Okay, fine, let’s talk about that blank page anxiety. Again. Look, you have enough to be anxious about without worrying whether that white page in your journal or diary is glaring at you, daring you to write or work on it. People, this will not do. Instead, today we are going to look at a variety of mark making techniques that will jumpstart your creative engines by making a nice, grungy, comfortable, welcoming space to create on.
I keep a special tea cup dedicated to this technique alone. You can make messy circles using gesso. Or Ink. I like to combine a bit of colour to gesso. This makes a viscous medium that looks like chalk paint and also has remarkable depth. Add circles sparingly or go crazy and make bold patterns.
Drizzle or pour a small amount of liquid pigment – I am using my handmade walnut ink but you can use watercolours or acrylic thinned with water. Improvise. Smoosh it about on the page, then gently blot. You can now use this image as a messy, happy background, or you can draw into it, letting the blot tell you what it is meant to be. Alternatively, you can use [read more]
I don’t know about you but I am feeling on the lost side of things these days, dazed and confused. So what do you say we make a handmade map? If you keep journal pages you can add a map there and then you’ll know where you are. When this mess is all over, you can look at it and know that this is where you were. It’s fun, it’s simple, it is an easy way to feel as though you are making order out of chaos and that is really therapeutic right now. Also, it’s not fattening. So let’s go.
You don’t have to draw well to be a good cartographer of your life. Yes, you could do a fancier job but if you wait, you might not get around to doing it. (Sound familiar?) Hand drawn maps have a special charm and immediate quality and a diagram of your neighbourhood is a powerful tool for storytelling and memory keeping. (One of my most cherished maps is one I made of the walk I took every single day for years with my dog: it was so ordinary but now that my animal friend is gone, I can [read more]
After last fall’s holiday I was cleaning out my bags and all of the bits of papers and crumbs and whatnot that end up there. (You know the ones I mean.) One of them was where my friend and I made a list of our expenses (road tolls and fancy wine, museum tickets and postcards:, petrol, t-shirts, cut flowers, fountain pen ink, maps – all of the things that we spent as we went, and then divvied up over a cup of coffee at the end of the day. As I was about to put this half a page of paper into the get-rid-of pile, I realised something. This fragment brought back vivid memories of that time together, of an afternoon of my life over coffee I would have forgotten. And that is what a list can be.
Adding a list to your written diary or illustrated journal captures day-to-day details that define your life and this time, anchoring a page in your sketchbook or diary, a snapshot of where you are and what you are doing, and when you find it again in a year or five or seventeen or your grandkids are going through your stuff [read more]
I have heard from several people this week, in different degrees of anxiety, say that they want to – they need to – start a diary or journal but their fear of the blank page has only increased during these strange days. Well people, this will not do. In addition to being the record you need to be keeping of what is happening, keeping a journal is cheap therapy that can make a difference.
So. Here is a short video tutorial showing ways to knock this blank page fear thing out of the park. You are going to deliberately, on purposely get your pages dirty. Well, not dirty, but you are going to stain them with a variety of elements so that you will have a nice, grungy, comfortable, welcoming paper to begin with. Turn the idea of order out of chaos on its head and instead make chaos out of order, then play with it.
Drizzle tea. Dab coffee. Spritz ink. Splatter paint. Doodle, then scribble, then doodle some more. Make a grid and fill it with notes in the form of teensy images. But no excuses.
Using an ink wash is a fun and easy way to add interest to your illustrated journal or art journal pages. It is especially handy way to start a page if you are not confident in your drawing as it is by its nature a messy look. (“See? I meant it to look like that.”)
In this short video, you can see how the technique can be done with pen and ink as well as other water soluble materials. Let me know if you have any [read more]
There is something special about the ability of an illustrated journal to capture the details of our days and these are strange days indeed that need recording. If you make notes in your visual diary now, you will have an account of what this time was like: isolating or working on the front lines; keeping your kids home or keeping connected virtually while you are on your own; what you are watching or reading; privations, resourceful ideas, what you are doing to cope, how you have adjusted your day to day. Anything. Seriously – anything.
(Click on any photo for a larger view.)
My experience in teaching journal keeping tells me that some of you are already off and running while others are overwhelmed by the idea of beginning. If this is you here is what you need to know: you can and should do this, and here are some hacks to get you started, no excuses.
(To read more about what an illustrated journal is go to this earlier post.)
- Use what materials you have on hand. This is not the time to go out buy art supplies so use printer paper or a school notebook, a pencil or [read more]
These are some recent illustrated journal pages from last Fall’s trip through Burgundy in France. Santé ! (Click on photo for larger image.)
And below is a flipthrough with commentary about how I made some of the [read more]
Recently, someone said they admired the way I kept up with my illustrated journal pages while on vacation. I stared at her slackjawed. No matter how many museums, road trips, hikes, or meal – I can’t not keep up my journal. If I don’t get it in my diary, it didn’t happen, without my pages my journey feels flat and black and white. So I thought maybe it was time to do a little preaching about keeping a visual diary.
An illustrated journal is somewhere between a diary and a scrapbook: drawings, ticket stubs, lists, maps, postcards, and photos combine with handwritten lists, notes, and stories and the end result is a whimsical field guide to your days. Unlike a photo album alone, it provides a strong sense of witness.
While it is invaluable for travel (the French call it un carnet de voyage) and capturing unfamiliar sites, food, wanderings, scenery, memories, it can do these things for your everyday life as well, your day-to-day journey: what you’re cooking, reading, pondering. A map of your neighbourhood with a story. Your shoes, a leaf, your cat, your coffee cup. (Click on photos for larger view.)
In the weeks to come I [read more]
“How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives.” – Annie Dillard, A Writing Life
Making New Year’s Resolutions is a kind of religion for me. I believe in it so much that I make my resolutions at the new year and again at mid-year for tune up. If you are reading this and you think that resolutions are corny or a waste of time, I strongly suspect that no one has ever sugested ways that are meaningful and guarantees success. So give it a chance and join me, won’t you? You are about to change your life.
In my experience, expressing your deepest, wildest dreams, even in a private diary, can feel scary and sometimes even wrong, as in: “Who am I to allow myself to imagine a life this big and gorgeous and successful? And if I write it in my day-to-day journal, what if someone sees it? What if I see it, what if I read it again in a few months and I’ve failed because of course I will and these words will humiliate me because I should know better and…” Sound familiar?
The Burner Journal
Now, you can “kill” your [read more]
Okay, now that you’re here, I might as well tell you this is a trick. Oh, we are going to talk about ways to keep journals; in the weeks and months to come, we are going to talk about it a lot: about paper and laying out a page and formatting and lettering and you name it, but today, there is no so-called best way. What matters is that you clicked on this link because you want to keep a journal or diary – maybe just with words but maybe also with drawings or doodling or gluing or something. And you don’t know how to start.
It is possible you are an experienced journal keeper and do not need outside help. I think it is more likely that you are new at this or that you began and are now stuck. Maybe you bought a blank book and have never made a mark in it because it’s too good to write in. Maybe you have a plain-old, lined notebook that cost $1.29 and you think it’s not good enough.
Whichever it is, you are mistaken. What you need to start your journal is this: something to write on (handmade [read more]