RozWorks.com Visit my website to view journal selections, paintings, and book arts projects. For the most recent information on classes and workshops please click on "Classes" in the categories list of this blog.
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.)
I'm posting today to reach anyone who read my blog and purchased the special 10-tube Schmincke Horadam Gouache Set in the past week.
If you purchased this set of gouache last week and followed the instructions it contained for retrieving my Gouache PDF, and you downloaded it before 10:30 CDT today (May 9, 2016), note that there is now a revised handout up in the same location.
I hope you will follow your set's instructions and download the corrected PDF.
(Check the running foot on your handout. If it says "May 8, 2016" before the page number at the bottom of the page you have the REVISED version. If it just says "May" you need to go and retrieve a new one.)
I apologize for any confusion, but yesterday a student who had purchased the set asked me a question. He had not yet received the set. To save myself having to write a lengthy note I went to the PDF to verify that I'd answered that question. (I write so much about gouache it does all tend to seem like one big everlasting document!)
At that point I saw I indeed did answer his question. but also I had inadvertently used an early version of my first chart. It didn't match the text.
I immediately fixed the document and sent a new version to Wet Paint. Wet Paint has placed the corrected PDF in the SAME location. Please use your special information to go and download that revised handout.
You will notice immediately if you go to the bottom of page one that the running foot says "May 8 2016." That and the fact the p.6 chart is different, will verify that you have the new one.
If you haven't received your set via mail yet you don't have instructions on how to get a PDF, so you don't have to worry. When you do receive your set and you follow the instructions in your set you'll find the revised handout already in place.
I'm sorry for any confusion the other PDF caused—things happened very quickly! The chart and text will now make sense.
Above: Quick pear sketches using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen (PPBP) in a handmade journal made with defunct printmaking paper that I'm totally besotted with. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Slowly, inevitably, I am working my way through this journal I made in the early 2000s with the last of a now defunct printmaking paper. It is so fabulous not only as bookbinding paper, but for all the visual arts.
You'll see a tab in the gutter. I actually bound this book with tabs because I collage a lot in my journals and this creates extra space at the spine for that added bulk and protects the spine. However I don't recommend you do this if you're binding your own books. It creates a book that is lower at the fore edge than the spine and when you finish casing it in and have to quick whip it into a press or under some weights, you have to first put in some clean blank waste paper at various points in the textblock to offset this—but this can lead to some impressing of the lines of those inserted papers into the pages of the book if you don't get it right, and you shouldn't be opening your book yet anyway (all my students can hear my voice in their head telling them this), and time is a-wasting!
The sad thing is that I have this lovely book with great space for collage and I haven't collaged anything in it because I want to use each of these pages for ink or paint.
It is wonderful the way the PPBP and other pens move across this surface. The paper is very smooth, but there is a very slight tooth and that tooth allows you to get interesting "dry' brush shading with the pen. Let's just say it is always fun to work on this paper. On Thursday I'd been at the computer most of the day and really wanted to sketch so I savored the moment.
Left: The same spread—but I've flipped over the tab so you can see the full right-hand page. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Friday morning on my bike ride I came up with a wonderful plan on how to use the tabs while still savoring all the pages for sketching—if I decide to follow through on that at an event in a couple weeks I will post about it again here.
Enjoy your favorite papers while you have them. Don't let your internal critic or your inclination to resistance fake you out into setting them aside for when you've reached your peak, or mastered your skills, or the planets are in alignment.
Saving or hoarding for another day—it's not a good thing. Work more NOW!
Don't buy into the Myth of Scarcity. You'll find something else to work on later. Something you'll be able to turn to your hand because you've prepared yourself.
Appreciate your materials while you work with them. That loving appreciation will help you recognize the next favorite when it presents itself.
Here's an idea:You know that favorite, really special pen that you put in a drawer and are saving until you can hatch like Anders Zorn? Or those paint sticks that cost the earth but you just don't have the hang of yet, but will some day when you understand perspective? Or…? You fill in the blank.
Go get it/them out right now. Unwrap them; fill them up with ink if necessary; and have them right on hand ready to be called into action the next time you are setting out to sketch or are going into the other room to sketch your luncheon vegetables.
And use them.
Everyday, for as long as you can.
And during that time, write on your pages about how it feels to use them; what they feel like against the paper you're working on; how they create lines that you like, or blend in ways that you hunger for.
Write about everything you notice. SAVOR the entire experience—which includes writing about how they smell (especially if you are using paper, never forget how wonderful paper can smell).
When you run out, or if you lose something, or drop it and it isn't fixable—have a moment of silence to honor your partner in sketching. Thank it for the help and insight it gave you.
