Welcome to International Fake Journal Month 2013!

What is IFJM?
Please read the page "What Is IFJM" for details.
Learn the difference between Faux, Fake, and Fake Historical Journals.

Contests for 2015
Currently there are no contests planned for 2015. Check the side bar "Contests for 2015" to see if this changes.

Participants who Post Their Journals
A list of 2015 participants who are posting their fake journals this year appears near the top of the right side bar of this blog. Lists of participants who posted their pages in 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, and 2014 appear lower in the same column. Please pay them a visit and check out their fake journals.

View a Couple of Roz's Past Fake Journals
Roz's 2009 fake journal takes place in an alternate Twin Cites, where disease has killed the human and bird populations. (It ends up being an upbeat tale of friendship.) Watch a video flip through of Roz's 2009 fake journal here.

Read an explanation of Roz's insanely complex 2011 fake journal.

Tips on Keeping a Fake Journal
Click on "tips" in the category cloud.

Remember, "Life's so short, why live only one?"

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Strengthening Your Creative Muscles

If you are participating in the 2015 International Fake Journal Month (IFJM) celebration then chances are you have just completed your seventh entry in your journal (most participants do an entry a day).

Things might be barreling along at breakneck speed and the freedom you experience being another character is already spilling over into your other work.

For others the end of the week might seem bittersweet—plans for the month seem now further away than April first, your medium of choice is not working in unison with the paper and journal you selected, your character may be in a snit at your failure to grasp his or her true motives for sketching nothing but cigarette butts found on main street, and that sniffle you thought was allergies two days ago is now a full-blown head cold.

What to do?

Don't give up. Don't pack it in.

Realize this:

Starting a creative project of any time is never easy, especially when you are setting it up to dig deep within yourself and mine some essential truths about how you approach art and life.

The first time you participate in IFJM might seem particularly mined with explosive obstacles. You look around and see others (who have participated before or maybe never participated) churning out pages as if there was no tomorrow (or as if they had no other obligations in the world). Your small sketch on the page suddenly begins to seem smaller and more insignificant.


Your fake journal is going to be different from everyone else's because you and your goals are different.

Your journal, with its simple parameters that fit in your day also fits your goals, that's why you decided on it. Keep going, keep applying yourself to the goals you set and see what you discover.

If your project now seems overwhelming because you are having to do extra research into what's involved in medicinal botany when you've never grown a plant in your life (I hope I've picked a career no one is using this year—it's sometimes hard to  keep track as characters don't announce it) and that extra research time leaves you with little sketching and writing time—don't beat yourself up.

If the medium you selected is making mud on all your pages—don't give in.

It's time to reassess, and tweak your project so that you can continue on through the month.

After you have completed the seventh day of your project it's the perfect time to reassess. Follow these simple steps, even if you think all is going well.

1. Ask yourself how you are connecting with your character.

2. How much time are you spending on your project each day—if it's more than 30 minutes a day are you on vacation and so have time to spare? If not take a serious look at the time you're spending on the project.

3. Are you happy with the sketches and writing that you are producing? If so, great, don't think more about it for now. (You can look at them again in as week 3 starts.) If you are not happy with your output take a look at what the causes of the dissatisfaction are. Is it because you are judging your writing and art? Do you have issues with your internal critic? If you never have before and now you're harshly judging your output here's a clue, you have issues with your internal critic that you've been in denial over. Take a moment not to address this fact and find a way to silence the critic for the duration of the project. I recommend that you come up with a statement as simple as "Shut UP" or as polite as "I'll speak with you about it in May, I'm sure you'll have lots to say." Use that statement EVERY TIME you find yourself getting into a judgmental frame of mind about your artwork. You might find yourself saying this every 30 seconds if the critic is really holding on tightly. He doesn't want you to go on because you are outside his comfort level. As an artist YOU get to set your own comfort level. Push your boundaries and tell your internal critic to take a hike.

If your "judgment" about your art and writing comes not from your internal critic but from your healthy art-process editor who makes helpful and specific comments for change like "this image's focus is lost here because there are no dark-darks next to the focal point" then use those comments to focus on those specifics in your next piece. BUT BE VERY CLEAR IN YOUR ASSESSMENT.

The one type of judgment tells you to shut down, the healthy type of assessment shows you clear paths for moving forward.

4. After you have assessed items 1 to 3 it's time to look at how you can switch things up to make the best of the remaining time in the project.

You might realize that it's important to simplify locations your character is in—so your character either returns home or stays in one spot for the duration.

You might find that it's important to decrease your time involvement. If so sit down with your character and ask her what she can work on in only 30 minutes. You can do a bit of creative negotiation.

The goal is ALWAYS to do something that is manageable so that you can get to the end of the project.

But it is also about maintaining your creative flexibility.

As an artist it is important to learn when it is time to switch things up within a project and be able to clearly distinguish that from a complex urge to quit.

One of the most valuable things you might learn on this project is your unique artistic temperament triggers. Don't continue day after day to struggle. Instead sit down with yourself and your character, and work out ways to keep going.

Some Possible Shifts To Make To Ensure Completion

1. Immediately reduce your time involvement to 30 minutes a day. If this means you can't do your research, then find a way to work around that. (Your character has to return home where things are familiar to the both of you is the easiest workaround here—but you'll find other creative ways to proceed.) If you're selected media requires 50 minutes to make a successful painting and you can't spend that this year then scale back or switch media, have your character ponder on it in your journal, and get on with something that you can work with in that time frame. This is creative reaction in action.

1b. would of course be change the medium you're working in. Let's face it, if you intended to work in watercolor and by day 2 realized that watercolors don't work in the book you selected think creatively about how your character can still work if he changes media or changes scope, or even simply starts working on loose sheets of watercolor paper, all the same size (or not) which will be placed in a box at then end of the project. DON'T SUFFER.

2. Let go of your expectations. Perhaps you thought each page would be a work of art? Well in any journal worth anything coming out of a creative mind there is experimentation and MESS. YEAH for MESS. Embrace the fact that your character is comfortable making a mess and still creating.

