Category Archives: Journaling

Keeping a Notebook PERFECTLY

There is no way to keep a notebook that is perfect for every person. There is only the perfect way for each person. That is to say, keeping a notebook is highly personalized. My method of a pocket notebook and 3×5 cards alongside a sketchbook (currently also functioning as my ETEW Journal) and a separate work sketchbook would not work for most people. Hell most creative people merge home and work into one planner and notebook- especially if they freelance. That doesn’t work for me because I need to create a division between work and life- I need work- life balance.cover of a red talens sketchbook covered in stickers

What do these different notebooks look like? (I’ll be using notebook and sketchbook pretty interchangeably from here.) My work sketchbook is an A4 (8×10) red Talens sketchbook covered in stickers. Eventually it will have doodles too. I use a larger sketchbook at work because I use it in classes to teach kids about sketching. We also work larger than I do at home, so my sketches are correspondingly larger. I purchased this sketchbook because it was inexpensive and also the bright red cover could be easily found on any table in my studio.inner page from sketchbook filled with skull, pineapple and other doodles. Also meeting notes.

The work sketchbook is a place where I capture meeting and course notes.  I doodle and jot down notes and I try to keep each meeting to a single page, but sometimes I use 2 pages. Occasionally I work on a page shared with another meeting , especially if the previous meeting didn’t need a lot of notes.sketchbook page showing a watercolor demo and sketches of soda cans and pineapple on pizza

I’ll be the first person to say that my meeting and other types of notes won’t make sense to most folx. I tend to draw the speakers and doodle important words and points in funky lettering. I see the goal of taking notes as a way of jogging my memory. For work we have a notetaker for each meeting, a quick look at the notes will get me the info I need. For trainings I take notes that are a little more detailed but are mostly to jog my memory. I save a copy of any printables to the cloud or my computer and call it good. Generally I believe that info can be pretty easily looked up if I search, but I have to jog the memory of that instruction first.more sketches of pineapple on pizza

My home sketchbook is a B4 (6×9 ish) Hand Book sketchbook. They’ve changed the name of them several times over the years. Speedball seems to have either purchased or is handling distribution of them now. Which is a good thing, for me, they have been my go to commercially made sketchbook for a few years, and better distro is great. The paper is perfect for a wide range of materials.A planning page with lists of possible projects for my summer groups

The pocket notebook is where I gather on the go ideas- things I hear on podcasts, in conversations, phone numbers from students for their parents, notes from books I’m reading and so on. It’s a good capture system. Sometimes these ideas get pulled into my Every Thing Every Where journal or sketchbook, or here as a blog post.steps for carving lino, things to consider and a reworked statement for a group

The above is what works for me now. Over the years I’ve used different systems, most documented here and there in this blog. I still like to read about the systems of others. The Take Note Podcast Blog (that’s a mouth full) has had a number of great posts about keeping a notebook where they gather information about authors and creative folx who keep a notebook.

State of the Art: Notifications

I’ve turned almost all of the notifications on my phone off, and I never agree to them on my laptop. Why? The little dots fill me with anxiety, dread, and a constant urge to tap them open to deal with them.

I’ve been a proponent of “Inbox Zero” for years. I used to go into work, grab my cup of coffee and breakfast and immediately tackle the inbox- all the email that could be deleted was deleted, any email that could be given an answer in 5 minutes or less was answered during my coffee time, anything that required an action or a longer more thought out reply was scheduled to be completed as soon as possible. If I couldn’t answer an email because I was waiting on someone else, I sent a reply with that information and added a “nag/follow up” time to my day. This took maybe 15 to 30 minutes of my time and it made my day much better. I would also check my email at lunch and then after lunch. Email was never checked in the last hour of the shift.

Then came the creation of notifications.

This meant that when an email arrived a notification dinged on my devices and my work computer.

Then I got my self and iPod Touch. I snagged it for listening to music. But it also came with those damn red circles filled with numbers. The sight of them on my screen triggered my need to process the notifications to get rid of the red dots. In the early days of twitter and facebook this was nigh impossible. I’d deal with the notification only to get a friend in a different time zone going through and commenting on everything in my feed. My zero would climb rapidly to 20 and 30.

