Boarding Pass – Jeff Barfoot

I don’t drink coffee, and I don’t really draw, but after reading Jeff Barfoot‘s Boarding Pass, I think I want to pick up both. What a fabulous travel tip for packing light and getting a little creative with your sketchbook. In keeping with my post from Saturday, I also have to say that I love that he travels with a mini sock monkey his mother made him – definitely a creative way to see a city. Check out lots more of Jeff’s work here and here. Thanks for the dose of travel inspiration today, Jeff!
{This is me. In New York at 9 W. 57th Street, this giant “9” was designed by one of my favorite designers, Ivan Chermayeff.}

home town:
I’m from an itty bitty town in Arizona called Fort Defiance, on the Navajo Reservation. My folks were teachers from Colorado, and came out to the Reservation because starting teacher salaries were better on reservations back then. It was a very interesting way to grow up, not just being a white kid in the minority, but growing up where you would have to stop your car to let a herd of sheep go by, have a medicine man accompany your elementary school class when cutting down a Christmas tree, and learning to sing Christmas carols in Navajo (Ya’at’eeh Keshmas!).

where you live now:
After going to school for Marine Biology in Tucson, Arizona (I know, I know: “What ocean?”), I came to Dallas, Texas to practice graphic design and illustration, and I’ve been here since. Dallas is really coming along, I have to say. When I first came here, downtown was dead, there was not a real arts scene, not too many casual hang-out places (Dallas tends to be more hoity-toity). But in the last few years, the downtown has really come alive, there is a booming arts district, and the underground arts scene is really thriving. There has always been an extremely strong design community here, though, and that’s what drew me here and why I’ve stayed.
{i stood at this spot for about 20 minutes, i loved this grey scene with the red door, waiting for one yellow cab to come through the steam.}

last trip taken:
Last trip was to New York City for the first time last fall. My wife has been a hundred times, but it was new for me. Of course I did all of the touristy things (Times Square, Letterman), and all of the geeky designer things (MoMA, stayed at The Hudson Hotel). I have to say, I LOVED NYC. It wasn’t like anything I’d expected. I thought it would be a little dirty, run down, dangerous, mean people. It was exactly the opposite: easy to get around, friendly smiling people, beautiful, not a scrap of garbage anywhere.

{had to include this bizarre sticker i saw near NYU in NYC}

next trip on deck:
Las Vegas, Nevada. I have a friend getting married for the second time, and I think it’s more of an excuse for him to go to Vegas than anything else. Not complaining. I like a beer and some blackjack. :)

one place you would go back to again and again:
London, hands down. I loved it. Insane diversity of people and food and shops, wonderful shopping, and I love riding the tube. You can just walk for hours and hours and keep seeing new things. Even more than New York, it seemed like London had all kinds of little pockets of neighborhoods to discover, and really interesting mix of brand new buildings next to others hundreds of years old.

{really cool sign at a vinyl record themed restaurant, VYNL, in New York}

place you’d most likely recommend a friend go visit:
The Grand Canyon. Yes, it’s in the middle of nowhere and takes a little effort to get to, and once there, there’s not much else to do. But I have to tell you: it will surpass any expectations your imagination can conjure.
{another little composition i thought was beautiful. three trees against a tall blue-painted construction wall on 5th avenue in NYC.}

preferred method of transportation:
Trains, absolutely. I remember my first cross-country trip on Amtrak with my Mom and Dad to Missouri when I was a kid, and I fell in love. I’ve since been on the Eurostar across Europe and on trains in England. Even the “L” in Chicago makes me think back to that first train ride. There is something just wonderful about drinking a cup of coffee and half reading, half looking out the window as you ride along.

place you’ve never been but dying to go:
Oooh, tough. I think its a toss-up between Switzerland and Scotland. The design nerd in me would love to go to Switzerland and see all of the poster and type museums, see the cities and country, eat the cheeses and chocolate. All on the train of course. :) And Scotland: beer, ocean, green everywhere, the most awesome accent in the world, what’s not to love?

