Left: Quick sketch of a character actor in my Japanese Lined Paper Journal. I turned the journal on its side so the spine ran horizontally and worked across the gutter. I never really know how off I'm going to be on these until I scan them, because until that moment I don't really see it FLAT, it's always bent a little while I hold it in my lap. I worked with a Pentel Pocket Brush Pen and Montana markers. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Sometimes it seems to me the best thing you can do is turn your journal on your side and do an "extreme vertical."
If you want to see more thoughts about working across the spread you can see my "Journaling Superstitions #14" which deals with that and "Journaling Superstitions #6" deals with a horizontal version of working across a spread (well practically all my posts deal with that as I love working across a spread).
There's a wonderfully misshapen VERTICAL woman kicking off Journaling Superstitions #1.
In fact if you're in a bit of journaling slump you might want to read that last link to remind yourself of some of the ways you can get yourself out of such a slump. Or read the whole series by clicking in the category list on "SUPERSTITIONS."
At the end of the calendar year I always find myself wondering if I'll finish the journal I'm working in. This year it's a little crazy. I'm wrapping up what was arguably the craziest year of my life—and crazy in a bad way. This year I lost friends and family through sickness and a tragic accident, met with conflicting demands from work and family, and dealt with a mountain of pain as I pushed to put my body back in working order (binding is still not shoulder friendly and those addictive squeezy ink brush pens I love are still "limited use only" if I know what's good for me, and believe me when it comes to those squeezy pens I often don't know what's good for me).
Because I couldn't carry things I used small journals or small pieces of paper to be stuck into journals later; or I carried a larger journal only on some outings. At the same time I drew larger and larger images whenever I was home in the studio. That meant larger sheets of paper and larger journals.
During most of my life I've had several journals going at one time. Then in about 1995 I started consolidating all my journals together into one journal that I carried everywhere. The consolidation was gradual and not always successful.
For awhile there was still a nature journal that I carried when I went on nature related trips or to the zoo or Fair, but it dawned on me that I would always be an urban creature so nature should be folded into everything else just as my love of urban nature was, and so that nature journal was folded into my "normal" journal. I've actually captured more nature that way!
But there was still the computer log, which is a journal of sorts and helps me keep track of computer related issues to "talk tech" when needed; and my written journal, which after awhile had less writing while my visual journal had more—I'll have more about this later in December.
The point is I got the number of journals I was working in at any given time down to 1 by about 1999. And it felt good. I even had my events calendar pasted on the back pages of every journal so I didn't have to carry a date book.
But then of course there is IFJM (International Fake Journal Month) and there were group journal collaborations, and you get the idea, something comes up and you go with it. I didn't hold to working in only one journal at a time for long, at least not through the whole year, any year.
My main goal has always been to keep journaling, to not worry about the "containers." That's one of the reasons the loose sheets or loose leaf journals I've kept for the past two years have worked well for me—black archival boxes now sit on the shelves amid bound journals. Yet somehow because of all the craziness in my life this past year I needed to switch papers more, or I just wanted to try new papers more, or sometimes I just wanted a comfort-paper and before I knew it there were 3 or more journals waiting for attention. (At this typing I have five journals I am working in, four of which I would consider regular journals, the fifth is really a test and I don't care if it is finished this year. But the other four strike me as part of the jumble of my life. All have only a few pages left—if I simply journal at my usual pace between now and the end of the year they will all be finished—yes I did the math, I was curious. This is the most fractured I've been "journalwise" since the 1980s and 90s.)
I'm frustrated because the chronological timeline for 2014 isn't as visible when you look in an individual journal. For instance, in my 7.75 x 9.75 inch Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Journal which I carry about (outside of my pack in a plastic bag as it's too big for the small fanny pack I carry in deference to my shoulders) there will be great gaps of days between pages because I didn't take it with me on every trip and the small sheets I worked on were stuck into one of the large studio journals to make one spread reflecting that whole day's outing. I may have spreads in each of the other three journals in the course of a day because of the choice of paper I wanted to work on. So my day is spread amongst the volumes in a way it hasn't been for quite some time.
When you look at my journal scans in chronological order (and because I label them by date they line up in the folder in order) you can see the chronological flow. I've taken a bit of calm from that.
Anyway, this ramble of thought is meant as an encouragement to just keep going. If you are sketching and filling pages that's all that matters, not which book or paper or size, etc. Just keep going. You can trust me on this because I've cycled from small books to large, lined to unlined paper, and back again on it all many times. Looking back all that matters is that I got down on paper what was going on, what I was seeing, what I was learning, what I was looking at.
Sure you might have a preference for things being one way over the other way, just as I have a preference for having one book over many (yours might be the opposite), but surely the ultimate preference is that we are putting in time on the work.
As I skip through those digital scans where everything lines up chronologically I can see the overall "picture" of the past year. A truly odd and stressful time captured before me, as I lived it with my pen, in order, no odd flashbacks or side switchbacks.
Few people have the time or inclination to get everything that happens to them (and any historical notes that matter to them) down in their journals. Most journal keepers hit the high points or the low points depending on their predilections and their temperament for focusing on one or the other. Some journal keepers make a conscious effort (as I try to do) to at least get some high points noted down, in amongst all the regular-boring-to-everyone-else entries.
It's the last type of entry that ends up being the most important to me over time. Sure the focus on the high points and the things that went well, and good moments to savor—those pages remind me to be grateful for the life that I have with all its freedoms and privileges.
But it's the "boring-to-everyone-else" entries that tell me, when I look at them as a whole at the end of the year, what it was that interested me, what my artist's eye was looking for, what I was trying to really see, or learn, or simply explore. These "boring-to-everyone-else" pages create a rich portrait of me stepping out of my own way while at the same time being fully present in my life.
There's only one way to get that overview—it's by putting in the time when you don't feel like it, when you're actually sick, when you're stressed or in pain, when you're called to do something else, when, in fact you don't "have time."
It amazes me every year how much time I actually have if I just take a few moments now and then, not to create a "great painting" but to just acknowledge what is happening and what I'm seeing.
We all see things differently; we all look for different things; we each have a different filter. We are the only ones who can really keep tabs on our own lives. It seems a waste to not spend a little bit of time on that.
Perhaps the most valuable thing that shows through all the journal pages of 2014 is my desire to follow certain creative threads, and though I didn't have the time or sanity to follow them more fully at the time, to either paint all the paintings I wanted to paint or write all the things I wanted to write, I kept connected with it all. I held on to myself.
And that's the real reason I journal.