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 2017
Currently there are no contests planned for 2017. Check the side bar "Contests for 2017" to see if this changes.

Participants who Post Their Journals
A list of 2017 participants who are posting their fake journals this year will appear near the top of the right side bar of this blog around April 5. Lists of participants who posted their pages in 2010 through 2016 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?"


Wednesday, April 30, 2014

International Fake Journal Month 2014 Concludes Today

Today is the final day of IFJM 2014. You may already have finished your journal, you may be finishing it later tonight. Congratulations!

It's time to move on to other projects—but remember—do a wrap-up self-evaluation for yourself while the project is still fresh in your mind.

1. Today after you finish your final entry take 15 minutes or less to write impressions as they pop into your mind. Jot down what worked, what didn't, what surprises you had. Anything that pops up, jot down. Don't worry about writing complete sentences, just get your impressions down on paper.

2. Set the finished journal aside and walk away. Start a new project today or tomorrow. (This link explains how you can do that.) Put IFJM out of your brain.

3. In three (3) days or so (hey it will be the weekend!) make time to sit down and review your project with a bit more intensity. Page through the entire journal.

Recall what things felt like—jot down all your impressions that come up, all your memories of what fun you had, any inklings of anxiety, etc. Then get out your list from item 1 above and with your new list of impressions take time to write an evaluation and expression of what the experience was like for you in its entirety.

This is the moment to provide yourself with explanations. You want to be able to read and understand this self-evaluation and assessment years from now. Be SPECIFIC. If it was frustrating say so and think about all the ways it frustrated you, think also about ways you can deal with that frustration in the future. If the experience was joyful be specific about what aspects were joyful and WHY so that you can keep incorporating those aspects in your journal practice.

Be honest, detailed, and as I've said SPECIFIC. Dig deep. After you get one answer go back in for another. 

Expect to spend a good chunk of time on this—2 hours perhaps. Take a break if you need to, but honor all the time you devoted to the project in April by giving it full attention in the wrap up.

I recommend that you write the wrap up in your regular journal so that you don't lose it. Photocopy it and put that copy inside a pocket in the back of your fake journal. Years later that wrap up summary will be nice to have with the journal.

If you feel like sharing a public write up of your experience please do so, either by creating a specific blog post for that on your blog and sending me a link, or by sending the write up and one jpg to me at rozjournalrat@gmail.com by May 11, 2014. I'll post a series of posts on wrap-ups depending on what comes in.

Congratulations on sticking with the project. I hope you met your goals—remember too, sometimes goals change as we work with a project. A new goal might pop up—a goal just to finish! Whatever your goals were, congratulations.

Celebrate all of these goals!

Note: I hope to have my journal pages photographed sometime in May. As you can imagine with pages 22 x 30 inches it's going to be a bit of a project on its own. Once that is done I will post all 30 images here as a short film or slide show, so that you can see them. I'll either post my wrap up at the same time so you can see it with all the pieces, or sometime next week, depending on what makes sense at the time. I think it might be best to wait so that you can read the evaluation at the same time you get to see all the images because I think it will be easier to make sense of it. (Whatever sense there might be.)

If you were kind enough to send me your photo so I could sketch a portrait of you, expect an email in the next few days or next week asking for your postal address if I used your image. I will be printing the prints at the end of May and sending them out as soon as possible after that.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Why Collaboration on a Single Character Isn't Fake Journaling

Above: Day 26 of my 2014 fake journal, brush pen with rubberstamp ink and acrylic markers (eyeglass frames). 22 x 30 inch sheet of printing paper. Toes left in for scale.

Collaboration can be great for the creative process, but not all projects lend themselves to collaboration. This is the case with fake journals.

There have been a surprisingly high number or queries this year from people wanting to make a fake journal in collaboration with another person for International Fake Journal Month.

While all the ideas suggested have been fabulously creative and represent projects the artists are passionate about they haven’t been a fit for IFJM for one simple reason.  

A collaborative journal where more than one person pretends to be the SAME person isn’t a fake journal, it’s a faux journal. As long as there are multiple people trying to be one person none of the people can completely be the fake person and create a complete fake journaling experience.

To create a fake journal you need to be in character when you create the journal, and you need to have the daily experience of being in that character’s skin (the character who is creating the journal) on a daily basis.

