Left: A page from the 8 x 8 inch (approx.) handmade journal I made containing Saunders Waterford 90 lb. High White Hot Press watercolor paper. Staedtler Pigment Liner. Click on the image to view an enlargement. (Page tab at the gutter, left, is from cutting out a blank page before I started working in the book—this makes room for collage material while still maintaining a tight spine.)
A couple weeks ago I was part of a conversation with a couple artists. They were talking about things they saw when they were out and about: things that caught their attention; things that they wished they could capture because their attention had been caught.
"Why don't you carry a journal?" I asked, since carrying a journal, which is what I do, seemed the obvious remedy—and the obvious remedy is, well, usually that.
There was much hemming and hawing, and "Well it's better for my memory if I try to remember," types of comments. But there was no definitive answer as to why, when both artists carry such commodious bags, they both couldn't carry small sketchbooks, if not journals.
Here's the thing, even when the subject is right in front of me, if I'm working quickly I can't always get exactly what I see. I have to fiddle around with it and take a couple goes at it (see the woman with the bun—variations running along the page top).
The wonderful thing about making little "note sketches" like this, however, is that while all of them are crap, I can remember, by looking at them what it was that attracted my attention to the woman in the first place. And I can set up to do a painting capturing that should I decide I want to do that. I have these sketches to jog my memory.
When the first subject (with the up-do) disappeared to go about her work I fiddled with sketching the pen holder (fake roses on the pens) for a bit. Then a woman came in and stood at the desk for a couple minutes and I was able to sketch her. And she was someone I really wanted to remember because there was something wonderful about her cap of hair and the odd little curl on the right, emerging out of her quilted down jacket hood; and there was something wonderfully puffy, substantial and yet ethereal about that same jacket.
Because I'd already warmed up on the other woman and the rose, I was ble to finish a sketch which totally captures this woman, her hair, her jacket, the neat little puckers on the jacket, and the bulkiness of the hood—all the things that caught my attention.
It doesn't hurt my memory one bit to have picked up my pen on this day and sketched for 10 minutes (which is the time I had for all of them). In fact I believe (and no one can convince me otherwise) that BECAUSE I spent the time looking, really looking, and trying to capture what I saw on the journal page I saw more clearly and put the items more firmly in my memory.
If the world about you always presents you with visuals that make you stop on a dime and wish you could capture them, isn't it time you stopped hemming and hawing, and instead started carrying a visual journal?
That's a rhetorical question.