Are You Still Blank?

Your journal I mean? The blank book syndrome I call it. We artists often get these lovely gifts of blank books. They can stay that way without conscious effort. I am the last to guilt trip anyone into using a sketchbook or journal. I am erratic, to tell the honest truth. I am frenetic about sketchbooks at time and absolutly immune to their charms at others.

The key, as I noted in a previous post, is to have a reason. Whether its to make an artful record of one's crative life, or simply to have one spot in which to record, paste, glue, stick and stack all the bits and pieces that float in and out of consciousness (that's usually my approach), a blank book can be your friend.

Here are a few more ways to approach the use of an artist's sketchbook, blank journal or all-too-precious book of emptiness:

1. Glue in every scrap of loose paper you can find in your purse or backpack. Alter the papers (unless their content is crucial) with paint, crayons, colored pencils, cutting and wrinkling. See what you can make with nothing.

2. Save a book to designate for a trip journal. No trip on the horizon. Start planning the dream trip of your artistic creative life. It might even come true. Paste in internet printed documents, research ticket prices, look on AIrBNB bfor the best possible place to stay. Instead of watching another mindless TV show, start planning the dream reality trip of a lifetime. Who knows?

3. Take a magazine picture, cut it in half, glue it down on a blank page, draw and color the missing half your own way.

4. Cut colored paper shapes. Glue. Tear out the page, cut and glue again.

5. Cut and glue a NOTAN a day.

Other ideas? List them in comments. Thanks

PS. Still need help? consider coming to El Cielo this next weekend for Artist Journey, Artist Journal. Or one of the other workshops this spring....

(optional Fri. night potluck & critique session)

This annual workshop has become a tradition at El Cielo Studio. Spend the weekend in creative activi- ties that help you set the stage for a 2012 filled with productivity, imagination, focus and artistic goals. Using original and time- tested exercises gleaned from sources around the globe, we’ll banish procras- tination, make an annual love letter, work on a goals and artist date calendar for the year, and find ways to remind us of what really matters in our artistic lives. Meanwhile, you’ll work with mixed media and surface design techniques to start your artist’s journal.


(optional Friday night potluck & heart-centered gentle yoga session)
In this workshop, you’ll start with common and familiar symbols -- like the heart shape of Valentine’s Day for example -- and through a series of creative genera- tive exercises, you’ll make something new and differ- ent to incorporate into your design, composition and surface design. And then, in honor of the season, make some one-of-a-kind Valentines, too. Tools and tech- niques explored include paper lamination on fabric, hand-cut stamps, and gelatin plate monoprints.

MARCH 23-25
(optional Friday night potluck & work-in-progress critique)

Spend some time thinking and working on using your inner crew for work and support. In this workshop we’ll explore archetypes, inner voices, gut reactions and their influence on your art and art-making with lots of improvisational exercises to loosen up your approach to art. Make a small artist's altar using fabric and mixed media techniques including mono-printing, collage and digital printing on fabric to remind you of a practical and sacred part of your life. (artist altar frame, $10 supply fee) 

And at Southwest School of Art: FINDING YOUR 
ARTIST VOICE, Monday afternoons, Feb 6-March 26


Three Sure-fire Ways to Use Those Blank Books


Let's start with the easiest:

1. Find your watercolors (or colored pencils, or markers or...)

Open the book, not to the first page, but somewhere else.

Start coloring a "background" wash of color/s that you like. Don't stop until you have 10 pages colored. See where that takes you....

2. Do the Morning Pages commitment (from Julia Cameron's Artist Way) for a minimum of one month. As soon as your eyes are open, open the book. Write (and/or draw) three pages non stop (should take about 20 minutes, so set the alarm earlier if you need to). Write stream of consciousness, whine, complain, moan, smile, be thankful, list to-dos. Do not read the three pages over for at least a month. More about The Artist Way later.

(PS There is even a Yahoo Artist Way circle.)


3. Take a stack of old magaines, cards, calendars and other paper stuff to bed with you at night. Cut and/or tear out pictures you like, for any reason. Or use construction paper. Glue the images inside the blank book in interesting arrangements if you wish, or just old time scrapbook style like you might have done at age 10. Write about the pictures, if you want to. Keep this up for at least a month.

More ideas coming tomorrow.


Still Mulling, but Mixel Makes Me Giggle

I'm still mulling over my journaling  choices for the new year, and here it is Jan. 2 already.  I think I will sort it out soon, at least by the time I figure out to remember writing 2012 on my checks, datebooks, etc. (Since I don't write that many checks anymore (do you?) it may take me a while for that task to settle into a new date, though.)

Meanwhile, I did find a fun tool that is almost as interesting as cut-paper, old magazine collage making journaling -MIXEL, an iPad app that is a very simple, free-form cropping and layering collage tool with a social media twist --  Which is the downside actually, since any image you use in a collage, even cropped, becomes freely available as an entire image, and usable by any other Mixel user. 

I am not highly protective of my art images since I long ago realized that anyone who wants to steal an idea or image from work of mine could do so pretty easily. My attitude towards art that I make, whether the reaction is scorn (I don't like that work... who does she think she is making fused quilts?) or theft (they must like it, huh?), is similar to that of composer/lyricist Cole Porter -- "there's thousands of more where that one came from."

BUT, you do need to realize that if you sign on for Mixel, and use your photos, or pictures of art, or other computer generated or accessed images, those become "free" content for other users to rearrange, add to or otherwise appropriate.  And it's intentional, being an app that the inventors think of as a kind of round-robin, remixing visual conversation.


I'm enjoying it, uploading consciously, and having fun with the visual remixing I see. I hope to get better at the process, but the photos above and below are some of my first tries. So my first couple of days of journaling have been online and totally word-free. I am saving them in a EVERNOTE notebook, called JANUARY JOURNAL, so I guess this is a start!

