Second "Design Recharge" Interview: April 1, 2015 In this second interview with Diane Gibbs at "Design Recharge" we focus on International Fake Journal Month. If you're wondering just what that is, I give a great description of it, and why you might want to participate. Also check out our earlier interview (below on this list) if you want more information about how I approach visual journaling.
First "Design Recharge" Interview: February 12, 2015 Diane Gibbs of Design Recharge interviewed me for International Fake Journal Month (2015). We get a little side tracked and talk a lot about sketching, visual journaling, and my creative process. It's a great interview.
Danny Gregory and I Discuss Visual Journaling Sadly a two part podcast from May 2008 made with Danny Gregory, author of "An Illustrated Life," is not currently available. We talked about journaling, art media, and materials…If this becomes available again in the future I will let you know.
Finding Bits of Time Ricë Freeman-Zachery, author of "Creative Time and Space," talks to me about finding time to be creative. (Taped October 23, 2009.)
Above: Bulldog study from dog park photos—Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, light washes of gouache with a 2-inch brush and then a 1/2-inch filbert; and spatter. (7 x 9 inch handmade journal I bound using Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
A couple days ago I posted an "eggplant spread." After painting that page spread I realized that I only had two page spreads left in my journal. I really wanted to finish the journal.
While it was too late at night to do that I knew I could work on the blank spread (the one remaining which didn't have a prepainted background) and do a bunch of dog sketches as practice for an upcoming project. But once I focused in on some bulldog photos it became just a full page spread on one dog, not a smattering of many. I used Schmincke gouache already put out on the palette, dried and reconstituted: cadmium orange, cobalt blue, titanium yellow ochre. All the white in this image is paper color.
Then, my desire to move paint around somewhat assuaged, I went to bed.
While locating something else on my blog the other day this post came up. It struck me that here I was at the end of another summer and the thoughts expressed in this post from June 14, 2010 were back in my mind.
I was not only thinking about places, but also about people, as one of the people I most closely connect with my time in Grand Marais died in August. Without maudlin nostalgia or regret (as I mention in that post) I'm able to think back and recall that time and how friendships have changed and grown, all because of things captured in my visual journal.
And I found, as I said in my earlier post, time to look at my world with a fresh eye. It's time to make new plans and this is a helpful process.
So for today's Project Friday I suggest that you read my post on Return Visits. Follow through on the suggestions at the end of that post about taking time to look at your world with a fresh eye and plan a trip to a place you've been before.
You might only have started journaling two weeks ago, or 5 days ago, but there is something in your journaling life even then to which you can return.
Perhaps you went to the zoo two days ago. Go back now and sketch at least one of the same animals, noting something new about that animal. Maybe you have been sketching flowers in your garden as the fall weather strips them away (or spring brings in new life—depending on which hemisphere you live in). Either way you will find that a second look is valuable. And you will be getting more practice under your belt. That's the key to a lifetime habit of journaling.
It's also valuable in jump starting your questing mind and engaging that fresh eye. A new journaling habit will be enhanced and invigorated by this exercise. You'll find new energy to keep going. You'll find less dependence on external prompts and pushes. The questions of "what shall I draw?" "what matters to me now?" "what do I see," will become as simple to answer as following your attention.
If you have a long-standing journaling habit you will have more choices for your revisitation. You might even have a location that is a day trip away that you have already captured in your journal. Perhaps it's time to return.
Today's Project Friday is also a great way to silence your internal critic. Remind him that you are going back for more practice, another look, another attempt. Nothing has to be perfect. You can play (yes play, which means you can make a mess) with ideas of design and page composition, with use of color or a new medium.
Pick something that you can reexamine today or over the weekend and dive into this project. DIscover where you are going, how you have already changed. Get the first inklings of where a new plan might take you or touch your gratitude for the wonderful experiences you've been given in life—we've all had them, even if you feel you sometimes have to dig down to recall one. Focus on it. Use journaling to bring more recognition of that gratitude into your daily life.
Note: This exercise is also a great way to discover what might become a "series" for you over the long life of visual journaling you have in front of you. Enjoy the adventure.
connecting with gratitude through your journal, improving your visual journaling habit, journaling, Project Friday, strengthening your journaling habit, turning off your internal critic, using your journal to look with a fresh eye, visual journaling
Above: Gouache painting (Pentel Pocket Brush Pen Sketch beneath, completely covered) on a prepainted background where a note was collaged down first. (7 x 9 inch hand made journal I bound with Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper.) Click on the image to view an enlargement.
On September 16 I posted this prepainted background and another. I've since shown you what happened to the orange/red/green splotching background. Above you can see what I did to the green/blue/yellow background. (The colors are accurate here as this is a scan. The first posting shows a photograph without proper lighting.)