3. Adjust your expectations to what is possible given your life constraints around you. If you are sick realize that will have an impact. Keep working, but perhaps you only work for 15 minutes a day. If it's the middle of tax season and your real job is "accountant" what the heck are you trying to do? Really? You can keep your fake journal in March or May next year, and right now you can do something that takes only 4 minutes a day because that is all you have and I still want to encourage you to finish the project.

4. Ask your family to cut you some slack. If there are lots of demands on your time and you feel everyone else's needs are coming first, sit everyone down in the family and say, "Hey, I need this 30 minutes each day and unless you have a bleeding wound or limb loss don't knock on the door" (Or tell them to stay out of whatever room you use to create in.) One of the great gifts you can give yourself when working through IFJM is an improvement in family dialog over creative time (yours) and their expectations to have dibs on your time.

5. Join the Facebook IFJM Group and start posting your journal pages there. You don't have to post all of them, just one or two. Then ask people questions. "My character shift is difficult because of X, how are you dealing with that?" The group is pretty engaged in sharing their work and their thoughts. And they are up to speed on what a fake journal is and why you are trying to keep one (OK they don't know your exact reason for trying to keep one unless you tell them, and you don't have to tell them that and they can STILL give you encouragement). There are several folks in the group who have participated in past years and know the pitfalls and issues that can arise. They can assure you that what's happening is first week jitters.

End of Week One Final Thoughts

Working on a month long creative project like IFJM is a way to build and strengthen creative muscles. You'll learn something about the media and approach you decide to take. If you have set your parameters well you'll learn something about the creative process and your process that will help you go forward in your journaling.

But strengthening creative muscles is a process similar to strengthening any muscle in your body. You would not decide to run a marathon in May and go out today and run 26 miles. If you have never run before you would run around the block once a day for a couple days, gradually work up to a mile, and from there alternate between 3 and 5 miles and so on, until you were able to improve both your speed work and your endurance and combine them in the final 26.6 (or whatever it is) run.

IFJM is exactly the same. If you've never done a creative project like this before you have to pace yourself. And if you are pacing yourself you'll see things you don't like about the first week's effort—BUT YOU MADE IT! And you're going to keep making it and keep improving if you keep having these self-assessment type discussions with yourself.

Remember this, don't kill the will to be creative by overburdening it. You can over burden that will by setting too expansive a project, too labor intensive a project, too research heavy a project, and even a project that is too dismal (sad, morbid, frightening, happy, joyous—whatever the opposite of your general disposition is).

Take a moment today to assess where you are in the project, how it is going, what is working, what isn't working and how you can change that aspect.

You are one quarter of the way there. At the end of this week you'll be halfway there. Keep going. Allow yourself to see this creative project through so that you can learn from it and use it as a springboard for other projects. 

Sunday, April 5, 2015

Free Webinars on International Fake Journal Month: You Can View the Videos!

In February and then again on April 1, 2015, I had the fun experience of being interviewed by Diane Gibbs of The Design Recharge Show about International Fake Journal Month.

Our first chat went overtime and we got caught up in materials and my background and so she invited me back.

You can see that first interview from February 11 in this post on my regular blog; that linked post includes additional information about books and other things that were mentioned in the webinar.

The April 1, 2015 interview provides an excellent introduction to IFJM and fake journaling with suggestions on how to discover your character and set manageable goals for the project so that you have the best possible outcome—which is of course to learn more about yourself and your process.

You can see the April 1 video at the link in the previous paragraph. (I never seem to be able to embed videos in Blogger and get them sized so they work.)

I'd also like to suggest that you spend some time rummaging about in The Design Recharge Show's archive. Diane Gibbs has interviewed a lot of designers and artists and typographers on topics ranging from the creative spark to running a business. There's a lot of great information there.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

The Case for Simplicity

By today, if you're going to participate in International Fake Journal Month 2015 you've probably already selected the journal you're going to use, picked the media you'll work with, and set some boundaries and limits for your character. If you haven't done all those things yet, you probably have been juggling several options and are waiting until April 1 to just dive in with one. That's fine too.

If you're new to the process of keeping a fake journal you might want to take a moment to read my post "Time to Start Thinking about Your 2015 Fake Journal" because it covers a bit of my process on how I move from the choices of selection and allow them to inform my character choice.

Something very important to consider is "Who's My Character? Why Does My Character Journal?"
In that post I outline a couple different approaches for discovering who your character is.

That post also includes links to posts containing tips on how to get under your character's skin and what to do on the first day.

I cannot stress enough how important it is to really maintain the journaling aspect of the project. In your joyous rush to start working or writing, remember to check yourself and ask, would my character really write this? really talk about these people he sees all the time this way? really mention these basic facts about herself? Who does those types of things when journaling? No one, we always write from complete knowledge and without a need to spell everything out.

Don't be stymied by that, but use it as a nudge to get even more creative. If it is important to you to get details into the journal discover natural ways that your character would get them in. For instance one year it was important for me to get a map of the house in a journal, it actually related to surveillance the character was under, but she was using that map for another purpose as well and  I could justify getting it in there because of that. Otherwise there would have been no need to have it there.

When in doubt leave things out. Remember that we aren't writing fiction, though some of the approaches used might be similar to how some fiction writers work. We're writing in the first person and we don't want our characters looking like morons having to explain everything to themselves.

If a story line emerges as you work you can always plant items as they come up, that will seem unimportant to anyone looking at the journal, but become important later.

A simpler approach, and I really encourage people to go for simple for the sake of completing the project, is to let go of the idea of story and simply document that character's life.

If you elect to do that the mental gymnastics of what you can or can't include evaporate because all you have to do is deal with the 15 minutes of the character's life that you are experiencing when you are working in the journal each day as that character.

This is also the most useful approach for discovering something about process and your own journaling habit, because it is focused totally on journaling. You might have a character for instance who works visually in a totally different medium from one you work in, so every day your journal time is to experience that medium and what that character thinks of that medium or how he uses it.

