To see a video flip-through of my 2011 fake journal please the post on Thursday, May 19, 2011.
Each year I set goals for myself during IFJM. The goals relate to media that I've decided to use and the approach I'm going to use. Part of the equation is also the character I elect to explore. The character chooses the journal that I'll work in. I may have selected several to choose from, and had a "plan" of action I thought I would take, but the character steps in and takes over at that point. It seems at times that I essentially sit back and let the learning take place after that—but it isn't that passive.
Each year brings special challenges that cause the project to go in unforeseen directions. Sometimes those challenges are caused by the character, sometimes by the circumstances in which the character moves. Sometimes the challenges are external to the project and relate to my real life, work, and family.
This year I had an ambitious plan to take off most of the month of April and actually do little else but be my character. Since I knew, going into it that she was a writer and illustrator and had lots of projects going on, I also knew I would have plenty to keep me busy.
Then the imp in me took over and I decided that my character should have an internet presence for her public faces. Setting that up was simple. Feeding it, when I have trouble managing and maintaining my own internet presence was ridiculous. It sent the project over the top, but in a way which pleased me very much. (Though the nervous tic I developed below my left eye didn't please me—and I'm happy to report it finally seems to have retreated.)
The reality of my life in April, however, did not allow me to fully devote myself to this project: to the grand, large scheme. And I saw it, even before April 1, dwindle to only an hour a day of activity (in the journal, with some miscellaneous cross referencing on the blogs).
One thing about the project didn't change from the beginning, however. My character, Tyra D. Sheere doesn't explain things. She isn't a teacher. She doesn't care if people know she found this type of media difficult to use for this application or whether she prefers one brand of gouache over another and why.
I wrote "No Explanations" on a slip of paper and pasted it to the wall above my desk. Every year in IFJM I look for one aspect of my actual experience to free myself from, or to cast light on. "No Explanations" was that aspect.
As a teacher my life is about explanations—methodically setting out steps to things and communicating the ways in which materials, media, and techniques can be made to work. As a graphic designer much of my job is "teaching" the client so he'll accept the work as just what he needs.
It was gloriously freeing to have no explanations in my fake journal. Tyra was not concerned with writing out steps for anything—either so that she could do it again or so that she could teach it to someone else by making class notes out of it, whatever. (She did grumble a bit about her editors at times, though mostly on her blogs. Still it wasn't explanations.)
Part of this "no explanations" stance dovetailed nicely with the current realities of my life. I've been examining issues of my mode of expression, both in writing and in painting. But I have also been examining what it means to have contact with your brain, your memory, your skills. I have also been watching the aging process in people I love, and in myself. I have been assessing what it means to productivity and creativity, as well as things as essential as movement. I don't have answers or clear thoughts on any of this exploration yet, but I do know that I am moving back into a private mode in my journals (this happens in waves) which I am really enjoying. These private modes always in the past have come before periods of great creative productivity and I look forward to that. “No explanations” was a great starting point for this exploration.
Let's just say, that this year's IFJM surpassed all my expectations for raising life issues that need to be addressed by me!
There is another aspect of the fake journal that remained constant from the planning phase. Tyra does not carry her journal around. I carry my journal everywhere and have the body wear and tear to show for it. This has lead to smaller journals. I love working in all sizes of journals, but I also realize that the size at which we work impacts on the art we end up with, so I do like to mix it up. Because Tyra doesn't carry her journal and her journal is large, she can put lots of bits and pieces she creates during the day in her journal.
This actually meshed perfectly with my current need to be always working on my sketching skills, to push myself. It drove the way I taught last fall's multi-session journal practice class (ending in June of this year) which deals with sketching and collage. It fuels how I am currently working in one such journal now (which is 9 x 12 inches) while I have a 6 x 8 inch journal that I carry everywhere with me in my pack.
My journal practice has always been flexible, and it is once again stretching to accommodate current needs so different from my needs 10 years ago, 4 years ago, or even a year ago. My 2011 fake journal helped to reinforce in my mind all the types of approaches I could take.
Next, because I also think of IFJM as a time to play, I started with a character who would be making stuff, specifically stuff that I also enjoy—books. This allowed me to effortlessly fold over my love of making fake book covers into the process of IFJM.
In some ways this year's fake journal is the most personal of any I've shared. Her observational mode is most like mine. And she certainly shares my background experience (from Australia), my third culture kid sensibilities, my sense of humor, and an abundance of my interests. It seemed when she came to me that this was appropriate, since I'd planned to spend all my time with her. In hindsight the universe probably saved me from spending all my time with her.
In playing at being Tyra I forced myself to use a different palette of colors than I normally use. This provided a bit more stretch, even in the discomfort it raised. I think it is good to shake up things about our approach to art every once in awhile, whether or not we decide to be someone else to do it. I'll be exploring these different colors (more oranges, more reds) in the future, as well as trying additional departures—now I'm anxious to make time for them right away.
That's one of the great benefits of IFJM for me—it makes me crazy to get started on other new projects or new approaches. It's why I started posting about it in 2009, using the internet to draw a wider audience to IFJM. I wanted to share all the fun I was having. Sometimes the fun doesn't seem like fun at the time (2001 was a pretty dark year in IFJM for me) but when the work is done the fun always seems to rise like cream to the top. I can live with that.
Several people have asked me why Tyra had to die. The answer always seems obvious to me. She didn't have to do anything. She made choices. She went to Borneo. She played tug of war with the orangutan. As one of my real friends might say about the encounter with the orangutan, "Girlfriend, that wasn't too bright." And that action (and my friend's voice in my head) reminds me of the precariousness of everything, and the need for joy in everything, and if not joy, then gratitude. And if not gratitude then forgiveness. Because frankly we all have way too much to do to behave otherwise. And it is important that we pay attention at all times. Not in an obsessive and paranoid fashion, but in an engaged way.
Originally, as April wound down, I thought I might actually deal with Tyra next year in IFJM as well. But immediately the idea was answered with silence. She wasn't there. And when I asked my mind why, the answer came up.
Ultimately too, there is that love of narrative thread I can't escape, the Dickensian impulse which likes to wrap things up. Blend that with my own dark sense of humor and the logical conclusion is a chocolate fountain.
I have a lot more thinking and working to do because of IFJM. I'm looking forward to it. I want to thank all of your for participating, for promoting, for checking in. I love seeing what other people come up with when they give fake journaling a try. I love seeing the changes they encounter and make in their lives.
I want to thank all my friends who helped me with the creation of Tyra this year, especially Tom, who took pictures of me so that we could do Project Journal Infiltration within IFJM. (I adored all the ways participants worked out to include me in their journals—brilliance! I'm grateful and awed.) And to Dick for supporting the full throttle approach. All you need to know is that Tyra is a lot more lippy than even I am, and a lot of it spilled over into my real life.
It is my hope that each year participants gain a new insight into who they are, how they work, what they could do to take their work in a new direction, what that direction might be. I hope if you participated you found some of that. I hope that you join me next year for another go at it.
Life's so short, why live only one?
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