Those are really the two main criteria for creating a fake journal: a character, and daily (or as near as daily as you can get) participation, with “real-time” entries (e.g., if it’s 4 o’clock when you are writing it’s what you label the entry).

When two or more people attempt to keep a journal by one character, rotating the days that they work, they separate themselves from one of the best features of the project—habit building.

Collaborators also put themselves at risk for dealing with another artist's “issues.” If you have no control over what the other artist does to your character before it’s your turn again that other artist may take the character in a totally new direction away from avenues of exploration you might have benefited from. In a worst case scenario it might also push one of the collaborating artists into a creative block because he or she is losing ownership of the character, process, and the progress.

When artists collaborate in this fashion on a faux journal what they are actively engaged in is a conscious act of fiction. And there is more distance between the character they create in unison than one they would create themselves. If one artist doesn’t like something the character is doing she or he can step back and say, “that’s X’s [the other artist] doing that” and in the very act of naming that origin of creation the second artist no longer has to “deal” with the issues presented in a personal way, but can fashion a fictional and distant response.

In fake journaling, the goal is not to create a fiction with a beginning, middle, end, moral, etc. The goal is to inhabit a character in a slice of life. (Such character building exercises can then of course be used to create background for fictional works and many writers do this, but it isn’t the prime function of the fake journal—a fake journal that is kept as a journal: one consciousness, entries dated and timed as they actually happen, etc.)

The prime function of the fake journal is for an individual to identify some problem or issue in her (or his—understood from no on because this is clunky typing both) creative life or artistic approach and make a conscious decision to address that item by being a character who either doesn’t have that same issue or by being a character who is immersed in that issue but is coping with it in some other fashion that the artist would not have considered in her own life.

In other words the fake journal becomes a safe place for the artist to play art or investigate alternative approaches to what it’s like to live without the same constraints, freedoms, etc. she faces.

It’s a process which ultimately works best when the artist takes an inventory of issues, problems, abilities, time constraints and creates a response to explore in, unfettered by infiltration by outside sources for at least 15 minutes a day.

Collaboration opens not just a back door, but throws open wide the front door to outside sources. This can lead to serious issues and problems.

It may be very enticing to set up a collaboration to create a fake journal but it is impossible. If two people are creating one character all you can ever have is a faux journal.

Also you need to ask yourself, “why am I uncomfortable or unsure about creating one on my own?” Is the collaboration a way to surround yourself with support so you don’t have to deal with issues that come up? That defeats the purpose of the creative process.

Many people who participate in IFJM choose to deal with creative blocks and trouble with an internal critic. If you do that in a faux journal collaboration you lay yourself open to double levels of abuse when your internal critic comes after you for putting up with the creative choices of your partner, or depending on your partner, or whatever. Life is too short.

You’re simply better off calling it what it is—a creative fictional writing collaboration. Then you can deal with it with appropriate creative boundaries and negotiations. And you can keep your private artistic life, your creative block (and the reasons for them), your desire to work in a new medium as a beginner, etc. all to yourself—to deal with on another day.

I am a fan of collaboration in art. It has its place. And two creative minds are often better than one. But in a fake journal where you are asking yourself to be honest and intimate with your own reactions and practice and motivations in life it isn’t safe to let another person in. We need that time alone.

Collaborations that Work Within IFJM and Fake Journaling 

I suggested to all the folks writing to me about doing collaborative projects the following:

1. Each keep a journal with an individual character and have your characters interact. Then each of you is keeping a fake journal of your own individual character. What you create between the two of you is interaction and you each remain in control of your individual character’s reaction.

2. Collaborate with yourself. Keep two fake journals each kept by a DIFFERENT, individual (and we aren’t talking about finding out at the end of the month that the two characters were actually split personalities—I really mean two separate characters). The two characters then interact but you also have to deal with each one of them individually, keeping within the constraints of keeping a fake journal (timed entries, one character, etc.).

I’ve done the latter two times, once in the 1990s and in 2001. It is a hell of a lot of work and I think you are actually better served by focusing on one character. 

When Creating a Faux Journal Is Really What You Want 

The people who queried me all had interesting projects and I wished them all well. If you have a collaborative project where you both inhabit the same character I urge you to view it for what it really is, an exercise in creative fiction.

