Monday, September 5, 2011

Kind of excited...

in a way that only a new journal can get me excited! Yep, it's that time again. I started a new book today. But I'm kind of cheating...I still have 5 pages left in the old book! The crazy thing is that I've had only a handful of pages left in this book for 3 or 4 days, because I couldn't decide which book to use next, and I didn't want to finish one book and not have another that I could begin immediately.

I know that's a special kind of weird, but I have a feeling anyone reading this will know exactly what I mean. Journalers have this paranoia about their supplies. We're on an endless quest for the perfect items, and we have this irrational fear of using up items we already have and know we love, especially if there's no suitable replacement in sight.

I actually found the Holy Grail of journals (for me, since every person's HG book will be different!) when I was doing mixed media and collage. That's the book I talked about a while back when I was raiding every Barnes & Noble in town, because they've been discontinued. I have used this book since 2005, and it has served me well. In the past, my ideal journal features were that the book must lie flat, it must have sewn signatures, and the paper must be thick enough to handle acrylic paint and collage. I tried so, so many books before I found the one that suited me best.

But since my focus shifted to sketching and watercolors a while back, it quickly became apparent that my HG book is well, not so holy for this new way of journaling that I'm trying to explore. Watercolors just SIT on top of this paper...there's no nice blending out of the color, if that makes sense. I end up having to use a lot of the color and then it's very bold, and lacks that dreamy watercolor element. Also, my old HG journal is leather, and it has this flap that wraps around the journal, plus a leather tie that wraps around the book two times. I can't tell you how irritating it is to have that darned flap and tie in the way while I'm drawing. It never really bugged me when I was doing collage, but for some reason it makes me crazy these days. I actually thought about getting some heavy duty scissors and cutting it off!

The other thing that prompted me to search for a new type of journal is the realization that while the old journal style might not be a great sketchbook, it's still my Holy Grail for art journaling...and since I have only 4 of them left, I probably shouldn't use them as sketchbooks. I imagine at some point the collage bug will bite me again, and I will pulling out the acrylic paints and gel medium, and I'll need something to work in.

So I shelved the 4 remaining HG journals, and went in search of a new book. My criteria for this book was similar- I still wanted sewn signatures and a book that laid flat. But instead of pages that were thick enough for acrylic paint, this time I was looking for paper that would work well with watercolors. After much research, my first choice was the Fabriano Venezia . It gets good reviews and it's on sale (at the site linked) so I ordered one. Unfortunately, it was backordered. I will eventually get one, but I'm not sure how long it will be, so I had to look around for another book. (Remember, I'd been sitting around for days trying to decide on another journal, and I was just ready to get down to business!)

I went searching at a few of the art stores here, and I brought home the Fabriano Artist's Journal in the larger, 7x9 size. I have to admit, this book will probably present a challenge. The pages, despite their lovely texture, are much thinner than any I've ever worked with in an art journal. The journal doesn't lie as flat as I'm used to. Reviews say that this book will handle light watercolor washes, but it's definitely not built for watercolor. And then there's the cover, which is a thick paper, kind of a cardstock. It's not nearly as hardy as I'm used to. I mean, c'mon...I'm used to leather!

But this is the book that spoke to me. There was an unwrapped sample at the store, and I could see that the cover wasn't the best, that the pages were kind of thin, that I could surely find something else that would be more suitable for what I want to do. Despite all this, I kept coming back to this journal, running my fingers over the pages (which alternate between white and tan!),  and feeling its heft in my hand. I had this urge to whip out a pen and start sketching right then and there! I could just see this sketchbook in my bag, on my art table, in my lap while I sketch in bed.

So that was that. I brought it home, stuck in my "if found, please return to..." label, and did some pages. (I was so excited to begin the new journal, that I just went ahead and abandoned the old one. Oops! I'm sure I'll go back and do a few quick sketches in there eventually, just to use up the last few pages.)

I think I made the right decision, both in choosing this journal and in abandoning the old one, with 5 pages left to fill. I'm looking forward to the challenges that working in a new book will surely bring. Sometimes you've just gotta go with your gut and follow your creative urges!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A quote that has inspired me lately

I have been reading at Laurelines since late 2005. Even when I wasn't drawing myself, I've continued to be inspired by the pure drive and dedication that Laure has for her art. Every January, she sets up these goals for her artwork, and she follows through with them throughout the year. It's inspiring to me to watch someone like her who doesn't wait for lightning to strike or for the moose to walk backwards at midnight before she gets down to business. She just does it, and that's a lesson I have learned and relearned many times in my creative life as well.