{a gorgeously designed license plate in mexico – i wish us plates were are beautiful.}

place you’d never go back:
Nebraska. Cold. Desolate. Flat. Corn for hundreds of miles. Grumpy people (not their fault – I think they’re dealing with the cold, desolation and unending corn as well). Although I did get to eat the self-proclaimed “Best Omelette in the World” there.

most memorable trip in 2 sentences or less:
I have to say, the recent NYC trip. I’ve seen it my whole life in movies and on t.v., and it just just surprised and blew me away with its beauty, warmth, charm, cleanliness, and never ending things to see and do. I love New York.*
{a really pretty little composition i shot at the north end of times square; [right]: times square. another one where i waited until the sun started to go down, and times the screens when they were all orange :) }

how do you prepare for a trip?
i pack the morning i leave, and desperately try to find my flight info while I’m trying to get out the door (drives my wife crazy). I usually make it by the skin of my teeth. Having said that, I pack comfy. I figure the people in Brussels will never see me again, so I’d might as well be comfortable than fashionable. My wife has worn pajamas all around Europe.

how do you record your travels when you’re traveling?
Mostly pictures, and some sketches. But mostly I like collecting the little ephemera that remind me of places: cards, stamps, coasters, napkins, plastic key cards from hotels, museum ticket stubs, pins, stuff like that. The designer nerd in me loves that little detail stuff. I also love to bring back currency from other countries (most beautiful so far: England).

{little monkey goes everywhere with me – new york, london, köln germany}

what is your favorite thing to photograph in a new place?
This is funny. Even before Amélie came out, I carried around this tiny sock monkey my mom made me. It was sort of a joke to take pictures of this little monkey in front of well-known attractions. So what ends up happening a lot of the time is that I spend half a day finding the right angle to take little monkey’s picture in front of, say, Big Ben, instead of seeing other things. But it’s funny to me. Little monkey is also photographed with any willing well-known people I run across, like Henry Kissinger and Patton Oswalt. I also love taking photos to really interestingly designed signs, found compositions, or other objects that I see that inspire me (I have always been more interested in recording “things” than people).
{this is an illustration project I did for Neiman Marcus. The illustrations were inspired by a trip to London, northern France and Brussels with my wife.}

on an average, how many pictures to you take on a trip?
Not as many as I should. Besides the little monkey pictures, I tend to be pretty picky. We should probably take more pictures than we do, but my wife is an art director and stylist, and with me the designer, we’re always looking for “we need to be able to frame this when we get home” shots, not “let’s record this so we can remember our time here” shots. But that’s who we are.

{coffee sketch – this is a typical nyc hot dog cart – which i was obsessed with visually. :)}

what’s in your “designer travel kit” ?
As I said, I love to sketch on a trip. I used to carry watercolors, but what a hassle. Instead, an illustrator I know gave me a great tip: use coffee. So now I sketch with a pen (never a pencil, I like dark lines, I think), and then carry a little paintbrush with me and do a little watercolor work with coffee; you get a wonderful little sepia-toned sketch/illustration. And since you can get a cup of coffee anywhere, no hassle. :) So my travel kit is: brand new pens, watercolor brush, camera, sketchbooks (one big, one small), sometimes a few colored pencils. We carry a Canon digital camera, and heavy-paper notebooks (so each side of the paper can be drawn on/colored without bleeding to the other side).
{we make sure sure sure to take polaroids with us – we love the crappy, charming, instantly sentimental and melancholy quality of them. sometimes we draw on top of them. :) }

what do you do after a trip? scrapbook, blog, online, book, slideshow, etc? long after a trip does this happen?
I wish I did this better. We have kids, so it’s a miracle we go anywhere at all in the first place. :)
{I was very inspired by a series of very simple prints in the MoMA in NYC, and I had an idea for a screenprint right there on the spot. I sat down and sketched it right there, and we just printed it a few weeks ago! It’s called “Frog, Dog, Hog, Log, Bog”. :)}
favorite souvenir/thing to bring back?
I try to bring back cool posters or prints. London was the best for this. Anther reason I’m dying to get to Switzerland – awesome poster city champion of all time!

{a pond with lillypads in seattle}

[wildcard] do you refuse to travel to South America?
The bugs. Cockroaches the size of your foot. Mosquitos the size of your hand. Walking sticks that should be called walking branches. Ants that outnumber people 800,000,000:1. The bugs. The horror. My God. My God.

*Go Red Sox.

online shop:

Click HERE for all past editions of Boarding Pass!


  • What a lovely boarding pass! The sketch with coffee is so charming and little monkey shots are hilarious. Jeff’s inspiration and subsequent work reveal his unique brew of color, humor and beautiful line quality!

    Where can I get a print of that three trees shot….!

    Bravo. Happy travels and happy sketching.

  • I loved this boarding pass. What a delightful, charming, and funny guy. The coffee sketching is brilliant and the sock monkey hilarious. I love that he loved NYC, too. (I heart you, NYC). It would be cool if he rethought South America, but what can I say? I’ve never been either and I hate bugs. (I will not let him talk me out of it, though!)

    Thanks again for your wonderful series. Love it!

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