Sometimes Dick leaves me notes for when I return from my biking (because he has since left for work). I like to keep those notes. When I go on trips I actually fold them and will carry one around in my wallet like a talisman. There is something calming about his signature, penned with one of his fountain pens (he carries about 6). If I miss a bus or get held over in an airport I'll take it out and look at it. (You can tell I never really warmed to cell phones! I think people have more important things to do with their day than hear me whine about a missed connection. It's all those years of traveling without such "conveniences.")
Dick doesn't date and time his notes (I know, I know, how is that possible?). When I stick them in my journal as I did here on September 13, I write down the date below the note.
It was five more days before I painted on the spread. I had only three spreads left in the journal. I had skipped this page spread because of the collaged element and the knowledge I wanted to paint on the spread. (I don't mind a little disruption to chronology in my journals, especially at the end of a journal.)
A couple days before I painted this eggplant I was visiting a friend's parents and her mom was rummaging in the garden. She found this small (probably 5 inches long—I painted it larger than life size) eggplant that she had missed when making moussaka. "You want it?" she asked, plucking it from the plant and holding it towards me.
How could I resist such a lovely art deco styled botanical specimen?
It was several days before I had a moment to paint it—it was late at night after a brutal session of life drawing when I wondered if I could even still see! I put the plant on the TV stand and sat on the floor. A TV show I'd been watching earlier was paused (so I could go and get my paints; I'd watch it later).
Dick wandered in getting ready for bed and watched me sketch and then paint. After a few moments he started to laugh. "You kept looking up at the screen and Matthew Perry, but you weren't drawing him. I didn't see the eggplant right way."
Gouache Tips: How do you get that lovely dark color on the eggplant body? Mixes of Helio Turquoise (Schmincke) and Quin Red (M. Graham—I would have preferred Schmincke's Purple Magenta, but I didn't have a tube of it out and the Quin Red, which is still a little on the cool side had some benefits being also warmer than the magenta. Depending on how I ran my mixes I could get a very rich dark black and a red or blue cast to my purple). There's also some Cobalt blue in there. I slathered the paint on in a thick creamy state so that I would hide all the pen brush lines, but then I went back in with a little bit of Schmincke Titanium white to blend up some of the highlights.
Most of my time was spent with the stem—laying in Schmincke gouache colors (Vanadium Yellow, Titanium Gold Ochre, Helio Turquoise [to blend greens on the page], Burnt Sienna) and a small touch of the Quin Red from M. Graham. Since I wanted all the black brush lines to be covered and the top of the plant was so similar in color to the background I went rather stylized, but I still had a lot of fun with the paint.
I used mostly a filbert as wide as my index finger that I could turn on edge for thin lines. Some final details were put in with a small round brush.
If it had not been late at night I probably would have fussed out more color variation in the eggplant body, but I liked the finish the way it was and just added the scarring. The shadow had been added when the body of the eggplant was still moist so there could be some blending into the shadow.
You can Google Lifebuoy Soap and look for the "images" related to Lifebuoy and see the changes in typography, imagery, and package design. An entire course in the history of product design and typography could be made with this product.
While I tend to fall in love with older graphics from the 19th century, and I love several of the older examples of illustrated packaging for this product that I've found on line, there is something so clean and straightforward about this packaging that I can't help but love it.
So this morning while delaying the bike ride (I wanted it to be at least 50 degrees as the cooler temps came on suddenly and I'm not quite acclimatized—I know, I know, I love cold weather, but I'm just saying) I popped over to Urban Sketchers to see what people were up to and there was this wonderful animated gif by Bo Soremsky. You should go and watch it now and check out the other links in that post.
I'm just trying to get my animated gifs to switch between a before and after, but Soremsky has made little movies using the animated gif technology. I love what he is doing.
Left: An animated gif of a bird sketch I made in my journal recently. Wait 8 seconds and the image will switch to the painted version, and 8 seconds more and it will switch back to the line work, etc. Or that's the theory. I've worked out that if I click on it so that it enlarges the screen changes, but I'll check when it goes live. If it still doesn't work scroll down to the end of the post to see the full spread which shows the finished painting. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I was out and about in town the other day without my journal so I was sketching on little bits of paper and did the sketch of the woman you'll see in the full page spread image at the end of this post.
Then when I pasted it in at home I wanted to do more sketching and painting so I got out some photos I'd taken of birds in an aviary at a nursing home. I threw them up on my computer screen (which is large) and started sketching. I was using a fresh, juicy .5 Staedtler Pigment Liner and you can see there is a variety of line thickness you can get with that pen.
