Along with my fake visual journal in April, I found I needed to keep working in a second journal or what I'm now calling my workbook.
Working in an actual visual journal has kept my sketching muscle in better shape. I can see how it is improving the trust I have in my hand-eye coordination. But sometimes in the evening (or the middle of the night) I just want to play with color.
Do you remember the time as a kid when you would just pick up a crayon and draw without thinking. I am slowly finding my way back to that free impulse. I am happiest when I am not planning or thinking about what I'm going to do, but just following my own eye around the page.
There are many invisible restrictions that I put on myself that I don't realize I have until I bump up against them. This year's IFJ helped reveal a lot of them (I'm sure there are more). One that I have always struggled with is 'not wanting to ruin' something. By adding to it. By trying another attempt at an idea/image. By not wanting to follow a sketch I like with something I'm afraid I won't. I have always bumped up against this and it was the first thing I had to confront when I finally decided I was going to sketch… no matter.
This whole book is flying in the face of the residue of that same problem. Again and again I would do a little sketch I actually was satisfied with - that I enjoyed (dare I say that). And then I turned the page and started again. Or added something on the facing page. Or added something on the same page. Sometimes I wasn't satisfied with the next bit, and sometimes it was better than the first. And then I did it again.
I also spent some effort in pushing through when I 'knew' I wasn't going to like something I'd started badly. The below sketch is an example of that. I was in (another) waiting room and really was looking at some blank walls so I just looked down and sketched the bag I'd brought. The angle was odd (the image below is rotated, the bag was beside the chair arm). I didn't think I would get the angle right or how to show the shading…. lots of negatives in my head. But I just stopped thinking and looked from one line to the next. And by the time I'd finished it was one of my favorites of the month.
The sketch above was similar in that I ended up sketching my pencil case, but it took a pretty stressful moment and made it very simple and released a lot of tension in me, just by looking and drawing one line at a time.
I am still absorbing what this challenge revealed to me. I have started another journal and am trying to keep the momentum going. I'll write about that soon, but it has been difficult to not revert to my invisible mental rules.
Things have been just crazy around this house. Totally and insanely crazy. Exhausting and more exhausting. I picked up a virus on our trip to Santa Fe and it has been weeks since I've been able to get some energy back. I think. I hope. And my frozen shoulder is still frozen. I am SO bored of physical therapy I can not say. Also we have three kiddos, so there is that. And. And. But today, today is a good day. My three chickadees are home, I don't need to drive anyone anywhere (for the moment) and I finally feel like I can take a deep breath, so...
So… I started this journal with a vague plan - mostly taking the idea of a person with a little OCD who uses their journal to work out anxiety. I never ended up feeling the need to hammer out the details about my character - I don't really care about their back story in the end - but the way I used the journal with small little half sketches and little notes on the day was so fulfilling and so suited to the way my life is actually constructed that I hope to continue with that journal style.
1) I loved the look of the pages. It was a pleasure to flip back and forth through the journal as it was built. That bit of enjoyment helped keep me moving.
2) I did half sketches at the edges of the pages and I have no idea why but I found that very liberating. I could end up putting several bits together without preplanning or hedging or considering.
3) I've spent a lot of the month in transit and/or in offices. Having something to do in the bits of time that actually kept me focussed and yet relaxed made my days better. Waiting time flowed quickly and spent less time ruminating about things I can't control anyway.
4) I was able to get down to a limited number of supplies that have considerable flexibility (watercolors, colored pencils and ink) and yet are light enough to haul around. That has been especially important with my exhaustion and sore shoulder.
I have filled a lot of journals at this point, and the styles have flipped all over the place as I get inspiration from books, magazines, blogs and everything else. My confidence as a sketcher has grown and my interests have shifted as I am attracted to different media. But in the five years I've been playing in sketchbooks, I have never enjoyed a single journal the way I have enjoyed this one. It was so satisfying!
I am posting all the complete pages at my other blog Paint by Numbers. They are not electrifying. They are not innovative. They are not even pretty sometimes. But for me, this journal was exactly what I needed exactly when I needed it.
This post is a little disjointed and I know I'm not hitting all the notes I wanted to mention, but got to start somewhere. Tomorrow I will be posting some more sketches from the journal, but full pages are visible on my other blog. Don't bother trying to read the words. Completely not worth it. Really. Just boring. Boring to read, but helpful to write.
