Thursday 25 July 2013

What's In A Journal? Part 2

Fiiiiiiiiiiiiinally!!  Holy cow, could this have TAKEN any longer? (just channelling Chandler from 'Friends'....because I am sad and have no life, apparently! aha.... )

So this is PART TWO of my 'What's In A Journal?' series, and very welcome back to my blog to you! In part 1, I wrote about some of my art journalling, a little about my reasons for doing it and about my processes and such like. I have more to talk about on that subject, but that's at some amorphous, indeterminate future date...this post is focussing on the sketchbook as a jounal.

Sketchbook as a journal? Am I MENTAL? (I'm having a dramatic day - can't you so tell?) The sketchbook, I think, is usually seen as a practise tool - a means of honing drawing skills - that's how they're pimped by art tutors et al. But for how many years have these little books been used as a means of recording journeys, events, ideas and inspirations? The sketchbook is as valuable a journaling forum as any other with the added bonus of [generally] being extremely personal, viewed only by the artist. It contains as many scruffy, yucky pages of frustrated scrawl as it does arty examples of talent. It works the artist through the most frustrating days of artist's block, and helpfully records snippets of ideas that wait patiently to be grown into more impressive artworks at a later date.

The sketchbook - even moreso than the art journal - is an artist's best friend, a confidant, an archive -  a camera for your artistic mind, taking snapshots of inspired ideas and shapes. It's non-judgemental....nothing within its pages needs to be 'finished', presentable or even recognisable! Where I see the art journal as being a process towards an end, I feel the sketchbook is the means to achieving that.

An artists sketchbook very much represents his or her personality and as a consequence, each one is different - no right or wrong - and they evolve with you, accompany you on your artistic journey and put up with you on even your most grotty of mood-days! More than ANY other journal type, a sketchbook teaches freedom, an ability to be 'in the moment'.

I have a couple of sketchbooks on the go at the moment, but I'm going to share some pages from my big'un  - a Daler A3 plain paper book, unpretentious and loyal! The reason I've chosen to do this is to show you - as methodically as possible -  my thought processes, which are usually scatty at best! I shared these pages with a friend of mine a while ago and he says he found them helpful, so hopefully you will to. Okee - here goes...

Right - this first pic is to PROVE that your sketchbook is there SOLELY to help YOU! It doesn't mind being messy or scrappy. If I've had a busy few days or weeks of life, then making art that I'm happy with and deem 'successful' is kinda like pushing water uphill, and the longer it takes for an idea to find a path OUT of my head and onto paper or canvas, the more frustrated I become aaaaaaaaaaaaand then the longer the idea takes to escape.....sooooooo I get more on... ya whole Catch 22 thang... So I've found that grabbing a black Sharpie marker and a sketchbook and just scribbling away the mental block really helps. Of course, the resulting page is a horror, but I leave them all in my book because they're part of the process and if nothing else, they remind me that a block is just temporary, not the end of the world!

Seriously - I have SO many sketchbook (and journal) pages with just  "ARGH!!!" written on have no idea....

But the very act of holding a pen and making indelible marks on paper seems to get the creative juices flowing again.  Personally, I try not to follow the breakthrough with an art construct of epic design, rather I just go to my safe zone and pick an image that I traditionally find pleasing to draw....usually my cat, yet another mermaid or a tree:

I've opted to leave in my scribblings - they usually make little sense (even to me) but I don't have a problem with WRITING in my sketchbook... it's just another form of journalling the moment.  I like drawing trees because as I draw I can feel my arty brain waking up as the image 'grows'. Am I a sad hippie? I'm a sad hippie.....pfff...... But hey - whatever works, right?

Once the first couple of steps are taken, I'll allow whatever ideas have been rattling round in my brain to escape to the page. I tend to wake up with ideas and images that fade quickly, so I keep a sketchbook and a mug full of pens and stuff by the bed so that I can make notes. Sometimes they'll coalesce just right and I'll follow the whole process through to a finished piece, and that's great! Often, though, they'll still need time to brew - not cooked yet (to paraphrase Judge Judy!) - and that's ok too....they're going to sit there happily 'til I need them. For example, at some point I want to paint a series of canvases based on birds in orchards, just because the imagery and colours are appealing to me. These are a couple of ideas I sketched in really quickly one morning before I lost them:

Not wanting to lose the colours I had a play about with some pencil crayons (a spare set I had years ago in school!) -

It's all I need to store the idea for a future's not about perfection, but about moving the process on to that happy jump-point when I progress to a finished canvas piece. It's comfortable and pressure-free. When I look at this now, the original images that I had in my mind come RIGHT back to me. Without sketch-journaling them, they'd be lost in my spaghetti brain for good!

