backward in the process.

Yes, One Word is not necessarily a linear process. If you filled out a box and decided to move on, it's okay to go back. Add some more words, phrases, or sentences to something you thought you've already completed.

Tip 4: Be open!

When I was collecting my words - I didn't discount my sources. I found words from books nearby, receipts, letters, poems, notes, boxes, Post It Notes, and such. I let everything speak to me.

And, in the process, I discovered words that I didn't think I'd even consider on a usual basis. The theme that emerged was completely unexpected, but not a surprise.

Tip 5: Use the resources available.

I've added links and such in the workbook. Make use of it! It's helpful to have an internet connection available, especially if you're filling the workbook out digitally.

If you decide to print out the workbook like Margo Min, have your digital resources handy. Or, at least, keep a dictionary and thesaurus nearby.

Oh, and yes - don't forget to save your work while you're filling out the workbook!

If you haven't got a copy yet, get your One Word Workbook here. And, please do keep me posted. I'd love to know how you're going with your One Word journey!

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More Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

Hand Lettering: Are you loving this trend?

More Hand Lettering Tools and Apps

When I first wrote the Hand Lettering Tools and Apps blog post in 2013, I didn't realise that the whole hand lettering practice would become a design trend. Now, you can find hand lettering everywhere on blogs, Pinterest, Instagram, and more. And, I'm thrilled because I've always loved it.

How about you? Do you love hand lettering too?

If you're just as crazy about hand lettering as I am, then this follow-up post on this trend is just the thing for you.

On Hand Lettering Tools

Over the last year or so, I've become more obsessed with modern calligraphy and hand lettering in analogue format. So, I've consumed blogs, tutorials, online courses, and more whenever I got the chance. I also started collecting pen holders, pen nibs, and inks. And, of course, I've been practicing my upstrokes and downstrokes.

Now, here are some useful hand lettering courses I found online:

  • Waterbrush Lettering Essentials - This is an analogue hand lettering class on Skillshare by Teela Cunningham. Its focus is using waterbrushes instead of the traditional pen and nib for hand lettering. I really enjoyed this class. I'm still able to use some of the techniques I've learnt here.
  • Hand Lettering Workshop - While I have yet to improve my hand lettering in the style of what you'll learn from Mary Kate McDevitt's Skillshare classes, I really enjoyed learning from her. I knew I wanted to know more about her process ever since I came across her work. In fact, I love her work so much, I ended up purchasing her book (see below).
  • Learn Calligraphy for a Latte - Lindsey Bugbee's series of worksheets and courses on modern calligraphy are great value and very helpful. I've bought two of her calligraphy lessons and used the worksheets as part of my practice. I've definitely seen improvement in my own hand lettering since I came across this website.

You can also check Skillshare's other Courses on Hand Lettering as well as CreativeBug's Hand Lettering Classes.

And, here are some cool books on hand lettering (affiliate links):

  • The ABCs of Hand Lettering by Abbey Sy. When I first came across Abbey's work on Instagram, I fell in love immediately. Her IG stream is so drool-worthy and envy-inducing. So, when I learnt that she had a book out, I wanted a copy. Unfortunately, the hard copy was only available in the Philippines. Thankfully, I just found out that it is now available on Kindle.

Also, here are some interesting collections of hand lettering tutorials:


One of the hand lettering projects I completed after taking the Waterbrush Lettering Essentials class.

On Hand Lettering Apps

Out of all the apps I've mentioned in my last blog post, the one that I am still quite in love with are Paper by 53 and ArtRage . Unfortunately, Paper by 53 remains to be an iPhone/iPad only app. However, while ArtRage was available only on Windows and Mac before, it is now also available on Android, iPad, and iPhone. Hopefully, it would one day be available on Windows Phones too.

Since then, I have added two new favourite digital hand lettering apps:

  • Procreate - This is an iPad only app. But, it's so robust as an art app on a mobile device, it can't be ignored. It supports layers and various types of 'pens' and 'brushes'. It can even use textures. It's incredible. Definitely a great app for hand lettering, though it may take a while to learn.
  • Adobe Draw - This one is available both on iOS devices and Android. As a both an Adobe Creative Suite user and a Windows user, I definitely hope to see this on Windows phones too. I have hope because their Adobe Photoshop Express (another favourite app, for photography) is available across all mobile devices, including Windows.

If you know of other hand lettering tools and apps that you'd like to share here, please leave a comment below and tell us all about it.

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4 Simple Tips For Successful Journaling

Why You Should Find The Time to Journal - And How To Make The Most Out Of Your Journaling Practice

4 Simple Tips For Successful Journaling

As a journaling practice advocate for many years, one of my long-time dreams came true last year. That's when Paper Boat Publishing came to life and published Today: Life guided journal.

It was exciting to see an idea turn into reality. It was even more exciting when I started seeing it in bookshops - online and in person. And, I was beyond thrilled when people started buying them and using them.