You will end the month with 30 pages of work in a mode that is different from what you would have done in those circumstances and you will have had the opportunity to try that other approach on.

And that approach is SIMPLE. You can keep your character's backstory in a separate notebook if you feel the need to write about it, but in the journal you just have the daily expression of that person's creative effort.

If you want to read a more involved discussion of whether "To Prep or Not to Prep" please check out this link.

The Main Reason to Keep Things Simple

There is one inescapable reason to keep your IFJM plans simple—Life.

Your regular life is going to happen whether or not you are expecting it to. A family member might become ill, you  might need to change jobs, your child joins the cast of a play and you have to drive to rehearsals, your dog needs surgery and care, the best freelance job in the history of the world flops on your desk with the deadline of April 18…So it goes.

How much time can you afford to spend each day in April on this project? Remember this project is about daily entries done at the actual time they were thought of. You are not sitting up late on Saturday night writing 6 entries for missed days. (Remember that's Faux journaling.)

Assess your life's obligations and schedule. Where will you put your journaling time into your day?

How much time can you afford to spend on this project? I suggest that you try to keep your time to 15 to 20 minutes each day. Past participants have found that lends itself to successful completion. (Anyone spending longer amounts of time than that has usually been through the project before and already has a sense for how to fit the journaling into his life.)

If you sketch slowly and paint even more slowly, doing a finished illustration every day is wishful thinking. You'll become bogged down and stressed by the second day of the project. Then you'll want to quit by the end of the week.

My goal in encouraging you to participate is that you COMPLETE your project. And that in completing your project you learn something about the journaling process you can bring back into your regular journaling habit.

I don't want to see anyone go out and exhaust himself and feel crumpled down in failure.

So think about TIME MANAGEMENT.

What can you reasonably do in 15 to 20 minutes a day, and what type of person would be keeping that type of journal?

Setting clear and doable boundaries which allow both for stretching of yourself and your understanding as well as completion of the project are key to having a great IFJM. They also happen to be key to any creative endeavor.

The best thing about IFJM is the opportunity to throwaway the pride or ego which attaches to our work, and view work through the eyes of another who doesn't have the same constraints or bounty that we have. In doing this something magical often happens on a personal level—and that's the great goal.

Finally, if you are using IFJM as a way to work on the aspect of daily habit (and many folks do this) it's important that your project is simple enough that you can complete a segment of it on a daily basis.

There is nothing so satisfying as 30 pages (or spreads if you work that way) of entries in the character's "voice" or "style" at the end of the month. Nothing. It has a completed weight and significance that make the effort fun and worthwhile; and those pages show you ways you can plan to use your energy intensely focused on other projects.

Take a few moments today and tomorrow to read some of the suggested links in this post and think about "simplicity" and how that relates to your project.

Jot down what your goals are and the time you will have to get your goals accomplished each day. Do they contradict each other? Now's the time to make some adjustments so you can hit the road running on April 1. Good luck!

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

To Post or Not to Post, and Where? And Other Pitfalls to Avoid in International Fake Journal Month

New participants frequently struggle with the issue of whether to post their fake journal publicly or to keep a private fake journal.

I encourage all first time participants to consider how they can best serve their creative process.

If the issues they want to confront in their fake journal are intensely private, or simply intense, I think it is best for them to not post their journal entries in their inaugural year. Instead I suggest they keep a private document through the month and after April decide what if any of it will be publicly displayed. (Perhaps only a portion with a wrap-up which they could supply to me to be posted here. See “Wrap-ups” in the category list.)

In this way new participants avoid dealing with a barrage of questions that range from the “I’m confused, what are you doing this month?” to the “You know, you really SHOULD have done X differently, and Y doesn’t make sense in the construction you’ve created.” From the well-meaning to the snide, comments can derail the creator if he isn’t firmly fixed on a goal or a course of action.

If this is your first time going through the process I recommend that you consider this approach. The most important thing about your participation in this project is that you work with and protect your creative process.

Past participants can still write to me via email immediately and provide me with a link for the participants’ list.

The only thing that is changing for new participants is that you can write to me as soon as you have 6 entries completed (which for most people will mean they will write to me the morning of April 7). The email should come to me at rozjournalrat at gmail dot com and the subject line must read "Participants List."

Please be patient if you do not see your name go up on the blog roll immediately. IFJM is something that I do for fun. Work and eldercare often keep me away from the computer for long stretches and my first duty when returning to the computer is work. If you don’t see your name on the participants’ list in 4 days, then I recommend that you write to me again checking that you have used the right subject line. (It’s how I locate appropriate messages in the stream of mail we all get these days.) I also tend to do things in “blocks.” So if I get one notice from someone but am pressed for time I will often wait until I have 3 or 4 people to add to the list at the same time—time management rules here.

Another question I get about posting publicly is whether or not you need a dedicated blog for IFJM.

The simple answer is no.

But of course it’s more complex than that.

Most participants create a dedicated blog because they like to separate their IJFM entries from their regular work, their regular blog posts, the eyes of their clients or friends and family who wouldn’t understand the IFJM entries, or the project in general.

Our friends and family certainly don’t need to know everything we do. And our clients probably shouldn’t.

Separating your IFJM work onto a dedicated IFJM blog also prevents the possibility of confusing people you know and eliminates the “helpful” comments received from people who aren’t involved in IFJM.

Participants setting up a dedicated IFJM blog insulate themselves from well-meaning “negative” comments or sarcastic comments from passive aggressive types such as “Gee I see you have a lot of time on your hands.” (To which of course the only possible reply is, “Yes I manage m y time very well, thank you. Sorry you don’t.”)

The reasons to create a dedicated IFJM blog are countless and individual. I recommend you stop and consider your unique situation.

If you go ahead with incorporating your IFJM entries into your regular blog post stream be sure to devise a way to link them through tagging and grouping available on your platform. In the link provided in the participants’ list you will only have that FIRST POST’S link. Once readers are on your blog they must immediately see how to navigate and discover your other IJFM post or they will become frustrated and leave.