The next set of piccies show a full process from concept to finish.  Because my art journals archive my moods and emotions (more than specific events) it's important to me that the final image truly describes how I feel at that moment in time. When I look back at the pages, I need them to reflect those feelings back at me, then memories follow. It's not for everyone, but it works for me. On this occasion I had a very specific state of mind that I wanted to capture. (I'm not intending to explain this aspect to you as it's personal... I know how the final piece makes me feel, so that's ok. Hope you don't mind.)

So my thought process began as follows: what kind of image, and what kind of style? Bring on the sketchbook! To banish that mental block, grab that Sharpie and scribble.....

...a set of swirly, scribbly doodles ended up with a sea theme...Hmmm.....sea theme..... Oh I KNOW - a mermaid! THAT'S what's needed. Yup. Not that I'm in ANY way predictable.... *ahem*....  Now to make sure she's the right kind of mermaid.... the right look....the right ..everything! Tall order. First of all, engage brain and switch to mermaid mode. Yes, I have a mermaid mode. Shush.

Okee the whole fin thing sorted.... now for mermaids..... 

Follow my thinky-speak: First attempt. I do quite like her, but she's not right for what I want. She's a nice mix of retro and modern, but she lacks a sense of movement and emotion.  The lines are fluid but lack freedom and she's a little too doll-like, so on to the next idea...

Mermaid #2. I like the lines better - she's less posed and more natural. Not messing about with detail here so on to the next page:

This isn't the kind of mermaid I'm looking for. She's a bit too Disney - not that there's anything wrong with that, but I want to get away from the whole 'Ariel' thing for this picture. Plus, she's way too angular - I do like the idea of the hair though. I still want a mermaid shape and look that I'll feel warmer to... one that doesn't look like she'd dispatch a shark with one blow from her boney, pointy elbow. Ok - next:

I like this mermaid a LOT better. I wanted to concentrate more on mood than shape, and I'm happy with the result. Yes, she has red hair like Ariel. Shush again. 

This is my last sketch - a decision about whether my mermaid will be under or out of the water has been made. And I know what mood I want to capture and what kind of mermaid she'll be. Bingo!  And my sketchbook gracefully gives the stage over to my newest art journal for the finished picture: 

She's painted with mainly Caran D'Ache Neocolor II watersoluble wax pastels, and Derwent Inktense bars and pencils. The white dots are done with a Signo Uni Ball white gel pen. I opted for minimum effort with the background, using the design on the paper as a base with just a little gesso applied as an undercoat for the mermaid and a little light patch here and there. It's just what I had in mind when I began, way back with that scribbly doodle so every time I look at this page I not only have the feelings that I wanted to capture in the image itself, but also the satisfaction of a job well done. 

So - is this really journaling? In my opinion, yes - it's a personal record of ideas and their development which I add to on a regular basis. I'm not afraid to write in my sketchbook, record my feelings and my intents, goals and directions, thoughts and abstractions...that's good enough for me to see this as an addition to my journaling jigsaw. It fills an important niche and has a definite role in archiving the days of my life. Other people may not feel this way - and that's ok. All I'd like you to do is to extend your boundaries and concepts with regard to recording your art, producing work that makes you happy, and enjoying these processes.

I really hope this has been helpful to you in some way. And yes, there will be a part 3!! HA! Smash books and junk journals! Are they SUCH a new concept? You may find you've been keeping a 'junk journal' or 'smash book' for YEARS, just calling it a 'scrapbook' or somethin' like that.... How do they fit into art journaling? Well - I'll take more photos and have part 3 out asap, although I suspect there'll be other posts before then!  In the meantime, you might want to check out these pages on supplies:

And these people for their AWESOME sketchbooks and art materials:

Also you could have a root through the many MANY Youtube videos of artists' sketchbooks - some of them are incredible, truly! But all of them will reflect the personality and experience of the artists themselves and reflect their art journey, their developing skills, their moods and their preferences and ideals. Then grab a pad of paper, a pen or pencil and start scribbling! Most of all - enjoy yourself! If you want to ask me anything about art processes or materials and such like please contact me or leave a comment and I'll get back to you as soon as I can. Hugs as always - Shroo:)


  1. I found this post very interesting and I agree entirely with the sentiments . We have , as artists to try not to be too " precious " and just enjoy what we do .. or whats the point ? Love the bird in the tree .

  2. Hi Daisy - Thank you for all your support! Sending an extra special big Shroo hug! xxxxx

  3. It has been great viewing all the work and the process behind your fantastic page! The mermaid looks so very cool! I also liked your tree and birds!

  4. Hi Zafaran - thank you SO MUCH for visiting my blog and for taking the time to comment - That's awesome of you! I'm glad you like the posts - you are so very welcome back any time for more of my rambling! Big hug to you! from Shroo:)