If you want to complete your project within a particular time format (week, month, year) set up your boundaries and have at it. You’ll benefit from sharing the creative process with someone you obviously trust and respect (or you wouldn’t have bothered setting up the project) and there are many benefits, most obvious of which is daily contact and support, to be derived from such a partnership.

If you wish to pursue your project under the constraints and boundaries of a larger group project I urge you to check out the various Fiction-in-a-Month options that are available online now. There’s a group that writes a novel in 30 days (November) and I think they also sponsor a screenplay in a month option in another month. You’ll find groups who write Young Adult novels in a month, mysteries in a month, and so on.

You will find a fit for your creative fiction project.

Projects with Children 

Most children don’t have creativity problems. They just want to create. As a parent, if you want to collaborate with your children on a daily creative project I encourage you to create such a project on the fictional model so that children don’t become self-conscious.

One woman wrote about the prospect of creating a fake journal in collaboration with her kids. She would be responsible for the writing and they would illustrate it (or maybe it was the other way around I can’t find that letter). After I explained that she was creating a faux journal because it wasn’t coming out of a single consciousness, I encouraged her to simply take a month in the summer when her kids aren’t in school and set up parameters for a daily creative project that involves collaborative writing and drawing.

This approach opens up the project to allow them to work for several hours a day, for instance, on several plot points in the story line, and this gives them a real taste of creating fictional characters. (But again it has nothing to do with fake journaling.)

They are also no longer tied to the clock as we are in fake journaling. If the wave of creativity catches them they could write a “week’s worth” of entries in an afternoon because it is fictional.

The difference is significant.

I think that by engaging your kinds in a faux journaling/fiction project you can help them develop narrative skills and creative muscles that they'll be able to use in all walks of life. That’s always a wonderful outcome.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Holding on to the Momentum

Left: Day 20 entry from my 2014 fake journal. Large acrylic markers on 22 x 30 inch paper (toes present at the bottom of the image for scale reference). My character didn't feel inclined to write anything on this day.

One of the great gifts an intensive, daily project can impart to your creative life is momentum.

As we are now at the two-thirds point of International Fake Journal Month, with only 10 days remaining (if you haven't created your entry for today), it's time to think about post-project momentum.

During the next few days take time to select a new journal for your regular journaling habit (if you don't have one that is in process). Or select a new journal to create a new project within.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What has worked this month so far, and what hasn't worked? When have I been most likely to work on the project? What factors contribute to this?

Perhaps you've found that late evening work is easiest to maintain because that's when your family duties are completed. Or perhaps you've found that working in your journal first thing is the best way to start your day and ensure your participation in the project.

2. Look at your commitments for May. It may help you to mark them on a calendar: family, work projects and deadlines, special events that you'll hope to attend, etc.

With your calendar in front of you work out a strategy for maintaining your desired level of journaling time and write those commitments on your calendar if necessary. (It helps some people to make "dates" or "appointments" with their journals.)

3. Ask yourself what media you would like to work with in May. Do you want to perfect your colored pencil skills? Are your watercolors calling to you because you couldn't use them this month?

4. Is there a project you want to do with that medium? Perhaps you want to work on your watercolor skills and have a favorite "how-to" watercolor book that you want to work through. Set up a simple project where you read a chapter of the book each day and do an exercise or some sort of practice based on that book each day. Keep your subject matter simple and accessible. I recommend studies of fruits and vegetables. You always have them on hand; they can be set up quickly; they contain simple shapes that can be interestingly lit and composed; and you can apply most drawing, painting and color theory exercises to them. Do you think it will be boring to draw a couple fruits or vegetables every day for the next several weeks? Well it's up to your creative instincts and insights to find ways to delve into the subject and capture your own interest, while you work on your skills project.

5. Assess the amount of time the project you want to do in items 3 and 4 might take. I recommend that if you've been working for 30 minutes each day of IFJM that you not increase your daily time beyond 60 minutes a day.

6. How will this new time commitment fit into the calendar that you have prepared in item 2?

7. Ask yourself what types of emotional issues came up during IFJM. How do you expect to deal with them? Are you able to deal with them in conjunction with the project you've considered going on to? If not, is it more important to deal with those emotional issues before you jump into a skills-based project? If it is, then make a list of the issues that came up and make a schedule of how "ideally" you would like to cope with them—writing about an issue for one hour for two days is probably as much as you'll feel up to. Maybe just one hour on one day.