I found myself powerless to ignore the red circles.

So I turned them off.

For everything.

At first it was more anxiety inducing, what were my friends going to do if I wasn’t IMMEDIATELY available to them? Would I lose out on some of the custom book binding business? Would I lose followers on the socials?

I quickly learned that the answer to all of those questions was that it would all be fine. The pressure to immediately respond was in my head, and most of my friends were okay to wait until lunch or after my shift. Twitter waited. Facebook waited.

Waiting wasn’t going to cause the end of the world, or my business. It did slow things down. I think things would have been different for me if I hadn’t had to have the 40+ hour a week job, but such is life. We make choices based off our lives in the moment, and I learned a great deal of valuable information working in the various jobs I’ve had over the years.

Why do I bring this up now?

Well, damn the news is all sorts of messed up. We’ve got Florida attempting to control the language and speaking of it’s people. We’ve got Texas denying medical care to transgender folx. And we’ve got Russia starting a war. Not to mention social media controlling narratives and getting a Cheeto elected. It’s a lot to take in and it can be overwhelming.

When it comes to the news and notifications I treat it similarly to Inbox Zero. I sit down with my morning cup of coffee and breakfast and I read the news. For me news includes my Feed Readers (I use Feedly and the Old Reader, this way I can follow several hundred blogs and not go over the reader limits), Twitter and several Morning Brew newsletters. If I don’t have enough time to review or read them all, I don’t.

My goal is to stay informed about a variety of things going on in the world, without them overwhelming me. Though I have to say that the three things I mentioned above all feel very personal to me. This isn’t the place to detail my existential dread, but I’m feeling a lot of it. But I’m also not allowing myself to dive into and endless doom scroll of reading ALL THE NEWS. When I get overwhelmed with the news I tend to shut down. My brain goes blank and I find it impossible to get anything done, let alone my creative work. These are the times when I turn to things like rolling out gesso on canvas or coloring pages of my journal with watercolor.

Will turning off notifications work for you? I don’t know, all I know is that it helps me.

Currently I have notifications on for: text messages and weather alerts. That’s it on my phone. The only alerts on my laptop are for when it needs to be reset or has some sort of maintenance needed. Same for my Kindle.

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State of the Art: Material Snobbery is Perfectionism

I’ve been having a series of great conversations about using the good stuff as I reboot RSVP as a solo project. I’ve been able to have in depth conversations with people I wouldn’t have these conversations with otherwise. It’s pretty special to me.

As I have these conversations ideas and thoughts come up. I try to make brief notes about them as we chat. These little ideas sometimes blossom into ideas for the blog(s) here or on Ko-Fi.

Using the good stuff is important to me on a number of levels, and the stories I’ve shared with my friends as part of RSVP are all part of it.

One story that I shared in the early stages of the conversations was about a friend who scoffed at my fountain pen. I was very excited about it and was talking to her about how smooth it was on  the paper I was using. She had the blank look of a person who didn’t quite get it. At the end of my pretty excited ramble she help up a Bic Stik, the worst of all the Bics (hell, get a Crystal for crying out loud) and said something along the lines of “This works just fine.” With a snide tone.

She was right, a Bic Stik will work just fine. It won’t be enjoyable but it’ll get words on a page.

It’ll do.

This is in part where material snobbery gets in the way of creation. Will I use a Bic Stik? Sure. Will it kill my wrist? Yes, it will.

When my quad core fancy laptop sang the blue screen of death song, I was sad and immediately wanted to replace it with another fancy high end PC. But I also realized, I don’t need that kind of power for the work I do on my laptop. I write words, barely edit pictures, barely edit audio (RSVP records pretty cleanly IMO), and layout my zine in Publisher. I don’t edit video anymore, so I really don’t need 8 gigs of RAM and a terabyte of storage. Instead I got a laptop that was cheap and handles what I do now- all of what I listed above. It bothered me for a hot minute, then I got over it, and just did what I had been doing- writing.

Here’s the thing, if you really want to create you will. You’ll find a way, if it’s with a fancy fountain pen, a cheap composition notebook, a chrome book, or a Bic Stik you stole from your DayJob.

