Monday, January 27, 2014

Keeping Three Concurrent Art Journals

Ostrich in my everyday Artist's Journal
In your sketch practice do you like to keep just one sketchbook going or do you like to work in multiple sketchbooks at a time?

Inspired by Cathy Johnson's preference expressed in her wonderful book Artist Journal Workshop, I have been trying to get myself to keep just one journal going at a time.  What a lovely idea, everything drawn and written going into one book, a literal chronological journal of your life.

But as much as I've tried, I just can't seem to do that.

I just can't get over the tendency to let the paper inside the journal steer the content of that journal.  If I am just wanting to get some drawing practice in, or work out in pencil some ideas for this day's entry into my artist journal, why use watercolor paper to do it?  If I want to get some watercolor painting practice, it's much more enjoyable to use real artist-quality watercolor paper.  Between these two extremes is a basic desire to keep and maintain a daily illustrated journal of my life, or where I go, what I see, what I do, what I experience--the Artist's Journal.

I am finally coming to the understanding that for me, this means keeping (at least) three journals at the same time:

1.  The Junk Journal:  This is a sketchbook that contains sketch-quality paper (usually 65lb), where I feel free to get drawing practice, work out ideas, doodle...whatever.  It is also a place where I can feel free to get drawing practice by using copyright-protected photos from books, magazines, or the Internet, because this is not a book that is "mine", but merely a safe place to practice.  I learned about Junk Journals by reading Laure Ferlita's blog, and as far as I know she is the originator of the term.  I have decided for this I like to use a Canson Universal Sketch spiral-bound, because the paper can actually take wet watercolor washes without deteriorating or puckering the paper too badly.  To do the ostrich sketch above, I first practiced drawing the face in my Junk Journal to get a better understanding of it (using my photos at the ostrich farm at Picacho Peak as reference):

2.  The Artist's Journal:  This is my primary everyday journal, the one inspired by Cathy Johnson's book.  This is the one meant to provide a chronology of my life and interests, the book I will use to sketch in when I am on location or traveling, and the book I have fun and enjoy playing in.  In choosing the book to use, I have to have paper that will take pen-work well and handle watercolors "good enough" without frustration.  I have been keeping one of these types of journals for two years now, and I while I enjoy the Stillman & Birn sketchooks (and the Strathmore Mixed Media and Moleskine Watercolor), I think I might prefer my homemade coptic-bound books with student-quality watercolor paper (Strathmore 400 140lb cold press or Strathmore Aquarius II).  Another recent entry into my Artist's Journal (currently a Stillman & Birn Alpha Series sketchbook):

3.  The Watercolor Painting book:  After watercolor painting on less-than-ideal sketchbook paper exclusively for over two years now, I find that I am getting a bit hungry to get more time in painting on "real" artist-grade watercolor paper.  I recently tore up a couple full sheets of my Arches 140lb paper into 7x10" size and had it spiral-bound at Stables.  I am hoping working in a book like this will help me get better at more "fine art" watercolor painting efforts.  Why in a book?  Well, way back when, when I was doing only watercolor paintings, my stack of loose watercolor paintings in the closet was becoming larger than I could manage.  To me, putting the paintings into a book feels right, feels contained.  But I am already finding that working real paintings in an already bound book has it's limitations (can't tape down the sheet to a board to make sure it dries flat, for one), so once I finish this particular book, I think I will work in loose sheets first, then bind the finished paintings into a book.  Here is the first entry into this Arches paper book, from a photo I took during our 2009 trip to Alaska:

So, because of my particular needs, right now it feels right to keep 3 concurrent art journals.