Tag Archives: journaling

Art Journals, Sketchbooks, and Diaries

I’ve kept a regular paper diary since 1991, and in that time I’ve never really varied in format: handwritten, text only. For years I even used a special ten-color pen, using a different color of ink each day, though these days I use whatever pen is handy. It’s rare for me to paste something into it, with the exception of the occasional random sticker. When I do paste things into journals, it’s a special book, like a journal set aside for a single trip, or my current GST book. When I draw, that goes into sketchbooks, some of which are separated into specific types. For example, I have one book dedicated entirely to faces drawn with #2 pencil. Everything has its place.

I’m torn on the matter, however. Separate books work well when you only want to do one thing at a time, but that often means packing a bunch of stuff when going somewhere, just on the off chance that I might want to do one thing or the other. And I really love the idea of art journals. I like the idea of writing about your day/life amidst the doodles and collage. I like the pages created by Daisy Yellow, Seaweed Kisses, and iHanna. I’ve even gone so far as to sign up for the gorgeous weekly prompts from Journal52 (and have as of yet completed only one of them).

Some people combine their art journals with commonplace books – collections of interesting quotes and information encountered in books and everyday life. These are usually worked into the art in some fashion, rather than organized into a repository of wisdom, but they share the notion of saving these sorts of things in a central location.

I also like artifact journals, like those of my friend KateKintail, where she glues in one item from her day, as a memento, with often no more than a few lines describing the story behind it. Often she doesn’t even cut it up – just pastes in the whole brochure or whatever in a way so you can still unfold it. No Tetris-esque collages necessary, and there’s still plenty of room to write more if that’s what you want to do. It also doesn’t face the limitation that my GST book has: that is, if there isn’t enough to fill a page, it doesn’t make it into the book at all.

A while back, I came across a nifty set of scans from Austin Kleon’s tour sketchbook (hat tip to Notebook Stories for the link). This in particular really struck me:

I’m on the move a lot, so I don’t have a lot of time to sketch while I’m walking around, but I do have time to collage when I’m back in the hotel room, so I’ve started carrying transparent tape, Japanese Washi tape that my wife gave me, and a pair of safety scissors (TSA says under 4 inches is okay).

This probably sounds strange, but it never occurred to me to just carry around the tape and scissors with you and do your journaling on the go. If you look at his pages, they’re a mixture of writing, clippings, and sketches. The only time I’ve ever come close to this sort of beautiful hodgepodge is in my trip journals, and even with those I only did the collage at the very end, after I got back home. My Japan journal is a good example. I also made journals for my trip to Amsterdam in 2010, Disney World in 2012, and this past April’s Eurotrip. At Disney World in particular I did a fair amount of drawing, something I almost never do in my regular diary.

I think my biggest issue is a feeling of required perfection. The only place I ever feel comfortable in freewriting or doodling or jotting down little notes is in whatever beat-up old spiral notebook I have going at the moment. Diaries are for the chronology of my life; sketchbooks are for completed drawings (not even, perhaps ironically, unfinished sketches); gluebooks are for collages of clippings. And yet, I don’t want to glue stuff into the spiral notebooks because they are so ephemeral (and often too fally-aparty). That’s the place for my first drafts, for straightening out my whirling thoughts, for mock-ups and grocery lists and calculating my hours. If there’s anything worth keeping, I copy it out elsewhere.

So now I’m trying something new. I’ve signed up for the first “kourse” of Sketchbook Skool. Aside from their somewhat irritating obsession with the letter K, it looks like a neat concept: lots of well-known art journalers, such as Danny Gregory and Andrea Joseph (from whom I learned about this), are teaching about illustrated journals and drawing more often in general. I hope it’ll help me figure out what works best for me, as well as give me the kick in the pants I need to get out of this creative rut I’ve been stuck in.

Do you keep any kind of journal? How do you organize things?

Nostalgic Musings – another update

I thought I’d do one big post when I finished the course, but I’ve decided against it for two reasons: first, I’m making such slow progress that it might be June before I ever mention it again, and second, I’m taking a lot more photos/scans than I’d expected. So I’ve decided to talk about the prompts and exercises I’ve completed over the last few weeks.

No, I don't know what day Thursda is. Shut up.

Exercise 2 involved writing about someone special to you. The example was about a dog, so I made mine about my cat, Echo. It’s easier to write mushy things about animals than people, I find.  The “kitty” flap opens twice:

I used a lot of old book pages for this one. I am not the sort of person to wantonly destroy books, but when two old paperbacks started shedding pages by the dozen, I figured it was time for them to be recycled. One was an Isaac Asimov novel (I don’t recall which one just now – maybe The Martian Way) and the other is 1001 Arabian Nights, so they make for interesting backgrounds. The other ephemera I used includes art from an old star chart calendar, printables provided with the e-course and from Creativity Prompt, and a print of some of my own artwork.