I think that sometimes we spend a lot of time exploring new materials, new tools as a form of creative block. Maybe just maybe we’re looking for a magic bullet of creativity in a new fountain pen, new ink, new notebook, new pencil, new whatever. Maybe we’re also looking for a thing to blame if the creative juices never flow- I couldn’t create because this THING won’t work right!!!

Maybe those of us who collect supplies need to sit down with one supply and get to know it, and get to creating.

How many of us who want to write look for the perfect distraction free tool to type on? Or the pen with the right flow? The pencil with the right smoothness? The notebook that functions properly with whatever we throw at it?

What if the right thing is to just get to it? Stop with the excuses.

I write all this because I’ve done all this. And It’s a difficult thing to reflect on. I have had fallow times where I don’t create because I’m not in a mental space to do so, and rather than admit that, I buy pens, ink, pencils, and notebooks to fill the void.

The real question is, do any of you see this in yourself? It’s a thing to journal about for sure.

Reflection: The Use of an Art Journal

I’ve been working in a few different journals and pondering the use of art journals as a tool for making art but also mental wellness. My art journals have never been pretty. They have always straddled the line between sketchbook and reflective journal, I like them this way.

I heard the disturbing news of the acquittal at work from a coworker and my first response was, “Well that’s bullshit, not surprising but still bullshit.” I took a few days to mull over it and the horrifying meaning of the verdict.

I could get political here but I won’t I’ll let the art stand on it’s own.

I started with a simple pencil sketch of the shooter and the judge. Simple and loose. I used a few reference photos from newspapers, working up the sketch from several version. I didn’t focus on getting everything exact, just the feeling of the smirk or the condescending air of the images. Finally I looked at them and thought about what those faces represent- a slap on the wrist for people who deal deal to minorities, people like me. It’s a scary thought.

So I doodled pink skulls over those hateful faces.

Why pink? Macho bros don’t like it. I do.

Bright magenta pink.

A process color. Since the process was perverted and polluted. Continue reading

State of the Art: Gelatin Printmaking, Gelli Prints

I’ve been planning on making more gelatin plates for, well, years. Gelli plates have always seemed very expensive, and they are, they always seemed slightly out of my range. Whereas making my own gelatin plates is cheaper, but fraught with mold issues. Given that my studio is in a basement, well, I worried about my infrequent use, and losing them when I really wanted to make some art.

I finally cashed in on a Michael’s coupon and bought myself an 8×10 Gelli plate. Plus some fresh paint and a new pen. I mean, I don’t think I can pass an open stock pen display and NOT buy a pen.2 color gelli print with distorted hex pattern

Anyway, I set up a folding table and got to printing. I used my old cardstock stencils and some new stencils I made out of hot glue. I’m not sure about the hot glue stencils yet, but I’ll say that they are very interesting. I’ll be playing around with them some more that’s for sure. Mostly I just wanted to get some color onto paper, and some layered texture onto the pages.many layered gelli print with squares and net pattern

Anyway, after a fun session of printing and playing with my plate I stacked up the prints. I decided to attempt a drum leaf binding. It’s not my favorite binding for gelatin prints, I prefer a concertina book- where the pages are glued to the accordion and the spine is thicker than the fore edge- this allows for more room for collage. The drum leaf is great for writing, and as such I’ll likely use the new journal for just that. many layered gelli print, numbers squares and other patternsdrum leaf spine damaged by impatience

Drum leaf isn’t my favorite because, well, I’m impatient. I rushed through this book  and the spine looks wonky. That will be covered by a piece of print used for the spine but it’s annoying to say the least. In the end the book is saved through my understanding and knowledge of book making. But I also need to remind myself to let glue dry, ala Laura Kampf.

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State of the Art: Art Journaling, Again

Art journaling is something I return to again and again. It’s the best form of expression I know and soothes my mind in even the worst situations. Yet, these last few years when I could have used it the most, I wasn’t using an art journal in its most effective way. I was using a sketchbook and drawing but I wasn’t art journaling in the form that I find most effective. That is to say, with stencils and paint and drawing. 

I’m happy to report that I’ve been art journaling again. I’ve been focusing on short sessions, instead of my old marathons. Though I’ve done some marathon gelatin printing sessions, those are forming the base layers of my art journals. I’m adding symbols and more layers of collage and drawing.