Then go to your drawer and get something else to work with.(You can even draw your old tool in commemoration.)
Above: Examples of the Simple Round Back Spine structure. The book at the left and front both have recessed labels which we'll create in class. We will discuss other labeling approaches like the back, right book in class. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Whether spring has just started where you live and it’s time to make journals for your summer adventures outside, or winter is approaching and it’s time to stay by the fire and sketch it’s always the perfect time bind some sketchbooks.
It doesn’t matter if you are just starting your journaling and sketching habit or you have been filling journals for years,you’ve probably wished that you could make a lovely, elegant, sturdy journal with paper that holds up to your working methods, in a size you love. A structure that will open flat on a scanner!
In this detailed class I will take you through the creation of just such a journal. I will teach you about paper grain, tearing paper, punching sewing holes, folding and sewing your signatures, and every step of creating the book cover and casing in your text block. The videos show each step clearly. I provide explanations for the “why” behind my approach so that you can come to understand binding more completely.
Students will work at their own pace.Some students finish a book in the first two days of class, others work throughout the month on one book. You can decide when you want to work. I will be active in class throughout May to answer your questions.
Class is geared toward the home bookbinder who does not have large presses and other expensive binding equipment. With only a few simple tools you can bind your own books.
For class purposes students will need to work with specific supplies so that I can ensure you learn the fundamentals and end up with a sound structure.But you are then encouraged to continue to make books throughout the year to solidify your knowledge. During that phase of class students branch out into different sizes and different papers. I will continue to check the classroom during the year to answer questions and provide suggestions.
Additionally there will be four live webinars. Students will be able to ask questions and be part of a live discussion. (Don’t worry if you live in a different time zone. The webinars are taped and can be viewed at the student’s convenience.)
Classroom access to all the videos and classroom discussion lasts for at least one year from the class starting date. You will be able to review the tapes again and again as you continue to make books during the year. You will be building a durable skill.
I hope that you will join me to discover how fun and satisfying the binding process is.
Note: While this book structure is totally suitable for collage work, if the majority of your visual journal work is collage I would suggest that you wait a few months to take my Sewn-on-the-Spine Journal class. That class is perfect for the sketcher who needs a structure that accommodates even dimensional collage. I wanted to give you a heads up that this class is coming because I realize we all need to budget our money and our time.
Additional book structures will be featured in upcoming classes in 2017.
I finished using my tester journal at the end of 2015 and will repeat what I said in that initial post on the sketchbook—if you like cold press watercolor paper the Kilimanjaro paper is delightful. It comes in the original bright white and also a "natural" white. (I used the original bright white though some of my scans were made on a dying scanner and not flattened properly so there is shadow on the pages—it is a bright white paper.)
In my testing I found that many pens worked great on this paper.
For this monochromatic sketch to test laying in shadows I used the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush pen (which is a pretty stuff fiber tip that’s more like a felt tip marker than a brush pen). The ink dried well on the paper and I was able to add watercolors immediately.
Click on any image to view an enlargement.
Below: All sketches are from a 9 x 12 inch portrait style journal (it’s also available in landscape). Left: ink and watercolor, Right: direct brush painting. Both sketches were made while I was watching a discussion panel made up of the people responsible for the TV show “Justified.”
Below: Sketches made while watching, “The Detectorists.” I was trying to ascertain how quickly I could mix and blend watercolor on the paper. (Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and right, direct brush.)
Below: Experimenting with the Platinum Carbon Black Fiber-tipped brush penand gouache to see if I wanted to take gouache (most of the ink has been covered.
Below: Left with the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen and watercolors, with red gouache in the background. Right with the same pen and 30 second or less sketches of people moving on TV. This sheet is one of the “drawing paper sheets” that is interleaved between the watercolor paper in this journal. It’s a nice paper, but pretty thin and “vanilla” It takes pencil but pen shows through and wet media seeps through (top).
Below: Left, the drawing paper again, here you can see the ink show through from the previous page. I’m working with purple color pencil to see if I want to work with color pencil and watercolor at the Fair—so quick gesture sketches of people walking around. Right, color pencil (Dark grape) and watercolor test on the cold press watercolor paper. (Quick sketches from TV.)
Below: I had already decided not to use this sketchbook for the Fair, but I wanted to continue to work through its pages and test other materials. Here is a sketch from TV (stopped) using the Sakura Pigment Sensei pen .6 with watercolors. On the right I’ve taped out an area, toned it with acrylics and used the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen to sketch Stephen Fry on a Gear and Tech show he did. I used Nichiban artist’s masking tape. It removed easily from this paper.
