The art of labelling journeys

Illustrator and business traveller Tim Baynes on drawing inspiration on the road

8 mins

Last Saturday I labelled my 30th Moleskine notebook. I have been drawing in these robust books since 2004, so this amounts to a little over 2000 impressions – drawings that label all the places I have been lucky enough to visit, mainly on business.

During each trip I have recorded my observations in spare moments.At the beginning of a new day, an evening alone in a restaurant, in a bar waiting for colleagues, or in a few minutes stolen between meetings. The creative process is self-centred, sometimes I will disconnect myself from a group in a fancy restaurant to go off and make a picture. I have this compulsion to capture a moment, getting it down on paper and attaching a tag, a comment to describe my thoughts at the time.

RAMMED AND CRAMMED: Bankers, Blackberries and fine attaché cases. The boys from Finance are on the way to Milano, Me? More training. Hey Ho, it’s the start of a brand new day. 1hr. 35 minutes to Linarte

My 30 books form the basis of a collection of impressions and observations – those things captured in a fleeting moment before my very eyes. The narrative that accompanies some of the drawings is an immediate response to the highs and lows, joys and wretchedness of travel; as a result, my comments are often emotionally charged and always direct.

TO MADRID: Left the house at 4.45. A fox crossed my path. Installed in the Iberia Lounge by 5.45 Coffee appalling.

My art is about the ephemeral impressions of time and place. I am searching for what is special about each place: a sunset behind a mosque; the grey Paris dawn; tired travellers waiting for the limo bus at Narita; an impossibly crowded underground carriage or improbably attractive girls by a bar.

Last year I industrialised my drawings – scaling up, dramatising, enlarging, and building a series of 30 x 50 cm coloured monoprints of my twenty-one favourite destinations. Not a faithful playback of the drawings; rather distilling the essence of a place ie Singapore thunderstorms or the late afternoon light in Bogota.

Both drawings and monoprints have been described as playful, expressive, and inaccurate. Whatever the reaction, they seek to show a gratitude for having been at that specific place in that particular time.

I see business travel as a great privilege – the places I have visited, the people I have met and worked with, and experiences I have gained. These are special gifts and this body of work is my way of saying 'thank you.'

Drawing when travelling seeks to capture the imagination of other people; to strike a chord for those who have been to that particular place or to arouse a desire to one day visit

ON THE STAR FERRY: Friday night. Ferry packed with people in a holiday atmosphere as some mist drifts between Kowloon and Hong Kong Island

When we travel the world, we hopefully discover that every place is interesting. Each situation has a special luggage tag.

LABEL MAKING KIT: Aside from the Moleskine the equipment is simple and carried in a suit pocket: two Pilot gel pens, a camera in case I loose my nerve, a selection of coloured crayons, and a glue stick for appending ticket stubs and such to particular pages. I often wonder how many over-50s mess with crayons and glue so very often.

Tim BaynesTim Baynes, is a senior executive with the BBC. He has recorded his impressions of more than 20 years of travel with sketches and observations from Istanbul to New York to Tokyo. His book, Drawing from Experience, is available from his website.

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For further illuminations on Tim and his travels read his interview at The World According to Tim Baynes. A selection of his illustrations can be viewed at our photography galleries.

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