The task for this one was to write ten honest and interesting things about yourself. This is not easy for me: I’m not very interesting when I’m honest. First off, yes, that photo is of me. It’s from a photobooth at Centraal Station in Amsterdam. I think I look frightened, but I wasn’t sure what else to do with four identical pictures of my face, so I used one to help fill this spread. Most of the other bits are either more of my own art or assorted clippings from my stash. The facts are not in order, nor are they supposed to be. The sheep at the top of the right side are from an advertisement that regularly appears in one of the optics magazines I receive, and I felt it was fitting, this being a kind of internet survey and all.

This prompt was largely about our childhood loves and how (or if) they’ve transformed as we’ve become adults. The photo is me again, probably around five years old. It’s one of my favorites because I look like a Muppet. (Specifically Prairie Dawn.) The background was from a magazine; between it and my gingham I look like I was raised in rural Kansas. Both the butterfly and the Hollywood Bear fold out:

I was pleased when I found the Hollywood Bear notecard in my stationery box, both because it was small enough to fit below my photo, and because I was such a sticker fanatic as a child and Lisa Frank was a particular favorite.

That’s all for now. I find art journaling to be very therapeutic, but too time-consuming to replace my regular written diary as my primary chronology. I’d hoped to finish this course before the first of the year, but it looks like that’s not going to happen. And that’s fine. There’s no rush.

Nostalgic Musings: Exercise 1

I finished my first exercise for Nostalgic Musings. I don’t intend to post every time I finish one of the assignments, but since this was my very first real attempt at art journaling, I decided I wanted to share my thoughts.

The spread itself was quite straightforward: most of the clipart was provided, and we also received suggestions for what to write. Since art journaling is so dependent on personal style and preference, I was not surprised that this exercise was specifically to learn how Hope Karney Wallace makes her own (totally gorgeous) journals. The later assignments are more open-ended and less step-by-step, easing the student into his or her own way of doing things.

I had to improvise a bit, as the journal I’m using is much smaller than Ms. Wallace’s. The pages themselves came out fairly well:

The woman in the middle is her own page on cardstock, affixed with masking tape. (I’d never thought of masking tape as anything but temporary, but I’ll trust Ms. Wallace on this one.) The text of the journal page is comprised entirely of techniques I’ve never used in my own regular diary: lists of goals/loves/etc. and inspirational quotes. As much as I enjoy making lists, it had never occurred to me to use them to describe my day.

I’m looking forward to seeing what I make throughout the rest of the course. I don’t see myself giving up my regular text diary and switching entirely over to art journaling, but I do believe it will make for a lovely supplement to my regular day-to-day chronology.

Nostalgic Musings: an art journaling e-course

I’ve started my very first art journaling e-course, Nostalgic Musings, hosted by Hope Karney Wallace of Paper Relics. I’ve been admiring her work for weeks and almost signed up for her most recent course, a collaboration with Kari Ramstrom called Winter Stories, which was ten dollars more but also live. (Nostalgic Musings ran last spring but all the materials are available, the private Flickr group is still active, and of course Hope is still around to answer questions.) My husband suggested since this was my first time through to go for the self-paced, less expensive course, which is also a more general art journaling class. Either way, I’m excited. I’ve been wanting to jump into art journaling for a while now – more than just writing in my diary or  gluebooking or doodling in a notebook, but actual art journaling – and I think this will be an excellent way to get my feet wet.

Care to join me?

November is Official Crazy Online Challenges Month

This year I return to National Novel Writing Month for the first time since 2006. I’ve won three of the four times I participated, so I have high hopes for this year. After my last attempt, I wrote a lengthy essay on what I’d learned from this annual writing challenge. At that point I expected not to ever participate again. After all, in 2005 I worked full-time and got married and still found time to win NaNo. In 2006, even without any huge 10k-word writing binges, I finished within two weeks. Clearly, blathering on for pages is not my problem. However, I realized a few weeks ago that I hadn’t written any fiction in months, and thought perhaps this might be a good way to get the old creative faucet running again. After all, creativity begets creativity. I have no idea if this will impact how often I blog. I guess we’ll see.

If writing is not your thing, you could also participate in National Blog Posting Month, Art Every Day Month, or NaNoJouMo (for art journaling). November is a popular month to host creative challenges, most likely because of the popularity of NaNoWriMo. So get creating!

Or just sport a mustache.

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