Below: I repeated the taping experiment (Nichiban tape was left on for up to 2 weeks without difficulty on this paper). Besides sketching a character actor using the PPBP I colored over the toned background with Montana Acrylic Marker. And Right, I prepainted the background with acrylic paint, let it dry, and then taped a window area, into which I then did a sketch of Dick from life usingthe PPBP and then went in with gouache.
Construction of the Kilimanjaro sketchbook is the only thing I didn’t like about it.
I could deal with the light weight drawing paper, but the covers and coil binding of the Kilimanjaro Sketchbook weren't quality.
There is a thick but dull and unappealing back cover of some sort of pressed cardboard. The front of the journal is a thin label sheet on card stock which has the details about the product. Beneath that sheet (which is meant to be torn away) you have a sheet of 300 lb. Kilimanjaro. The idea is that you will paint your own cover.
I kept the cover sheet on until I finished the journal (in fact it’s still on) and recommend you too keep the label sheet on until you are through working in the book. In fact I would recommend you wrap the label sheet and 300 lb. watercolor "cover" together in clean newsprint to keep them clean and unharmed as you work in the book. The back cover, with very little use got exceedingly dog eared and it looks very cheap and tacky. You might wrap that while working in the book too.
The coil binding is of the type that is comprised of loops that don’t lock, but simply circle into the pages and bend towards each other. The problem with this type of coiling is that if it isn’t applied correctly the pages “leak out” where the opening is, as it runs the length of the coil. This is unfortunate because the pages shift to those openings every time you fold them back on each other (the point of a coil binding) or sometimes just open the book. I purchased 5 of these books and they were all like this. Other sketchbooks purchased long ago from different vendors using this type of coiling positioned the ends differently to avoid this problem. Maybe the folks at Cheap Joe's were just having a bad day at the factory? But all my American Journey Watercolor journals came with the coiling also poorly applied (I bought 5 of those too, all bad).
This defect can be remedied by doing the following:
Take a piece of stout string or waxed linen cord (I used 3 ply) and knot to the wire at the base end of the coil. You will then lace the thread through the loops made by the coil so that you are weaving in and out from male loop to female loop, tightening to leave no gaps. Knot on the wire at the head of the coil and trim your thread.
This kept the pages of the two American Journey journals I took to the Fair together without incident. When the Fair was over I simply numbered the pages, cut the cord, slipped out the coil (which didn’t argue or put up a fuss) and put the pages of two and a half sketchbooks in one stack, with one set of covers. (The American Journey Watercolor Journal Line has lovely hard board covers with a tough covering. They are marred only by a debossed logo on the cover—I like my commercially bound journals naked.) Using a large diameter plastic coil I purchased for about 30 cents from what was Kinko’s (I don’t know what they are called now), I then threaded the coil through the holes in the stack of covers and pages, and cranked the coil end tips over at about 1/4 inch from the end with a fine-tipped pliers (it stops them from unwinding backwards through the holes). The Fair journal was complete, no problem. (OK, I did cut down into the cover board and lift out the American Journey logo and lay in a laminated print of my spin art.)
I did the same re-coiling procedures on the Kilimanjaro book, substituting a new coil after its pages had been filled, and then scanned. No problem.
I will happily use the American Journey Journal line again as I like the stiff covers. If I use the Kilimanjaro again I will create different covers for it and have them punched at Kinko’s.
So there you have it—the Kilimanjaro paper will delight any traditional watercolorist. The issues with the construction of the sketchbook can be handled as discussed.
Left: 9 x 12 inch sketch of Dick as he sat at his computer desk and looked over at me. Pentel Brush Pen with pigment ink and squeezy barrel. Flex Book paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Today's post is for my current "Drawing Practice" students. We've been discussing whether it's possible to get some shading done with the Pentel Brush Pen (with pigment ink and a squeezy barrel).
I believe it is. I simply don't squeeze the pen after I get started. I do all my contours with the heavy black ink flow and by the time it starts to dry out I can go in and scrub in some shadow values.
When I finished and turned to go—
Dick: Can I see it?
I flipped it around so he could view it. (Let me tell you he looked physically ill when I started to draw and he saw me fold the sewn-signature sketchbook back on itself—more about that in the upcoming review.)
Dick: That's a relief. The whole time you were just scribbling back and forth with the brush grinding into the paper and I thought, well I didn't know what to think.
