Sunday, September 11, 2011

Sketchbook Journaling

That I was able to paint plein air while on my vacation in Montana was a gift!  Unless I go on a specific painting vacation do my vacations and my painting go together.  These days however I always take a sketchbook and a very small box of paints and I try to do at least something small when I can steal the time. And I look for small snippets of time more often now!

I remember the first time I took a sketchbook and paints.  I was so timid I never took them out!  The next time I did them in my room away from the eyes of onlookers.  Gradually as I gained confidence, I became a brave artist and painted away from any crowds.  The more accustomed I became to it the less I worried about others and the more I wanted to record my adventures with my art.  When focused, I don't notice the occasional onlooker, and they usually don't bother me either.

Notice the picture # for future reference
Yes, I took a lot of pictures!
A sketchbook travel journal is a wonderful way to keep memories even if you don't actually paint much in them.  You can take a photo, note the number of the photo and make notes for the future painting.  I note colors and impressions, details and even feelings to evoke the memories back at the studio.  That way when I go to paint it the scene comes to life again. 
If you get a chance, you can paint a small scenes as time allows.  A sketchbook journal is the perfect size to do quick studies.  Many of my paintings are unfinished because I had to move on.  Some of those unfinished sketches are favorites of mine.  I'm not sure why, but I try to remind myself it's not always about finishing.  Sometimes it's just about starting-isn't it?! 

 I noticed that while I had many photos, I couldn't remember even a week later where exactly I was, why I took the photo or other relevant things from my vacation.  As the idea evolved, I began to make written notes about each day of my travels.Now my journals are full of written records of my journeys with pencil sketches as well as tiny and small watercolor sketches.  Now when I go through them it is much more than a photo album, it is a record of my experience in the "here and now" of "then and there", if that makes sense.  I don't know about you, but when I get home it takes weeks to get back into things and by then the memories have faded.  But having those written notes is nice.

I have sketchbooks that are just for travel, but I also keep sketchbooks for everyday.  Every once in a while it's such fun to go back and read my impressions of something or see a quick sketch.  I don't write a daily journal nor do I sketch daily. I find I'm doing it more and more as a way to observe and then reflect on some of the important and the not so important things that interest me artistically.  I try not to be serious about them either.  They are for my eyes only and I have fun and play in them. 

Recently I was rereading The Pastelist's Year by Elizabeth Mowry.  She writes about a journal that she keeps to record nature and the impression it leaves on her during her walks each day.  I thought I might take my journals in that direction for a while beyond the travel journal and sketchbook where I work out compositions and things.  I love the idea of recording the wonders I see on my walks. 

So there are many ways to keep a sketchbook journal and just as many reasons.  I find the value of keeping one grows with each journal I fill.  Besides which, they are just fun!

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