That defeats the point of public posting—especially when you are frustrating the one definitely interested group of readers.

Another possible way to deal with confusion when posting on a regular blog is to group all your week’s IFJM output into one weekly post. Perhaps each Friday you compile a post giving all your previous week’s entries, or every Sunday. Whatever works for you. This will enable readers to see more of your IFJM work quickly and easily, and the continuity of your IFJM posts and journal will not be constantly interrupted by other posts.

I’ve found in the past that people without dedicated blogs have more frustrating interaction with their regular blog readers about the project and that is not helpful but intrusive to the creative process.

Make it as easy as possible for those who want to find your IFJM entries to do so. Going through a lot of unrelated posts is something you think might be fun for them and maybe you would like feedback on your other work, but in reality the fake journal people are often only interested in your fake stuff during April (they can return another time) and will skip most of the other posts. They are busy and have to get back to their own fakery. (In the past several years several participants have asked that I make dedicated blogs mandatory and these are just some of the reasons they have expressed.)

Also, think hard about what your topic and parameters in your fake journal are going to be. Will it be something you can post in a general purpose blog or a general purpose art blog?

Blogger and Word Press are two entities that offer free blogs if you decide to go with a dedicated IFJM blog. You can then link your fake journal blog to your original blog with an opening and closing post.

In the past some participants have used Flickr to post their fake journal entries. Personally I find Flickr difficult to use, navigate around, and just get to where I want to go and have a sense of flow. Because of that I am always frustrated when trying to view entries posted there, and frankly give up at the first frustration.

I have feedback from others that I am not alone in this. If you post on Flickr because it is easiest for you to do so, that’s great. Keep  your posting process as simple as possible for YOU, so that you will be able to spend your time working on your project. But remember to make it as easy as possible for people who are trying to view your Flickr entries.

This year we have a new way to post entries. There is now a Facebook Group for International Fake Journal Month. 

Currently this is a public group and you can contact me at the group to get admitted. Past participants have suggested that this group become a private group once the month starts. This will enable new participants to post “publicly” to a public who knows what they are doing and can be encouraging. Whether you post there or not you are encouraged to join us there in IFJM-related conversations (though we probably will be all busy working on our journals?).

Go forward whichever way works best for you—because the focus should remain on the creation of the fake journal and NOTHING should get in the way of that—do what is easiest.

And speaking of making it easy—I have written numerous times in tips, tips on fake journaling, and book selection (to name just a couple categories) that you need to consider how easy it will be to scan or photography your  fake journal if you intend to post it (or digitally archive it). If you keep your journal size to a size that will fit open on your scanner so that you can scan a page spread in its entirety you’ll have one scan, not two which need joining in Photoshop. Believe me this time adds up and takes away from time you could be working in your journal.

(Take a moment to look through the category list for tips on media, paper, book selection as well as writing tips. There is also a blog search engine. This stuff is all there for you to look over. It's there to help you strategize some of these issues so that you can have a more effortless and creativity focused experience.)

Last year I deliberately went with an oversized page: 22 x 30 inches. I made this choice because that was what was necessary for the character. But I knew going into that year that I would not try to post entries daily. I knew I would only photograph a couple images as I went along. Most of the images would not be seen until the end of the month “show” where they were all up up on a wall. At that point I had a professional photographer shoot gigapans of the fake show. These images allow the viewer to zoom in on the details to a higher degree than even a quality scan allows.

EVERY CHOICE you make for your fake journal will impact the ease with which the project runs and finishes. The easier the housekeeping aspects of your project remain the less frustrating your month will be.

With that in mind take a moment to consider the media you have selected for use this month. Is it something that will be easily scanned or photographed? For example graphite works are notoriously difficult to photograph (believe me I always groan when given graphite work to use in my work projects).  With most scanners graphite work is a bit easier to handle, but even then there are some pitfalls requiring extra handling so that the impact of your work comes through. Consider such constraints as you move forward with your choices for International Fake Journal Month.

It is my goal in sharing this project and encouraging people to participate that the focus stays always on the creation of their work and the value this exercise can return to them at the end of the project.

Let’s have a great April! 

Sunday, March 22, 2015

[considered] Truths: the 2015 slogan

What’s up with the yearly slogans for International Fake Journal Month you might ask? (People ask all the time and there have been several questions in the past week.)

Projects have to be fun for me and part of the way I make IFJM fun is to have a new slogan each year. In the past I would make them into buttons, now they are simply images, small “posters” to mark the year.

There is of course the main and on-going slogan for IFJM:

“Life’s so short, why live only one?”

That will always be there. It clearly states the point of the project.

But each year a new slogan is offered because of my love of commemorating events in this fashion. It helps me keep the years separate, “Oh, yeah, 2014 was the year of no explanations, how did that go for me?” That type of thing.

The slogans grow out of my own reflection on the process of fake journaling, an assessment of my current life, the selected image I want the slogan to work with, and the bubbling thoughts I have about the upcoming fake journal I’m going to be making.

It is not important or necessary that participants utilize the year’s slogan in any way, or even pay attention to it. Some participants do think about the slogan and find ways to apply it to their character. For instance in 2014 several people embraced “no explanations.” In this way slogans can help point and push participants to a deeper look at what they are trying to do, or give them focus if they get off track.

For others the slogans and yearly image remain merely decorative. And that’s fine.

For me, as I just wrote, the slogans grow out of my own creative process as I rev up for IFJM. In so many ways they set the psychological approach that I’ll take throughout the month. (I deliberately leave the slogans vague so that participants can interpret them freely and find meaning in them if they choose to do so.)

In February this year, just recovering from flu and bronchitis, I realized I’d better get busy thinking about my journal selection, character, media, etc. for this year’s celebration. What happened was I sat down and started thinking about which image I wanted to use for the “button” and then brainstormed slogans that held meanings for me. They just poured out onto a two-page spread in my journal. Some were too self-revelatory for a public project, others didn’t seem to go with the image, or when placed with the selected image created an implied tone I didn’t care for.