I really loved the line drawing so I took a moment to photograph it before I went ahead with the painting. I wanted to paint it in part to help it stand out against the purple strip (stamp ink). I had deliberately started my sketch so a portion of the bird would extend onto the color strip, but it would have worked better if I had positioned the bird a little more either to the left or the right. I find the beak split right at the "forehead" too distracting.
I used gouache for the painting. I used dilute washes in most areas because I wanted to let the lines (which I was in love with) show through.
This is in a 7 x 9 inch journal I bound with Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media paper.
Below: The full page spread. Before arriving at this spread I had prepainted the spread with rubberstamp ink. I had taped off sections of the page to paint them purple. The large purple rectangle on the left page (which bleeds off the top, bottom and fore edge of that page) would have been perfect as the background of a sketch. (I use Brilliance Ink and it drys waterproof, or at least I have found it water resistant.) Instead, it became the perfect place to put one of my paper scraps that I've been sketching on (because I have a shoulder problem and am not carrying my journal right now). The tab in the gutter is from a pre-cut page. When I start a new journal I cut out pages throughout the journal. This makes room for any collage material I may add later. I often attach things to these tabs, or paint right across them. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Above: Another view out a waiting room window. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
The above sketch was made on a scrap of paper (Gutenberg) while I was out and about. I glued it into my journal (which was left at home because I'm sparing my shoulder the stress of carrying heaving bags). The journal is a 7 x 9 inch book I made with Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper. I cropped the page because you can get a larger view if I don't show you the blank half page below. (From this you can tell the scrap is about 4.5 inches tall and 6.5 inches wide.)
Most important you can see a little bird on a weed in the middle of that green shrubbery in the front.
I was sketching with a Staedtler Pigment Liner and painting with light washes of Schmincke gouache and a Niji waterbrush.
Whenever no one is in the waiting room, or they are too close for me to sketch, the window views, regardless of how many times I've sketched them, make the time speed by. Each time I see a new detail. Each time my eye learns something.
Above: An animated gif of the first and then the final stage of this journal page spread painting. Wait 5 seconds and the image will toggle to the final version from the first stage, or vice versa, depending on where the cycle starts. Every 5 seconds it will switch. (I forget what type of pigeon this is, but it is a large, blocky bird with a powerful chest, a smaller head, and shorter beak than street pigeons and other fancy pigeons. (My Fair journal is in the other room so I can't look it up.) This is not an exaggerated sketch. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Update: Darn, after going live with this post it looks as if the animated gif doesn't work. It could be that I have something set up in my browser preventing it and it's fine on your screen, but if the first image in this post doesn't toggle every 5 seconds between the yellow paper version and the final painted version scroll down and see the final version at the bottom of this post. It's not as fun as seeing them merge one from the other, but you'll see both versions.
After multiple trips to the Minnesota State Fair and a whole lot of sketching pigeons from life I started making studies with my sketches for paintings.
For some reason I was working on yellow legal pad paper. It was handy. Then I got two sketches in a row that I really liked just the way they were.
I took the sketches and glued them inside my in-studio 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia journal. I completed the sketches, extending the drawing lines onto the page spread. Then I applied various media and paints.
At first I thought I'd just paint the backgrounds of each spread and leave them that way. But I wanted to paint the figures too—so I compromised and painted one, shown above.
Left: Detail of the painted version. You can see some of the texture of the different media and papers coming through the paint on the bird. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Now I am lost in the planning of a lot of really large bird paintings done this way—with lined paper collaged down or not? I don't know.
Dick suggested keeping the birds smaller, because while he isn't bothered by birds, my large bird paintings seem to frighten people. He also didn't care for the yellow paper (which I adore).
Then Dick started laughing, "That reminds me of the scene in 'Tin Cup,'" and he quoted from the movie (he also frequently quotes from "Last of the Mohicans").
Roy McAvoy (Kevin Costner): Hey you ever shoot par with a 7-iron?
David Sims (Don Johnson): Why hell Roy, it never even occurred to me to try.
So why did I take this approach Dick wanted to know? Frankly it never even occurred to me to not try. That's the fun of creative play.
I just love the tape, the paper color and lines, the way the different media changed the texture of the paper, the way the gouache still worked so well on the paper.
Take materials you don't use together regularly and mix them up. Don't worry about the finished product, just concentrate on what you discover in the process.
Above: Final painted version, shown here because the animated gif didn't work. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Note: If you'd like to learn the particular process I'm using in this series watch for an on-line class in 2013. I'm working on some tutorials that will contain some animated gifs (that will actually work!), and some videos. UPDATE: APRIL 2014—Sorry the class didn't happen in 2013. I cleared and cleaned Dick's parents' home of 60 some years and we settled them into assisted living. In the process I injured my shoulder and that led to another series of unfortunate events…so no online classes. If you would like to see a class of mine on line you can join in at Sketchbook Skool for Semester 1, which starts April 4, 2014. Gouache classses and binding classes and sketching classes from me on line will come sometime in the future, but probably not until 2015. Thanks for asking and for the great interest.