I love it when people see the benefits of journaling. It's great when people use journals to record memories, explore creativity, and brainstorm ideas.

I know I'm not alone in encouraging people to develop and maintain a journaling practice. There are many articles written on the benefits of journaling out there. One I came across recently is this article, by Benjamin Hardy. Here, he lists 5 ways the practice of journal writing can improve your life -

  1. Journaling optimizes your creative potential.
  2. Journaling accelerates your ability to manifest your goals.
  3. Journaling generates clarity and congruence.
  4. Journaling clears your emotions.
  5. Journaling ingrains your learning.

There's also this article at Huffington Post that shares 10 benefits of journaling. And, PsychCentral supports journal writing's health benefits - including strengthening immune systems and stress relief.

So, yes, journaling has become more than just a "Dear Diary" practice. Many people journal to remember day-to-day lives or special travel memories. And, there are also those who uses journals as part of therapy, coaching, counselling, training, and education.

If you haven't started journaling yet, the tips below can help to get you going. If you've been keeping a journal for a while, the tips might help give you new ideas to revive or improve your journal writing practice.

Tip 1: Commit to a journaling schedule.

You don't have to write daily if your schedule doesn't allow it. But, if you're able to commit to a simple schedule, then you would see the benefits of journaling a lot more.

In Julia Cameron's classic book on creativity, The Artist's Way, she supports the notion of developing a journaling practice called "Morning Pages". The idea is to write three pages a day, first thing in the morning, to dump everything's that's on your mind. No edits, no re-reads, no stopping - until you get to the third and final page.

There are hundreds, if not thousands, of people who can attest that the "Morning Pages" is an incredible journaling practice. But, you do need at least half an hour to an hour to do this. If you're able to make that time - then it's definitely one worth doing.

If such a schedule is too tight for you - try to come up with something that's more doable. Try doing just one page, for example. Or, commit to writing in your journal at least five minutes a day. You can do this either first thing in the morning or the last thing at night.

Writing daily lists under certain categories in your journal might be an option. There are also people who choose to write one sentence a day.

It doesn't matter what approach you take, as long as you commit to it and practice it. Show up on the page, no matter what.

Tip 2: Come prepared and open.

One of the most common concerns of people trying to journal is: "But I run out of things to write about!" Or, "Nothing interesting ever happens to me that's worth journaling about!"

This is when schedules help. Knowing you need to show up on the page no matter what can help to keep you going.

Being prepared is another approach that can prove helpful. Preparation may include having a list of journaling prompts and ideas. Or, having a collection of themes and helpful hints.

This is where guided journals like Today: Life can be useful. There are also many other guided journals that offer guidance and inspiration. Check your local library or the bookstores for some ideas.

Another way to stay inspired when journaling is by joining journaling communities and challenges. If you're interested, check out's new Journaling For Success Mini Challenge. It's a five-day journaling challenge that offers daily themes, prompts, and tips. The main theme covered in the daily themes is all about 'success'.  The challenge is free to join and you can complete it at any time.

Tip 3: Use your favourite journaling tools.

Part of the fun of journaling is using journal writing tools. These may be in the form of beautiful pens and notebooks or fancy apps and cool books.

My personal preference is a mix of analogue and digital tools. I use cheap $2 notebooks and beautiful Moleskin journals. I also use OneNote on my Surface Pro 3, my iPad, and my Windows phone. I also have a couple of journaling apps on my iPad, but I don't use them as much anymore.

And, yes, I have a growing collection of guided journals apart from Today: Life.

There was also a time when I actively used a web app called 750 Words.

Regardless of your preference, the important thing to remember is to choose the tools that would help you journal in the best possible way. And yes, there's no one way to do that!

Tip 4: Take the time to reflect.

To make the most out of your journaling practice, try to make time for reflections. Being able to reflect on the things that you've written about in your journal can be enlightening.

If you write daily, take the time to look at what you've written at the weekend. If you only write a few times a week, try to review once a month or once a quarter.

Notice patterns and themes in your journal writing. Do you find that you write more positive things or negative things? Do you focus on gratitude, opportunities, and happy memories? Or, are you more likely to write about difficult situations, problems, and challenging people? What does it make you feel reading back on some of your journal entries?

Reflecting on your journaling practice helps you to see any recurring ideas and observations. It can also help you to notice any progress or changes that occur over time.

On The S Squad Content Library, you'll find the Daily Notes PDF download. In the worksheet, you'll see five days' worth of short journaling on a page. There's also a box where you can summarise (or reflect on) the five days of journal writing.

This interactive PDF was designed with the Journaling For Success Mini Challenge in mind. But, you can use it in any other journaling practice. If you're logged in, you can download the PDF for free.

Journaling Quote

Your Turn

So, how about you? Do you keep a journal? Do you have a schedule? What are your favourite tools? What do you like about journaling?

If you don't keep a journal, would you consider starting one now? If not, what's your biggest obstacle in getting started with a journaling practice?

Share your thoughts, tips, and stories in the comments section.

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