Keeping an Art Journal

I’ve kept a journal with sketches since college…
I started using lined journals I bought in Chinatown in San Francisco, above, for architectural notes, and every page has drawings made during lectures or tours or just thought about what I was designing.

I found  Okina/Cadic journals in San Francisco, in my early twenties.  I segregated my journals into sketching (the grey blank paged Okinas) and writing in the red lined Okinas, both shown left.

What began to bother me was a lack of continuity in my journals.  Initially I wrote more than I sketched.  I’d use two lined books to one drawing journal.

They were not a cohesive written/visual diary of my thought processes.
I wanted my creative life chronologically documented to show the influences of what I was thinking, so separating writing from art in two or more journals didn’t work.
It began to seem ridiculous to divide up my whole life in that odd way when my life was one big meatball of activities.

 My artwork for many years was on big canvases, above.
Of course I still journaled in my lined diary.

When I moved away from painting big because of the lack of space in my new digs a decade ago, I bought my first watercolor-friendly-paper sketchbook.
And I fell in love with sketchbooks.  In Love.
I mooshed writing and making marks together and this made me happy!
Now I love my sketchbooks and they embody my creative practice, an outward manifestation of my creative self.

I found sketchbooks much freer as a creative than painting BIG on canvas.

My go-to sketchbooks now are the Hahnemühle A5 Landscape Nostalgie Sketchbook for everyday, as in everything-and-the-kitchen-sink sketching/writing.  A Hahnemühle A4 Watercolour Journal is my go-to when I land on an image I want to create in a larger size.

I was writing this post about my sketching practices and I received an email from Danny Gregory asking, How do I keep what I put in my sketchbooks fresh and authentic?

Okay…. I remind myself daily:

  1. This is my private creative space: I don’t have to show it to ANYBODY.
  2. This is my playground, and anything goes.
  3. It isn’t my happy place, it is like my mind, and so it is going to reflect what is going on, happy-sad-frightened-celebratory.
  4. If I don’t like something I created, I can turn the page.
  5. I always have blank books to look forward to!
  6. That they are not precious until I fill them up!

Because I spent much of my life teaching design and creativity at UCLA, and the process of being creative is my fascination, I tend to show it all. I show what I consider my “bad” sketches alongside the images I love in my postings on Instagram and FaceBook.  And I have learned things, and the biggest is that my judgements are not what others see.
My “worst” babies sometimes bring the most interest, so all are valued.

I struggle with depression, for good reasons…
If you need to know what depresses me listen to the news on any given day, for your daily dose of the end of the world, wars, famine, meanness and suffering.
My Buddhist practice helps, but my sketching practice helps MORE!
I believe it will save many of us from spiraling into depression.
Sketching daily is also a way to go deeper in my spiritual practice.

I admit, however, that I
have several journals other
than my daily sketchbook.
I have a beautiful but impractical
Khadi journal which has become
a recipe book, sample image right.
Impractical because it has
thick rough paper, almost too absorbent, and I would not buy another but it has made a beautiful experiment for my recipe journal.

  I jot down recipes in my Nostalgie Sketchbook as I’m cooking… messy messy… later, after the recipe is eaten and loved, I transfer them into the lovely recipe book.

I have one project to which I’ve dedicated an Hahnemühle A4 Watercolour Journal
And as it unfolds I will share that journal with you.

Most often I keep one side of a spread for writing, and the other for sketching, shown above.  I write down quotes and my own notes at the back of the journal too: silly, daft or precious things I want to remember, shown left.

I used to have piles of Post-its that got  lost… But now these notes I write, left, willy-nilly… I have no idea what else to do with them, and sometimes I write for several pages.  Every so often one becomes an idea worth pursuing.

If I have nothing to write, I rarely sketch on both sides of a page anymore, in case I someday want to cut a sketch out of my journal.  (Horrors, not done that yet, and this practice has come about because of Mitchell saying this to me!)
I simply continue to sketch and later may come back and write this or that on the facing blank page… mostly I am writing notes about color or impressions.

The decision of how to organize a page is not an issue for me.
Above are two full spreads on Vietnamese imagery;
below are separate pages done at different times for two locations…
both with multiple images on an A4 page.
Maybe the architect in me finds organizing a page second nature.
I often use a thirds rule or divide into quarters as I organize my landscape pages.

In the very back of my journals I use a couple pages for testing paints, inks, or notes.  On the endpaper, or inside of the back hardcover, I usually place a clear plastic sleeve or use a sentimental envelope from Mitchell to pop items into for safekeeping.

Below, I have some older posts about written journaling:

Daily Journal, 1

Daily Journal, 2

Daily Journal, 3

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About dkatiepowellart

hollywood baby turned beach gurl turned steel&glass city gurl turned cowgurl turned herb gurl turned green city gurl. . . artist writer photographer. . . cat lover but misses our big dogs, gone to heaven. . . buddhist and interested in the study of spiritual traditions. . . foodie, organic, lover of all things mik, partner in conservation business mpfconservation, consummate blogger, making a dream happen, insomniac who is either reading buddhist teachings or not-so-bloody mysteries or autobio journal thangs early in the morning when i can't sleep
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