This year Laure did something different, and had no set plan for 2011. She called it the Unplan and posted about how she would follow her heart and inclinations instead of having set parameters. As much as I liked her detailed plans, I like this Unplan, too. And it's a great way to shake things up if you're used to having more defined goals.

Recently Laure shared a quote by Martha Graham and it didn't just speak to me; it screamed. I read it when I was about a week into the new sketching journal, and it was just what I needed to hear at the time. I was flipping through my journal last night, and found the quote where I'd copied it down, and wanted to share it with you:

"There is a vitality, a life force, an energy, a quickening that is translated through you into action, and because there is only one of you in all of time, this expression is unique...It is not your business to determine how good it is nor how it compares with other expressions. It is your business to keep it yours clearly and directly, keep the channel open. You do not even have to believe in yourself and your work. You have to keep yourself open and aware of the urges that motivate you. Keep the channel open." 

Today, and everyday, I hope that you are listening to those little urges that tug at your creative heartstrings. I hope you are able to recognize them when they come, and then are willing to follow them even when you don't know where they may lead.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Journaling my heart out

Well, I probably should say, drawing my heart out, because that would be more accurate right now. I've been tearing through my current journal, just playing around with pens and watercolor paints and colored pencils and crayons. It's been a darned good time, and I can't believe that I'm nearing the end of the book already. I began this journal on July 29th, exactly a month ago, and I have about 16 or so pages left.

Since the drawing bug seems to bite me every few years, I decided it was time to really dive in and give it an honest try. In the past I'd be inspired to draw, but I'd quickly give it up after a few half-hearted attempts. I wanted to go from zero to accomplished sketcher, with little effort in between. When I didn't magically churn out amazing drawings, I'd give up in frustration. Yet the urge would always come back.

When I began this journal, I kind of had a goal in mind, a sort of promise to myself. I decided that I was going to give this journal over to my desire to draw. I was going to fill the entire book with drawings- no collage, no mixed media, just sketch after sketch- and I was going to really put in the time and effort. If, by the end of the book, I still wasn't "good" at drawing, then that would be that. I'd lay this drawing business to rest, knowing I'd given it the time and attention it warranted.

So now that I'm nearing the end of my book, here's what I've realized. I am not amazingly talented at this. I'm not doing these fantastic renderings that would astonish and impress my friends. But what's really cool is that I no longer think it matters. I'm having a great time. I'm seeing huge improvements in my drawing...not saying I'm the best, or even terribly good, but I'm better than I was. And I've found one more way in which I can slow down, see the world in a new way, and leave my mark behind.

I'm looking forward to the next journal, and seeing where I'll go from here.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From the new journal

Finally ready to share some pages from the new journal. Be forewarned, they're utterly unlike the pages I've posted before. I've really been playing around a lot with drawing, which I'm not terribly good at but I have definitely improved since I started! This new journal has a lot of informality to it, and I like that a lot. There are pages of nothing but pen tests. There are really, really bad drawings, many of them unfinished because the cat moved, or the person I was sketching at the pool packed up and left. There's a lot of experimenting and figuring out what I like.

As I mentioned before, one of my favorite things about this book has been working directly on the page. I love that I can pick up any pen and just go with it. I can use all of my favorite pens again without fear of the acrylic background jamming them up within a few words. I'm rediscovering all of my favorite old pens, some of which I've had for years.

So here's what my current journal is like. There are pages with drawings, often comical ones that I didn't intend to be that way when I began. Is it just me, or is that a snooty Buddha on the left side? He looked snobbish to me, and this page makes me giggle. These are some of the  first Buddha drawings I did in this book.
This next one is a little "better," as I did it after I had a bit of practice, and the other side of the page just has a list of things I wanted to remember

These are some sketches I did of my cat, Sagan. I don't get can a creature who sleeps for 16 hours a day not be still long enough for me to complete a simple sketch? The problem is that he hears my pen scratching on the paper, and gets interested in me. Then he comes over and starts head butting the pen as I draw!

I played around with some inexpensive watercolor paints on this pharaoh drawing:

And here's one of my favorites, for which I had to turn the page sideways. I'm quickly learning that I tend to draw BIG, partly because I like using thick markers and brush pens. My small journal (6x9) often isn't big enough and I end up with images that "fall" off the page. Ganesh actually had one more hand, which was holding a bowl of sweetmeats, but I didn't have room for it on the page! I'm thinking of starting a large, 8.5x11 sketchbook for times when I want to go big.

