Monday, January 27, 2014

Sketchbooks, Journals, Notebooks ………....Collecting the Idea; Part II

I have had loads of if interest in the topic of artist's journals since I published Part I, so I am pleased to share with you several more artists on the topic "Sketchbooks, Journals, Notebooks…Collecting the Idea; Part II". I noted in the first post that it was dedicated to my students. I require a comprehensive approach to journaling and sketch booking in my courses, but I find most students resist the process and seem to view it as insignificant and unworthy of their time, a vantage not within my personal perspective. As I mentioned in Part I, journaling forms vary from artist to artist, but the collection, contemplation, research notes and visual thinking are consistent for us all. The act of recording the process is important to who we are as artists, and to the art we make. In many ways our journals and notes become our sounding board and assessment tool when we leave the cocoon of an educational system that students often take for granted with their daily access to peer comments and professor reviews.  So, in Part II we will look at several artists across the country who are well established in their studio practice and who rely journaling.

David A. Clark lives and works in Palm Springs, California. (Ahhh, warm sunny days in southern Cal, must be nice !!)  David's focus is on printmaking that includes traditional prints on paper, and installations where his iconic symbols emblazon environments. I love in his statement for this topic he said "Ideas are currency…to capture elusive bits of wonder..". So true. Capturing or recording ideas and bits of wonder are so very significant to growth and development of work.

David A. Clark uses Post-It notes grouped on his studio wall and diagrams and notations in books.
David told me, "Ideas are currency and when they get lost it's a terrible thing. I takes notes in many ways, both notebook and not. However the notes are manifested, they are an effort to catch thoughts and the golden nuggets before they drift back into the river where they have to be panned for again or float downstream to someone else. I keep notes in books, on cards (mostly to notate color) and I make hundreds of notes on Post its which litter the walls of my studio. They are my effort to capture the elusive bits of wonder that come drifting by and yet so easily flutter away if they are not in some way caught and recorded. Some of these written seeds lay dormant, germinating for many years before they have their day in the sun." David A. Clark

Eileen Goldenberg holds degrees in ceramics and glass and works extensively in encaustic wax. Living and working in San Francisco, Eileen is active in arts festivals and American Craft Council exhibitions across the country. Traveling and exhibiting work in these temporary presentation systems requires a high level of organization and discipline. In my observations Eileen is proficient in both and she has also developed strengths in marketing her work. Eileen is very grounded in drawing, and from her posts I see from time to time, it is evident she uses drawing as a practice like musicians use scales and as reference for surface patterns and configurations in her work. 
Eileen said, "I draw for my paintings, planning and trying concepts and I also create drawings that are a different thing. I have sold complete sketchbooks...the leather ones here are my favorites...and I have hundreds of different books…" Eileen Goldenberg.
Organization and detail are hallmarks of Eileen Goldenberg's journaling. She has sold completed
sketchbooks to collectors. The lovely leader bound ones are handmade by a bookmaker.

Friend and fellow artist Toby Sisson lives in Worcester Massachusetts where she is Assistant Professor of Studio Art at Clark University. When Toby saw my interest in journaling she was generous to share with me a PowerPoint of artist sketchbooks she uses with her students. Here are a few examples I found of interest:

A selection of artist books and pages Toby Sisson uses in teaching her students the importance of journals.
I like the tactile and visual qualities of the assemblage piece.
"I do know that it's been a crucial and constant part of my studio practice. My sketchbooks are where I can feel safe placing the barest glimmer of an idea, the faintest whiff of what may (or may not) become something real and possibly seismic to my work. I really cannot imagine not having a sketchbook near, always at the ready, just in case. you can quote me on that!" Toby Sission

Jeffrey Hirst is prolific in several areas with work in both two and three dimensions that often takes the form of installation. In Jeffrey's artist statement he says,  
" I create shaped abstract paintings that function as fragments and are often exhibited as installations where the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. " Jeffrey Hirst
The selections of the working images he sent, directly reflect his statement about fragments and parts rendering something larger than the whole. Here I am showing a group of finished works in the first three images with a selection of working images below.
Finished panels by Jeffery Hirst.

Selections of working images  from sketchbook pages by Jeffery Hirst.

Ann Stoddard's journals accumulated on her bookcase.
Ann Stoddard, director of the Harper Gallery at Presbyterian College in Clinton, SC, works in a variety media developing relief paintings, sculpture and installations. I have know Ann for many years and her interest in journaling parallels my own. She shared a photo of her sketchbooks assembled on a small bookcase. An avid collector, Ann notes in her artist statement, "I cannot help myself but create and explore and for some reason there is a common denominator that resurfaces; it is associated with quilts, with cutting, piecing, sections of memory, patterns…Ann Stoddard.  That idea of piecing, assembling, and seeing something develop from those parts is the thread that binds us all as artists.

There are thousands of journals and sketchbooks in closets, attics, garages and studios. They hold insights to their makers and maintain secrets that will never be deciphered. I hope this post has given you fresh eyes toward the collection of material we use to create, and might just spur you to get out your books and look back at the journey traveled.  

My thanks to the artists that were willing to share their personal sketches and journals.

Happy sketching !!

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Sketchbooks, Journals, Notebooks ………....Collecting the Idea; Part I

This post is specifically dedicated to my students…..

I have sketchbooks, journals, notes, notations, diagrams and specs. I have kept them in one form or another since I was a child. The most comprehensive ones go back to my days in high school. I'm always on the lookout for new blank books that can be used at a moments notice to record ideas, jot down quotes, document technical info, add wisdom or a bit of humor. My journals serve as a record, a file, a documentary dictionary and encyclopedia. It is the way I collect my thoughts and try to make sense of experiences, ideas and life, things I want to know and try to understand. I take great pleasure in looking back at those tomes and revisiting my interests and notions over the years.

