I’ve been keeping journals almost all my life, since the red faux-leather one with the lock that I got for Christmas in Grade 8. My friend A still has all her old journals dating that far back and pasted in them are notes we sent each other over the aisles in the grade 8 classroom and much much more. Unlike A I have long since trashed those early journals and many subsequent ones.
But I started keeping an illustrated journal in 2009 when I discovered Danny Gregory’s book Creative License. And since then, I have been recording regularly, refining my sketching and notes and working out an approach and a style that is comfortable and sustaining. I’m thinking about all this because I’m heading off to Kenya and then Amsterdam and I want to use the journal to record as much as I can of my experience of those amazing places.
Coincidentally, Ian Brown, has an article on keeping a personal notebook in today’s Globe. He says a notebook “is to record details that reach out as you pass, for reasons not immediately apparent. A notebook is full of moments from days that have yet to become something…I like to read my previous year’s notebooks…and from those fragments I gather a sense of the time that poured by. It’s never what I remembered or planned.” Brown is talking about written notes, but his comments apply equally to a sketchbook. Your sketchbooks record what literally ‘catches your eye’ and give a rich sense of your days.
For the new 2015 travel sketchbook, I plan to concentrate on volume rather than striving for that perfect sketch. I want it to be full of thumbnails and random thoughts and quotations from what I am reading. Ironically that is what the 2009 sketchbook contains. Lots of things cut out and pasted in or copied. The sketches are basic and tentative but the content gives a rich sense of my days. Over the five years since then I’ve worked on sketching but with my main focus on improving the sketch, I have often left out the things which make the record rich.
Here is a page from the 2009 journal. The drawings, as rudimentary as they are, bring back that day and its thoughts with surprising immediacy. And I love the phrase everything grows beautiful with attention. I have no idea where it originated, but I felt it applied to that lovely old plain Jane church I was trying to capture–and of course so much more. I’ll be beginning the new sketchbook this week, recording my preparations–let’s see how it goes…