Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Art Journal or Artist's Journal?

"Nitty-Gritty" artist's journal page,
5.5x8.5" Canson Universal Sketch pad
In a pinned post on the Artist's Journal Workshop Facebook group, Cathy Johnson makes an excellent distinction between an art journal and an artist's journal.  To quote:  "Art journal or artist's journal? We've been talking about our expectations of ourselves and our journals, and that's one reason I make that distinction. An art journal is expected to be ART--an artist's journal is simply your journal, and you are the artist. You can make art in it, if you wish--or you can play or plan or explore or even write your grocery list! The pressure to produce is gone. Give it a try!"

Personally, I like to do both, but primarily I yearn to spend most of my time with an artist's journal.  Someplace where I feel safe and free to sketch, doodle, write, experiment, explore,...whatever!  An artist's journal to me is a chronology of an artist's continually unfolding process of development.  And, well, as an artist I am currently on the steep end of the learning curve!

But in order to feel free, an artist must feel comfortable with the book itself.  For me, even the most inexpensive watercolor sketchbooks are still too intimidating to use as my artist's journal.  Well, I recently found the solution in a post by Alisa Burke!  Besides being an amazingly creative artist, she is also a believer that you don't have to buy expensive materials to make beautiful art.  I was blown away by what she could do in cheap sketchbooks of 65-lb paper, even using watercolors!  Wow!  

The Canson Universal Sketch pad
takes watercolors pretty well!
So I searched what inexpensive sketchbooks out there in the 65-lb range, and I discovered the Canson Universal Sketch.  Reading reviews, people were using watercolors in it with pretty good results.  So on my next order to Amazon, I threw in an order for a 5.5x8.5" Canson Universal Sketch pad, and it's perfect!  This sketchbook holds up surprisingly well with watercolor paints. No bleed-through so I can paint on both sides of the paper. The bright white paper allows colors to be vibrant. 

I know I shouldn't feel stifled by thicker-papered, nicer, more proper watercolor paper sketchbooks to use as my artist's journal, but I do. So to work around my hang-ups, I've found a really great solution for me. Besides, my fountain pen draws so smoothly on this paper, which I also really appreciate.

The first photo illustrates my "nitty-gritty" use of this sketchbook.  While waiting to backup my hard-drive, I sketched the backup drive.  While watching Danny Gregory's interview with Prashant Miranda, I paused the video and sketched Prash--my very first attempt to sketch someone's face!  And while browsing the web I came across a cute illustration of a gecko that I wanted to remember, so I copied it into my sketchbook, and noted the colors I used.

The second photo illustrates an attempt to get some more drawing, painting, and calligraphy practice in my artist's journal.  I got out my stack of reference photos and felt in the mood to sketch a blooming prickly pear.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Sketching Australia

I'm back from 3 months in Australia!  Since I am very much into sketching these days, I made sketching what I saw in Australia a high priority for my time there.  Before I went, I carefully decided what sketchbook, pen, and watercolor pigments to bring.  I decided to try the Stillman & Birn Alpha because it looked like the paper was thick enough to handle watercolor paint yet thin enough to provide an ample number of pages in the book, and allow me to feel freer to write in it too.  It worked out great!  I brought my favorite pen, the Platinum Carbon Desk Pen, and spare Platinum Carbon ink cartridges.  I originally thought I'd bring ink in a little nalgene bottle with a syringe, but didn't want to bother with that.  As it was, I only used 2 ink cartridges for the entire 3 months.

It was of course a wonderful experience to do so much sketching, and I really feel that my skills improved with the almost daily practice.  It wasn't too difficult to find the time to sketch while travelling with a non-sketcher (my husband), as I was able to sketch while he was doing other things.  But still, oh what fun it must be to feel free to sketch where ever, whenever, and for as long as you want when travelling solo or with another sketcher!  Someday I shall have to experience that.

If you care to see more pages from this sketchbook, I created a Facebook album.