The Journal as Art
I’m reading the book Drawing from Life: The Journal As Art, by Jennifer New (Princeton Architectural Press, New York).
It’s a beautiful book with text and drawings by 31 artists who keep a journal. Chapters include Observation, Reflection, Exploration and Creation. The preface states: journals are unsung heroes, the working stiffs of creative life.
A journal can be a diary, sketchbook and notebook. It can include anything and everything. It’s a place to play and explore images and ideas.
DO A DRAWING FROM NATURE
At the beginning of the book Drawing from Life, I found the image above – a line drawing of oak leaves with a live twig and oak leaves placed on top of the drawing by Maira Kalman. The artist says she likes to gather information while she walks. She is the author of 13 children’s books and a frequent contributor to the New Yorker magazine. I’m intrigued by her drawing.
I love that you can see through the photo of the leaves to the beautiful drawing below. It’s simple and elegant. I feel the gesture of the lines in contrast to the actual leaves and bark.
In an interview, Kalman says she always has a sketchbook with her and is drawing all the time.
I decided I have to make more time to draw.
So many people say they can’t draw a straight line. Actually – anyone can draw a straight line if they use a ruler. No excuses! If you are an artist or wannabe, I say: get comfortable with drawing because it’s really important.
If you don’t know how to draw something (example: leaves), trace the outline of the leaves and transfer the image onto drawing paper. Another way to approach drawing is find a drawing and copy it. Turn the image upside down and start to draw. You will be amazed at how good your drawing will look when you copy from an upside down image. Your confidence will rise. You can start to draw from what you see – example – a view on a walk, your desk, your room, etc.
Look at something and make an abstract drawing – gestural lines and shapes in response to the image you see. Collect images and make a sketch while you look at the image.
I think it’s fun to doodle with lines, move the pen and watch the image grow. I like to draw from my imagination.
The image above is the 7th drawing in my journal. It’s my favorite drawing so far. The journal is exploring an imaginary fishy world with waves, floating food, and underwater critters. Do you see the snail and the fish in this one?
The journal papers are 10×8 inches. The drawing is small and the collage papers are tiny.
I started the collage with horizontal strips of BFK Rives art paper. I drew with pen and ink on the cut paper and then glued them into the journal. Notice the irregular sides. That’s intentional. I found magazine papers with printed text, tiny dots, a spoked wheel, and stripes. Since the drawings are high contrast pen and ink, I looked for collage papers in a range of grey to black tones. I drew spirals with pen and pencil with softer edges.
I titled the image above White Paper Waves. The cut paper on the bottom of the collage was a scrap leftover from another collage project. I love the pencil outline around the cut out waves. As soon as I found it, I knew I would use it.
I titled the image above Fishy Tails.
Recently I decided I want to cut the collage papers into open shapes with space in the middle. I use a fine scissor. I want the paper to become another line – collage as drawing that can be glued on top. The image below is a cut paper sampler for the next drawing.
PLAYING WITH LINES
I started the journal because I wanted to play with thin and thick, straight and wavy lines. I wanted to create new images that explored the image that came before. My journal is a journey via drawing and collage. I want to see how the images change. It was very important to use certain papers. I discovered I like some papers much better than others. It will influence what I use and what papers I collect.
My journal is spiral bound with a heavy black paper cover and includes medium weight drawing paper. I’m particular about size. It has to feel right in my hand. The pages have to be receptive to pen and ink and bear the weight of glue and papers.
Some artists do a drawing every day. Experts say drawing is good for relaxation, concentration and observation.
If you want to learn to draw, find an online tutorial, a how-to book, or take a class at an art center.
Buy a notebook with blank pages and fill it with drawings. Write comments, keep notes on what you observe. Draw from life. Look at what’s around you. Doodle with thick and thin lines. Create open and solid shapes. Add patterns and stripes. Fill in with cross-hatch lines. If you like – embellish with paint and collage.
Buy pencils and pens. B pencils are softer and darker (2B, 3B, 4B, 5B, 6B). H pencils are harder and lighter (HB, 1H, 2H, 3H, 4H). I do not like H pencils and never use them. I like 3B, 4B and 5B. Higher B pencils (6-8B) are too soft, dark and smudgy for me. Permanent ink pens come with a range of ink tips. I like them all. I especially like the pens with a brush tip.
I love the blog post “the 90 cent solution to becoming organized, creative and successful” by Pat DePuy at Mainstreethost.com (December 18, 2013).
What is the 90 cent solution?
It’s a notebook (a journal) that you buy. Typically it’s unlined papers in a bound book.
Experts say it works best when what you enter is handwritten – when you print by hand or use script/cursive – never mechanical wordprocessing.
Experts say keeping a notebook improves your memory. There’s documented evidence that the ideas you record by hand get acted on and become more successful.
Because your notebook/journal is handwritten, you remember with much more detail when you review what you wrote.
Advice to everyone: keep a notebook. Artists: fill your journal with images you find and drawings you make. Add comments on what inspires you, what you did and why you like it, and what you will do next (what will change, what will stay the same).
Please contact me. Do you draw? If not, why not? Do you keep a journal? Can you describe it? Thank you for reading and your comments.