Above: Sketch made from the TV, watching a "Top Chef." This is one of the competitors. Pentel pigment ink squeezable brush pen. In a Flex Book sketchbook, which I'll review next week. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Choices about ink delivery can be important to the over all look of your sketch. And while this sketch has a definite messy look I quite enjoy the way I used the dry-brush effects of this brush pen: the Pentel pigment ink squeezable brush pen.
I drew my contours in quickly by first squeezing the pen and making sure the ink saturated the brush. After the main contours were in I worked in the dark value areas like the hair, and beard until the brush started to go dry, and then I filled in the lighter areas of shading with the resultant dry brush, and lighter pressure.
It's a very quick and fun way to explore making different drawing vocabulary marks.
Above: A quick (less than 5 minute) sketch of Dick (he was ready to go to bed and tired), with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen in the Flex Book journal I'll review soon. (I wanted to take it to life-drawing co-op before I wrote my review.) Read below for more details. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
My free sketching time has been rather short lately. I just started a new session of my Drawing Practice class. (I'll teach another one in 2017 if you are interested but the current class closed January 29.) On days when I can't get out and about to sketch, Dick has been obliging me by siting on the couch in the TV room.
On this page spread I had masking tape on the left page, forming a rectangle. As I drew the drawing got larger than intended and I really wanted to include the ear—so I ripped up the taped on the right side of the rectangle and the base.
Then I kept sketching off onto the right-hand page, leaving a wad of masking tape stuck, out of the way, on my shoulder.
With the sketch finished Dick went off to bed and I put down the orange Montana Marker color (with a 15 mm tipped marker). But I didn't rip up the rest of the tape and I didn't want to finish up his head, so I put down two patterns of washi tape over the masking tape, and then used a blue Montana Marker (another 15 mm tipped one) to lay in light blue strokes of color.
I put that same marker color on my finger tip and colored the irises of his eyes.
And then I went to bed too.
So even though I had been interacting with students all day I got a little bit of sketching in between bedtime and that was satisfying.
Also as you can see from the mess, I was having a lot of fun.
Left: I have been watching "Morse" in an effort to understand some things that I'll share another day. It means I end up sketching the actors, here the actor playing Morse's boss. Pentel pigment brush pen, on Nideggen with Montana Acrylic Marker background added afterwards. The brush pen LOVES this paper. That's all I can say. Sometimes you hit the lines so perfectly that you really can't think why there is any need to add paint. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
But something great came out of this drive to finish. I painted more with watercolor and with gouache, spending longer than average on each page, while still doing more pages. I focused on my goals of working with watercolor while my work world was toppling in around me and the need to take the folks to this appointment or that cropped up every other day.
That made me think of a question someone asked methe other day on Facebook. Did I have a favorite journal, or journals and if so which were they?
Close friends have been through the drill: if there is a fire, help me save my Dottie journals. They are my favorite because they really are about my relationship with a lovely dog and a testament to a majestic dog who selected Dottie for me, because she knew Dottie was just what I needed.
Left: Another character actor from "Morse," it's actually a VERY young Martin Clunes! Pentel pigment brush pen and white Sharpie Poster Paint (watersoluble) on Nideggen with Montana Acrylic Marker (background and pocket square) added afterwards. I was having fun with the texture of his shirt and jacket. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Beyond those journals I suppose in someways there are too many journals filled in my lifetime to have favorites. I can look at any journal and find growth (which makes me happy), discovery (which makes me joyous), and mess (which makes me absolutely over the moon because it proves I’m trying and pushing myself).
If cornered to declare a favorite beyond the Daily Dots I think I would have to say that I am often happiest with journals I make on trips or take to the State Fair. I’m really focusing every moment of my time on getting something down on paper. I feel I have a mission. I feel like a well-oiled machine, capable to do anything in any amount of time. I feel I’m on an expedition, and the goals for pages or insights are higher.
But then I think about it a little longer and realize, that's how I feel every day of my life. I have always been on an expedition. This is a common feeling of Third Culture Kids, they are always observing they are always exploring. So if I look at the “regular” journals I see that’s all contained within them as well, except the growth, discovery, and mess emerges from the muck of “regular” life and duties.
Ultimately it’s those journals, full of the muck of life, that are my favorites—journals I created out of my regular life. Journals I filled by keeping myself open to the wondrous things around me every single day of my life—not simply special occasions. (The Daily Dots fit happily into this category as well. Almost as if I planned it.)
And of those journals I think the recent Nideggen journal, created at the end of 2015, is definitely one of my all time favorites.
When I showed the recent Nideggen journal to my friend Diane, who understands journals, sketching, painting, color, and paper in ways similar and different to me, she actually petted the pages.
We laughed because she knew that I’d done that too, and probably would do it again.