This journal is already about 3/4 full. Another thing I'm planning to do is go a little cheaper on my next book. I can't afford to blow through $16 journals in a month! I might keep a nicer one with watercolor paper for when I want to paint, and a cheap one with thinner, smoother paper as my regular journal. Still thinking about this. I never used to like the idea of keeping multiple journals (the large book, the watercolor book, and the regular journal) but it sounds like a practical way to go for now. Something to try out, anyway!

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bad blogger!

Bad blogger...that's me, letting almost a full week pass in between posts. When I began, I had intentions of posting very regularly, if not daily. But something has come up that I completely didn't expect.

And I blame that something on this book by Cathy Johnson:  Artist's Journal Workshop. Let me just say, I did not seek out this book. I was looking for something entirely different, and it found me. I stumbled across it at Borders, it was 20% off since they're going out of business, and it came home with me. This was roughly 3 weeks ago, and I had no idea what I'd be getting into with this book.

See, this book is about art journals, but not the sort of journal I normally keep. Not the mixed-media, collaged to the hilt, layered to the extreme sort of journal. This book is more about sketchbooks- drawing, light washes of watercolors, perhaps some gouache. Absolutely NOT the sort of journal I've ever kept, simply because drawing was something I just didn't do. In fact, if you had told me about this book, even if you'd strongly recommended it, I wouldn't have been interested. It was something I had to find for myself. And when I did, I was so incredibly inspired.

Something about this way of journal keeping reminded me of my happiest journaling years, which would be roughly from 1995-1998. During that time I was in college, and I used the big black Canson sketchbooks as my journals. I filled 2 of them a year, and those handful of journals are some of the most meaningful in my collection. There is such an innocence about them in the way that I threw in everything without fears, without censoring, without holding back. Sure, a lot of these books are filled with angst over whether I should marry my fiance at the time (I didn't!) or quit the part-time job that made me miserable (I did!) or change my major yet again (5 times in my college career! lol). There's a lot of silly drama and rehashing of whatever I was obsessed with at the time. But there's such raw energy there. So much honestly that I blush now when I re-read some parts, over 15 years later.

They weren't really what I'd call art journals, though I did do some collages, mostly of things I wanted to buy but couldn't afford, or places I wanted to travel to someday. But I did tape the stuff of life in there- poems I loved and typed out, packaging from products I loved, nametags from various events I attended, movie tickets, business cards from restaurants and coffee shops, and so on. I did all kinds of silly doodles, and I played with Crayola markers from time to time. I let myself be as goofy and lame as I wanted to be. These are the journals that I look back through and WHAM! It's like being transported back in time. But even better, these are the journals that really were for ME and me alone. I wasn't thinking about making them look "good" or sound wise. They were my safe place, where I went to celebrate, to complain, to whine, to worry, to daydream, to obsess.

I think what's so different about the way I journal now vs. the way I journaled then, is that back then my journal was my constant companion. Where I went, that journal went with me, and nothing was too ordinary to be written about or taped in. I didn't have tons of stuff the way I do now. I didn't have acrylic paints, collage images, gesso, rubber stamps, inks, an assortment of glues, tapes of all kinds and sizes. I had a few pens I loved. I had some markers.  I had a roll of Scotch tape. That was it! And I made magic from just that!

I'm always looking for ways to make my journal more "me" and less commercial. Less pre-packaged ephemera, and more stuff from real life. Less purchased product, and more stuff manipulated by me. And so this book really blew me away. It made me want to try drawing again, something I've tried before and given up on quickly. It made me want to severely limit my supplies for a little while, and see what I could do with just them. And it made me want to make my journal my daily companion again, something I pulled out and played in wherever and whenever, instead of something I left at home and worked on primarily at the art table. I wanted to make my journal less precious. Less of a showcase of completed "art pages" and more of a repository of messy, ordinary life.