Here’s an example:

I made a few foam tray blocks (I’ll have to detail this classic printmaking method later) and stamped them onto my page with black water soluble block printing ink. The ink stays wet for a long time and even after drying remains soluble with water. I sealed these with a low odor sealant to keep them in place as I worked. foam block printed brains

Then I attempted to transfer a color photocopy of a selfie I took. It transferred poorly to this surface- the combination of gesso and gloss gel didn’t like the toner. You can see this ghost under all the other additions to the page. I pulled another image- a skull with a hole cut in it, and attempted another transfer, another bust, though this one left an image that could be reworked with ink. the 8 is also a foam print but het skull is a transfer

After that I layered in a skull from a sheet I keep on hand. I like to draw skulls and they have no particular dark meaning to me, but I understand that the combination of skulls tends to lend a dark look to this page. Though I see skulls and bones as a metaphor for underlying strength. Anyway, I carefully cut out the skull and glued it in.

I considered drawing on the rays from the skull’s eyes, but instead went with another collage style. In this case, I used another gelatin printed sheet, this time, on sticker paper. Pro-tip: Pick up some sheets of sticker paper and gelatin print on them. This creates some awesome badass sticker sheets for collage. It’s super easy to cut out stripes to use like washi tape. I was quickly able to cut and assemble the rays from the sticker sheet.

After applying the sticker paper, I added in some orange colored pencil. This was to push the rays up and off the page and make them pop. It worked, mostly.skulls for days

Overall, I like this page. As with all art journal pages, the process is the most important aspect of the page, but it’s nice that I was able to create an interesting visual page.

State of the Art: Updates

I have made slow but steady progress on my studio space. Each night I peck away at it a bit more. This is of course complicated by the fact that this is also planting season. I only have so much time and I have to split that between all of my things.

I have removed almost all the paper scraps. For years I’ve saved all my bookbinding and other paper scraps in boxes to recycle. I would get a box full, seal it up, and put it into the recycle bin. It turns out that this is a big no no in curbside recycling for a number of reasons- no sealed boxes or bags in recycling and no shredded paper. It turns out that shredded paper and scraps get blown around the facility and make a mess. They don’t want them.

I have a couple of options for my paper scraps- make paper or compost.

For now I’m choosing compost. It’s not the most ideal but I also need a great deal of brown/carbon for my compost bin anyway. I also do not have the time to make paper right now. I might at some point also try making some papier-mâché clay out of my scraps but for now compost it is.

I have added to my organizational tools. As part of the office clean out at my job, a lot of things have been designated as trash that have plenty of life in them. One such thing was an old taboret. The wheels were a bit loose and it is one of those stick together versions you get from Michael’s, that said, they were a lot of money new, and I can repair this one. I also snagged a pen and pencil rack and a few other organizers.

State of the Art: Printmaking and Cleaning

I’m not going to lie, the state of the art is a mess of printmaking and cleaning my studio. Also my workplace office and a lot of the facility. I’ve had to sort through the art studio at work and decide what was trash, what could be sent off, and what would be sent to another program.

Let me tell you, that was not fun.

Of course I spent a fair amount of time staring at my work computer waiting for the system to save and load things. Our computers are old and internet slow. Go figure. While I sat there I decided to try some collagraph prints with left over office supplies- old folders and glue sticks, and beaten up craft knives.

I love collagraphs. They are very versatile and there are options for relief work but also intaglio style incised lines. Another fun aspect is that you can really get the plates to be quite painterly. The resulting prints have a wide range of tones. I’m still figuring out the right mix of ink and additives for a good wipe but also a good range of tones. I’ve ruined a few plates already, but if you want to get your hands on some of my prints, check out my Ko-Fi page, I’ll be listing them there soon. I also plan on putting together a package for Ko-Fi subscribers, after 3 months of subs of $5 or more, I’ll send a little package of prints. It’ll be a fun little surprise.

