Left: The graphite test page in the first APICA book I purchased and tested. All the images were simply sketched from memory—more or less doodled. More about this image below. Click on the image to view an enlargement
Maybe you’re one of those totally spontaneous sorts who’ll jump up at 11 p.m. on April 1, decide to participate in International Fake Journal Month, grab any blank or alterable book at hand, make an entry, and proceed to have a rollicking good time the rest of the month. If so, I’m happy you can do this, but I know that approach doesn’t always work out well for me (and I’ve been journaling for a long time) or my students who are juggling the task of learning new journaling habits with the time constraints of their lives.
It’s my goal to get as many people as possible participate in International Fake Journal Month. Additionally I want people to have a fun, satisfying, and enriching experience so that they grow as journal keepers, and return next year for another round of fake journaling in April 2011!
Today I am going to run through my prepping process. Already this year I have talked about selecting the book you are going to use for your fake journal.
Last year I used the Alvin Field Book. I first tested the Alvin Field book with pen and watercolor. After that test I knew I wanted to use dip pen and watercolor on that paper. That is exactly what I did as you can see from the posts on this blog covering my 2009 fake journal.
This year for the longest time, I wasn’t sure what type of book I would use. Then I started testing some commercially bound books and began to lean towards the APICA notebook. (In the link’s image you’ll see the book with a red cover. The watercolor page shown is also in a book of this type. You can also read about the characteristics of the paper in this book in that review.)
Note: remember, if you are going to post or publish your fake journal images consider how easy it is to scan or photograph your host book. Is it too large and thick to work well on your scanner? Is it something you can photograph easily? Do you intend to photocopy it for any reason? If so, how will the media you select fare with black and white or with color copying?
With several weeks until April remaining, I still hadn’t decided on the author of my fake journal, or the type of images that person would create, or the media I would use. Selection of the APICA notebook made me confident that I wouldn’t be using watermedia. Also I almost always use watermedia and ink and I wanted to spend time with pencils of some sort.
Once you select your host book questions like that will begin to pop up. I recommend that you spend a few moments thinking the answers through. You are going to spend 30 days in this book and you want to be productive during that time.
So for me the obvious question was which type of pencil. In the first example in this post I tried out a .9, 2B mechanical pencil lead. It moved across the paper of my book in a lovely way, but ultimately I couldn’t get the dark values I really love.
Left: My doodle test page using various colored pencil brands. Read more about this page in the text. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
That same evening I turned the page of my test book and experimented with a variety of colored pencils, including a metallic pencil from Lyra. I also experimented with doodling. I don’t doodle much at all. I don’t doodle in my journal or on sheets of paper. I like to look at things and then draw them. While playing with the pencils and doodling I thought, “What it would be like to spend a month doodling every day? What type of person would do that in a journal?” (I had several ideas pop into my mind—high school student for instance). I considered what a doodler might write on the same page or the opposite page.
I had already decided that I wouldn’t worry about any smudging of materials. I knew that I wanted to break away from the usual approaches I have to my regular journal pages. I don’t plan my regular journal pages, but force of habit and occupation (I design a lot of books with features in columns) creates a certain approach in my regular journal. Someone working all over his/her page in a random fashion, and perhaps with no explanatory notes (I’m always writing notes to myself) would create several departures for me and help push me more towards the “character” who was creating the fake journal.
Doodling, however, I decided was not the approach I wanted to go—too much of a departure. Also I wanted to stick with black pencil not graphite or colored pencil. That led me to my third example, completed the next night while I was getting ready for bed.
Remember you don’t have to attack all these issues at once. Put the questions to your brain in March. Over the next several weeks let the answers emerge while never spending any real accumulation of actual concentration on those questions.