There is something marvelous about paper that has been touched by the human hand and given new content in the form of an illustration. Paper whose structure has been forever changed by what you put on it—warped by the moisture, scored by the emphatic pen stroke. This is what paper was meant for. Now there is something on that paper that wasn’t there before, that didn’t exist, that came out of my mind through my hand. The paper is no longer new and pristine. It’s used. It has lived.
I think that’s the biggest compliment you can give to paper, to step aside from your ego that may be telling you that you aren’t good enough to use the paper and actually use it. To make a statement.
Is it the best statement you’ll ever make? No, probably not, but you made a statement.
Tomorrow you’ll make another statement, and another.
And at the end of your life you’ll have pages and pages of those statements which testify to the fact that you observed, and you thought, and you were present in life.
Above: 11 x 15 inch sketch on cheap ("I'll fall apart if you put wet media on me like you're trying to do" Paper), with Pentel Pigment brush pen and Pentel Dye-based brush pen with water. Selfie, showing my painting shirt, sketched while standing before a mirror in the bathroom. I was sketching Dick on this evening and I flicked my brush up by my shoulder and even though he was sick and only half awake he started up and said, "Did you just wipe your brush on your shirt?" R: Huh? [looking up.] Did I? I don't know. D: You just wiped it right there. [Pointing to my shoulder.] R: Yeah, probably, I don't even notice. Look what I've got on. It hardly matters.—We laugh. I'm wearing a 20-year-old cotton sweatshirt, three sizes too big and torn out beneath both arm pits (seams just gave way) and all the hems at the neck and sleeves are frayed. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
A couple times a year I take a little time to evaluate what I’ve been up to, what has been working, what goals are still unmet, and what new goals I see emerging. For the past several years I’ve been sharing my end-of-year self-evaluations on my blog. It allows me to share a little bit more of my life with readers, and model what I think is an essential behavior for effecting change in a creative life.
The look back at 2015 is harder this year. I lost a lot of people: two cousins, an aunt, an uncle, and several friends. Sometimes the deaths were expected because of advanced age. Other times not. Both are difficult to deal with, but both also insist that you take time to reflect on the importance of each individual in your life and the gifts of understanding, compassion, and friendship they bestowed on your life. Death also reminds me to hold my friends closer, to talk to them more. It works against my natural inclination to hunker down and work and work. When we lose people who loved life and fully participated in life it’s a reminder to keep seeking balance in our own lives as well, and to carry on their influence.
2015 was also a hard year for me physically. The hours I’d been putting into eldercare for Dick’s parents took their toll. I was ill from the end of December 2014 through May 2015. I had one week during that time when I wasn’t suffering from a cold, bronchitis, flu, or pneumonia.
It was a wake up call to change how I was living. I always got my cycling and physical therapy in before that, but I had been running on empty for too long. I was susceptible to every germ that visited the folks.
Dick and I had many discussions about how I could go forward in a healthy way, participating in eldercare for his folks. It’s interesting to me, and not a little humorous, that this change and realignment of boundaries over eldercare happened to coincide exactly with the folks’ own diminishing abilities to remember whether I had been there for six three- or four-hour visits a week, or two. Recently in fact my father-in-law announced on the phone to his daughter that I was dead, despite the fact that I’d happened to see him the three previous days in a row. We’ve shifted the dynamic of how I spend my time with them to protect my health, my work efforts, and ensure that they have companionship on a regular basis for what we believe, and hope, will be many more years to come.
In spite of this shift in balancing eldercare needs it was well into cycling season before I was able to get on my bike and ride outside again. I found it took several months before my lungs and legs worked as a unit. Even with that late start I was able to log 2,468.12 miles on the road in one of the most beautiful cities in the world. I was able to keep that up with the help of a fabulous massage therapist, David Wicklund, and because I kept doing my physical therapy exercises for my neck and shoulder. I was even able to to keep up with a sometimes grueling online teaching schedule in May and July, typing eight hours or more a day, because of the strength I developed and the support.
Self-evaluation time is also an opportunity for me to focus on gratitude and not only am I grateful to David for helping me meet my health goals in 2015, I’m grateful to all my friends who “didn’t give up on me” all those weeks when I couldn’t leave the house because I was either ill or glued to the computer.
And I'm grateful to Dick, as well, for his patience, in putting up with what was a pretty crabby and out of sorts house-bound "Munchkin."
Throughout my life, however, there has been one key marker of how a given year really went—how many journal pages did I finish?