Realize you aren't going to solve these issues you're just going to sit with them for the time that you're assigning.

8. Redo your calendar to fit your "issues" project. Let's say you have 9 issues on your list—things like my inner critic is too loud when I work in color, when I try to draw realistically, etc. Assign one or two days to each "issue" when you'll spend 1 hour writing about and brainstorming ways you might fix it.

9. Mark your calendar May 1 through 12 let's say because you have 9 issues and you want to write 1 hour on some of them and 2 hours/2 days on others.

10. Mark May 12 as the start of your new project. This will either be your skills based project you decided upon in items 3 and 4, OR it will be an new project that has come up in your May 1 through 12 discussions with yourself.

11. Gather all the materials you need so that you can execute your plan on May 1. Gather any additional items needed for May 12. (You might as well combine as much of this as you can to save time, if it seems clear to you.)

Remember, gathering materials DOESN'T MEAN SPENDING MONEY! Gathering materials means you go to the library and pick up that book on color theory you wanted to work through, or it means that you pull out the paper you've been saving for a project, or you do research on the internet for subject matter that you want to read and respond to in your writing. (Put it all in one folder on your computer so you can find it all again, or put all the links in one document.) You might simply go through old magazines and gather materials for collage. Put things in 6 folders such as Women, Men, Animals, Things, Words, and Color. These will contain the materials you'll work with during your project—materials you already had. If you start gathering things before you are ready to start your project then you'll be able to jump right in on that project the first day—momentum retained!

Spending money and running about buying more art supplies is one of the major ways in which your inner critic can derail your efforts. Don't buy into the thoughts that there are perfect supplies out there, or the perfect time to use certain supplies. This is all a fog of perfectionism and scarcity.

Now if you've been paying attention you'll say, "wait a minute I'm actually doing several things on several days and I don't get a day off."

That's right—you'll be multitasking, which is one of the key ways to keep momentum going.

When you finish a large project it's not time to take a breath and stop. It's time to start another one. And keep that momentum going. Use the great gush of good feeling you have from finishing the previous project to propel you into the next.

A week or so into the new project it's time to take stock.

And you'll do that in the same way that you took stock at the end of IFJM—by looking at what worked and what didn't and planning, and well, by starting at number one on this list and working your way through again.

Momentum.

Keep it going, it's the best creative gift you can give yourself. Don't fritter away the creative habit building you've banked this past month.

You won't get tired or exhausted because your creativity will buoy you up. Your internal critic will however get pretty fed up with you because you aren't giving him a moment to shout out at you.

Fine, let him go play with someone else.

You've got creative things to do.

Another word about Issues…

I think we all need to do self-evaluations and look hard at what are our real strengths and weaknesses so that we can address them in a realistic way and improve. But I also believe we can wallow in emotions that are self-indulgent and non-productive.

That's why I always suggest people look for skills-based projects. What do you want to learn how to do or to improve upon your existing skills? If you look for projects like those and work hard at them the emotional issues you are concerned with will float up to the top and demand periodic attention in the natural course of things. Don't spend too much time running in circles, that's your inner critic trying to delay you again, telling you it's impossible to move forward if "everything isn't settled and right."

Nothing is ever going to be settled until the day you die. Somedays you'll settle an issue that may have bothered you from the age of 2; the next day you settle an issue that has bothered you since you were 35. Then you just "plod" along working and learning and mastering a skill and not setting any issues or any emotional import at all, until one day, perhaps a month later you realize that while you've been working hard at your creative task and plan another issue has sorted itself out on its own.

If you'd waited to start a creative project until you sorted everything out you've be poorer—both emotionally and in the skills you'd developed. Instead you're now in a totally different place with creative work under your belt—creative work that's getting better and better.

So don't wallow. It's so boring.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Midpoint in 2014 International Fake Journal Month

Above: My April 13 entry in my 2014 IFJM Journal. 30 x 22 inch mystery printmaking paper, with acrylic inks used with a brush. Rubberstamped date. That's Beverly my giant plastic toad, who made his/her drawing debut in my fake journal this year. (My character shares my love for large toys.) Click on the image to view an enlargement. 