Left: A test page using a black Stabilo All. I also used an olive green Pentel Color Brush for in some areas. Read more about this page in the text. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I like the Stabilo All black pencil: a waxy, watersoluble pencil which creates a dark rich line. It can feel a little scratchy on even some smooth papers, but it does allow you to create a textured line not unlike the look you get with graphite, but dense. I can get my darkest darks easily with this pencil. It is simple to reproduce work with this pencil, either in color or black and white. It has much to recommend it. The same evening I tested a Pentel Color Brush (these are watersoluble inks that are NOT lightfast. (Read my review and comparison of the Pentel Color Brush with the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen here. The post includes a chart which shows the fading inks.)
I tested the Pentel Color Brush on this paper because for my fake journal I also wasn’t going to worry about using archival materials. I thought I might be using some collaged elements from the newspaper (highly acidic). So fading ink weren’t an issue for me. However, the ink seeped through the paper—that meant immediate elimination.
Left: A test page using a litho crayon. Read more about this page in the text. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
My next test was several days later. I was still focusing on using dry media and a black pencil. I decided to give litho crayons a shot. While you can get dense rich blacks with this medium I find that it is too smelly for me. Daily proximity to the oily slightly chemical odor of the litho crayon would prevent me from enjoying my fake journal time. I could rule out the litho crayon.
Note: You might wonder why Roz is drawing pigeons in almost all of her tests? Well when testing you should draw something that you are comfortable drawing so that your discomfort at drawing a difficult or new subject does not interfere with your assessment of the ease of the materials you are using. Birds and dogs are my default mode.At this point I set my test notebook aside for about three weeks. I didn’t even think about International Fake Journal Month consciously during that time.
Last week, however, I started outlining items I wanted to post on the blog for this season. That process reminded me I needed to focus on my own preparations.
Consider Time Commitment and Subject Matter!
Last year I focused on birds, which I love and which are a pleasure to draw. I also know where to find birds, and last April was warm enough that doing so wasn’t a difficulty.
Left: A test page using a black Stabilo All and focusing on a face as subject matter. Read more about this page in the text. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
This year I knew I wanted to focus on drawing something other than birds. I don’t draw people as much as I would like. Thirty days of practice drawing people might be a good choice.
I’m a big advocate for blending improvement goals with fake journal goals.I also knew that I had an extremely busy April scheduled. I needed to devise a way to limit my time involvement with my fake journal. Late one night when I hadn’t had a chance to sketch yet I got out the Stabilo All for another test run and opened a book of photos of facial expressions for artists. (These books show people of all shapes and sizes in all sorts of facial contortions. You can of course run to the bathroom and make faces at yourself in the mirror, but I find that hard on my neck!) I opened the book to a random page and started sketching the first face that appealed to me, working quickly, with no attempt to capture detail.
Next, I knew I would want some text on the page, even just a few words. I blocked out the first thing that popped into my head. Then I wanted to test how I liked filling a large area with the Stabilo All so I scribbled in the black panel. I had something that is different from my usual work, yet extremely fun to do. It was also quickly achieved—solving the time constraint problem. Additionally I took a paper towel and rubbed the dark areas testing how the pencil smeared. (You don’t get a blending like you do with the Stabilo Tone so this operation is something I will just omit in future.)
I went to bed with the feeling that I was on to something that might prove fruitful. I didn’t know who the keeper of this journal would be, or why they would work in this way, but that didn’t matter.
The next morning I woke up and instead of playing a game of Sudoku which I am trying to wean myself off of, I opened the facial expressions book to a new page, and started sketching again.
Left: A test page using a black Stabilo All, focusing on a face as subject matter, using collaged papers, and incorporating text. Read more about this page in the text. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I had in mind the idea that I would divide the page vertically with a black panel (there are hatch marks at the top and bottom of this paper—perhaps for ruling lines for the Japanese writers who use these notebooks to keep their vertical writing aligned; or perhaps to convert the pages to lab notebooks?) and I wanted to use them in some way. I also wanted to think about ways to alter the background somewhere else on the page, after I had completed my drawing. I was looking for something quick. I could paint a solid color panel and live with the buckling of the paper (well the author of the journal could live with the buckling). But then I started thinking about papers, decorative papers and colored papers and, immediately I knew I would cut away a portion of the page and replace it with decorative paper.
