Keeping an illustrated journal on my trip to Kraków, Poland

A holiday is an opportunity to get away from it all, get rid of stress, and tap into your creative side.

I went to Kraków, Poland, with my partner, Simon. He loves eastern Europe and I booked this holiday as a surprise for him (although I had to tell him so he could book the time off work). 

When I go on holiday I like to make sure I squeeze out as much creative juice as possible. This usually involves taking photographs with my DSLR that was given to me by someone in my family (because he bought a new better one!) and also keeping an illustrated journal. 


I use a Moleskine notebook which as Simon has noted is hardback and easy to write on as you walk around. 

We spend a lot of time shopping for notebooks and other stationery, and it's hard to find the perfect black notebook. I have a few different ones for various purposes – work, notes, and creative expression. 

Simon and I spend a lot of time discussing the virtues of the different types of notebooks and spending too much money on them. I'm refusing to buy anymore until I fill the old ones. 

The city of Kraków

Kraków was interesting as it is a very well-preserved medieval city. It was the perfect place to gain inspiration as the city has a founding story that it was created by a cobbler called Krak who slayed a dragon called Smok Wawelski. As a result, there are many dragon-themed souvenirs kicking about. 

We always go to the most important historical sites whenever we go away, and in Krakow that is the medieval town square Stare Miasto, Wawel Castle, and Kazimierz (the Jewish Quarter). 

They also have the Salt Mines and you can tour Auschwitz, but we didn't have time in three days as these are further afield. 

Illustrated journal

Illustrated journals are good because they help you feel a lot more engaged in your environment. Unlike taking a photograph, an illustration is more active in that you create the drawing on the page and it is a snapshot of that moment in time. Photographers would probably disagree with me. 

I draw boxes or other shapes on the blank pages which I then fill with illustrations as I'm going about my holiday. They're nice to look back on and other people are generally very interested in them. 

In this case I drew some pictures of our many trips to McDonalds (sometimes you just need to order familiar food on an automated machine) and our day out to Krakow zoo. I also drew the famous clock tower in Stare Miasto. 


That being said, I did take some very nice photographs on my camera as usual. Kraków has amazing medieval architecture in Old Town which is still well-preserved. Wawel Cathedral was one of the highlights. 

Simon in Stare Miasto

Clock tower in Stare Miasto

Wawel Cathedral

After a holiday I will often play around with the photos and touch them up to make them look better (not in a professional way). I usually add colour filters and lighten them in PhotoShop, often to make the people look better or make washed out photos look more vibrant. I like to add a kind of vintage feel to photos by adding a blue, green or yellow filter. 

What might be quite nice soon is to create a painting based on a photograph I have taken, so it means something to me. 

Do you have any examples of holidays you have taken where you were more creative than usual? 

By Catherine Heath. I'm a writer, artist, and all-round creative person (aren't we all creative, though?). I'm  community builder & resident artist for KnowledgeOwl, who also make this website.

Image source: Wikipedia, Jakub Hałun