Above: Page spread from my current visual journal which is a 7 x 9 inch journal I made with Strathmore500 Series Mixed Media Paper (which is available in sheets—Or if you don't bind books you can always buy their hardcover bound books featuring this paper). The background is prepainted with acrylic paints. The pen sketch (Staedtler Pigment Liner .3) is on a scrap of the same paper the journal is made of—simply because it was what was in the scrap pile I cut up to carry along in my purse. Read more about the dove below. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I've written posts before about using journal cards—prepared, precut pieces of paper or card stock that you keep in your pocket or bag and use for journaling. These are great for when you are traveling and don't know how many pages of a book you might fill, or when you want to create a portfolio of sketches (see my MN State Fair Journal from 2007 for one example).
But I think it is important enough to stress working whether you can carry your journal or not, so that's why I'm looking at that topic as today's Journaling Superstition. We can find lots of excuses to not do the things that we love, or need to do; the things that are healthy for us. The goal is to keep journaling no matter what. Don't let someone's ability to carry 100 pounds of book and art supplies give you pause about your own journaling. The point is to make your journaling work for you!
If you're a regular reader of the blog lately you've been seeing spreads like the one above for the last couple months—pieces of paper with sketches on them, stuck on my journal pages. (I even wrote a very short post about this on August 11, 2012, but I wanted to say more.)
That's because I've been having a recurring problem with my shoulder. Carrying anything heavy at all around my neck (such as a purse strap), or shoulders (like backpack straps) is beyond irritating. Wearing my travel fanny pack isn't really a good solution either as I have to take it off and on and swing it around with my arm every time I get into and out of the car. That causes wear and tear on my right arm (and probably contributes in some odd way to the imbalance in my left shoulder).
But I have to keep journaling. I never leave the house without pieces of scrap paper cut in a size that will fit the current journal. (I save my scraps from bookbinding for just this purpose.)
So on September 7 I was rushing about town and stopped to get my allergy shot. I didn't have my journal, but I did have a piece of paper and a pen.
The next evening I had still not stuck the slip of paper into my journal (usually I do that first thing when I return home). I debated on skipping this spread and gluing the sketch on the next spread, saving this one for a full-spread painting, but I loved the background so much that I thought it would be wonderful to have the white paper on top of it.
When I sat down to paint I put tape vertically down on the verso page to reserve space for the sketch from the allergist's office. I didn't want anything important from my dove study to go under the area where I was going to put the "scrap."
You'll also see at the top of the page there is a thin line of collaged paper just above the man's head. This is from the previous spread. It got wrapped over and then painted when I painted the spread a week before.
Left: The background of this spread had been painted during the previous week with no plan in mind. On this evening I put the strip of masking tape in place to remind me not to put "important" features of the painting beyond the masking tape where the pasted down sketch would go. I then used a round brush to paint the outlines of the bird. I laid in a bit of cobalt blue and Dark Indigo blue where there would be shadow areas as I wanted to blend those pigments up through the following layers. I'm not concerned about the corrections needed to beak and head top because I know I can "erase" the watersoluble line of gouache, and I know this paper is strong enough to take reworking. Once the outline was sketched I removed the masking tape before starting to fill out the painting. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I painted the dove using sketches and photos I'd made and taken while Phyllis was in the nursing home (there was an aviary there). I did a direct painting with a brush and some Dark Indigo Blue Schmincke gouache (my beloved PB60). When painting the bird, again with gouache, I left the breast area open to the background colors because I really liked the colors showing through at that point, especially the blue blotch of color. I used a 12 and an 8 filbert for all the painting except for final details on the eye, for which I used a number 4 round with a wonderful point (a Richeson synthetic brush).
When the painting was dry I glued the sketch of the man in place on the left-hand page.
Don't let the inconvenience of injuries or the compact nature of your purse or day pack keep you from journaling. Carry scraps with you for sketching and note taking.
You might decide to do them all the same size and make a portfolio for them. You might decide to paste them into your current journal and keep up the chronology of your days. You might decide to just throw them in a box and save them loose.
However you decide to keep them I recommend that you keep them. I also recommend that you date and time each scrap or "card" so that if they are loose you can order them and be reminded of the passage of time.
The important thing to remember is that if sketching and journaling matter to you keep sketching and journaling; whether or not you're able to bring your journal with you when you're out and about.