Once I made the slogan selection I completed the artwork you see on the top of the right-hand column (some past “buttons” can be seen at the very bottom of this column if you scroll all the way down). I used a painting made previously (that feels right to me for this type of project rather than creating a new image, this repurposing creates another level of distance and non-reality) and layered it with the text of the slogan, experimenting with various fonts and combinations. The style and bracketing are am important part of the interpretive content for me. “Truths” is obviously a loaded word when working with IJFM and all the attendant fakery, but I try in all my fake journals to keep close to some aspect of myself. In this way I am able to mine deeper and bring back useful insights to my regular journaling process.

“[considered]” for me is a little bit playful. So too is the image of the young boy which I made from a photo picked up at an estate sale. He is no relation to me, yet dear because of the time spent painting with him. That’s one level of “[considered]” for me.

Another level of “[considered]” is that I am explicitly asking participants to remember to focus on what is true in what they are creating. Even in the fake there is always, and must always be something that is absolutely true.  In a way it’s a comment on “Art” if you like, but more specifically for me (and I love to be specific) it is a comment on “Life.”

It is my hope that participants will enact their own level of analysis to consider either during or after, what truths they are finding in their work this month.

Once the words of the slogan and these thoughts were in my brain I couldn’t get them out. I posted the “button” to the blog and went back to my work, but the slogan stayed with me. You will see later how it directly impacts my 2015 fake journal, but that is a story for another day.

If you are participating this year remember only that the slogan is there as a place marker in the line of celebrations. If you want to delve into what it might mean for you, do so. Ask yourself how it might relate to what your character is up to and what his or her journey is about. If it doesn’t resonate with you, don’t waste time “trying to make it fit.”

Just keep it in your mind for a moment.

Many participants find that AFTER the month is over, something they thought they weren’t even paying attention to actually influenced their entire month. The creative mind is interesting that way. We put in seemingly random things and it spits out “[considered]” Truths.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Time to Start Thinking about Your 2015 Fake Journal

It’s time to start thinking about International Fake Journal Month. Yes, April is still more than a month away, but it’s time to keep your eyes open and antennae twitching for possibilities.

For the past few days, when I have a moment or two, I have been gathering the commercially bound journals I have on hand. While I usually bind my own books, the past two years a shoulder injury has prevented that and I’ve been using more and more commercially bound journals, while completing physical therapy so I can return to binding. Typically I complete my fake journal in a commercial bound journal because that’s the first and most obvious difference I can draw from reality to fake—but now that might not be the case. So along with a few commercially bound journals like the types found in this post from 2012.

I am pulling a few small journals that I hand bound several years ago, off the shelves as well.

Once the small selection has been laid out on the table I’ll start thinking about what medium I might want to devote 30 days to.  I’ll ask myself what my subject matter might be, what I might enjoy creating with that medium, how I might seek out that subject matter, which of the books seems most friendly to these emerging plans, and then I’ll walk away from the table to think it all over.

If I get it in my mind that I want to work in gouache, I probably wouldn’t pick a book with paper I know is unsuitable for gouache. I love a challenge, but I also want to have some fun.

I also usually like to select a topic that I know will hold my interest for the entire month of April, and be doable—so detailed 9 x 12 inch portraits of people, that’s too much a time commitment. Value studies of fruits and vegetables I can set up on the table and execute in 15 minutes, doable.

For the first example I have to round up 30 people to sketch, or enough people that I can keep asking them to sit for me long enough that I can do a detailed portrait of them. That’s easily a 2 to 3 hour a day undertaking I wouldn’t impose on friends or myself.

Last year, because I wanted to make goofy people sketches, I requested animated photos from readers. I worked from photos, creating loose images that were all done very quickly (and the model didn’t have to sit for the portrait). But I prefer working from life so there were drawbacks to that solution. It did however give me ample time to work with acrylic inks and brush pens in a large scale (22 x 30 inches) during the month.

Since I’m just starting to paint again after a long hiatus (due to the same shoulder injury that limited my binding) there is something appealing about working in gouache for the entire month. Then even if I work with pen and ink all day, at least once a day the paints will come out.

Another consideration for me is whether or not my character will be mobile. If she (and 90 percent of the time I keep with a female character) is then I have to work out what sort of medium would be easily transportable and enjoyable and where she might take that medium, e.g., to the zoo, but not an art museum perhaps.

But I’ll wait to think on that until I’ve found the book. I have a sense that this year the answer lies in finding the book. Some years my character comes to me as soon as I pick a medium.

I would suggest that you start thinking about options and approaches yourself. Start taking stock of what books and supplies you have on hand. I think the project works best if you spend zero money on it—so use what you have on hand and push your creative response to those materials and see who pops up as a character and what theme or thread comes to the surface.

If you’re looking at books and supplies you have on hand and a character isn’t coming to you within two weeks of casual thought about this close you’re eyes and pick a book.

Then walk around for a week thinking about the media you can use in that book, on the paper it contains. Is that something you want to work with for 30 days?

Next think of a subject matter. By now it’s only about a week away and something is beginning to percolate. Once it does, take a moment to write a couple things down about your character—name, sex, habitat, likes, dislikes, that sort of thing. You can even make a list of friends’ names and a little bit about them if you want. REMEMBER once you start working you’ll be jumping right in and you won’t be explaining backstory because in the REAL course of events if I’m going to write about my friend Tom I don’t need to write all about him and how I met him and what he does and what he looks like when I mention him in April. I already know all that. Now I can certainly get at some of that information if it’s important to my character, for instance if she wants to indicate that he doesn’t look well she will describe how he looks different from NORMAL, but no more.

Think about those natural limitations to the journaling process as you move along. You can either just go merrily along or you can take a moment, before you start, to write a couple things down about your character so you don’t forget that her best friend is named Tom and start calling him Bill at the end of the month…

You decide.

But whatever you decide it’s time to start deciding.

