Let's Talk About Sketchbooks Volume 5

This week's sketchbook is actually one that is still in use (kind of). I got this book just under a year ago on a trip back to Massachusetts. I was in a little bit of a journal slump (I had started my 2015 daily drawing project and was spending most of my art time working on those drawings, first on white loose-leaf paper and then in a 100% boring sketchbook (not included in this series because all of the drawings in it are already on my Instagram page as part of that project)). After I finished my last journal I didn't pick up a new one for a while.

Then, I saw this journal in Paper Source and it was love at first sight. I loved the exposed binding and the pages of color swatches at the start and end of the book.  I loved how chunky it was. I loved the green cover, even though green isn't usually my jam.  So, I bought it and started dreaming about how quickly I was going to fill it up with tons of drawings and artwork. Almost a year later I still haven't filled it up, but this journal contains some of my favorite work (I think I say that about all of them) and got me out of a journal-keeping slump, so I think it did it's job.

This journal is made by Plum Goods and has a really cool exposed coptic binding made with pink thread that I am super into (although paint does leak into the binding). I customized the cover very simply by taping down a cut-out of my name and by letting it get super beat up. 

This journal was designed by Linda Geary who did a project with a bunch of color swatches, which are featured at the front and back of the book. They would probably make really cool backgrounds for pages, but I just let them sandwich my own artwork and serve as inspiration.

The first page references the fact that I had gone for a while without an art journal to dump my thoughts/feelings/artwork into. The idea that journals make me feel better that I keep coming back to. 

I started incorporating my daily drawings into the journal, instead of making them as their own separate project. I drew the anatomical heart out of a book about cardiovascular health that I found at my grandparents' house, photographed it for my project, and then added the writing later.

On the left I painted over a random pen drawing that I didn't like. I won a zine from Natalie Mutrux and in my package she included an envelope of ephemera. I made a contour portrait of the guy in the bottom photo and the photo in beside it on the right page. That black watercolor rubs off onto the facing page when the journal is closed. I try not to let it bother me.

I took myself out on a self-love date and went clothes shopping, to the art supply store, the book store and to sit and draw in coffee shops (where a lot of the drawings on the surrounding pages were made). Over the next few days I drew the things I bought for my daily drawings, including a bunch of Dr. P H Martin's watercolors, which I swatched on the paint bottle drawings.

More playing around with new watercolors.

As you can probably tell from the previous pages, I was doing a lot of life drawing at the time, hugely inspired by Danny Gregory. I bought all of his books that I could find right away and this was a favorite quote from The Creative License, painted with watercolor onto vellum and then pasted into the journal.

I took a bunch of notes while reading Amy Poheler's Yes Please and taped them in waterfall-style.

I think this was from a podcast? I should have written down my source, but I think I heard it when I was walking home and it just stuck in my head. Also, that pink is watercolor bleed-through from the previous page and it is so good.

Ugly and unfinished pages are all over this journal. 

Playing with stamps when I couldn't sleep (because of the coffee). Stamps are by Kelly Purkey.

Another example of incorporating my daily drawings into the journal. I drew the tiger and painted it teal and added the speech bubble with song lyrics later (lyrics are to Nanny Nanny Boo Boo by Le Tigre, obvs).

I went through an animals phase with my daily drawings and this is one of my favorites. 

In my last sketchbook post I wrote about covering up artwork I didn't like with lettering. It also works for angsty journaling too!

I fell in love with blind contour self portraits while working in this journal. 

I always felt like the space to the side of that lamp would be an excellent place to put something, but I never did...

When working with liquid watercolor I will sometimes use wax paper taped to cardboard as an impromptu palette (I know, I'm so professional). I love the way the wax paper looks after it has been used a few times, so I will often tape it into my journal (and, of course, more blind contours).

A lot of pages include my daily drawings and nothing else - also I worked on these pages completely out of order - the one on the right is from late June when I was preparing to move apartments, and the one on the left is from mid-July.

Lipstick swatches, because why not.

I really like the look of this page.

Travel journaling! This is from a trip to Montreal with a million delays. I don't really like the look of this at all, buy I collected a bunch of business cards and stuck them in and it was fun.

Mopping up excess paint.

Playing with patterns. Absolutely love the way this one looks with the pink thread used for the binding.

Even though I always intend to keep them art-y I always end up jotting down random things like packing lists in my journal - this one is for Portland!

Of course, the journal then came with me to Portland. I'm really into those polka dot letters.

Again, a lot of the pages in this journal have random one-off drawings in them. If I don't particularly like them or want to build a page around them I will just write directly over them.  It adds visual interest to a page with a floating drawing and gives me an spot to write stuff down (mostly just venting that I don't worry about being super legible).

Playing with drawing and watercolors on vellum. I painted the title of this piece - the moon-faced girl on the page behind the transparent vellum. Doesn't she look like those old depictions of the man-in-the-moon?

