Even though this year's theme is "No Explanations" I feel as founder and organizer of International Fake Journal Month I really need to write a little bit each year about my process—the selection of materials, the definition of a character, my goals. I do this so that people new to the process can see an example of how they might proceed and avoid some hassles and pitfalls. As I write in my posts covering tips on all these topics, there is always more than one way to do each of these things. My hope is that as you read about my process something might click in your brain and your own process will take off.
That said I want to share this year's round about approach to my fake journal. Typically I'll think of a character, or I will decide on the media I want to use and then select an appropriate journal to work in with that media. Either the character or the media will start to inform me as to the why, the more I think about them both. (And I try to do a little thinking about the project every week in March.)
This year my fake journal "plans" came about because I couldn't walk past a paper deal—250 sheets of mystery paper from the Magnani Mill for $50. (And no, there isn't any more of this paper which didn't even have a name.)
I wasn't looking for a paper deal. I was just at my favorite art supply store (Wet Paint in St. Paul) and I asked if there was anything interesting in the papers because I had been unable to visit the store much since the beginning of 2014—I had been shooting and editing videos for my online class in Semester One at Sketchbook Skool (which starts today by the way if you haven't heard about this before—six weeks, six teachers, all for $99).
When I asked to see different papers I was hoping to find a great paper for my in-person classes—something that will take mixed media but be inexpensive so that the students can make a good-sized book without paying too much for class supplies. (I like to introduce a good but inexpensive option in class and then provide information for other paper choices for when students make their next book.)
Left: The ink tests and first face sketch. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I was shown a sheet of this mystery paper that was sent by mistake and now being sold at a discount. Nothing was known about the paper, but when I touched it it seemed obvious to me that it had some good qualities, and that it was a heavyweight printmaking paper. I asked if I could test one of the sheets and went home with the top scuffed sheet (red pencil marks already on it) to do so.
I immediately tested a bunch of pens and was disappointed to see that all of them bled through the paper in varying degrees. This meant the paper wasn't suitable (even if it tore and folded well) for a class on making a mixed media journal, or even an ink-only journal). I like to get students to use a variety of media so this was out.
But something in the way the paper took the brush pen made me think, I can still use this paper for sketching. I did the math and realized that for 20 cents a sheet I couldn't find a paper of this quality and size for sketching, even if I just used it all up in life drawing it was a great bargain.
The pen drags on this paper and the paper soaks up a bit much of the ink as you move along—I actually have to sketch more slowly or the brush gets too dry to continue and I outrun the ink flow. But it felt good on the paper and I liked the quality of the lines.
Next I used washes on the portrait—wet and dry-ish washes of gouache—just to see how the paper holds up.
Left: Back of the sheet, showing the extreme buckling of the sheet when painted upon, as wells as various levels of ink bleeding through. I also did some ink marks on this side of the sheet to determine if it had a better surface on one side or the other. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
Not well at all as evidenced by the back of the sheet.
I knew I couldn't use the paper for a class, but I had been thinking about working large for IFJM 2014. I asked myself if I could work all month without color. (I hadn't been able to work much in color for the past 3 months as excessive computer work worsened my shoulder injury and made holding a brush and dipping a brush into paint or water difficult.)
Left: An "upside down" view of the test sheet. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I decided that it would be fun to do one large 22 x 30 inch journal sheet a day in April even if I could only work in black ink. (I've since found that working with Montana Markers in limited areas doesn't cause the paper to deform much at all, and I also have stamp ink and collage papers I can use for color.)
That would leave me with 218 sheets (after another test sheet with markers and such) after IFJM 2014 ended and that would all be good paper for life drawing. So I called Wet Paint up and bought the paper.
And that's why I'm sitting here writing about how I'm doing a fake journal on loose sheets that are 22 x 30 inches and impossible to scan (there's a curved edge all round).
Left: Close up view of the finch at the "bottom" of one of the long sides of the sheet. I sketched with a brush using orange acrylic ink and then used some very dry brush heavy bodied acrylics—violet. I wanted to see if the acrylic ink and paint deformed the paper as much as the larger amounts of water used in the gouache. It didn't, but it deformed it enough that I didn't want to use it all month. I did decide that if I wanted to do paintings on this paper after the 2014 IFJM I could always gesso the paper and then paint on that. For 20 cents a sheet there's a lot I can do with this paper. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I have absolutely no idea how I'm going to post these journal pages yet. I'm thinking of how to set up a really large copy stand. I may just make a video with me flipping through them because when you look at the photos I've taken so far (3 days into IFJM) the images don't look BIG when presented digitally full frame, without a frame of reference!
