They’re drawn from travels

Diaries are pictorial memory-keepers for traveller-artist José Naranja

José Naranja is not your ordinary traveller. While he does enjoy all the regular experiences of travelling like encountering new people, culture, and more, he also likes to store all the visual details of the worlds he visits in his notebook for posterity.

For the past 13 years, this Spain-based artist has been filling one sketchbook after another with incredibly detailed illustrations, colourful drawings, diagrams and awe-inspiring sketches and calligraphy that are supplemented with beautiful photographs and stamps.

An ex-aeronautical engineer, José quit his job to focus on art and travelling. When he discovered the compact Moleskine notebooks in 2005, he realised they could be the perfect vessels for his art.

If you flip through his beautiful books, you will find jaw-dropping botanical illustrations, mesmerising maps, accurate sketches of tourist spots, people, nature, and everything else that José stumbles upon on his travels. All José needs to bring to life the stories of every place are some fountain pens and watercolours. José sells his art online and is reaching out to more and more fans across the world through social media.

Recently, he also began binding his own notebooks, adding one more level of intimacy to his creations.

José says that the decision to create notebooks was never a conscious one. “I never took the decision about creating notebooks. They are just a part of my daily life and I enjoy making them. I enjoy the process of making them as perfect as possible. They are my final work; they are not secondary notebooks to collect ideas for another project.”

In these compact notebook, while you might see astounding pieces of art, José sees only love and passion. “I fill the pages with love and passion. Therefore, I am never in a hurry to complete them. I add experiences, dreams, ideas, drawings, lists, etc. I fill about one notebook per year,” he says.

To see this kind of commitment to ink and paper in today’s digital-crazy world is surprising yet appealing.

José, while a fan of the digital world, also believes in the pleasure of handwritten creations. He says, “I prefer ink and paper because touching things is key for the feeling. When something is written using ink, it’s forever and personal, very different from a device that stores bits of information, which could disappear at any moment.”

Tools are important to every artist as they can make or break every creation. But simplicity is what enchants José the most in this department. He says, “I try to use the simplest tools. I don’t believe in using many tools because travelling with big equipment would be a disaster. I use just a notebook, three or four fountain pens with their inks, a few more pens, and a tiny kit of watercolours. All my tools fit into a small case.”

Currently, this free-flowing artist is on a new journey, Donau’s Journey, a board game created, yet again, with his expert penmanship and watercolours. José says, “Drawings are part of the pages as a tool to enrich the ideas. However, I wanted to create bigger drawings, separate from the notebooks. That’s how Donau’s Journey came to life. It explains my vision of life and universe in a complex format and detailed watercolours. That, probably, is my favourite drawing till date.”

Ever since José started selling his notebooks online, he has amassed fans all over the world, who are more than willing to covet some of these authentic handwritten pieces of art. When asked what kind of feedback he generally gets from them, José says, “Fortunately, my followers are great people, so the feedback is excellent. They always welcome me in every place I visit. I feel grateful for this.”

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They’re drawn from travels


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