This may well be the cure to artist’s procrastination. Waiting for inspiration is an excuse often used to disguise the pressure many artists feel when faced with a new project. We know that making a start is necessary, but taking the first step is risky. I am willing to bet that keeping a journal will make it easier to get started. Here is a fun method for making amazing journals.
The problem with setting up your easel with a new canvas is that you feel the pressure to make good art. Wonderful if you have the perfect concept in mind and you are in a flow state. Not so great is you are feeling a bit flat in the ideas department. That is when I turn to my journal.
I think it was Picasso who said that inspiration finds you when you start working. Not the other way round. Waiting for inspiration is goofing off. Keeping a journal is a fun and easy way to start working on something creative without the pressure of having to show the work to anyone. Simply open up the journal, grab a pencil or marker pen and start doodling.
Soon inspiration kicks in and you may have a good idea for your painting. If not you still have a little work of art in your journal.
Recording Life and Times
I have never been a fan of keeping a diary. Tricky business that. I feel compelled to write profound thoughts, memories and events. This is a recipe for trouble and I am bound to offend someone I care about. Kudos to diary writers though. This is a strong discipline and who knows - you may end up with a book worth publishing one day.
For me a picture journal makes more sense. Recording a scene, meaningful items and perhaps adding a few notes triggers wonderful memories. Heck if my memory lets me down at least I have a picture to look at.
Travel and Life’s Journey
A camera is cool but a journal is eternal. I made that up - pretty neat hey? True too. Taking snaps of your holiday scenes does not create lasting memories quite like a sketch of a scene. Or a quick painting. If you have the chance to make a journal painting you will have a deep appreciation for a place. All your senses will be concentrated into that moment. It is a wonderful thing.
Training Your Artist’s Eye
To see like an artist is a top priority for beginner artists. To me this means being able to suss out a good composition. Simplify many elements into strong mass shapes. Cut out the unnecessary distractions. See light and dark values and color mixes that would work. Assess the nature of the light. It sounds like a lot of things and it is. Practice makes it possible to refine this process automatically.
A journal and a few mart supplies on hand give you all the means you need to develop these skills. Plus it is a lot of fun too.
Watercolor and Pastel
You can make simple line drawing in pencil. Better still is to use waterproof ink such as Copic pens or Pigma Micron pens (my favorite). But things really get going when you add color to the drawings. Watercolor and a few pastels make a wonderful combination to use if you have the opportunity.
Why watercolor and pastel? I love the soft and surprising effects that watercolor provides. When the watercolor has dried pastels can be used to add a zing of intense color. Or a deeper dark to contrast with the vaporous watercolor. It is a matter of choice and experimentation.
Another plus is that small errors with watercolor can be fixed or improved with a careful application of pastel. It happens to us all, but a little pastel here and there can make all the difference.
I prefer to keep these simple. An A5 size journal pad or spiral bound block will do. Fabriano make a super journal with 300g watercolor paper. The thick paper means little buckling when wet.
Soft pencil and waterproof pens as mentioned above are essential. Watercolors can be pans or tubes. For travel a small set of half pans are perfect. The importance of a few colors makes quick decision making possible. Another option is water soluble pencil crayons. Then a few water-brushes to dilute the pencil crayon is all you need for hassle free watercolor effects.
Water-brushes are those clever plastic brushes with a nylon brush tip and a water reservoir in the handle. Portable and effective.
Pastels can be pricey. But a good set of soft pastels will make your life simpler and rewarding. A basic landscape set of eight or twelve pastels will do nicely. If the method proves worthwhile you can add pastels to your kit and build up exactly what works for you.
In the video I created to illustrate this method you can see a simple process for journal painting. You can add notes on the opposite page to remind you of the place you visited, people who joined you or even ideas for making a painting later on. This is a powerful system that will reward you over time.
Try not to overthink it. Go with your mood at the time. Never make your journal process a chore or complicated. Never. Enjoy it and take it as it comes.
If you want to learn more about watercolor and pastel then check out my popular course plus a nice special I have for my blog readers (you:)
Also check out the urban sketching movement. Simply look them up online and you will never be short of inspiration. Join in if you like and add your own pictures to the growing community of journalistas.
See more Pastel Painting Techniques.
More in depth pastel painting tips plus full demonstrations of these techniques put into practice.
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Malcolm Dewey: Artist. Country: South Africa