I hope you’ll all take a moment to consider joining in this year.

See the links at the top of the blog for an explanation of what a Fake journal is and what International Fake Journal Month is. Check out the Tips category for tips on keeping such a journal (though I’ve given you some good tips for starting in this post there are many more tips on the blog from past years).

As we approach April check back here to learn how to get on the participants list.

Remember this: Your fake journal doesn’t have to be elaborate—in fact it works better if it isn’t. Engineer a project that you can execute in a few minutes each day, a character you can get into with a minimum of fuss. Then you’ll be on your way.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

One More Evaluation from a Participant in the 2014 Celebration: Susan Ernst

Above: A page spread ©2014 Susan Ernst, from her 2014 Fake Journal. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

This post is coming to you all late because I lost the original missive from Susan. Happily she wrote again to me so I'm able to post it now. Apologies to Susan: searching in my mail program does not always seem to be straightforward!

If you go to Susan Ernst's blog you can read Susan's full evaluation about the complex relationships her "character" had in this year's fake journal. You'll also learn how Susan drew on friends and family,  as well as past projects, to create her full cast of characters. It is always intriguing to hear about the process by which a creative piece takes form. It might inspire you to revisit some past projects for new directions.

Susan's process allowed her to maintain distance from her character, yet still derive insights into her own situation and her own hopes. She admits that some of her creative decisions arose from yearnings she wasn't quite aware of.

In addition, Susan provides a breakdown of what she felt worked and didn't work in execution. You might find this useful when planning your own mixed media pieces, or when organizing your own plans for your 2015 fake journal (you know you want to keep one).

So go check out Susan's evaluation, drop her a note, and start your own planning!

Thank you Susan for your thoughtful evaluation of your project and for reminding me of your evaluation. I hope you'll join in next year too.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

Roz's 2014 International Fake Journal Month Wrap Up—With Gigapans!

Today I’ve written my complete wrap up for this project. I write about the project parameters and supplies, the goals, and the results. I also write about what happened after the project ended.

But before you read my final write up I have three GigaPan videos for you to look at. They are GigaPans taken by Tom Nelson a local photographer. You’ve seen the “fake” show before as smaller jpgs. What you see today are images that you can zoom in on, as closely as if you were in the room, standing in front of the images. You can see where I picked up my pen and put it down again, you can see where I smudged on some rubberstamp ink. You can see where I applied acrylic paint with markers and glued down decorative papers or applied tape. It’s all there if you want to poke around.

I had hoped to embed these videos here in blogger. Tom provided the code for me to do so. But when I put them in the html they didn't show up.

Instead I'm providing you with three links so you can view each image on the GigaPan site. When you go to the Gigapan site you do not need to sign in. It's free. Just click inside the image and start scrolling around. Use the controls at the right to enlarge and reduce your view. You'll be able to zoom in so close you'll be able to see the wall texture, the paper texture. Really, it's pretty cool. Click on the little icon "snapshot" at the bottom left of the image's window and a line of snapshots that I've created for you will come up. When you click on one of these you will automatically zoom up to the portion of the image I wanted to draw to your attention. And there will be a caption that explains something to you. If you couldn't be present at the "show" (and you couldn't, that was just me and Tom) then this is the best way to see the images.  

April 1 to 12, 2014

April 13 to 24, 2014

April 25 to 30, 2014

The Wrap Up

In my last post I wrote about my windfall purchase of 22 x 30 inch printmaking paper for 20 cents a sheet. I wasn’t sure what I would do with it when I bought it. I thought I’d take it to life drawing; I knew immediately upon testing it that I could NOT use it for bookbinding for myself or in my classes because it allowed inks to seep through; but I knew I’d have fun with it.

My original plan for 2014 was to work on a portrait each day from life. Before April rolled around I had already contacted several friends and made dates to sketch them.

The serendipitous part of my IFJM project was that I’d asked blog readers to send in photos and enough people responded with really fun images, that I was able to still draw portraits even though I was house bound (I got ill on March 30 and sick through May 31), I just had to adjust my plans and draw from photos.

Before I got ill I had a few other goals:

Goal 1

I wanted to get back to writing down thoughts when they occurred to me.

For several months leading up to IFJM 2014 I found that I was leading a rather frantic life, pulled in lots of directions, dealing with shoulder issues, coping with eldercare demands. The pain from the shoulder issues changed my sleep habits and that impacted my memory. I’d think of something in the middle of work, and decide to wait and note it down later, return to work and forget it.

The fact that I forgot so many deeply unimportant things shouldn’t bother me, but every so often I have a thought which leads me to my next project and I found that because I was forgetting to follow my usual practice of writing things down everything was being lost.

So that was definitely goal number 1.

Goal 2

I wanted to return to keeping reading notes. In the frenetic life I was leading in the months before IFJM 2014 I was reading a lot of books and articles but I was usually too tired to write my typical notes. Again, I was missing out on reminding myself which things were catching my interest. It’s from that pool of things that I formulate new plans and discover new long-term interests. I was feeling decidedly cut off from my creative process even though every day I might have been drawing for a couple hours, reading, processing, whatever.

It seemed to me things were not sinking in.

Goal 3

I wanted to experiment with large scale drawings. I’ve mentioned already on this blog and on Roz Wound Up that my sketches have been getting larger and larger. And I like to experiment with different ways to scale up my line when the drawing size increases.

I’m not sure exactly why I’ve been drawing larger and larger sketches. I suppose it is a function of going to life drawing and working on a really large sheet of paper, but that doesn’t really explain it.

It could also be an outgrowth of working in larger sizes of journals. Because I have had first one and then both shoulders injured for over a year now I haven’t been able to bind any new books. I do have some journals that I’ve held back for personal use, but since I can’t carry a journal with me (because of the shoulders) I’ve been working on slips of paper when I’m out and about. Then when I return home I glue those drawings into a commercially bound journal like the 9 x 12 inch Fabriano Venezia I have going in the studio. Also, because size of journal doesn’t matter when working at home I sometimes have another larger journal going, like the 11 x 14 inch Strathmore 500 Series Mixed Media Paper Hardcover journal. And in that journal I can sketch very large heads with the luxury of all that space.