I hope that your art is giving you what you need. Thanks for stopping by.
I brought a selection of colored pencils on this trip thanks to Liz Steele and her Sketching Now on-line class. Regular colored pencils have very little appeal to me, but I am discovering the transformative nature of watercolor pencils. 'Learning' being my euphemistic way of saying messing around with. Anyway, I pulled them out a bit.
Both of these (above and below) are cut off from the full landscape spread since my scanner only goes to legal size, but since they're not highly composed, I'm just living with it. When I sit in front of a landscape I just begin with what catches my eye and move around from there. In both these cases I used pencil and ink to define edges and then wet my water brush on the pencil to build up color.
But as we went on, I got more intrigued by the stones themselves and the texture of rocks in the hillside. I stopped trying to rush to get to the color of the layers and just focused on the fun I was having building up the piles.
I loved doing these in person, since the gravitas of the rock formations was so palpable, or maybe I just went a little kooky. I was on some muscle relaxants after all.
I am hoping to get access to my husbands stash of photographs so I can play with more rock outcroppings, but he took several thousand pictures (he's that kind of guy) and it's taking him time to sort through. I await. I may have to do new versions of piles I've already done. That's actually taking on an allure of its own.
I've had very little energy since we got back from our trip. What little I've had to spare has gone into completing the work of the journals I brought with me. Despite the on-going cruddy feeling, I'm very pleased with that since too often the blank pages I've left to fill in later just get left period.
Below are pages from a larger (than I usually work in) landscape Moleskine journal that I decided to try out. I've used smaller formats before, but I'm not usually a landscape format. Don't know why. It makes so much sense. In the end I didn't enjoy working in the Moleskine as much as the Stillman and Birn, which surprised me. The dappled nature of the Moleskine surface ended up being distracting - it was too uniformly dapped when the watercolor settled in (which you can't see in this but in other ones). Anyway, I'm glad I brought it and tried it out, especially trying the landscape.
None of these are post production, they're from during the actual trip. Above was our first day in Santa Fe and I decided that I just needed to put some lines down since I hadn't been doing much recently and was feeling very unsteady.
The trees above were probably the most satisfying sketches. We were told we would have to wait for seating at the restaurant we wanted and they and a lovely courtyard, but we were all tired and a little cranky. The few minutes we sat and sipped lemonade and I sketched ended up settling us into a great mellow dinner time mood.
This being April, I know everyone is keeping a fake journal in participation of International Fake Journal month. I know I am. I just posted my first few entries on my alternate "challenge" blog - Paint By Numbers. I use that blog for monthly challenges when I don't want the challenge to take over everything else I'm doing. And that's what I'm enjoying about IFJM. My journal for that takes a few minutes each day, maybe a little more depending on how the sketching goes, but that's what is making it so much fun. I am using it to prod myself to sketch in a more less intentional way - just doing what is in front of me without thinking about it too much. I like my sketchbook best when I think the least.
I've included the text here, but most of what is written in this journal is just yak yak yak. My character has a little OCD and she uses her journal to calm herself down by sketching and letting go of her thoughts. I may think it's boring and stupid to reread, but has actually been very fun to do.
Other than that, I'm printing pictures from my trip and sticking them in my trip journal. THAT journal started out pretty lame, I wasn't very happy with how it was looking and the paper and and and… but I've plugged away at it and I can honestly say I'm pleased as a peach with it now. Peachy pleased. It's overstuffed and bursting and got some holes I need to fill in, but today, for example, I added tabs and picking out what I would use (from the ephemera that I brought back) ended up being really a bit of fun. I am always impressed with other people's travel journals and their composed pages, but trying VERY HARD not to do the comparison dance in my head this time.
Is this a great travel journal? No. Was/is it worth doing? Absoultely. I love how it makes me think about what I am doing - it keeps my eyes awake. It makes me judge what I want to pick up and save and what's not worth it. I have a reference point for a future trip. As much as anything, I become aware of what is not working, and what has worked in the past, and what I might want to do different next time.
This spine was too small. The paper was all wrong (for what I wanted to do, although I am making it work which is a good stretch for me). There were not enough pockets for business cards etc. I should have brought tabs or some way to attach tabs with me.