Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Working things out

I adore other people's art journals. I love looking at what seem to me to be works of art and glorious colour and control. I probably suffer from journal-envy if the truth be told.

As I was working on the pieces for the nuns, I smiled to myself as I realised how I go about making a piece of work, and wished for the umpteenth time, that I was better organised and good at keeping things tidy and together.  I never seem to have the book I try to keep things in with me when I need it, and I'm too lazy to get up and go find it, so off I go scribbling ideas and jotting thoughts and sketching things in the most rudimentary way on pieces of paper and literally, the backs of envelopes.

Sometimes its not laziness - its just that I have to quickly grab the idea and express it before I lose it in the jumble of my mind.

This is typical of how a piece develops - Barry drew this on the back of an envelope and I know exactly what he means with his scribbles and hieroglyphics.

This one shows a few notes to self on the back of my daily To-Do List, which is on the back of recycled paper alredy. More scribbles and notes that I understand.

I wonder how other people work? Do they set it all out in a book - keep their ideas and plans together and make notes as they go along?

Does the piece emerge in a logical and sequential manner - with the next steps clearly falling out of what went before or is every step forward an opportunity to head off in another direction? Do other people have nice tidy minds or are they as jumbled as mine?

These two show my first doodles and notes on the printed out email where I was asked to do the pieces.

This is the bit that really made me think about my process. Laugh! Here on one of the little spare cut-outs I jotted down all the measurements for stitching the pieces onto the backing mat-board. It means something to me and I knew what I had to do and could happily refer to it when I came back to stitch another piece a few days after finishing the previous one.  What I plan to do now of course, is to collect all the scraps and paste them into the book for future reference. Fingers crossed...

I'd love to know that I'm not alone in my random and occasionally chaotic approach, but will still be OK if I discover that all the owners of those beautiful journal pages and all my other blogging arty friends are organised and ordered...


  1. I'm laughing in recognition nd then wondering if you get into similar states of not being able to find which notebook the "amazing thing you thought of last week" which you want to look back on right now and cannot find even though it's here somewhere. I would love to be able to make better habits, but I take heart from Agatha Christie, apparently she worked like this and it didn't seem to do her any harm!! There's a nice article from the Guardian here if you want to take a look - http://www.guardian.co.uk/books/booksblog/2009/sep/15/agatha-christie-plots-val-mcdermid

  2. You hit the nail on the head about grabbing whatever is at hand to capture an idea before it disappears. Scraps of paper with scribbled ideas can be pasted into idea books/journals later and the added value is that they retain some of the excitement felt when the idea struck. I think we would lose something if we were neat freaks trying to keep the page pretty and perfect. I started out that way but it didn't work for me.

  3. I too had to laugh at the process as I completely recognize myself. I try and try to 'organize' my thoughts, but there is no perfect journal for me! If it did exist, I'd never have it with me at the right time. I add the scraps to my pile and one day (hah!) I'll consolidate them. Embrace yourself - you're great at what you do! Love the reveal and thanks!

  4. I'll join Annie in laughing in recognition - I have so many notebooks on the go as well as random notes on scraps of paper, backs of envelopes plus a large sheet of paper on my work table - full of scribbled thoughts - I'm going to take heart from Agatha Christie and go read that article now!

  5. I'm nodding my head, too. Especially the part about 'capturing' an idea before it vanishes. After struggling with the same issue, my 'solution' is spiral notebook on my desk/art table. It never leaves the room. When I get to the last page, I go through and weed out the things I don't need anymore, save the ones worth keeping and add more blank paper. It has worked well these last few years.

  6. ~fiona...your jumbled mind seems to lead to gorgeous creations...its a process that you understand and work well with!

    Thomas Merton said “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.”

    my husband laughs daily at how caotic my mind is...i am notorious for piles...pieces collecting waiting for a time until they will unfold into something somehow or someway...i write on any and everything just the same!!! the mind of an artist is truly beautiful sorted or not!!! much love light and blessings~

  7. Organised and ordered or random and chaotic? I think you know which camp I'm in Fiona! I love those gorgeous journals people have but it's just not me. Your process shows exactly how your ideas evolve and how it works because your concentration is focussed on the quality of the making.