Fluctuations in vision also play a part. It's easier to pick up a brush pen and sketch large images than to find which pair of glasses works for "today" and work with a fine tipped and small nibbed pen.

Whatever the reason for my ever growing drawing scale this project did allow me to work large.

In fact to create these pages I had a piece of corrugated cardboard that was 4 inches larger than the paper sheets on each side. I would hold this piece of cardboard in my lap with the piece of sketching paper on top. Then, if I was working from the photos that people sent in, I would sit at my computer with the photo open on my screen, balancing the edge of the cardboard on my computer desk and sitting back to sketch as quickly as possible.

Almost all the sketches in this project were made in less than 10 minutes.  I worked directly in ink.

Some images were made from life like Oswald and also the giant toad. To sketch them I sat holding the large cardboard and paper as well.

Sketching this way created some distortion problems for me. I would become so tired (because of the coughing) that I couldn’t maintain the same position even with the light cardboard, and the faces began to stretch and bloat.

I’d like to say that I had less trouble with the subjects I drew from life, but sometimes they were actually worse—executed at time when I was exhausted going into the sketching time.

Besides using the fine-tipped Pentel Brush pen with pigment black ink and the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, I used some Bienfang Watercolor Brush Pens (they didn’t deform the paper much as they didn’t have a lot of water in them) and the Montana Markers that contain acrylic paints. While I mostly used the latter for backgrounds I was able to do some sketching with the markers—often with the 15 mm wide tipped ones. Those were all fun experiments.

I wanted to do more with color, using more collage and rubberstamp ink, but most days I found that after doing a quick sketch and adding a little color I was ready to stop. I was simply too tired. I’m OK with that. I had a lot of fun flicking the brush pen ink about to compensate and cope with the frustration.

Goal 4

I hoped to read a chapter a day of a book on composition I’ve been meaning to re-read for ages. I thought that would be a nice way to get a bit of extra learning in for each day of IFJM. Sadly this goal didn’t get met at all. I found that initially I felt too ill to concentrate on absorbing or reinforcing any concepts about composition. Reading that book will have to wait until another time.

Goal 5

In the last half of 2013 I was drawn to lettering books—I read a bunch of them. Most were disappointing and didn’t offer any interesting discussion of design, composition, or theory. But all of them had interesting examples so they were fun to look at.

I decided after working on my pre-IFJM paper tests that I would let the lettering goal go. The pens that I tested on the paper either didn’t work in a way that I liked, didn't scale up to the size I was working at, or didn’t have enough fun factor. I also found that by day 2 of the project thinking about lettering was beyond my feverish brain’s abilities. The goal became just get something down each day.

Goal 6

I wanted to spend more time each day painting because I missed getting the paints out on a regular basis.

Painting has been difficult for the past year (since June 2013) because of the shoulder issues. I can’t reach easily with my brush to the palette, no matter where the palette may be resting.

Because of the paper that I selected painting was off the table. Paints severely warped the paper and I didn’t want to deal with the extra issues of flattening each page before photography.

Goal 7

There is a short distance between my character’s work, fantasy life, and real life. I set this up intentionally because I wanted to work on very specific issues that were currently impacting my own journal practice—however the distance was too short. (See below for more on this.) 

Goal 8

No explanations. I wanted to keep what was text in the journal devoid of any explanations. I explain enough in my life as it is, whether it is explaining issues of elder care to other family members or issues of health to the folks’ doctors, or memory issues to the folks, or materials and process to students, or just explaining to myself how I’m going to get through the stack of stuff that’s piling up!

I think this aspect of the project was totally successful. However there was one horrible error that I’ll write of in a moment.

Goal 9

I wanted to make one page for each day. No more, no less. I met that goal even though I was sometimes a little punchy from fever.

Since I’ve created so many fake journals over the years and had so many daily projects (some lasting several weeks, months, or even years) I knew that I could meet this goal. I also knew I could forgive myself in advance for each piece not meeting the standards I’d hoped to meet.

Getting ill and knowing you can still produce work is a great gift to give yourself. I’m grateful for that. But I’m also grateful that what is most important to me is process and getting something done, rather than perfection. So despite the various setbacks of this project it wasn’t painful or difficult but actually quite fun.

I know enough about my rhythms when ill that I quickly found “ideal” times during the day when it would be a good bet that I could get a reasonable page completed. Because of this you’ll notice that many of the pages have very similar times on them. Often I would do one when I finished other work, or when I had a burst of energy in the evening.

I believe that one of the great things a month-long project like this can give the participant is a better understanding of their own process and creative rhythms. You can take this knowledge and turn it to productive use.

Who Was My Character?

I have to admit that this year’s character was my least “concretely” realized in my head either in advance of IFJM or during, and certainly since.

A 50-something female who sketches people for her “work,” which I conveniently never tied myself down about. Is she doing portraits and these are her studies and throw-aways? Is she making illustrations for books and these are her studies? Is she doing something else visual for a living and she is just able to convince people to pose for her at the end of the day so she can make a giant drawing and then write something snarky on the drawing?

It’s all unclear.

What I do think became clear as I worked through the month was that Goal 7 was being met. This woman wrote down whatever she was thinking at the time she was sketching, and because the thinking and the sketching had nothing to do with each other most of the time she had absolutely no inclination to explain anything.

How freeing.

But That Brings Us to the Horrible Error, or as I Like to Call It: The Near Fatal Misstep

I think it’s important to keep as much distance from your character as you can—especially if certain aspects of your life and work already over lap.

On day 1 I was so anxious to get going on this project that I mentioned a sore throat on the page. I actually had a sore throat, and I allowed the character to have one. (Oops, but I didn’t even realize the trap I’d stepped into yet, that’s how slow my brain was moving.)

On day 2 I actually mentioned the 4 stages of the cold! I had a cold the character had a cold.