The decision to draw only on the right hand pages had already been made (because of the smudgy nature of the medium). If I did draw only on the right hand page and cut away a portion of the page I would loose the interesting number and date detail at the top of the page. I cut away at an angle at the top of the page to preserve this feature. I cut the rest of the page away using an X-acto and cutting board. I flipped the page over onto waste paper and glued it out with Uhu gluestick (I like the purple variety as it doesn’t smell enough to bother me). I flipped the page back, rightside up, onto a piece of Canson Mi Tientes paper that I had cut slightly larger than the journal page, with the grain running vertically. I pressed it all under wax paper until dry and then trimmed the edges of the Canson Mi Tientes to the page size of the journal.
Note: I always recommend gluing paper in your journal that is larger than the page you are placing it on if you want that paper to go all the way to the page edge. It is easier to trim than it is to line up a pre-cut page accurately. Always let the paper and journal page dry completely before trimming so that you don’t get any tears trying to cut wet, stretchy paper!All that remained was text. I thought of my Pictionary Game. In October last year Zander Cannon had explained to me how he uses Pictionary in creating his 24-hour comic. I loved the idea and was waiting for a project to try it out on.
I ran into the other room where I kept the used game I had found last year. I drew a card and wrote out “Pocket Change” on gridded paper which I then tore out and glued to my page on the Canson Mi Tientes portion of the page.
Time elapsed: 30 minutes. I was really liking this idea. I know I will use a rubber stamp to add page numbers and will pick up a date stamp (I don’t have one with 2010 on it) to add the date at the top of the page.
So to quickly review the positives about this approach:
1. 30 minutes a day is doable even in the clogged scheduled I’m facing.
2. Using black Stabilo All works on this paper, and meets my goal of using a dry medium.
3. Focusing on drawing faces will be a useful practice.
4. Using my books of photos of facial expressions for artists as references will ensure that I won’t need to find someone to draw everyday. Since I work by myself I can’t be asking the UPS delivery people to model for me. Going out each day to find faces would be time consuming. Using the books will aid the thirty minute a day goal. How I tie the use of these faces into the final journal remains to be seen—will they be characters about whom the author is writing and sketching or are they “jobs” he/she is working on?
5. I get to play with my Pictionary game.
6. I get to use collage elements and decorative papers in a quick and minimal way, which I can expand if that’s the direction my “character” pulls me.
7. I get intellectual stimulation and get weaned off sudoku at the same time.
8. I get to let go of my issues with “smudging” by throwing messy materials in my face.
9. None of the choices I’ve made so far have locked me into an approach that is rigid—I can still make messy, multiple drawing pages; I can still write text all over the page.
10. This approach gives me a chance to work with minimal text on a page if I want to continue with that.
11. Using the date stamps and page number rubber stamps will give me a lead in to using word stamps if I decide I want to do that on any or all pages.
12. This approach is really fun to do. Because of that and all the above reasons, I know it will be sustainable for 30 days.
Now what are the negatives:
1. I don’t know who the keeper of this journal is and why he/she would work in this fashion.
The good news: the negative doesn’t bother me. I always start International Fake Journal Month with only a vague sense of who the author of the journal is. It will come as I start to make the pages.
I have my selected notebook. I have extra Stabilo All pencils. All I need to do is get a date stamp and buy some more dark colors of Canson Mi Tientes.
This may seem like an intense preparation, but there is less than 3 hours of time spent in all this. That time was spread out over several weeks. A thirty-day project deserves some consideration. Last year I did one trial sketch and knew my direction immediately. This year I needed a little more exploration. Exploration my character would have completed before April 1 comes around if this indeed were his/her journal.
One sketch or several, now I can step out of the way and let the fun begin.
On Thursday I will post a checklist of questions and points to ponder as you attempt your own prep.