If the page count runs below “normal” I can look quickly to see what else was happening in my life that offset the journaling “effort.” I see quickly where the time traps are in my life. I find this an accurate and easy assessment asset to have—it allows me to organize and prepare for the next year.
I do not count any pages or sheets generated at life drawing co-op sessions as I’m able to generate up to 30 sheets of work in a two-hour period under those conditions. It would skew my totals for me to include them.
This year I created a total of 1145 journal pages.An average year in pages (just a little over my 3 pages a day norm).
Update 12.31.15 at 6:50 p.m.: A reader asked why I don't count volumes for a year? Since I make my own books (typically) and they are of different thicknesses, the volume count is useless to judge productivity. But I always mention my letter span for each year when I do my wrap up and I got caught in the digressions and forgot.
This year I filled volumes A through M. The loose pages are in boxes which get labeled differently and don't get a letter.
Of that total 1065 pages were in journals; 39 pages were in my small loose sheets journal; and 41 pages were in my large loose sheets journal. Loose sheet journal pages are done on a variety of different papers I want to experiment on, typically cut to 9 x 12 inches or smaller and stored in labeled boxes. This year I also worked on 11 x 15 inch and larger sheets.
A tendency to get larger and larger is something I have NOT really been trying to fight at all for the past three years.But this year’s loose sheet total is different in that I typically don’t work on loose sheets of the larger size—I just make paintings instead. This total of 80 loose sheet journal pages is low, compared to past years. Given that I spent so much of spring working on new work for the dog-art show (mentioned below), the low total for loose sheets is not surprising to me.
Now you can begin to see that in order to retrieve any of this material for later use either for bon mot in a conversation, notes I’ve developed for a class, or sketches I need so I can complete a painting, indexing my journals is essential for the way I work. You can read about how I index my journals here.
Above: 9 x 12 inch sheet of paper on which I did some quick, bad math about the 5 journals I had going on 11.27.15. I ended up finishing the Nideggen journal on December 28. The Kilimanjaro (misspelled on the chart) was completed on December 30. The last few days of December I did begin a new small pack journal (approx. 5 x 5 inches) to carry with me. It will become the first journal of 2016. I also lifted the ban on “loose sheet journal pages.” Read more about this chart in the post. Click on the image to view and enlargement.
I thought it might be fun for you to learn a little bit more about that total, so I’ve included my “chart” that I did one day during the Thanksgiving Day weekend, when I happened to look up at the shelf and see that I had five journals in progress at the same time.
Now normally I like to keep only one journal, but because of the excessive amount of typing and video editing I had been doing it was unwise to carry one of my usual 8 x 8 inch or so journals about with me. I needed something smaller. And having something smaller meant I still wanted something larger when I wasn’t out and about.
Since 2010 I’ve typically had one Fabriano Venezia 9 x 12 inch journal going in the studio. I do studies for paintings, portrait practice (sketching Dick, friends, and also people on TV). Additionally I collect tid-bits from things that I read and paste them in that journal. It’s an idea generating tool even more than my regular journal—because let’s face it, sometimes my regular journal is “simply” about my day, the way paint feels on the paper (typically some paper I love because I made a journal specifically out of it because I love that paper), and whether or not I’ve sketched more snow piles in a given winter than my friend Ken Avidor. (I am it seems a little competitive after all. Who knew it would come down to snow piles!)
Note: I no longer recommend Fabriano Venezia Journals in any size, as I have had two of them split at the binding on me after only light use, and recently a student wrote to me explaining the same thing had happened to him. I will be posting a review about this in the near future. I mention it here because I didn’t want you to think that past use of this commercially bound journal was an endorsement of future use.
Since 2013 I have used my favorite Japanese Lined notebooks (which have paper coversand sewn signatures) for the most private of my journals—the journals in which I write about my on-going projects, my thoughts about things that are happening around me. All the stuff I used to have in my visual journals but which filtered out as I taught more and more classes and brought journals to class for students to look at.
For me the journaling and sketching process, because it is the way I use my mind to think about the world, must first and foremost be about me as the primary audience, no one else. And I need to protect the privacy of that act of creation. This means that older journals might be brought to classes, and I would bring high quality prints of pages containing techniques or work I wanted to share with students, but I was no longer comfortable with so many people “rummaging in my mind.” Every artist is different on this score.
I don’t mind talking about things in my life or my creative process after the fact, but when something is on-going I like to keep it private. This ensures my responses and reactions are authentic and not showmanship. I don’t have time for that in my life. First and foremost I have to get my essential work done in the limited time I have on earth. And I do this best alone with my journal.