That was it. Now that my character had announced she was ill I couldn’t go merrily about and sketch people about town, and do all of the interactive things I’d hoped to do.

She was stuck. Stuck inside her home and studio just like I was. And that was a little too close for comfort.

Given that closeness I’m actually surprised I got through the month unscathed. I didn’t shy away from the insights she had (though of course they really only mean something to her and to me because I know the explanations), but I did avoid further mention of the progress of my own illness.

How Do I Assess the Project?

While I couldn’t complete the project as originally conceived (sketching large portraits of people from life) I was able to work with most of my 9 goals, stated before the project began and examined in this post.

I met most of those goals and was able to have some sort of balanced and healthy response to the frustrations of the others.

In those ways I feel this is one of my best fake journals. Not because it has a narrative thread (it doesn’t); not because close reading exposes an interesting character (it doesn’t); not because the sketches all turned out (they didn’t).

This was a successful fake journal because of its aftermath.

Following the end of IFJM 2014 I was sick for another 4 weeks until the end of May. I was frustrated more than I can even bear to write.

But something wonderful happened. I started working in a Japanese Lined Notebook that I’d finished a couple pages on earlier in the year and then set aside as other projects pulled me towards them. When I picked up this totally-unsuitable-for-visual-journaling-notebook I found that in my frustration (over still being sick) and my “laziness” about getting up to fetch painting materials and other items to sketch with, I entered the most creative period of visual journaling I have experienced since I was 20 years old.

Everything mixed together and my desire to take more notes is everywhere evident in the two visual journals I filled next through May and June. And my desire to write everything down right when I think it was made manifest in those two journals because I always had the current Japanese Lined Notebook right with me wherever I went in the house, so there was no reason to not write something down immediately.

And the goals that didn’t get met on my IFJM journal project were easily met in those journals—I now had two pages on a spread to play with composition and started fiddling more with it. I played with lettering in a loose, non-structured way, which didn’t yield great results except a sense of fun, which is always good, and a good starting point for future exploration. 

I have been reading more of my art theory books and taking notes and asking the right questions. I’ve been watching videos of watercolorists whom I admire, and taking notes and asking questions. Through this exploration I’ve been making plans to paint again as soon as my shoulders can stand it. I’ve been asking questions of myself and taking notes and making plans and allowing the promise of new projects to flow through me.

But most wonderful of all, the thing I have been pushing for the past 4 years, the thing I have wanted more than anything since probably 2008 has happened. I have ease and privacy in my journals again.

It seems an odd thing to say, since I put my journals up on the Internet. But I only put up selected portions. When I teach journaling my journals are brought out to share, and in that sharing I had started to hold back portions of myself from myself. There are clear boundaries in my life over what I will share and won’t share with students, strangers, even friends, and probably especially family. Because I knew the journals would be handled by others I found myself sometimes not writing what I really longed to write because it would break those boundaries.

I have always maintained that these boundaries are healthy. And I have always had these boundaries in my life to protect my creative life. As I taught more and more journaling from 2000 to the present I found myself sometimes sketching something in my journal but not writing fully about it because I didn’t want to share those thoughts with others.

I like to keep my creative energy for myself to use it to bring projects forth that are fully conceived. I like to encourage my students to do the same.

But when you have to bring your journals to a class as examples even the best will of getting everything down gets challenged.

And in the two months since IFJM 2014, in two Japanese Lined Notebooks I was able to totally wallow in privacy (even while knowing I would post some of those images).

There was the cheap paper that allowed me to run full steam ahead. (Normally I don’t have a problem using up art paper for notes, but because I wasn’t painting due to injury I found myself hesitant to run through journal after journal of $6 a sheet art paper only writing and maybe sketching a little with black ink.)

There was the cheap paper that took brush pen ink so marvelously. The fun factor was incredibly high.

There was the texture and “happiness” of the completed pages, crinkling and crunching as I turned them, while holding the book in my lap. (This brought up memories of my childhood and college days when all I could afford were books with cheaper paper.)

And there was the pent up energy from being ill for two months. All the things I wanted to do and think about and work on were just pouring out of me.

I said to Dick one night: It’s like being nineteen again—except I can stay up as late as I want because I don’t have a 7:30 a.m. class.

A certain journal type or book structure will always influence the journey you take with it. But there are certain types of books and book structures that will take you in a totally new direction with materials, thoughts, projects, and your life.

The change might not even look different to anyone else, but that’s part of the point—it doesn’t have to. You only have to feel it in every cell in your body to know that it’s real and something fantastic has happened.

That’s one (just one) of the fabulous things about journaling.

And one of the great things about keeping a fake journal is that you can use the fake journal as a directed and customized tool to move towards the goals you want to achieve.

This was a very good year for me, even though I spent two months of it housebound with little contact with the outside world.


I want to thank all the participants from 2014 for trusting the process and jumping in this year. I hope whether you participated privately or publicly that you received something positive from the experience and a new sense of where you might go creatively.

Thanks to all the folks who sent in photos of themselves for me to sketch from. I've said it before, but I'll say it again, you saved my life, my attitude was pretty sucky when the month started! I am working on prints to send out to all of you as thank yous. They will be coming soon.

I want to thank Tom, for his patience and for his skill in photographing my work so that I can share it with others and communicate with others using the work. When we were taking the photos of the pages hanging on the walls Tom said, “It’s like parachuting into your mind.” He was chuckling and shaking his head at the time, reading some of the entries.

I shook my head and reminded him, "It's my character's mind." And he shook his head and chuckled.

Yep, I guess he's right. And he also knows that 90 percent of the time my fake journals are my most personal. 

I’m so grateful to have a friend who helps me share my work. It's so fun to spend time with Tom that I hope he never realizes how boring I am!

And of course I’m grateful to Dick who took up all the slack for two months, kept the house full of chocolate, and who sent me back to Wet Paint in the first place to buy all those luscious 20-cents-a-piece sheets of paper. I’m going to enjoy using the rest of them in life drawing and other projects.