Yep, it's the 15th. So if you're in the U.S. you've paid your taxes by today. It's also the halfway point in International Fake Journal Month. If you've been making an entry each day then by the end of today you'll have 15 entries. That's fantastic. Now it's just a matter of putting in the same amount of time for the rest of the month and you're home free—no more "hiddens," you know what to expect.

Sure it's not that easy when you start a project or you try to form a new habit. Now might be exactly the time that you take a deep breath to relax only to find life throws you a curve ball and leaves you with less "free" time for the rest of the month.

You need to remember two things.

1. Don't take it personally.

2. You were able to find time for 15 days you can find time for another 15 days. It's worth it, your project is worth it. So just wake up each morning willing to put in the time.

And these things are true even if your project is nothing like what you'd hoped it would be.

To date my project has taken some interesting twists and turns. I started the project knowing I wanted to sketch a lot of people and that most of them would be from life, local friends. But I also asked for readers to send me selfies. Thank you, thank you to all the readers who did that because I never knew when I started this project that I would come down with a cold that turned to bronchitis and be two weeks into this project without seeing a living soul but Dick and two friends who whizzed through so quickly there was no time to sketch.

Having the selfies has allowed me to keep sketching and keep up with the project. My character still sketches the faces for the same reason, but now I can actually still do it.

Another curve ball my health has thrown me is that the black Pentel Brush Pens I've been using for the project are the squeezable, fugitive dye-based ink type with a nice fine (and sometimes extra thick) brush tip. Well on the 12th I realized that squeezing the pens was undoing all the therapy I'd been doing with my right hand, elbow, and shoulder. Drat.

That means I've ratcheted way back on use of those pens for now. I have been using the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, which simply flows (you don't squeeze it) but the paper soaks up the ink so quickly that I don't like the line I get with it and have to go over lines sometimes. A bit annoying, but still, I'm getting the project done aren't I? So I'm happy.

And I've always got a regular brush and acrylic inks as a way to sketch (as in the image shown today) so it's all good.

In other words, even though things aren't what I've hoped for I've been able to adapt and keep going.

If you're reading this now and are participating this month that's what I hope you're doing—finding ways to adapt and keep going. That's the essence of creativity.

Take a moment to think about your character and how your character would react to these influences. And also take a moment to pat yourself on the back for making it this far.

Ask yourself what it is that you would still like to get out of the project and see if you can't arrange things to make that happen! You've put in so much effort up to this point now is the time to pull out all the stops.

Keep going.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

One Third of the Way through International Fake Journal Month 2014

Left: A photo of one of my first 10 pages of my 2014 fake journal. I haven't come up with a good way to "shoot" them during April, but I wanted to give you an idea of what I'm doing. The only way I could think to do that was to include my toes for reference. (I wear a ladies size 6.5 shoe.) The paper is about 22 x 30 inches. The bird's head is larger than my head. Brush pen with rubberstamp ink for color—since the paper won't take wet media. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

We are officially past the one-third mark (day 10 of a 30-day month). If you started on April first and have been able to work each day you'll now have at least ten entries.

Congratulations for making it this far.

If you haven't already started and still want to join in, dive right in because 20 days remain and you can get a lot of work accomplished in 20 days.

If you've been working right along now is the time to take a moment to look at your past pages and ask yourself a couple questions:

1. Am I staying consistent with my character? If not how can I fix this? Is there a time of day that's easier for me to get into character? If so make a conscious plan to work during that time each day.

2. Do I see changes that would be great to explore even though they depart from my original plan? If so, think about the impact they will have on your plan and make a conscious effort to embrace the changes if you think it's a good direction to go.

3. What difficulties are you encountering? These can be character problems or time management or media issues. Pinpoint what they are. Brainstorm some ideas on how to deal with them for the rest of the month.

4. Congratulate yourself for making it this far, even if you have missed a couple days. Now keep going.

A Bit About My Progress
My main obstacle this year has been a spring cold which turned into bronchitis. I'm finding it difficult to do some of the experimental work I'd hoped to achieve because I've been relying on my inhaler rather heavily—and my inhaler makes my hand shaky.

I'm enjoying what I'm doing while at the same time I know I have to push myself some more. And I'm also seeing how difficult it is for me to not explain things. My whole life is tied up in explanations—to teach, to write, to interact with people—and it's difficult to shed that behavior. We'll see what happens.