  8. all of us do whatever we need to *work*. i bet that enormous amounts of good art begin as scribbled ideas on the backs of used envelopes. i think it's crucial to keep all those scrabbly bits, even though the piece gets finished. who knows what other ideas might be lurking in those marks? i kept an "art journal" quite consciously for two journals. they're quite beautiful, but not so useful as the workaday ones with scribbles and pasted in bits as well as sketches and phone numbers. i like my journals to be well made books, though.

  9. Fiona.. your post resonates with me. As an avid scribbler I eventually put all relevant 'bits' for any one project into a plastic sleeve in a ring binder.

    Amazing how your work is so precise and neat.

  10. Put me in the "chaos" column! I keep folders of scrap paper and use every corner of blank space just to assuage my guilt over all the paper I use for the scribblings that precede any finished work!

  11. I enjoyed your tale on scribbles, ideas and jotting down. I do a bit of both and it's nothing for me to jump up in the middle of tv viewing and "jotting down" ideas, colour schemes etc. Do they always get used , no but at least they aren't tumbling around in my head anymore, they have moved on to make room for more!!!

  12. Me too! I get 'journal envy'.... but if i start to explore ideas like that i think i might as well have done the piece for real... it's the excitement as the ideas flow which is never the same going back to it again.

    I have little scribbles like yours all over the place.... and rarely think to put them together in one place, despite the number of journals i have for jotting quotes & thoughts. 'To do sometime' makes it into my notebooks, but rarely anything more than a scribbly sketch that no-one but me (or us here!) could understand!

  13. Oh Annie - I'm so pleased. I loved that article and I too take heart!

    I'm comforted Robyn - I wish I could be gorgeous and organised; but there's fun and excitement in grabbing the moment however you can isn't there? And as you say - there is always pasting...

    Hollis - it's very encouraging to know other folk have untidy minds like mine. The scraps of paper also give me a sense of delight and re-disovery as I rummage thru them months later.

    ARR - thanks for stopping by and commenting. I hope you enjoyed the article as I did - it made me feel much better; as has all the support and recognition of themselves by others here!

    JGR - an excellent plan to make sure it never leaves the room! Do you also add things into it if you get struck by inspiration elsewhere?

    Hi Brandi - It's funny that such chaos is inside our otherwise quite serene heads isn't it? I think laughing and accepting are the best responses too.

    Hi Lesley - yes journal envy will remain with me; but I am heartened to know I'm not alone.

    Velma - beautifully put. I like that you have beautiful journals to scribble in; that's so good. It is funny isn't it how reviewing scribbles and scraps at times leads us somewhere else and onto a new piece?

    Thanks Jo - I like the idea of popping all the bits together in a folder, clip-lock bag kind of thing. Must try! It's weird isn't it - how ordered my work how chaotic my mind...

    G/Tt - ahh chaos is good to share around me thinks! I know that desire not to waste more paper than necessary; hence scribbling on backs of recycled to do lists...

    Alison - so true that just getting them out of your head helps - onto anything that is a t hand; at least that way you're not worrying trying to hold onto them and remember them.

    Hi Suzie - I'm a bit with you on the perfect idea exploration in a journal - I make my notes in there; but tend to do mock-ups if necessary for layout etc on the same size paper. It's amazing how those marks/notes, scribbles can tell us so much!

  14. Yes, anything will do and the backs of envelopes are just begging for notes. Sometimes I glue them into a book later...Happy New Year.

  15. Leslie - HNY to you as well. Yes it's about jotting and getting things down wherever - and as you say a blank envelope is an inviting surface!

  16. I have pencil, scratch paper and Post-it note pads in every room of the house. I must write things down as soon as I think of them, or it will be lost. Sometimes I will spend half a morning just organizing my lists and Post-it notes. :)


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