So when I finished up that last journal, I started a new one. In fact, I'm almost halfway through the new journal already! I've done some SERIOUSLY ugly drawings in it. I've done some weird portraits of people I love. I've drawn the Buddha at least a dozen times. I've worked on the page itself, without a single painted background in the book. I've fallen back in love with pens I couldn't use before because they wouldn't work over acrylic paint. I've played with watercolors and gouache. I've used my journal for some of the most ordinary things- testing new supplies, making shopping lists, jotting down a book recommendation. I've simplified my materials so I that I can journal in bed, in the living room, even in a long line at the grocery store. And that journal has been all over with me in the last 3 weeks. I've journaled at the pool during my son's swimming lessons, in a doctor's waiting room, at the yoga studio waiting for kirtan to begin, and in my car. I'm honestly having the time of my life.

If any of this resonates with you, I highly recommend that you pick up Cathy Johnson's book. I am so incredibly inspired, and maybe you will be, too! She also started a blog based on the book, and many of the contributors to the book post to the blog as well. You can find it here.

If you've read this far, thanks for listening. ;)

Friday, August 5, 2011

Clean space and new stuff!

What is it about a clean, organized space that makes you want to buy more stuff to fill it (i.e., mess it up again)? Is it just me? After my cleaning spree the other day, I was left with a much more hospitable workspace:
I felt inspired to create a journal page right then and there! But did I? Noooo....I went out and shopped instead! I hit my favorite "mom and pop" art store first, Visual Art Supply. I really like this store. First off, it's independent and locally owned, and what's not to love about that? It's rather small, and of course you aren't going to have the kind of selection you'll find at Dick Blicks, but the prices are fantastic and there's a good assortment of the basics. I picked up two Sharpies (a Super Sharpie and a chisel tip, both black), a Pitt big brush pen (also black) and a Niji waterbrush with a small brush tip.

That probably should've satisfied my new art supply craving, especially since I'm still doing Moira's 30 Day Craft Cleanse and I'm supposed to be CUTTING DOWN on unnecessary art store shopping. But no....once the husband got home from work, I roped him into taking a family trip over to Artist & Craftsman Supply. I was so excited to find that San Diego has one of these. I used to shop at A&C in my hometown of Charleston, South Carolina and for some reason I thought it was a local store..It really has that local vibe- cool and unusual stuff, knowledgeable staff, decent prices. But it actually turns out that there are 17 of them across the US! Who knew?

I have such fond memories of wandering the aisles of the Charleston store as an art journal newbie, entranced by all of the different supplies and what I could possibly do with them. What's funny is that 7 years later, I still feel that way when I'm in an art store! I'm inspired even by things I don't buy, crafts I don't pursue. It's just amazing to see what's out there and imagine the possibilities.

I tried to be frugal (yeah, right!) but I had my share of my mom's Las Vegas winnings in my bag, and I left with all of this loot:
And I'm excited about all of it...look at those watercolor crayons! Look at those big FAT brush markers! Look at the gel pens! The husband has duty today, which means I have the house to myself all day and night, until tomorrow morning sometime. It's going to be an art journal night!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

A Mess!

So my parents have left. I dropped them off at the airport so early this morning (3:30am!) that it felt like it was still last night, and they should be well on their way back to South Carolina. It is always rough saying goodbye, knowing that I won't see them again for 7 or 8 months, but there's also a sense of life going back to normal and returning to all of our own routines.

The first item on my agenda for the day is doing something fun for my son. He's always upset the day that Nana and Grandaddy leave, so we're going to hit the bookstore so he can pick out a few books. Then we're going to look for the Rio movie that comes out today. We've seen it twice in the theater and now he simply must own it!

But second on my agenda is cleaning this up:
Yes, beneath all of that chaos, there is an art table. And I'm a little embarrassed that it looks like THIS the first time I share it on my blog. I'm looking over there and seeing all manner of things that don't belong taking up precious space on my art table- the suntan lotion from our last visit to the pool, a pretty glass box that my Dad and I found on a Goodwill treasure hunt, an empty coffee can that Mom thought I might be able to use for art stuff (hey...she's probably right!), empty storage containers that didn't work out for me, new storage containers that I hope WILL work out for me, my tool box turned around backwards because Mom has been using it to prop up her mirror when she puts her makeup on in the morning, my glue book in the wrong place because someone used it as a fly swatter, plus an assortment of journals (none of which are my current journal in progress, which somehow made its way upstairs).

So...yeah. That's my art table at its worst. I tend to enjoy a little messy chaos, but this is a little much even for me. I need lots of table space, which is why I chose a 6 foot table to begin with. I need to be able to spread out or I can't think clearly. And when I can't think clearly, I can't journal. And believe me, I need to journal. I've missed it.

So fun for my son first. Art table cleanup second. I'm looking forward to it!