Above: Still working in that Japanese Lined Notebook with mixed media. This was a prepainted page begun with pink and orange Montana Marker, then I stenciled with a raspberry pink Montana Marker, rubberstamped in places, placed some Washi tape here and there, covered the tape with more orange marker (which also helped to knock back the stridency of the black floral tape), and started sketching with the fine-tipped pigmented black Pentel Brush Pen. I was working from a mugshot and from a 19th century photo (I collect these). When I sketched the face on the left page there wasn't enough orange paint over the Washi tape so the ink wouldn't stick to the page at the top of his hairline. I finished my sketch and then tore a strip of translucent decorative paper to cover the problem area. I drew over that paper to restate those lines. I deliberately left the head off the body on the right page because I wanted to focus on the clothing. I used the brush pen to sketch and then used Schmincke gouache to paint. I left the paints unpainted because I really loved that portion of the background. Sometimes I can't make myself cover backgrounds up. It's rare, but it happens. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
We all go through our days mostly self-absorbed. Even if we are working to help someone else we are still self-absorbed to the point of keeping track of our to do list so that we can be effective helpers. This is just part of being human (though too much self-absorbtion, like too much chocolate, is bad).
Then when we decide to suddenly zig left when all around us expect us to zag right there can be a little bit of discomfort all around. And sometimes even some hard feelings.
We still have to zig and zag as our conscience dictates.
But what is interesting to me is that people do change. And in that change, come to accept some of our actions, or some of the paths we took, which they might not have understood at first, or cared for at all.
When Dick came into the studio while I was painting the headless guy on the left side of today's image, he stopped and said something complimentary. I was so shocked that I don't even recall his exact words (which is rare for me).
Dick actually liked this spread. And why is that so surprising? Well for years Dick was used to me working realistically with maybe some washes of color and a little bit of tone-on-tone texture. But mostly what he saw when he came into the studio was something very realistic, and often funny or sarcastic.
Since the 1990s he's come in and seen whackier and whackier stuff. All with more and more overblown backgrounds.
A couple things happened to make me zig instead of zag.
1. Hand wear and tear—I couldn't do the realistic stipple sketches I'd done for years. Pouncing your hand up and down like a piston for hours on end is hard work—try it.
2. Eye wear and tear—my vision changed for a couple reasons, only one of which was age. Through all these eye adjustments and new glasses and additional adjustments I started working looser and looser.
3. The need for speed—sometimes at the end of the day I just want to get something in my journal and if the journal page already has a very active background all I have to do is complete a 3 minute sketch (like that man's face above) and bingo bango I feel pretty darn productive. It's just a little game I play with myself.
4. My increasing love of paper which extended itself to washi tape. (I know, I know, just shake your head. ACK ACK.)
5. A seemingly growing need on my part to set myself more and more "difficult" (i.e., fun) "problems" to solve (or not solve, I'm not fussy if things don't work out) in my visual journal—just so I can see "what if." And because of that we end up with mixed media pages like today's example.
6. Which is really part of item 5 and item 3 above—the desire to experience the wonderful sense of well-being I get from items 3 and 5 when exercised on a daily basis.
Do I still do tight ink sketches or graphite sketches? Sometimes, if I feel like it. I rarely feel like it. I remind myself that the approaches I'm exploring are "for now" and I know they will change in the future.
That's something else the journal can remind us of—we're in the now, now, and things can change in the future, but let's stay in the now, for now.
For instance, there is no getting back to the vision I had at 23. Even Dr. Bob, wizard that he is, accepts not only my need to see things crisply, but his own need to work within the limits of "science facts"! Together we deal with the Now.
We have a story in the family: years ago Dick's 90-year-old grandmother went to the eye doctor (Dr. Bob's older practice partner, now long retired) and said, "Dr. Shapiro, will the cataract surgery make my vision 20/20 again?" Without pausing a beat Dr. Shapiro replied, "Hattie, nothing on you will ever be 20/20 again."
That's something we all have to remember as people, but also as artists as physical changes dictate artistic changes.
Throughout my life, because I have always kept a journal, I've been aware of the changes that I've gone through. In fact I've used the journal as a tool to enact some changes, to shift my focus, to improve certain skills. So change doesn't surprise me.
But Dick was so adamantly against the textured and prepainted backgrounds I've used that it took me by surprise he should be so clear in his excitement about this piece I was working on.
And that's when I realized that people can change, not just me, because I've watched myself change over time, but other folks too. It's been like this long-term lab experiment with Dick and now he's finally seen something in these prepainted backgrounds and my approach to them that he likes.
I just plain wore him down.
Who knows what he thinks of all the flat pink backgrounds I've been filling up behind portraits and other sketches on the pages of these Japanese Lined Notebooks, or the drawings I've been doing from imagination—He hasn't walked into the studio and given them his seal of approval.
But the busy backgrounds with the textures and tones, yep I wore him down.
Perhaps it's the discussions we have had in the past several years when he asks me why I did something in one of my paintings. Perhaps my joy in the materials is infectious. Who knows.
I just know that change is possible. He now accepts and likes something that in previous years he didn't. Now if I can only get him to like clearing out some of his clutter. Clearly that's an even longer term project.
But then I've changed too. When his clutter bothers me I simply go into the studio and paint. I get a lot of painting done.
I live in the Now concerning that clutter.
I believe we need to give ourselves a lot of space to change. I think it's healthy for humans. But I also think the best space for change can be found in a journal, whether you work out your change visually or verbally.
I prefer this method of giving myself space to change because it is portable, tactile, and fun. And because it leaves evidence that I can refer back to.
All memory is selective even before it begins to deteriorate. Sometimes we remember the bad over the good simply because we've spent more time dwelling on the bad.
A journal can help you see what you're dwelling on. Then allow you space to deal with it. Next encourage you to diversify and move away into new things. It just takes a moment and something as simple as a pencil.
If you have a record of your creative life staring at you from the shelves across the room, you can feel more comfortable making a self-assessment and setting new goals because you know where you've been and know how change works in your life.
The journal is also a great space for working out how to deal with the fact that others around you don't like or accept the fact that you're changing—because there is always someone in your life who doesn't like that you aren't zagging in step with them.
I'm grateful, because at the age of 3-1/2 I learned that not only do some people disapprove of the ways in which I'm changing, but that the journal gives me a haven for change, freed from that disapproval.
The journal allowed me to grow up into the empathetic, sarcastic, goofy, bitchy, wonder-struck, snarky, perceptive, compassionate person I am today. That and reading Dickens.
The journal is a very powerful tool.