Above: Page spread from my current journal (8 x 7.5 inches approx.) made with Windsor & Newton 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper. I was out without my journal, tracking with a friend, and when I did sketch I did so on a sheet from a graph paper notebook I had with me (left). I glued it in to my journal when I got home, wrote my two columns of related text and then decided to paint the rest of the recto page with fluid acrylics because I wanted to “separate” that portion of the page from the other activities. The next day I visited a new puppy (Tucker) and included this happy accident photo where he’s a speed blur, in my journal with some notes about my visit. (Bottom right you'll see the paper's watermark. If you would like to see the cover of this journal see my "New Batch of Books" post; it's the book on the left in the back row.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
This superstition is so, so wrong people! I would be rich if I had 50 cents for every journaling student who told me, during the course of one of my classes, that he or she couldn’t write on fine watercolor paper. “There’s something wrong about it. I have to save that for painting.” ETC., ETC., ETC.
Well, that’s just WRONG. Journals aren’t about saving paper for some special painting, epiphany, or skill level that you’re going to attain. Journals are for documenting your life and some of that documentation will take the form of text. (Or require that you stick something down on top of the watercolor paper [GASP], such as a photo, receipt, note, or even a sketch from a notebook like I did in the above page spread).
I’ve written about writing in columns and not writing in columns (personal choice, try them both; see my Writing Text in Columns on Your Journal Page—Part 1 and Writing Text in Columns on Your Journal Page—Part 2) but I don’t think I can ever make myself too clear on this point: write in your journal! Write all over that lovely $4.50- to $10.00-a-sheet paper—just do it. Do your paintings too, but don’t hold off on writing something down in your journal because you aren’t up to painting something at the moment, or you don’t want to waste the fine (read: expensive) paper, or don’t think you’re a writer, or don’t think you have anything to say.
It’s your life and you need to get it down as fast and furious as you’re living it and if that means that you are going to make a book of exquisite paper and then end up taking meeting notes on 90 percent of the pages, well so be it! You filled your journal, you lived your life. The sooner you get over this notion that watercolor paper is only for painting the happier you’ll be, the more journals you will fill, the sturdier your journal practice will be, and the more observant you will be.
And the better you will paint and draw when you get the chance because you won’t be stopping and starting like an engine with the wrong petrol in it. You’ll just be moving along effortlessly, always reaching for the journal. That’s the only way this works, long term—you have to get over the sense that the paper is precious and for special use only.
Everyone is on a budget these days, if she wasn’t already, so yes you may think that writing for 5 pages on watercolor paper is expensive, but actually it’s expensive not to do so. You are actually losing time, flow, and energy. If your time is worth something (and that’s what our society puts a price tag on) then losing time to waffle about whether or not to write, and losing time waiting for the perfect painting idea to come to you when you could be spilling words and pictures out onto the page, is a tremendous loss of currency. (No pun intended but I like that it happened.)
If you can’t bring yourself to write notes on your watercolor paper (or whatever fancy paper you have in your journal) you might want to buy an inexpensive journal (like the APICA journals I reviewed last week perhaps) and write and paint and draw in one of those for a month. Twenty eight days forms a habit—it’s a science fact. So if you do that for a month you should have a habit of writing on the same paper you draw on, and just keeping in the flow of things. Then when you pick up a book with watercolor paper (or fill in the blank with your favorite expensive paper name) you will effortlessly keep moving forward. No hiccups.
I will not lie to you and tell you that I don’t sometimes end a journal on delicious art paper and realize I didn’t paint much in that journal. But I can honestly say I never regret having filled that journal. And the lack of regret trumps “wasted” paper any day of the week. I move forward into the next visual journal with a renewed purpose to draw and paint more. What possible regret could I have about that positive result? (And believe me I've written all over some really expensive and discontinued papers, so if anyone should be crying it's me!)
It is worthwhile working a couple extra hours a week (taking on another client if you're working freelance; doing some overtime if you work for an employer) or cutting out another "luxury" that isn't half as healthy for you as your journaling, in order to buy the type of paper you want to work on and then work on it all the time regardless of whether or not you are writing on that paper, painting on it, or sticking things to the surface. Maybe it will require a period of adjustment in less expensive notebooks. Most definitely you need to learn to bind your own books, because then you can give yourself the time and only count the cost of the materials you use to make your journal—and you'll have a better journal than any commercially available journal.
If visual journaling is important to you then integrate it into your life by working out the supply cost and making it work in a way that satisfies your needs for seamless, continuous, and uninterrupted expression.Galvanize your practice by overcoming this silly, senseless, and dead wrong superstition!