I still have quite a few pages left in this sketchbook (you can kind of see the block that is not as wrinkly/colorful in the above photo), but my work on it has kind of slowed.  When I started working in this book I was really excited about how chunky it is and had grand plans to finish it as quickly as possible.  Over a year later that has definitely not happened, and I'm less motivated to pull it out because I feel like the body of work inside isn't as reflective of where I am now. I'm not sure if I'll finish it off someday or just call it done. I guess that means I'm it is still in progress...

Things That Happened When I Started Drawing Every Day

As of today I have been drawing every day for a year. It sounds like a dramatic cliche to say that this project has changed my life, but I can say that lots of new things started happening once I made the commitment to drawing every day.  It is definitely a commitment to working hard, slogging through days that I didn't feel like doing it, days when it wasn't working.  But the magical thing about a daily habit is that sometimes, that thing you do every day, that thing that can feel like a chore can suddenly become incredible when I look down at the page and see something I'm proud of. And I am incredibly proud of this project as a whole and all that it has brought to my life.

If you are planning on starting a daily project in 2016 (or anytime) I hope this convinces you.  And if you are just interested in my thoughts on this project, then read on.

1. I improved my skills. I think it is pretty well-established that practicing something every day is a good way to get better at it and I can definitely say that this happened for me - I still have a long way to go and a lot of skills to develop, but my drawing skills have improved so much in the past year.

2. I started to find my style. This started to happen in the last few months of this challenge. I am starting to make work that I like more often than not and I'm starting to see a style that seems to be cropping up over and over in my work. I think this is a combination of what I like and what just comes out when I start drawing, completely out of my control. There are definitely styles I wish I could emulate, but I'm working on embracing my own.  I think my style at this point is marked by simple line drawing, bright colors, watercolor, and lots of abstract patterns.

3. I tried new things. Drawing the same things in the same style every day can be incredibly boring, so mixing it up is essential. For my first month of drawing I only drew in black pen, but over the next 11 months I added in handlettering, watercolor, alcohol markers, and different backgrounds. I didn't love everything that I tried, but I found some things that I love and stopped from getting (as) bored.

4. I made ugly stuff and shared it with the internet. It is pretty much a given that with drawing every day, some pieces aren't going to be the best. Sometimes my artwork was ugly but I wasn't able to keep redoing drawings all day and sometimes drawings were just okay, but not my favorite. I put those up on the internet anyway. I'm not sure what the lesson is there, but I think it is that the world didn't end just because I posted something ugly, or poorly lit (lots of late night drawings make for lots of crappy photos). No one said mean things, I didn't loose all of my followers (that's not why I do this anyway), nothing catastrophic happened, there was just something that I didn't love on my Instagram feed for a little while.

5. I developed a creative habit. As I mentioned before, sometimes what I make is ugly. Sometimes I wasn't able to put in 100% effort (this is okay, I can't put in hours of work to make a masterpiece every single day) and sometimes I was really trying but it wasn't working like I wanted it to. But sometimes "forcing it" worked out and I liked what I made even though I wasn't feeling inspired. Sometimes forcing it was rough and I hated what I was drawing and I hated everything and I hated myself for making this stupid commitment to doing it every day. But doing something, anything, every day made it that much easier to keep going the next day. It made drawing part of my everyday routine and changed my mindset. Now, I think about drawing and making art a lot. I am constantly looking at the shapes of things and at color palettes. Drawing has become part of my life.

6. I made more than I ever have. Before this habit I kept a regular art journal. I wasn't prolific, but art was definitely a part of my life. Now, I have tons of drawings hanging around.  I have filled several sketchbooks. This means that I've had to come up with more ideas than ever before.  I'm stretching creatively.  It also means that I have lots and lots of work to look back on that can reinspire me when I don't know what I'm doing.

7. I became more comfortable putting my art out there. This was probably the scariest thing about this project and the biggest thing that has changed over the course of the year. I have always been a creative person, but not an "artistic" person (I am someone who took an art history class to get out of a visual art requirement in high school (art history was great and I'm glad I took it, but you get the point about how I saw myself)). In January 2015 I was terrified to tell people that I was interested in art, that I was making art, or to share my work. I have no idea why, the people that I know are nice and supportive, I promise. I guess I thought that they would laugh at me or think it was too late to start - that if I hadn't been an artist since I was a kid then there was no point in starting now. But I shared my first drawing and I kept doing it and now the people that knew me before are following my project enthusiastically and I have connected with even more people who are interested in art and appreciate this project as well.

Thank you so much for your support this year! I plan on keeping up with this daily habit in 2016 and rolling out an even bigger creative project as well. If you want to be the first to know about that sign up for my email list: http://eepurl.com/bF_tUj

I'm wishing you a happy New Year!