As an aside, I really want to get into using some of the waterproof when dry inks like Akua, but I really don’t trust myself to use those inks in my kitchen… Our old kitchen table had some pretty intense teal streaks. Because I want to work my little press out a lot, I’m cleaning my at home studio out. It’s a mess. When I headed off to grad school I had the school studios to work in, so more often than not, I’d grab materials, go to school, then dump them when I was done with the class. When I worked at the place after graduation, I was mostly focused on writing, so I didn’t do as much art that required a studio… So it sat. Then I started to work where I have been for the last two and a half years, where I had an office and an art studio. Why work at home when I have year round access to a well set up art studio and can leave my supplies in the office?

So yeah, my studio looks like an art store threw up in there, and it isn’t at all good. It’s awful. I’m moving supplies around, deep cleaning, and I’m eventually going to store everything in organized manners. I got down to the rug (that’s going!) in a 4x4ft corner. I’m working my way out. I took out a bag of trash and another of paper recycling.

With my possible free time next week, I hope to make more progress, I’d like to clear out one end, so I then have a spot to sort out supplies and decide what is trash, what I need to pass on, and what I need to store. And most importantly, HOW I’m going to store this stuff.

When I’m done with this massive chore, I’m going to treat myself with a range of nontoxic oil based water-soluble inks.

Maker: Moving into a New Journal

Moving into a new journal is an important moment in every journaler’s life. Without a new journal my life is prone to… disorder. So I always have a new one ready to go when I have 20 or so pages left.

What do I do to prepare?

I grab my current journal and assess what did and did not work. My current set up where I use a printed year at a glance calendar, a 6 month future log, blog posts to write tracker, and then set up 2 month logs, weekend logs and everything else is a form of collection.

The Muryo system had me thinking about themes for indexing and quick grouping of information. I settled onto a few: SuburbSkills, plans, Useful Journaling, Learning/research, blog, posts, I add and leave behind themes as I no longer need them.

The above is accomplished early, far in advance of the actual journal being finished. When the journal is finished, I start the next phase.

I flip through the journal and make notes on plans and projects. If a project failed I make a note about what happened and why it failed. If it worked but not to expectation, I make more notes. So on and so forth.

I then flip through again with some post it flags and tag the various on going projects. I don’t stick to a particular color, though I should consider that for the future. Some projects don’t get a tag- like the plans for the work bench and pergola. I’ve shifted to a different type of pergola, using recycled materials. The bench is in progress and thus doesn’t need to be tagged.

I also transfer information as needed. I try to keep this to a minimum, knowing that I can grab this journal off my desk at any time. I look at the current month and only transfer what is left in this month’s log to the new journal. The 6 month future log gets the same treatment.

My blog post list gets transferred, and I have to determine if a review or post will ever get done at this point. If an item lived  on my to do list for the life of an entire journal will I ever actually write that post? Probably not. I have turned this list into a pair of lists, one for this blog and one for Suburb Skills, as these are the 2 sites I’m working on currently. Useful Journaling only gets an update when new zines come out. Though I do have ideas to make that site something more.

After all that, I write the end date in the old journal and the start date in the new one. I make sure my new journal has a bunch of tabs and post it notes in the front, and a ruler in the back. After all that, which really only takes an hour or so, I start using the new journal.

As I look at this, it reads as if it is very complicated, and I swear that it is not. It’s a relatively quick and simple process. In Bullet Journaling this process is called migration I tend to call it getting started or transferring. Here are some more shots from my transfer session.

Week Links

Lisa led me down the rabbit hole of Raul Pacheco-Vega, Phd. website and his version of the Every Thing Every Where journal which he calls his Everything Journal. His notetaking methods and interaction with materials is NEXT level. Here’s a link to his Everything Journal.

He goes deep on the differences between bullet journals and everything journals.

This led me to Time and Date! What a great calendar printing site! In the past I used to print a little tiny yearly calendar onto card stock for my pocket notebooks. I abandoned that when I went to grad school, as it was less necessary for my needs, but also I purchased a smart phone- the phone carried my calendar. I used to move that little calendar from book to book. I might revisit that idea.

This led me to thinking about how I highlight and make notes as I read on my Kindle. It’s not perfect but I do like the notebook feature of the Kindle. I wish I’d had it when I was in grad school.

Here’s a good analog task management and planning system that is super simple and minimalist. I like it.