We'll see. For now I'm just concentrating on getting through the month—which brings me to my second bit of explanation, now that you know the surface and materials I'm using…
Left: My second test sheet was made on March 31. I was anxious to find some way to bring color to the project and also trying to decide how my character might write on the pages. This meant I needed to experiment with the different pens and inks I had. Also, because my test sketches proved to me that the paper really sucked the ink out of my brush pens I tested working with black acrylic ink and a Sumi brush—however while that would work for quick scribbled text I found the brush too floppy and broad for sketching details (face in the center) and abandoned it immediately. I still may use a brush of some sort and bottled ink, we'll see as the project goes along. For now I've got more brush pens on hold for when I'm well enough to drive over and fetch them. I have a couple here that should last long enough. Click on the image to view an enlargement.
I made a foolish slip on Tuesday, I mentioned something key about my REAL life on my first journal page. Normally this isn't a big deal because you expect that there can be some overlap. For instance, I'm not trying to work in a different style, my goal for IFJM 2014 is very simple—work large, don't worry about any sort of narrative—just record whatever happens or is thought about in the few minutes I have to work; and because of the paper, work mostly in black and white. I also wanted to think more about composition this month and was actually reading a book by a Disney instructor, it's in the other room I'll get that reference some other time, it's doesn't really matter because my desire to read one of its 32 chapters a day for April came to nothing because I caught a cold.
That's right, a lousy, crummy, crappy spring cold. And that's what I mentioned the first day on the first page.
It's a "mistake" in my mind to do that because the journal has the potential then be all about the cold and more about me than I want—because I want to distance myself from the chararcter. Also some of the things I thought the character might do during the month are now totally off the table because she can't go out and about and people aren't likely to visit her and be exposed to her germs.
So I dug myself a bit of a hole.
And I pouted, until I realized that there were new episodes of "George Gently" available on Acorn TV. Now that's cheering. (If you aren't aware of my TV viewing habits go here.)
I also knew that I've dug myself out of worse holes in the past and will continue to do so. But I mention it now so that you might be prevented from making the same mistake.
In the first few days of IFJM as your character starts to speak to you just pause for a moment and make sure that you're listening to your character and not some snotty, snippy version of yourself. Is what you're about to write down on the page really from your character? Or is it from you, you with a cold, or you upset over something that happened that day at work, or you miffed about something your significant other said at breakfast? (That never happens right? I don't eat breakfast with Dick so I wouldn't know.)
My advice to you is just pause for a moment and think, if he/she says that then what does that mean? And just sit there for 5 minutes and think it through. What does it mean for the next 30 days?
Now sometimes what happens is we realize that the project we were all set to do is not actually the project that NEEDS to be done, and we are happily off and running in a new direction.
Or we may realize we have to shift our plans slightly.
Or we realize it has no impact at all.
But don't let a momentary lapse of concentration put you into a deep hole, unless of course you relish that sort of thing. (I think I must.)
Keep focused on the goals you stated to yourself before you started the project (goals about which media you wanted to use, or style you wanted to work in, or what you wanted your character to explore). Then if something comes up that pushes you away from those goals take a moment and think through whether that's a good thing or not. If not don't be pushed; if it is go ahead.
So there you have a little background about my project this year, if somewhat filtered through my cold-addled head. As usual I'll post again off and on through the month and at the end of the month I'll post a wrap up. (And if I haven't been posting these oversized journal pages by then I'll find some way to film them.)
Additional Notes on IFJM 2014
No More Selfies Needed
Thank you to everyone who sent in images for me to use as reference photos for my project. I have enough images, and live folks, to sketch from so please don't send any more images. Thank you for making the effort. Folks who sent in selfies really did a great job.
Signing Up on the Participants List
If you are publicly posting your pages on a dedicated blog (or on your main blog with tagging or some other convention so it's easily separated and spotted by a visitor) or your Flickr page please send me a link when you have 8 entries and I'll add you to this year's participants list which will be in the side column of the blog. The wait for 8 pages is so that there is something there for visitors to view. If you've participated before in IFJM you can write to me right away as I know you've been through the project and will keep at it and already have a posting regime set up. (Remind me in your email when you send a link, which year, or years, you participated in. I know I've corresponded with many of you a lot over the years but sometimes I don't recognize the names.)
I hope everything is going well with all of you and that you are two (or three if you've had time to work on it today) entries into your journal. Keep it up. Keep focusing on your goal.