14 Reasons Why Artists Keep Visual Journals

14 Reasons Why Artists Keep Visual Journals.

April 13th, 2005

By Joan Martine Murphy

Keeping a visual journal helps the artist develop a sense of self–discipline.  By drawing in your journal everyday you are developing the habit of creativity.  The drawings can be ever so simple and as time goes by you will have developed a repertoire and a visual source book.  When the time comes to design a long term drawing, a painting or sculpture you will have a wealth of ideas available and you will have developed your skills so that drawing up your design is just a matter of applying what you have learned.

The chronological nature of the journal means that you are automatically recording your personal improvement.  By recording trouble spots that need attention you are creating a path for yourself to follow.  Because the internet is such a rich source of instruction and example you should put aside time to go online to find out what the solution to your artistic problems may be.  Once you have collected a variety of examples and ideas use them to work out a personal solution by trying out all that you have seen.  This process will nurture your artistic development and help you develop a sense of direction.

A journal can become for you a ‘place’ where you can work out what themes are developing on the journey.  As issues, questions and ideas develop ‘go with them’ and let them give you direction.  Themes are good because they give you a dialogue and point of interest.  This can be a good starting point for discussions with other artists and fellow students.

It is always good when you are presenting your work to be able to fit it into a theme.  Many exhibitions are grouped in this way.  The working out of a theme also gives the artist a sense of completion when that thematic response has been followed to its logical conclusion.

Style is a process of evolution.  When you begin keeping your journal you may not even know what your preferred style is.  As you develop on a daily basis a personal style will emerge.  Dialogue with that style.  Ask your self why you have gone in this direction?  Does it make it easier?  Can you see patterns and relationships?  Do you know what is influencing you?  Write you’re self-questioning down in your journal as you go it will make interesting reading in years to come.

Once you have begun to develop the habit of creativity you will also have begun developing an intuitive awareness.  You will see things that stimulate curiosity and provoke fresh and new ideas.  You will not be able to keep up with them.  Jot them down.  Keep your journal at hand at all times. Make sure you always keep it handy and small enough to fit into any bag or in the glove box of the car.  Draw everything that catches the eye.  Later you will be excited by all of the things you have gathered as source material that you would have forgotten about entirely if you had not recorded them in the minute.  Collect ideas by jotting them down (scribble neatness doesn’t count) come back to them at a later date when that intuition or inspiration becomes relevant to the work at hand.  If notes aren’t taken at the time…the thoughts may be lost forever.

Everybody has artistic talent and can be good at drawing. You only have to tune in to the creative, intuitive and artistic side of the brain – the right side – and you will be able to draw accurate and imaginative portraits, landscapes, still lifes.

Regard your journal as your personal safe place. A collection of experimentations. No one should be looking over your shoulder …it is your space for trying out techniques in a non-threatened way before committing to a more public form of artwork.

It is also a means of communication, a holding place for ideas to share with other artists and students who wish to learn.  So keep it with you when mingling with other artists.  If you are making preparations for submissions or to win contracts make sure you are keeping your notes in this way as it can facilitate discussion at a later date if this becomes necessary.

Your journal is your note-takers paradise … as a place where ideas can be kept in the written form as well as visually…  Keep the writing short and precise but do write down any ideas that come to your head as we often forget what stimulated our visual inspirations and the writing may be useful.  Supplement your scribbles with poems, haikus, prose, and songs what ever is helping shape your thoughts and ideas at the time is relevant and may become useful.

Keep technical notes as well make sure you are learning about mixing colours, learning theory. Writing down and recording what you learn means that you have a ready reference.  Again the internet is a great way to find our information… if you are having trouble understanding light sources for example enter that as a search term and you will be amazed at how much free information you can find.  Be patient and don’t just click on the first few sites you find.  There is a wealth of information out there for the taking if you put in that little extra effort.

Set your self-learning tasks of specified natures with a particular learning outcome anticipated. For example record atmospheres by going for a walk in the same place on a daily basis for a month but at different times of the day.  Draw or paint in watercolour exactly what you see.  Or go to a different place but at same times of the day.  Don’t just look for atmospheric or natural effects look to at the kinds of activity you can find.  One example of this might new going to the same street corner at different times throughout the day – even the expressions on the faces of the people will change as they come and go.  Try it you may be amazed.  Another way of creating a learning exercise is to look at and examine objects from all sides and views.  Keep on setting yourself small learning tasks like tis and you will be amazed at how much you improve and how your understanding of techniques increases.

Again your journal is a safe place where you can experiment with abstractions finding ways to express emotions and feelings.  You can make your artistic journey a catalyst in your personal development by recording dreams, daydreams and locating meaning in them through exploration and analysis.  Again the Internet is a great place for subscribing to discussion lists where people want to explore self-empowerment and personal development.

Above all this safe haven of personal expression can become for you if you let it a source of relaxation.   A ready breathing space in a busy way of life.  Learn to do relaxation and breathing exercises before and after you draw not only so that you tap into the more intuitive side of your brain but that so that the discipline of drawing and the artistic pathway becomes a source of great personal pleasure.  Your journal should never be a chore but something you look forward to as a little breather in the busy pace of life.

Eventually your journal will naturally evolve into your precious planning tool. It will be a place where compositions are mapped out over a period of time before any major painting is begun.  Projects will no longer be daunting, as you will have a never-ending fountain of reference ideas and information.  Above all enjoy the journey and don’t let it cause you even the slightest stress.

Journaling is best if it is done daily.  It is also easiest to remember if it is the first thing you do when you wake up of a morning.  Start the day by recording a drawing of your dreams.  Or if you haven’t dreamt throughout the night, simply draw the first thing that occurs to you when you wake up.

I copied this for myself years ago. I had kept the link with the original post but that site is no longer online. I did find Joan, still writing at Suite101 and I have given that current link to her and her writing about art and creativity.

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