Miss T wanted to participate in the 2011 celebration, but doesn't have a blog so she sent me images to post. I'm just now getting them processed. Miss T actually also happened to win the Project Journal Infiltration portion of this year's prize drawings. You'll see those sketches here as well. Not all of her journal appears below so you can't exactly follow along, but you'll get a sense of it.
Background:Miss T wrote the following explanation of her journal with her first image.
The writer of my journal is an alien researcher (a plant-based life form, who lives in fear that she might encounter a vegan) who's here on earth studying humans. She uses the name Alizarin Redwood here.
If you attempt to read the text, note that she writes from the bottom of the page up, rather than top down. (As a plant, she thinks of things in terms of growing from the ground up.) She is gradually improving her English skills as she proceeds through the month, so the text starts out very rough and smooths out a bit mid-month.)To read Miss T's debriefing, feedback from me, and view an album of her fake journal pages please click to view the full post.
The typed footnotes were made by the editor/translator, Dr. Lafayette J. Pigeon, who has translated any non-English text and also provided explanations of some of the events and locations referred to by the writer.
[In response to my request for debriefing Miss T obliged by sending in the following report]
After a hiatus of too many years, I’ve started to draw all over again. The first thing I noticed in my recent work was that there were several giant, gaping holes in my education. Since I wanted to use IFJM to work on a specific problem, I chose the biggest and worst of the Giant Gaping Holes: human faces. I’d never drawn them. Not on my own, and not in art school, either. I had weaseled my way through daily figure drawing by either suggesting the model’s head with a few brief strokes of charcoal, or by cutting it off entirely and concentrating on the torso. Nobody ever really called me on it. Back then, I wasn’t interested in drawing faces (I don’t recall why). Now that I am, I’m mortified at my clumsy attempts. Okay, I’m mortified by all my drawing—starting over is incredibly difficult—but faces were the worst.
A solid month of drawing faces had to help, right? So I developed a character, Alizarin Redwood, an alien researcher who was sent to Earth to study humans. She had very rudimentary English skills (obtained by studying a dictionary and notes brought back by a previous researcher), a few pencils, and a journal. (Purchased from an Etsy seller, this journal turned out to be very poorly constructed, something that would have upset me if I was using it for my own journaling. But it was perfect for an alien who had to hack together a book with whatever materials she could scavenge. It’s not holding up well at all, but again, that fits with the story.)
I got two books to help my process: Facial Expressions: A Visual Reference for Artists, by Mark Simon; and The Artist’s Complete Guide to Facial Expression, by Gary Fagin. The former was my source of subjects; the latter got me out of trouble when I got into it. Each day, I selected a face (or two) to draw, and a location in the Twin Cities where Alizarin would encounter that person.
As the month went on, a story emerged, of course (there’s always a story, with me), and it went in some interesting directions I didn’t expect: Alizarin had a major conflict going on with one of her colleagues back home who was trying to sabotage her. Our cold April weather was too much for her and she stole a sweater to survive, the recovery of which by its owner proved to be the reason Alizarin lost her journal—all her hard work—on the night she left. The editor and translator of the journal became more and more opinionated and snarky, and I learned that was because Alizarin had drawn him, too, and he was furious at coming across his own face in the document he was editing.
Alizarin’s English improved during the month, as she listened to people talking around her. But what about my drawing? Well, I drew 30 faces. The first one was dreadful. The second, only slightly less so. But by the third, I realized not only what was wrong with my drawings of faces—I’d hit on what was wrong with my other sketches as well. I’d been trying to work too fast. I wasn’t slowing down to see. Perhaps I was hoping I could turn back time and pick up where I shouldn’t have left off if I just sketched fast enough. This incredibly boneheaded error in judgment led to not only some atrocious sketches, but to a tendency towards excessive, nervous crosshatching that wasn’t doing my work any favors.
So, I put in the time. Hours each day, if that’s what was called for. This was not without drama. After seeing some steady improvement, near the end of the month I not only hit a plateau, I felt I was backsliding. I made some bad drawings. I freaked out, positive that I can’t draw anymore and maybe I never could. And then, miraculously, with just a few days to go, I hit a groove. Even fewer lines, less shading… and more the essence of the person. Am I all the way there yet? Of course not. But I’m much further than I expected to be in one month, and I found a genuine reason to continue drawing.
I now have a completed book with at least six or seven drawings in it that don’t make me cringe. I finished a regular journal at the same time, and while my first sketch in the new one isn’t perfect, it feels light years from where I was in March. March! And it’s not even a human. It’s a tapir, a non-embarrassing tapir sketch that I couldn’t have gotten to without drawing 30 humans. I have to say that I gained far more than I expected to from IFJM (including a reason for the existence of the month of April). Thank you, Roz, for putting this idea out in the world and tirelessly insisting that we all sit up and take notice—it really does work.
Feedback from Roz on Miss T's Debriefing:Miss T, first I'm glad you had an over all good experience. A certain amount of cringing is to be expected as we are always our harshest critics. And plateaux are common to the landscape of any journey, artistic, personal, public, etc. I'm glad that you stuck with it and worked your way along because I believe by working through such things we actually are in a better position to quickly dispatch them in the future.
It's clear from your note that the time away from art has been painful. I hope this project is the first step in many that reconnect you with all that you've felt separated from.
I also believe that by setting clear goal for yourself (human faces) and drawing together the reference resources you needed and setting aside the time to devote to this project you guaranteed that you would have a success. I encourage you to savor that success.
I'd like to reiterate something I wrote at the end of last year's celebration for everyone who has participated or is thinking of participating in future years:
What matters is that you followed your intention to stretch your creative muscle and put that intention into practice in your already full life. You carved out time for yourself. You experimented with new media. You tested new paper and books. You listened to that inner voice that says softly "I want to say something." You let that voice be heard over your internal critic.
Thank you Miss T for sharing your adventure with us this year.
Album of Images from Miss T's 2011 Fake Journal
Click on an image to view an enlargement.