Much of what I have collected makes sense only to me. That is because I jot, scribble, list, scratch diagrams, stick things in, tear things out, and assemble something that vaguely resembles qualities of hoarding. Literally, I am recording my cognitive thought process on those pages. Some artists are analytical, methodical, and highly meticulous with their journal notations, but more often I find most artists follow a similar process to mine that is along the lines of collecting for contemplation and reference.

A look back in history at journals of iconic artists reveals all sorts of insights into masterpieces that we as viewers may only know as finished works installed in museums. Most are familiar with the highly detailed notebooks of Leonardo da Vinci, who recorded more about science and engineering than art in his journals. Da Vinci was so meticulous and protective of his work that he wrote the text in reverse so it could not be read by outsiders. A more recent artist that comes to mind for copious notes and diagrams is Frida Kahlo whose journals have been published in one form or another and are very popular for studying her life and her art.

Detail: Journals of Frida Kahlo

Detail: Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci
Detail: Notebook of Leonardo da Vinci
Found items from books and magazines, or a printout from the web, have caused many a sketchbook to split its spine. While my past sketchbooks include torn pages and slips of paper, today I see much of that same content material posted on my Facebook page. I tend to select and share items of interest and humor. Those posts have become a resource and a record for my ideas just like my bound journals have for so many years. An outsider looking at my journals or my Facebook posts would see threads that have followed my thoughts and ideas throughout my career. A musician friend that performs and writes about music mentioned that he now keeps everything electronically on his phone or iPad since he is currently living on a boat in southern California. The forms may be changing, but the inclination to collect, organize, order and revise stays the same.

For this post, Part I & Part II, I invited several friends to share their journaling process and their forms of notation with statements and images. All of the individuals are creatives working in a variety of styles and media.

Deborah Kapoor lives and works in Seattle. Deborah has background in photography, painting and drawing, and is current working in sculpture and installation. Several ways she uses journaling is jotting ideas on Post-It notes, lined note paper, Moleskin journals and small travel journals. Relating to my earlier comment of how Facebook posts have become a journal for me, Deborah mentioned her smart phone has become a way to record notes electronically.

"… to simply jot an idea down before I forget it ­ when I¹m in a hurry.  I have ideas at the oddest times and just worry that I will forget them (because I will), so am constantly writing things on post it notes. Another is on simple lined paper,....  I have always liked the ruled lines, even though I mostly ignore them.  I will do little thumbnail sketches  that are not detailed at all, but gives me a really rough and quick idea of the form I am thinking about, with lots of written verbal description.  I do this A LOT. The words are a way of brainstorming as the ideas come, with no judgment at this time.  I may or may not use any of them." Deborah Kapoor
Deborah Kapoor examples of journaling/notations.
Note the small travel journals that she can carry in a pocket or purse.
I like that Deborah mentioned she delays or avoids judgement at this early stage of collecting notations. I emphasize to my students the importance of delaying judgement in the early stages of brainstorming ideas. Also, for organizing purposes Deborah uses typical manila office folders and files notes according to topic or project. 

Terry Jarrard-Dimond lives in Clemson, South Carolina where she works in fibers as surface design and sculptural form. On the issue of netting a fleeting idea she says,
"Anyone who doesn’t keep some type of notes on ideas for future work in my opinion is really playing fast and loose with their creativity.  You have a flash of an idea and you think you will remember it but often what seemed so vivid one minute can fade very quickly in our fast paced modern world.

Terry Jarrad-Dimond journals and notebooks. Note the office-organizer tabs she uses.
I keep journals with thumbnail sketches, written notes, tear sheets of images that catch my eye, scraps of fabric that don’t make it into completed work, file cards with ideas scribbled on them, color samples and anything else which might go into the stew of art making.  Sometimes things get pinned to my wall where I study them in a casual way.  Other times items just float around my studio where I discover and rediscover them as materials get shifted and sorted. My journals serve the singular purpose of igniting ideas that can be developed into finished works of art." Terry Jarrard-Dimond

Also living and working in South Carolina, artist Debbie Cooke told me she has kept journals for over thirty years. Her journals like her life, are an evolving process.

Journals by Debbie Cooke. Notice hr collections include tiny 
watercolors, pressed leaves, stamps, notes & diagrams
"In the beginning, I purchased journals and carried them to be able to record observations and ideas---some writings and drawings were for inspiration, and some were notes and sketches just as record. I found myself thinking, "I wish this journal was smaller, lighter, had better quality paper, etc."......and so I began making my journals. Because I designed it to easily fit in a camera bag or pocketbook, I began carrying them with me.... and my entries became less about ideas for new work, and more about my observations...more drawings, watercolors, and collage accompanied my writings….I still collage random objects---sugar packets, labels, ticket stubs, etc. These would serve as writing prompts for my musings, which would often lead to Internet searches on things I wanted to know more about "Debbie Cooke

In 1997 when Debbie accepted a position teaching photography, her journals underwent a major change becoming more about writing, notations and musings, and less about images since she was capturing those with the camera. Now that she has retired from teaching her studio work is focused on the gum dichromate photo process, known for demanding precision to gain success. Her journals now reflect detailed notes on chemistry, times, humidity, etc. Because these are based on utility, she pointed out they do not "feed my soul" as the previous books. Her solution has been to revisit her earlier process of collection by maintaining a separate journal for observational and musing purposes.

In Part II we will look at more collections and musings by creatives and I will share my personal collections.