Think about this: If in a given year I do 1,145 journal pages and I post three times a week, sometimes with more than one image, but usually just with a single image, that means I’m only posting 156 to 220 images on average in a given year.
That’s 13 to 19 percent of my journal pages.
I’m posting things that I feel comfortable sharing or feel compelled to share. I look for pieces in my journal to share because they will allow me to talk about the topics I believe I’m ready to talk about, whether it’s eldercare or a new experiment I want to discuss with you because you need to try it too.
There’s a lot of editing going on here. (Says the woman who has written over 2 million words on this blog…Now you know why so many of my friends are exhausted all the time talking to me about all the things that interest me!)
I point this out so that readers are reminded to give thought to what they share online or in creative groups. I want to encourage people to think about how what they share impacts or effects their creative lives. Sometimes sharing is benign, but you have to be clear about your expectations in sharing. I share to pass along information I find helpful. Not to make friends (though who doesn’t love to influence people?). Be clear about why you are sharing work, with whom you’re sharing it, and what the value to you is in the sharing. It is important that you always protect your creative core.
The Japanese Lined Journals have been perfect for my process. I’ve seen a return to the chaotically organized way I journaled when I was an undergraduate. And I love it. I also love that the paper is cheap and buckles when I paint on it. As the books fill they have the most incredible texture that includes a symphony of paper rattling sounds. (Yes, I have the paper sickness.)
I had one of these lined journals in play on November 27, when I realized I had a lot of journals in progress.
I also had a 9 x 12 inch cold press watercolor paper journal—Kilimanjaro from Cheap Joe’s. I began it during the summer, sometime before the Minnesota State Fair. I was testing it to see whether or not I’d be taking one of them to this year’s Fair, for my journal. I did not.
I still had to finish the book however. I’m not compulsive about finishing books (really). If paper in a book is bad I’ll often just run through it doing a bunch of studies or warm up sketches. But the paper in this book is lovely, just not what I wanted to sketch on at the Fair.
I decided that finishing the book would help be explore cold press paper more, and support my return to painting and using a real brush. (It’s so heavenly to lay the Niji down and pick up a real brush.)
Book 5 in the chart was a small 5-1/2 inch square book made as a mock-up/test sample in 2001—it contained Rives Lightweight. That’s a paper that’s too light to paint on but which loves pen and pencil work. I had some in the studio when the mock-up was made. It never got used. It was so small it was perfect for carrying in my bag when bag-weight considerations were a top priority.
Actually I fell in love with this paper, especially the way the Sakura Pigma Sensei pens worked on it—their sharp tips cutting into it creating lines that looked more etched than drawn. I began to consider if I could give up paints in my journal for the joy of using those pens on that paper. And all that happened at the exact same time I was picking up a real brush for the first time in a long time.
The universe does like to send you little challenges now and then, to make you consider if you’re on the right path, and distract you from the big challenges that are just around the bend.
The other book on the chart is a 7-1/2 inch square Simple Round Back Spine book that I made with Nideggen. It too was a sample, but it was one I made in a live class, and because one of the students tore his paper incorrectly when I turned my back for no more than 30 seconds (really!!) and I had to give him several of my signatures so he could complete his project (administration had let two additional students sign up on the morning of the class, and while I had over prepped on cut materials we were barebones on any extra paper), the book is thinner than usual for that style when I make them.
Well after the State Fair I thought it would be a fun book to use in a month, and I really wanted to work on toned paper again. I stopped carrying it when my shoulder reacted and it sat neglected for a month before I picked it up again. You can never really neglect a book filled with Nideggen—they call to you.
But there I was on November 27 talking with Dick in the TV room and I happened to glance up at the shelf I keep the in-progress journals on and I freaked out.
As soon as the conversation was over (and I couldn’t get him out of the room fast enough) I started counting pages and making this chart. My math skills are not the greatest when I’m in a panic so I overestimated how many pages I would have to do each day to fill them up. Then I hit the ground running really really hard, gobbling up pages through the day and into the evening. Staying up late in fact.
When I finally did look up from the frenzy at the end of the first week and do a quick recount and some more division to find out how many pages I needed to do a day to finish them all by the end of the year, I realized I was actually not going to need to do 4 pages a day (my usual is 3 pages a day). I realized that I would run out of pages before the end of the month.
Then of course I had a good laugh, and I wrote this post.
But something great came out of this drive to finish. I painted more with watercolor and with gouache, sometimes spending longer than average on each page, while still doing more pages.
I focused on my goals of working with watercolor while my work world was toppling in around me, and the need to take the folks to this appointment or that appointment cropped up every other day.
The great thing that came out of this chart, however, was my ability to really focus my time between work, family, and art for the final month of the year.