The Blank Sketchbooks

A recent discussion on the Quiltart list about using and hoarding blank sketchbooks has led me to my new year's commitment- make journaling a part of my daily life again. I have shelves of journals, but I have let the habit drop the last two years, except when I was working on a specific project that took pen and paper.

My January workshop (artist journey/artist journal) is one with a journal habit focus -- and I'm a bit embarrassed to admit my own laxity. So, guess this is a good time to resume. One decision: now that I'm relying often on my iPad for day-to-day notes and resources, do I go to an electronic journal, like a special notebook on Evernote or Circus Notebooks, or even Bento? Or find another software (a task in itself!) Or use paper book and iPad both? Or make a back-to-paper decision, since it's just more of an object that has the sensory pleasures of tactile and linear time inherent and intact. I really love electronic media, and unlike many artists and non-artists alike, find that it has amazing and interesting and full of creative potential. I love taking photos to spark art work; like the instant alterations possible with photo and art apps; just love exploring the mixed media aspects of the screen. I still want to buy a stylus and try working enscreen with that kind of interface.

A commitment to daily private journaling would be different than the (not so regular) blogging I did this year. one doesn't like to whine in public, does one? But electronically, would it feel the same?

And back to the Quiltart discussion -- seems there are a lot of people out there who collect the beautiful books, blank sketchbooks with lovely papers, but rarely use them, at least not beyond a few days. I do have some suggestions, ones that work. And, those I'll be tackling myself to get back in the habit, before my workshop January 21.

First, answer a why: Why do you want to keep a sketchbook or artists's journal? What purpose can you imagine it serving? We are all too busy to do things without reason. Here are a few reasons to consider:
To deepen your work and path as an artist
To document your work process and creative process so that you can be more productive and more conscious of your process
To give you references and resources and inspirations for a particular project or series of work
To organize all those scraps and bits and pieces that you collect in a month, a season, a year
As a way to move past blocks, the inner critic, the unexamined things that keep you from your work as an artist ( for this, I recommend Artist Pages a la The Artists Way by Julia Cameron)
To record your work in process
To record creative action and work so that at the end of the year you know what and where you have been
As a work of art in itself -- artist journaling as an art form can combine or contain any of the other reasons and purposes, but the opposite is not necessarily true. I have never thought of my journals as works of art, and no one would think so to see them, but I do enjoy seeing the work of those who do journal that way.
As art and skill practice. For example, journals with a drawing a day, an art quilt journal with a small quilt each week, a sketch diary carried and used daily to improve drawing skills, etc.

So what's your purpose?

And are you committed to that purpose?

Here's what Seth Godin had to say about that today:
The reason productivity improvements don't work (as well as they could)

GTD, 18 minute plans, organized folders... none of them work as well as you'd like.

The reason is simple: you don't want to get more done.

You're afraid. Getting more done would mean exposing yourself to considerable risk, to crossing bridges, to putting things into the world. Which means failure.

The leap the lizard brain takes when confronting the opportunity is a simple formula: GTD=Failure.

Until you quiet the resistance and commit to actually shipping things that matter, all the productivity tips in the world aren't going to make a real difference. And, it turns out, once you do make the commitment, the productivity tips aren't that needed."

You don't need a new plan for next year. You need a commitment.

Tomorrow (or next day) i'll Iist some fun ways to engage in journaling, no matter your purpose,-- and, if you're in the area, there is still room in the workshop next month at El Cielo Studios.

Cool Cards, New Year, Good Prayer

If you live anywhere near a Half Price Books, look for these amazing popup cards designed by  David A. Carter and published by Random House. The artist's website is at 

We used the cards as a little intro on the year at this last weekend's Artist Journal/Aritst Journey workshop at El Cielo. Six of us renewed, rejuved, reconnected with each other and our artist selves during the Friday to Sunday look at the past year, planning for the future, with journaling as a key tool for artist survival. 

We also watched a couple of TED Talks, first:  Brene Brown's about vulnerability

 We also watched The Three As of Awesome from Neil Pasricha’s blog 1000 Awesome Things. Neil savors life’s simple pleasures, from free refills to clean sheets. In this heartfelt talk from TEDxToronto, he reveals the 3 secrets (all starting with A) to leading a life that’s truly awesome. (Recorded at TEDxToronto, September 2010 in Toronto, Canada. Duration: 17:33)

And, also, thanks to a NWV faculty retreat that Linda attended that was facilitated by Parker Palmer, we read and absorbed some wonderful poems. Here is one by Ted Loder from one of his books of prayers (I've already ordered it to add to the collection that I draw from before our El Cielo communal meals):

Thanks for Those Things That Are Yet Possible

At the beginning of this new year

we give thanks for our time

and for those things that are yet possible

and precious in it:

daybreak and beginning again,

midnight and the reassurance of routine,

the taming of demons in the dance of dreams;

a word of forgiveness

and sometimes a song,

For our breathing...and out lives.


We give thanks

for the honesty that marks friends

and makes laughter;

for fierce gentleness

that dares to speak the truth in love

and tugs us to join in the long march toward peace:

for the sudden gust of grace

that rise unexpectedly in our wending from dawn to dawn:

for children unabashed,

wind rippling a rain puddle,

a mockingbird in the darkness,

a colleague and a cup of coffee:

for music and silence,

for wrens and Orion,

for everything that moves us to tears,

to touching

to dreams

to prayers.

We give thanks for work

that engages us in an internal debate

between reward and responsibility;

for our longings,

our callings,

our lives.

T. Loder, Guerrillas for Grace


Loder is a retired United Methodist minister, and,

true to the wonderful ways of the web, I found his blog -- though he appears s to have quit posting in

October of 2010..