Above: A sketch of a French Bull Dog using a Pentel Pocket Brush pen. The red letters, which read, "Renata knew the wallpaper had been a mistake," were added the next day, and were a bit of an experiment, read below. This is a spread from my last journal which was 8 x 7.5 inches. I used Winsor and Newton 90 lb. hot press watercolor paper. You can see the watermark running up the fore edge on the recto page!.Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I'm always meeting people who journal and at some point they talk to me about tearing out pages and covering up mistakes and fixing mistakes in some way. I've dealt with that tangentially in a couple superstition posts, and also directly (as far as tearing pages out goes). But I wanted to quickly point something out today about this superstition that is part of the "perfect pages myth" some people apply to their journals.
I could have left this spread alone after I had completed the drwaing and background lines. The dog however talked to me (as they all seem to be doing these days).
I could have taken a bit of light colored paper and pasted that to the side of the dog's head and written on that sheet instead of the busy background. That makes sense. But it's also the type of approach I usually take, because words are important to me and I want them to be readable.
Note to clarify: When I talk about gluing in a bit of light colored paper over a patterned background as an approach I usually take I am referring to my habit of adding that paper, or cleanly painted area, BEFORE I write in any text, so that I have a place where I can easily write text that is very readable. I don't glue paper over work on a page—at least I haven't yet. I like seeing the mistakes, as reference material, to remind me not to do something like that in the future. If I covered them I might keep doing the same mistake, or problematic result, over and over.
But if you let go of your usual parameters (such as needing the words to be readable) many happy accidents or fun experiments or bits of knowledge will come your way. And you don't have to "cover it up" or fix it.
You can of course take a layered approach and cover things—I have tons of friends who gesso over everything they don't like. If that appeals to you go ahead and do that.
However what I'm asking here today, suggesting actually, is that you pause for a moment and let go of your disappointment that it didn't work as planned, and analyze what went on and how you can get a different outcome in the future, and then ask yourself if you really can't just move on from this page to another one, applying what you've learned, and leaving the evidence trail of what you've learned, which is as interesting sometimes as the most perfect of pages!
Here I was working on some brush lettering experiments because I was going to put brush lettering out as an assignment for my journaling students. I used Ziller acrylic ink for the red letters and the red ink wasn't opaque enough for this situation (over heavily patterned, black ink background.)
I could have of course gone over the letters with red gouache (into which I could mix a bit of white so that there would be a value contrast between the red letters and the black pattern—remember certain reds read as black, at the same value level, for instance this page would be a disaster if I photocopied it in black and white!).
I could have outlined the letters in white. I could have covered the letters with a sheet of paper and redone the lettering.
All of those would have fixed the page and covered up the failed experiment.
I prefer to keep things as they are and enjoy the new info on this ink's opacity.
I did re-outline the red letters with black just to see how it would work, and in person the letters, still not that readable, look sort of embossed. That's kind of fun.
And the message of the wording as well as the execution of the lettering have a serendipitous connection, because they prove the poor choice of "wallpaper."
I think you can see my point. There is much here for me to enjoy. I could have of course stopped at the finished spread without adding words and never had to deal with these issues (which sort of begs the question why keep a journal in the first place if you aren't going to experiment). And I could have added lighter gouache over the letters to bring them to a better value for readability—but why?
Isn't it time to move away from this spread? I love it the way it is. It's not perfect, it's my journal.
Remember this next time you're confronted with a page spread that isn't what you intended. If it is fun for you to put on all sorts of layers and dig and add and dig and add, knock yourself out. It's part of what moves you to journal.
But if you journal because you are experimenting and sketching, and playing, and you don't like to get out the gesso and bits of paper and something doesn't work as planned, don't worry about fixing it, simply go on to another spread (or push it so much that you make a really bad mess!). It will add a rich memory trail to your experiments. And you won't be held back by your internal critic telling you to "fix" that page. Just laugh him off and dance away…
…To the next page spread—because my point is to keep working, not in a frantic way of trying to fix something to some standard you may never achieve, but to keep working with a playful and joyful (though serious) intent.
And to reiterate, because some people love to layer—if you enjoy layering you're not in the frantic mode I'm trying to show you a path out of. The goal is to make more pages, whichever way you can. Just let go of perfect.