José Naranja is a 35-year-old Spanish ex-aeronautic engineer who loves to travel - as most of us do - but instead of posting pictures about his trips on Instagram, he prefers to make notes and sketches on small travel books he carries with him.
In the beginning, his pocket-sized Moleskine travel books were just a diary of his many trips but when he discovered in a public library, a travel book by Peter Beard, he was so fascinated by the aesthetic of the book that he began to concentrate more on the visual part and to train the art of calligraphy. A month later, Naranja went on a trip around the world that lasted 9 months and that he documented extensively on his Moleskine notebook with collages of handwritten notes, photos and drawings, relating not only his travels but also his personal thoughts, making a very personal visual diary of his life.
José Naranja, who now lives in Germany, has since given up his work as an engineer and devotes now his life to art and travelling. Over the past 13 years he has perfectioned the art of calligraphy and has tested various types of ink and paper, having already filled several travel books with his wonderful illustrations using watercolors, fountain pens, stamps, maps, photos, handwritten notes and sketches, pages filled with imagination and humor, a work that he defines as being a love letter to notebooks, a flight of fancy and also a part of him, a “vault of dreams, ideas and experiences.”
Although Naranja loves the Moleskine notebooks, he wasn’t happy about the quality of its paper so he decided to replace it with Verge paper which is excellent for drawing. Nowadays, this self-taught artist who prefers to be called a “notebook maker”, makes his own notebooks and teaches on his blog the whole process of bookbinding, set by step. He says that making your own notebook offers a higher level of satisfaction and creates a special link between the journals and yourself as you can add the passion and love for it, your favourite paper and details.
You can see more of his work on his website where the artist also sells copies of his sketches and also a compilation of 120 pages selected from his many journals called “the Orange Manuscript”.
In one of his notebooks, Naranja made a beautiful board-game with mesmerizing drawings. “The Donau’s Journey”, as he called it, is a game in the form of the classic goose game about a trip along the Danube River, but the drawings are full with details and symbolism that explain the artist’s vision of the Cosmos. You can buy this game on his website too and follow his trips and recent works on his Instagram.
About his work, Naranja says that "excellence is the goal, not perfection. Perfection is impossible and it’s not welcome in a handmade artwork". We couldn't agree more and we think his work is indeed excellent!
Photos via Jose Naranja