The 2014 Participants List Is Up
If you have been watching the blog you'll see that I'm starting to get the participants listed in the column to the right. Each participant's name is linked to the dedicated fake journal blog or Flickr site they are using.

If they are posting on their regular blog the link goes to the first post for IFJM 2014 and it's my hope they've indexed their entries well enough that you can find your way around.

If you've got 8 entries in your journal by now and are publicly posting send me such a link and I'll add you to the list. (Be patient if nothing goes up for a couple days as I'm not on the computer much right now. Both the real Roz and my character are trying to "rest.")

Check out the other participants' work and be sure to leave them some comments and encouragement.

Now get busy on your fake journal!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

2014 International Fake Journal Project Participants—Public and Private

Public Participation
If you are participating in this year's celebration and you are posting your pages publicly on either a blog dedicated to IFJM related posts or an album on Flickr or some other public digital venue I'm not already savvy you can appear in the 2014 IFJM Participants list in the right column of this blog.

There are already names posted there as you can see. (For past years please scroll down to previous lists which are grouped together at the bottom of the column.)

Participants listed already have all participated before.

If you haven't participated before please write to me as soon as you have 8 days of entries completed. Send a link to your blog or Flickr album where you have them grouped. The email should come to me at rozjournalrat@gmail.com and the subject line should read "Participants List."

I'll check the link out and add you to the list.

The delay for new participants is simply so that there will be something there for visitors to look at. I try to do as little housekeeping as possible for this project so that I too have time to participate.  If someone falls off the project after 3 days or so I might not find out until a long time later. A week of participation is still long enough to even generate a wrap up. (Keep that in mind if you aren't up for a 30-day trial period. Maybe doing a two- or one-week project is what would best suit you. It's a great way to start.)

If you are sending me a link to a post about your first entry to IFJM 2014 on your regular blog be sure that your blog post for that entry includes some sort of wording and tagging along these lines:

This is the first entry in my 2014 International Fake Journal Month Journal. Each day in April I'll be adding a new entry. You can view all my journal entries on this blog as I post them by using this blog's search engine and searching for IFJM [or Fake, or whatever you're indexing it under] or go to the category cloud and click on "KEY WORD YOU'RE USING FOR TAGGING."

You can create an end paragraph to your initial post that explains how people can find your future posts without sifting through the rest of your blog posts.

If you don't include a statement like that in your post past experience shows that people don't return to see the rest of your pages because they can't find them. And if you send me a link and I can't find them I can't assume others will be able to and I won't add it to the list.

We're only 6 days in and if you haven't started your project there is still plenty of time to do so. And there's plenty of time to be added to the list. Based on my guidelines above for 8 days of entries you have until April 23 to start and complete 8 days. If you contact me in the first few days of May when you get your items scanned or photographed I'll add you to the list. People return to the blog throughout the year to look at participants so it's a good thing to get added.

At the end of April I'll start asking participants to do a write up about how the project went for them. Past participants have found this helpful to understand what value they derived from the project and how to plan future such projects. It's also helpful to others who are just reading about the project. There is no obligation to provide a public wrap up write up about the project. In fact if the project becomes emotional or difficult in a variety of ways you might not want to discuss it publicly. But if you do complete a wrap-up post I ask that you send those links in to me at the beginning of May. Sometime around May 10 I post about them and list links to the wrap ups in a single post.

Private Participation
I've written before that IFJM is something you can do on your own and keep private. I encourage that. If at the completion of your project, however, you would like to participate in the wrap up please feel free to do so. I would ask that you send a jpg of one of your pages to accompanying your link in the wrap up post, so people have a sense of what you were doing.

That's all for today. I have to switch gears now and turn out today's page! I hope you're having a great month. I have already found out some fun things I hope to share with you at the end of the week when I have a moment to scan or shoot these massively oversized pages.

Thursday, April 3, 2014

Explanations in a Month of No Explanations—A Little Bit about How I Settled on Materials and Approach in 2014

Above: 22 x 30 inch sheet of mystery paper with a variety of tests on it. Far left brush pen with light gouache washes; top, acrylic ink and acrylic heavy body paint; center brush pen; bottom center various ink pens (all bleed THROUGH); far right Montana Marker sketch and background. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

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.