Above: Pentel Pocket Brush Pen on a page spread in my handbound journal made of Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper which is now available in sheets (and is archival). (The journal is approx. 7 x 9-3/8 inches.) I used left over Schmincke gouache from my palette and just kept with mixing purple magenta and yellow and orange. Decorative, non-archival Japanese Masking Tapes were used for decoration. Some journaling text obscured for privacy. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
(Note: I think I've got some mis-numbered superstitions on my blog, but for now as I bring back this series we'll go with 16.)
Every workshop or class that I do someone always asks this refrain throughout the class as each item or medium or paper or material is introduced: Is that archival?
I don't mind that student's ask whether or not a medium or material is archival. I think you need to know the qualities of all the materials you work with as an artist. And frankly if they would wait 5 seconds they'd hear it from me during class, because I always tell people the qualities of things I introduce them to, so that they can use them with appropriate knowledge and the appropriate techniques.
What gives me pause is that often the question is prompted by a desire on the student's part to only use archival materials.
Why? Are you world famous? Does everything you do have to last for hundreds of years? (My friend Greg asked me that once and it still makes me laugh.) Do you really think that your grandchildren are going to slavishly read through your journals? Well they might, but can't they really do that just as easily if the pages have delaminating tape and seeping acidic newsprint? You might argue that they can't, and in some ways you'd be right, but the pages would sure be more interesting with the patina.
If that's not appealing to you—the thought that your artwork is going to disintegrate—then you do need to use archival materials.
But before you go that route ask yourself a couple more questions:
1. For whom am I keeping this journal? I hope you're keeping it for yourself, but that's my preference, it will be a whole lot more interesting to any of your descendents if you keep it for yourself and don't try to write and sketch what you think might be important to them, which frankly you have no hope of doing and they'll notice the fakeness of it and wonder where the hell grandma really was in her mind when she did all this stuff—think about this, every piece of art you make is a bit of information you leave about yourself. Why not tell people what you're really thinking, no holding back?
2. Will I be more likely to create something right now if I just grab things off the desk top and have at it, regardless of whether or not the tape I grab is archival?
If the answer to question 2 is "Yes, I'll get some pages done right now," then I urge you to go for it. If you are concerned, scan your pages afterwards and put them in some sort of digital archive (which of course has problems of its own, but it is a back up).
If you wait until you can run out to the store and get archival artist's tape or a certain kind of medium the moment of creation will pass. You'll be stuck on Saturday afternoon with a 2 hour block of time set aside for journaling and "catching up" (don't even get me started on that) and nothing will feel fresh to you, or you won't remember what you wanted to say, or you won't be able to read your notes, or something else really important will be happening right in front of you which you really need to address and there's no time to journal anyway.
You get the idea. Don't tie your hands behind your back. Use what you have at hand when the moment of inspiration strikes. Let yourself have some fun. Use inexpensive and even crappy materials with abandon just for the sheer fun and play of it. Maybe that's just what you need today.
Instead of Casual Friday have Non-Archival Tuesday.
Use what you've got, right now.