In any end of year wrap up there is another thread I examine, besides the number of journal pages, to gauge my creative health.
I look at my non-journaling art—did I create stand alone paintings and participate in shows, and what type of time effort did the shows take, when compared to the return (in sales, recognition, commissions, and so on.)
I participated in three art shows this year. With friends Linda, Dean, and Marcia I set up in Linda’s space for the May Art-a-Whirl. (I didn’t have time to paint new work for that show and instead just offered prints for sale, already framed. The show was a complete bust for me, except for the interesting 3-days of time spent with Linda, Dean, and Marcia.
One of the things you learn when you show your work is whether or not people like what you’re putting out there. The other thing you learn is whether or not you’re hitting the price points. I kept my costs low by buying low cost (but attractive and serviceable) frames, spending money on good quality mats, and doing my own printing on my archival printer. Since my work was priced pretty much at cost, even if I had sold all of it I would not have covered my costs for printer ink, food for gallery visitors, and port-a-pottie rental. (We all shared in the last two expenses.) It was a risk I was willing to take because I wanted to see “what the price point was.”
I’m sad to report I can’t be sure I have any real information from that experience. Well, I have one piece of knowledge, I need to engage more with people coming in and actively discuss my work. Perhaps because I was just coming out of an almost 5-month long quarantine I didn’t engage people as much as I typically do. So energy level becomes something else I need to take into account when planning to participate in a show.
At this show I also didn’t make any sales, despite pricing my art lower than ever before. (It had been a couple years since I’d participated in a show and I thought my art prices should remain stagnant.) The difference was that many people came out to the show and complete strangers told me all the things they loved about my work. So while the work wasn’t priced right for them, it was at least appealing to them. That's a good bit of information to have.
I keep time sheets on everything I do. (Seriously, everything. Dick jokes that I would have a punch-card clock like Bill Murray’s character Bob in “What About Bob?” if he didn’t dissuade me twice a year.) From those records I can see that the efforts to create and package the art for those shows was definitely “lost.”
I was also pleased and excited to invited to participate in the “Love Letters” show at the Groveland Gallery. You can see the piece I created for that show here. It was for sale and it didn’t sell, despite a low price. It was a personal piece and I had no expectations that it would sell. I believe that sometimes you participate in shows because of a number of factors totally unrelated to sales. I’m very happy to have participated in this show.
In no small way the dog-art show and the invitation for “Love Letters” allowed me to move back into painting with gouache, after so many months of not being able to hold a brush at times.I look at that outcome as the real benefit of all the time spent on those activities.
When I take all of the above into account I see themes and tendencies emerge.I see areas I need to watch or time will be dissipated. I see where I need to put my focus for development of my own skills and for where I want to go as a teacher.
I see how I am able to manage “it all” even when deep into something I wonder if I can get through it.
As humans we have an immense capacity to get through really horrible shit. So the small things that happen to us need not derail us, and the bigger things, the things which leave huge holes in our heart, don’t leave us broken. We remain active and searching.
An evaluation at the end of the year, when the “stats” are in, revitalizes me. I’m ready to go for the next year. I know how I need to balance things, and moderate my expectations. I go into the new year with a realistic set of expectations and goals,many of which will probably be achieved. All of which I know are worth pursuing because I’ve consciously examined all aspects of my life and made choices that support those goals and expectations.
Sure there are many things not yet finished or goals reached. But the focus isn’t on those “failures.” The focus is on the nature of the events and my actions and my choices so that I can rethink and go at it again.
The other capacity we have as humans is our ability to adapt. Self-evaluation gives you an opportunity to do just that. To look honestly at what’s been accomplished and what is yet to be accomplished and make a plan.
It’s time to open the new day planner and write the lists and set the dates and show up to make it happen.
I hope you all have a fantastic and creative 2016. Thank you for spending your time checking in with me, for writing in, for playing along on Project Fridays, for writing to tell my your own materials experiences, for telling me which types of classes you are eager for, and especially for caring about paper.
Catch you in the new year. I’ve got some new commercially bound sketchbooks I’m going to review, I’ll finally get around to discussing the new color palette, and I can’t wait to get to the zoo!
Remember to sketch out in public as much as you can. You’re a role model for kids everywhere whose parents told them “You can’t grow up and be an artist, you have to work for a living.”
Show up and sketch and let those children see what’s possible: that life is a lot of hard work, but it’s a lot easier if you’re having fun sketching!
And yes, this was a 4,158 word post. It’s the end of the year—and I’m going with it. Thanks for staying up and reading it.