• Ashley Urban

Travel in Style: Record

Updated: Jan 24, 2019

I'm looking back in the archive to last year when I traveled to Shoreditch, London. I traveled alone and had a marvelous time. In a sense, I wasn't alone because I travel in a very particular way...I record! I wouldn't dream of setting foot out the door without my journal, a camera, a sketchbook and pencils and, a proper pen, and darling, when I say proper, I mean not the bic pen you lifted from your waitress at the restaurant (tisk tisk), I mean a pen you can carry across the page with a sense of pride and heft! So important. A dear friend whom happens to be a magnificent writer and author taught me this trick years ago. It brings a feeling of officiality to your written musings. Especially when doing something as nostalgic as travel writing. Anyhow, a proper pen is a must. My preferred writing utensil is the very affordable Zebra F.402...another suggestion of a different magnificent writer friend, bound to become an esteemed author as well. But the pen! The pen is so important. Remember that!


Essentials

And with a proper pen, comes a journal, naturally. I've kept a journal since I was a small child (blame this requirement on my poor memory). I've kept a journal because of this incessant yearning to keep close to me all of these bizarre and beautiful experiences I've somehow lived through. To reflect on what I once was, WHO I was, and how I existed and evolved in the world. Rarely do I look back on them, but when I do, let me say, it is a strange treat. Filled with casual little horrors. Laughs at seeing how cocksure I was about my identity. Brimming with details that bring an array of smiles to my face. Smiles ranging from absolute delight in the remembering, to utter embarrassment...which is maybe why I've forgotten so much of it. I like to think as I get older, these journals become less laughable to look back upon. But dear, no matter the level of humor, there is emotional value in seeing the journey you've made in your human experience. So, yes yes! A travel journal is an absolute must. If nothing else is carried with you on these excursions, please be sure that the journal, and even a shit pen if you're in a pinch, is by your side...just don't steal it from the waitress. She'll curse you if you do. I promise.



And being the good little artist I am, I also simply MUST carry my sketchbook and colored pencils during all of my travels, for every step of the way. And being in one of the museum capitals of the world, I spent many of my hours traversing the endless corridors of historic masterpieces that have defined art history. One of my very favorite activities, that kept me the perfect company alone, was shamelessly pulling out my sketchbook at the first stroke of inspiration, and then drawing what was before me. And let me say, I was a monster! A very refined monster, mind you. But a sketching monster nonetheless. I would drop everything, stop traffic, part the Thames, just to stop and sketch the impeccable contours of a 16th century sculpture, or the refined filigree carved wood on the door of a 200 year old restaurant. Beautiful works of art are all around you, especially in Europe. America, it's not your fault you're so young...anyhow, so that's just what I did, stopped everything to draw whatever glorious inspiration laid within my line of sight. Some people stared in confusion. But my god, it's an art museum! Of course there must be ravenous artists prowling for inspiration. Don't be so shocked. I even had the great pleasure of seeing the elusive OTHER sketchbooks carried by OTHER artist monsters, and that was a rather deep sense of satisfaction, I'll tell you. My travel sketchbooks are one of my prized possessions. I can nearly smell my rampant excitement bleed from the pages. It's a damn beautiful thing. And I'll say, this particular journey defined my artistic style. It's true! I found myself alone in the world, not knowing anyone, having no plans to appease anyone but myself those cold February days, and THAT'S where I found ME. That's exactly where I found my signature drawing style. When I was in deep states of reflection and solitude (even being surrounded by hundreds of other tourists). When it was just me. Shameless. With a sketchbook. Staring at a marble statue. Or a door. Or man drinking alone at a bar. Or a carved pillar. No matter what I was drawing it was just me and a means of creative expression. No other influence to distract. And mind you, I did not know it in those moments, that I was defining and refining that signature artistic style that all of us creative freaks so long for. I was simply existing in the moment and letting my unadulterated creativity flow forth. With zero fucks given about what passers by might think. Now THAT'S creative!



I also carried my Konica S-3 film camera. A delightful, beefy little number, quite coveted by the society of film nerds, or so I'm told. I found it at a garage sale and it's lovely! Difficult to get the focus just right, but when you nail it, let me tell you, that Konica glass really knows how to produce a striking image.


I experiment with all kinds of film. I'm still trying to find the perfect one for me. Naturally, I took a thousand photos with my iphone, but when the true beauty arose, I made sure to give the Konica the love she so deserves. I just got my film developed almost one year after the fact. Can you believe it?! A testament to the fact that the doing often times feels better than the result.


Now let me tell you the most important bit, even if you're not an artist, DRAW ANYWAY. Even if you're not a photographer, TAKE PHOTOS ANYWAY. Even if you're not a writer, WRITE ANYWAY. Titles are meaningless. It's your actions that define who you are. Capture what you see, capture what you find beautiful, horrifying, frightening, silly, absurd, inspiring, sexy. Draw anything. Write anything. Photograph anything. Just create something based off of what you find inspiring and emotional along your journey. And who knows, you may even find your signature style quite by accident.


Yours truly,

AU


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