August 8, 2018

Volume 100

        I’ve been keeping a journal since I was nine, and I recently embarked upon the 100th volume.  I always appreciate landmarks like this, however arbitrary they may be, and I see this as a perfect occasion for a little self-indulgent sharing of some of the art that I’ve put into my journal over the years.  To be clear, my journal has never been either an artist’s sketchbook nor the philosophical essays of a writer.  It’s really just an old-fashioned diary sort of thing: first I did this, then I did that, and meanwhile I was upset about this thing and excited about that one.  There are certainly occasional philosophical musings, poetical observations, and reports of inspirations and progress on various projects.  There are also, sprinkled throughout, illustrations, and I thought I’d share in this post some of my recurring types of drawings I’ve put in my journal’s first 99 volumes.
        I’ll start with the category that includes the first picture on the first page of Volume 1, which is sketches of the things I see around me.  Particularly when traveling, but also sometimes when I have a little extra time, I’ll sketch the scene before me.  I also often put in little floor plans and similar diagrams.  I suppose a related category is pictures of cats, since, at least for the past 22 years, a cat is quite often the thing before me when I’m sitting down with my journal to record the happenings of the day.
        Probably the most common type of drawing of all is borders.  Sometimes the border is an embellishment of the date at the top, or the margins at the sides, but most common of all is borders across the bottom of an entry.  When I have just a little room at the bottom of a page, which I deem not really enough to start the next day’s entry, and just a little extra time which I deem not really enough to start some other activity, I often fill it in with a little decor.  You can see that interlacing has been a favorite motif of mine since the 1980s.
        Sometimes the urge to decorate requires more than just a narrow strip, and over the years I have had the occasional whim to use my journal for larger, more detailed illustrations, most commonly pencil, pen, colored pencil, or watercolor, but also sometimes collage, crayon, or some other media.  (Of block printing, more later!)  Usually these pictures are my own inventions, but I do also sometimes copy pictures I enjoy, as Starry Night and the portrait of Richard III demonstrate.  The picture of my friend Stephanie came from a series in high school in which I copied my friends’ school pictures.
        One of the more distinctive ways I have sometimes decorated journal pages is what I like to think of as “Grail Diary style,” a sort of romantic imagining of antique notebooks of early explorers and adventurers.  On these pages the text contributes to the look of the thing, but I’ve blanked out all the personal text, so you can’t really see the full glory.  But I’ve filled in some of the blanked areas with extra pictures in similar style from other volumes.  I love this stuff!
        Then there are the sketches that illustrate incidents or thoughts that amused me.  They are presumably a bit of a window into the quirkier sides of my view of the world.  The samples I’ve included here show the range: a free-standing cartoon, a diagram of my daughter T’s delightful sartorial selection at age 6, an illustration of how I felt at 8 months pregnant with twins, and a rough attempt to sketch a stray state of mind.  As both an artist and writer, I find that some things are easier to explain with words, while others seem better described in pictures.
        Finally, on to the categories that could be deemed of interest in an artist’s notebook: sketches, notes, ideas for actual projects.  Most of my art projects in the first half of my life were all manner of crafts and media, with a particular emphasis on miniature objects suitable for miniature houses, and needlework of various kinds.  Here are the different patterns I knew how to make for knotted friendship bracelets back in high school, and a number of patchwork patterns.
        As for printmaking, possibly the first rubber blocks I ever made were the footprint stamps carved from pieces of eraser when I was in eighth grade.  The alligator block was made as a demonstration of the fabric printing project I taught as an eighth grade art elective, and the black and white pattern shown here is another One Inch square.  But I have also included among the various other sketches featured here today some of those that also ended up as block prints.  The view from the window in Vol. 15 and the view from the airplane in Vol. 36, the “catball” design of Vol. 41, and the sunflower of Vol. 39 each became the inspiration and basis of a relief block print.  So I reckon I get artist notebook points for that!

[Pictures: Drawings by AEGN, from 1979-2017.]

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