Thursday, August 28, 2014

Help! I Hate My Art Journal!

Okay, I don't hate-hate my art journal, but I'm definitely not happy with it. This is only the second time I've run into this problem, but that still doesn't make it any easier. The first time around I ended up throwing the (unfinished) journal away, in retrospect a bad decision, because now that it's gone, I've realized there were a lot of  pages I totally loved and wish I still had. 

The problem with both journals seems to be:

1. Size. Too small. I like to use a lot of images, words, colors, and collage papers, and a journal measuring only 5" x 6" just doesn’t give me the room I need. I must have bought these journals thinking they were "cute," but cute quickly became tight and cramped.

2. Paper. The journal I tossed had a delicate parchment-like feel that didn’t work well with ink, watercolor, or any kind of water-based medium. When I did use pencil, it felt scratchy and uncomfortable. At the other end of the spectrum, my current journal's pages have a slick, shiny surface that initially felt nice, but now seem like trying to draw on magazine pages. To make matters worse, I gessoed the majority of the pages thinking that would improve them. Not. The result was disastrous—the thicker pages have made the journal so chunky it’s bursting out of the binding, making the book even more unattractive to me. Yuk. So what's an art journaler to do? I don’t want to throw out the pages I do like, but I don't want to continue in this frustrating vein.   

Consequently, I've been brainstorming some ideas I could try to fix the problem, and you know what?  I think they’re going to work! I’m just sorry I didn’t think of them earlier in order to save that first, and now lost, journal. Maybe you can use these too!
  • Keep going. Seriously. Think of the journal as "practice." Sigh.
  • Collage over the bad pages with new images.
  • Take the whole thing apart and re-use the good pages for new material. If you’ve only completed a portion of the journal, cut or carefully remove your favorite pages from the binding. Do the same with any blank pages and use those for scratch paper or practice sheets. Especially gessoed or pre-tinted pages.   
  • Try improving both good and bad pages with ideas from a how-to book such as Collage Lab. 
  • Cut "bad" pages into small squares and divide them into color groupings for future mosaic-style collaging.
  •  Put the journal away and then just . . . walk away.  Forget about it for a while and start something new. 
  •  Change topics—if you’ve been using a particular theme, drop it and start something new, perhaps only using the journal for writing rather than art, or for you daily morning pages.
  • Use the journal for whining.  Call it "the bad, ugly, whiney journal" and put inside everything that upsets you. Burn it when you’re finished.
  •  Analyze why you don’t like this journal—is it the shape, size, color and/or theme choices? Figure out what's wrong and try not to repeat.
  •  Give it away. Ask someone else if they'd like to complete the journal. Or pass it on to friends as a Round Robin project.
  •  Go for messy and dangerous. Try out techniques you would be too afraid to put into your “good” journal.
  •  Keep any pages you tore out and use them to learn book binding. Make small finished journals of only a few pages each. Write poetry. Use them for greeting cards or other types of gifts.
Tip of the Day: The next time you are unhappy with a journal or sketchbook, keep in mind that everything you do is really just practice.  Use a bad experience to propel you into what you really want to do. Write out your findings and goals and then start afresh with a brand new journal. That's what I'm going to do!

Thursday, August 7, 2014

Patterns Part II, Writing by Design

Last night while washing dishes in my new kitchen, I was somewhat disappointed to realize that no matter where I go, I still have to wash the dishes. I bet I could land on a desert island and rather than find banana leaves for plates, there would be a set of Royal Doulton just waiting for me to wash. And it's not for lack of a dishwasher. I have a doozey of a new dishwasher. But with only two of us, using the dishwasher for anything other than a feast day seems a tad wasteful. So on go the purple rubber gloves and hello, Groundhog Day. 

Which got me thinking about patterns again. A few weeks ago I posted about how my art practice had led me to work with pattern as a restful way to stay centered and productive at the same time. Tiled borders, fabric prints, wallpaper motifs; I was exploring them all. I'm still enjoying adding pattern to my pictures of cats, dogs, and Barcelona, but after last night I've been thinking about patterns in written work, too.

Using patterns in novels, poetry, or even nonfiction can be an excellent way to take any piece of work to another, and deeper, level. For instance, what about:
  • The patterns of a serial killer or burglar. Rather than random acts of evil, a distinct and unusual pattern can keep the story focused.
  • A main character’s daily routine. (I hope it's more interesting that doing the dishes every night. On the other hand, that just might be the motivating incident that leads him or her to a life of crime.)
  • How characters approach relationships or conflict: fight or flight? Or whipping out the Sunday crossword puzzle to seek out-of-the-box solutions?
  • The story theme--how many related ways can you symbolize or refer to it without shoving it in your reader's face?
  • How do you arrange scene, sequel, conflict, scene? Is there a pleasing rhythm that will keep readers engaged, or do you need something more jarring and experimental to wake them up? What about chapter arrangement?
  • Patterns of misfortune—how does the universe work against (or for) your characters? What do they do (or don't do) to warrant this fate?
  • Secret codes--whether it's a formal cipher, or one of hidden etiquette and body language, codes can be an exciting way to use pattern.
  • Esoteric or sacred geometry: lee lines, metaphysical clues in Old Master paintings. architectural secrets, megaliths and circular standing stones--they're all fun to explore.
  • How about inventing a character who is intrigued or controlled by patterns? It could simply be as a hobby, part of their profession, or perhaps something difficult for them to manage e.g., an obsessive disorder of some kind.
  • How do your characters make patterns of their living space, social lives, and/or working hours? Is there a routine your antagonist observes that can harm your MC?
  • Don't forget about music and ear worms; melodies can be either inspiring, annoyingly repetitive, or a signal that something pivotal to your plot is about to happen. 
Right now the most important pattern I'm working on besides how to get out of doing the dishes is how to most effectively arrange the chapters in my WIP. I'm telling the story through different points of view and I want to avoid an A, B, C, D kind of pattern, yet I still want the story to make sense. Challenges, challenges.
Tip of the Day: We’re all creatures of habit to some degree. Some of us like to write in the morning, others in the middle of the night. Does your current creative pattern work for you--or do you want to make a change? Do you have a plan? Let me know!