Above: Quick Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch with a background painted with Holbein Gouache (red painted throughout, allowed to dry, and then brushed over with zinc white on a moist brush). Click on the image to view and enlargement.
Before my talk on gouache last week I spent some time playing around in my journal, thinking about how I like to use gouache, both to define a subject and to create a background.
The above image is an example of the latter, but it didn't start out that way. I originally was going to write notes about my day in the negative space on the right page. Then just as I was about to do that I realized that I didn't want notes on my day being read by strangers at my demo.
It was interesting to me that I had that thought. My visual journals have gone through private and public phases before, but that thought signaled to me that the longest running public phase I've ever had might be winding down.
In 1998 I came out of a private phase, and began showing my visual journals frequently when I started teaching arts classes in the public schools. My visual journals aren't that personal. They tend to be about things I see during the course of my day, or sketches that are practice or studies for paintings. Or meeting notes. My written journals are private and never leave the house.
But lately I've seen my written journals be somewhat neglected (impacted by the writing time I spend on my blog). And I've seen an increased tendency on my part to write more personal items in my visual journal.
And I've found that when I ready a stack of journals to take to a class as "samples" the selection process for recent journals is more difficult. You can only tape so many pages together before taking that journal seems pointless. (Additionally, on several recent occasions in the past year, tape and a request for privacy on those pages have not stopped prying eyes.)
Then up popped this occasion where I stopped myself from writing something because I wanted to show the image on the page I was about to write on.
That's the big clue that something is changing for me. Because when I don't write something my mind stops and says, "We can't have that!" I see that as self-editing and my journals only work for me if I am free of any such notion.
Bottom line, my journals, visual and written are for me. It is literally uninteresting to me to try and keep a visual journal that is "decorative" or "beautiful" or "for public consumption." Those approaches are fine if they work for the artists attempting them, but for me keeping a journal is always about exploring my mind and my approach to creativity. If I'm editing that exploration it's no longer valid.
That I would have this moment of shift awareness now isn't surprising to me. I've found myself writing more and more in my visual journals, fall out of the dwindling page count of the written journal. But the shift awareness also comes at a time when I was involved in keeping a fake journal that basically had no text, because of the circumstances of that journal's author. When I made the sketch of the Chihuahua I was at the end of a month long examination of text in my visual journal and the nature of communication.
Why bring this up? Well I know there are new journal keepers out there who visit my blog and I wanted to point out the need for a healthy awareness of your own needs.
Over the course of my life journaling has always been present, but has shifted in seemingly subtle and sometimes profound ways, that at first aren't even noticeable while the shift is taking place. I wanted to write about this new shift in my visual journal to draw attention to the fact that this is NORMAL and not to be feared or worried about if you're new to keeping a journal. It's just evidence of your life changing, your situation changing, your needs changing, your artistic voice changing.
You need to acknowledge that or you're going to end up being frustrated working in a journal that has become work instead of discovery.
I encourage all my journaling students to not share their work with their friends and family until after they have kept up a daily habit of 28 days (that being the length of time it has been determined for a new habit to take hold). I want to ensure that they have a good start to their journaling life. I want to protect them (though I know such protection is out of my capability) from the casual caustic venom of someone else's internal critic blasting them, and releasing their own internal critic. I just hope to buy them a little time to settle in.
When someone makes a critical comment, either seriously or in jest, about my work (in or out of my journal) I have a thick skin that's able to deal with that—take the valid bits and work on them, throw out the chaff that is their own dissatisfaction with their own lives. When you follow your passion there are people all around who aren't following their passion and yet will be eager to weigh in on your progress (out of their own disappointment). Part of this thick skin was developed through a lifetime of journaling, and also a lifetime of being lippy. Another part of this thick skin comes up naturally when you have clients who pay you to make images.
One of my goals as a teacher has always been to help people develop their own thick skins so that they can access their creativity without societal filters.
When I drew this little dog and decided to paint the background instead of write about my day I knew I had to bring this to your attention.
Listen to the clues and cues your mind is giving you. Keep your own needs and process in mind. Protect the journal habit you have taken pains to make room for in your life. (And realize it will change and grow as you do.)
What does all this mean for Roz Wound Up and posts illustrated with journal spreads? I don't know right now. I'm still digesting my fake journal experience, still thinking about that dwindling written journal, still considering what is public and private in my creative life. I'm even wondering what all this means in relation to what I teach in journaling classes.
Lots of thoughts swimming about in my head. Some of those thoughts will probably be future blog posts. Others will disappear as quietly as they arrived—of no importance in how I function.
I think you'll probably see more page spread images with text fuzzed out. I haven't posted a lot of images that way, but I sense it might be coming. Or the opposite could happen: I could take all that writing and put it back into the written journals, and end up with almost textless visual journal pages.I don't know, and I'm OK with not knowing. I've been here before. As long as I keep my creative contract with myself I know the issue will resolve itself.
You can resolve your own issue of public vs. private by asking your self questions about your goals and the purpose of your journal (how best it will serve those goals). Just know it's a normal process.