Keeping a Sketchbook... Have you thought about it? Why you might want to keep a Sketchbook or a Visual Journal.
So what about you? Have you tried to keep a regular written journal or a diary perhaps, then found that it just didn’t stick? The aim is to regularly record a written reminder of moments that are ruled by the heart and head. We have other feelings too, but mostly I want to bring to your attention how our feelings rule our day to day operations. When we can explore those feelings, either in writing or visual imagery, we'll have a wider perspective on what is happening with us. Having a written or visual journal is not to keep you accountable in some way or to make you feel awful for not being perfect. Heck no, those intentions are for hardened goal setters.
Susan Sontag wrote: “In the journal, I do not just express myself more openly than I could do to any person; I create myself. The journal is a vehicle for my sense of self-hood… Therefore (alas) it does not simply record my actual, daily life but rather — in many cases — offers an alternative to it.”
A Visual Journal, Sketchbook or a Travellers/Artist notebook is a kinder way to keep record of one's feelings. Finding time in our busy schedules to ‘fit in’ a few moments for oneself is supposed to be an everyday occurrence, but most of us neglect it... a little meander around a page with a pen you found laying around is maybe just the thing that can boost your mood. Maybe jotting down a phrase or a quote you heard. These little notes are the start of that transient shift into a new addiction, a healthier addiction named creativity.
Using visual language is more accessible than any written language and in some instances, a bit misunderstood. Think of the Egyptian Hieroglyphs, the caveman drawings and even the natural patterns of nature. One thing that is not misunderstood are the way imagery can touch our emotions. We each have our reasons to have these memory keepers and “it is all good”: I say.
Some benefits I’ve discovered, come from great Artists and Authors around the world. I've invested countless hours in reading, research and binge watching documentaries on well known and emerging Artists in many fields of Art. This has given me a wide understanding of how the Artist's mind functions and how each of them can bring aspects of themselves into my own works.
In a group discussion with Artist friends, Pete asked: "why are you drawing so many images in a Sketchbook and only have two or three paintings to sell?"
My response probably wasn't what he expected. I told him, while the group was listening tentatively, that I draw hundreds of images before I even wander in the direction of a painting. It involves putting ideas together on paper, to gather design variations, to discover new things about my subject that isn't obvious in the beginning. I explained that, I have many Sketchbooks and some are dedicated to one subject and others have many ideas thrown together. I tend to do fast and thought out drawings in my Sketchbooks and sometimes overlap the images, planning the placements of the parts. From those pages, the creativity flows into a concept that may or may not become a canvas piece. But mostly, I draw in my Sketchbooks because I am always amazed at the sight of an image appearing on a page because of a mark I made on the surface, it still mesmerises me.
As I spend time in nature and surround myself with external influences, I realise that Art isn't always easy, it takes time and practise. With many forms of artistry, this statement rings true. But how much time is enough to get to the point where you can stand back and appreciate your own work? It starts with non judgement. Never judge the lines, the shapes, the marks you make... let them come together to form the image. Sometimes, we must stand further back, way back, to see our progress. It's easy to think that the marks you make today will be the same as before. They're not, because you've given it time and put in the work, the fruits are there, the difficult became easy and easy became second nature. Art takes practise my friends and there is no better place I could imagine than in a Sketchbook.
Ranging in texture, size, quality and brand, we do have an array of abundantly exquisite Sketchbooks to choose from. Each one with it's own benefits and advantages so vast that we can never run out of ideas on how to fill the pages. You might be inclined to say that a Sketchbook is expensive; compared to it's equivalents, the canvas, it is the fastest way to grow your portfolios and skills without spending a fortune on substrate or rent for a warehouse to put all the art you either don't want to sell or cannot sell. Personally, it takes pressure off your performance abilities, as not many people get to see, therefore get to comment on my "failed" art and incessant practice, they get to see the Masterpiece after I've refined it over time.
This refinement brings me to another subject that we must touch on; Artist style. Yes, you can only develop that unique signature look by creating it with practical application, over and over and over again.
Many hours of writing and drawing will truly benefit your growth far more than wasting away in front of the news broadcasts.
In conclusion of my thoughts on Sketchbook practises, I'd like to leave you with one of my own expressions on Poetry and Art.
My eyes taught
Before words, only images
Free to be
Red earth and fingers
Drawn to artistic emulsion
Reaching towards identity
Creativity never forgotten
an incorruptible need
I had eternity!
-Tanya J. de Wet
With my little poem presented, here are some insights, according to writers with regular intensive journal practices, to give you insight into starting your own regular capturing of written and visual journal creating. Keeping up your Sketchbook practice is as much a means of remembering, drawing, mark making, colour testing and word configuration as it is one's intention to exist. It is your method to cultivate spontaneity in your life and develop your art unpretentiously.
"... Paper, having facilitated the art of communication, should be considered as a product that has more than any other, contributed to the improvement of mankind.