A couple weeks ago, Dick and I “paged” through the loose boards that make up the 30 entries of my 2016 Fake Journal. It was satisfying to look at them all again, and then pack them neatly in their box. There is a real heft to each entry because they are on boards. Their 10 x 16 inch size is also substantial. (It was very pleasant working without a gutter.) Each day as the stack of painted boards grew and the unused board stack shrank I felt quite productive.
But as always happens, the project gets packed away (it fit perfectly in the 3 inch tall box, no space for even one more!). After we’d gone through them, Dick hoisted it up onto the shelf—and I had a clear table for new projects. (Which right now is filming new online classes.)
The end of a project always seems a bit weird to me. I suddenly have all sorts of free time—which only serves to confirm in my mind my sense that we can always find time to make art, we just often have to “work around” other things in our lives. And even make choices about not doing certain things in our lives to make time for making art. Most important, we have to realize that the “art time” we want, crave, desire, or even need, might need to be adapted to the actual time we can find, but it’s a place to start.
This year, as in past years, was stressful. The folks don’t seem to do well in the spring. CR ended up in the hospital in March, and his recovery in transitional care lasted well into the end of April. This made finding the time I wanted to spend on this year’s project difficult, in fact there were aspects of this project that were more stressful than any other fake journal, because of what I had hoped to do. (My desire not meeting the realities of life.)
This year, just as I had encouraged others when I set the theme, I sought to shift in place. I didn’t pre-think or plan my character, media or approach, until almost the last minute. The exception was I knew I wanted to take time to work with watercolor because I just wasn’t finding the time in my day—instead always defaulting to using gouache or ink. To facilitate this urge to work with watercolor, just before IFJM began, I cut Arches Cold Press watercolor boards into 10 x 16 inch pieces that I would use for this project. That was the only planning I did.
Two days before IFJM began I thought that it would be great if I could work on sketching with pencil and watercolor instead of my usual ink and watercolor. But I decided that while I would work on that during the month I would also work with ink as desired, just to keep things moving.
I was hoping that I could take 2 hours a day off to sketch. I had cleared away other projects and it seemed doable. However, with my father-in-law’s health emergency it was the rare day when I found a two hour block to work. In fact I don’t think I ever did. I think the fox entry might have taken 90 minutes, but then, like most of the others it isn’t finished. Oh, the three views of the finch, that took 2 hours.
It’s not that I’m obsessed with time, OK maybe a little, it’s just that the night before IFJM began I knew that I wanted to shift very little indeed, and have a character who loves to draw the same things I do (birds, people, dogs), but who works in watercolor and graphite mostly, and who spends a leisurely time working on glazing and glazing. Her sketches, on boards are her studies and experiments, practice for other pieces. And she doesn’t write a lot.
I’ve had a lot of characters who don’t write a lot, who don’t think about process. It’s funny to me that I had a character who doesn’t think about her process this year, but because I was thinking about how to work out the glazing I was doing and get the contrast I wanted without ink, I found myself thinking a lot about process. And that often got in the way of me being “in character.”
And then when I would think I couldn’t get into character I would find that the painting took me into character and everything would be right again.
But there was no way to find the time block that I wanted each day so I did what I always do during a project—I looked for the key elements that were most important to me, and still doable, and found a way to adapt to save those elements.
By letting go of the desire to spend long periods of time on this project I was able to hold on to working in glazes with watercolor, and test out my new watercolor palette that I’ve had sitting around for almost two years with very little attention—certainly no focused attention.
I had also hoped to read several books on watercolor, to remind myself of all the things I used to do with watercolor in the 1980s, and all the things I haven’t yet thought to do with it. But the five or so books I stacked up to read were left unread throughout the month. There simply wasn’t time to “research” and paint, so I opted to paint.
I have found that I enjoyed the watercolor so much that the first week after IFJM I continued to work in watercolor on boards, and also used the same watercolors in my regular journal sketching.
(I’ll be doing a review of my watercolor palette later this summer, on Roz Wound Up.)
I came out of the project with a few new favorite colors, a love of Arches Cold Press watercolor board, more patience with glazing (it’s the drying time that kills me—towards the end of the month, but always when sketching Dick from life, I resorted to a hairdryer to help speed things up), and a renewed enjoyment of the squirrel mop! (Most of the paintings were executed with 3 sizes of mop; only the fine details at the very end of a painting session may have been added with a #12 round.) I found that the mops allowed me to be loose and play with the paint while at the same time control things enough for glazing purposes.
This project also raised questions in my mind about what other projects I wanted to do in the future. With time at such a premium I’m tired of sprinting. I am looking at ways to carve out longer sessions in my days to make those projects possible. It’s a lot to think about. In anyone’s life there are fixed commitments—work and family; exercise and care of one’s own physical health. Starting the online teaching in 2010 just as the folks required more attention has been an interesting juggling feat. I’m already using realizations that occurred during IFJM 2016 in my self-evaluations and goal setting.
While there were many days during April when the project was frustrating to me I relied on my usual “make it work” attitude to keep going, to modify as needed. Letting my character have more of a voice as the month progressed was the natural reaction to getting to know her as I went along. I would say for me that’s the best argument for doing a little pre-planning, so you know the character before you get going and have a full 30 days with him or her, instead of a “ramp-up” time as you feel your way.
Any project you can come out of wishing it wasn’t over is a great one. And in response to that I’ve found ways to take some of this project forward in my life and I’m grateful for that.
Hardest thing about the project: Not using gouache for 30 days. Gasp!
Thanks again to all the 2016 participants, whether they shared their journal pages on the public list, or shared pieces in the Facebook group it was great to see what you were doing and what your characters got up to. And it's been great to read your project wrap ups!
As time allows I will be doing a few "process" posts showing various stages of my pages. These will appear on Roz Wound Up. It's a little difficult because I would become so engrossed in painting that I would forget to take "stages" photos. But seeing even the initial sketch might be fun in some instances. I have already discussed with Dick the need for a set up a way I can automatically tape as I paint. Some of the paintings, saved at the very last minute, or blown apart earlier than that could then be used as teaching aids for my students—or cautionary tales. I'm sure this will happen before IFJM 2017. It remains to be seen, however, if that character will sit still!
Note: If you're new to this site and want to see other 2016 fake journals please look at the participants list in the right-hand column labeled for 2016. Further down the column you'll find participants from past years. In the past two years we've had a Facebook group where people have posted. That's worked great to get people immediate feedback and encouragement. If you are interested in participating in 2017 (and I hope you'll consider it) I encourage you to join the Facebook group in February 2017.
Also, take a moment to read some of the explanatory articles I mention at the top of this blog, with links. That will give you a sense of this project and the potential benefits.