The Journaling Project was begun in Fall semester 1997, my last semester of grad school. In the next several posts, I will show how I came to this method of working. It started in my sketchbook, which I began in January of 1997. I worked on a lot of other art, but kept working in that sketchbook through the Summer of 1997. I will publish some posts just of sketchbook pages. I kept the book intact for many years, but finally tore it apart, only keeping the best pages - there were many throwaway pages of postcards from art shows and magazine pages glued in.
The Journaling Project was a daily drawing/writing art project, done on small pieces of paper. I worked this way for 12 years. Towards the end of the Project, in 2009, it had become obsessive and more about not missing a day than truly documenting my life. Sometimes I would get up out of bed and race into the living room to grab my little box and do a scribble so I wouldn't have a missing day. That is not what the project was supposed to be about. Near the end I did a lot of scribbly faces.
The Journaling Project was for daily journaling, recording event, saving moments. It was for little drawings about Daily Life. Some of the best drawings of the entire project were little scribbles done without a thought. One of my very favorites is this one, done at work (in Springfield, Misery). That morning when I woke up I was cuddling Steve and rubbing his back. Later that day at work I remembered the moment and grabbed my little box of paper and scribbled the drawing down.
Also, this was January of 2004 (in January 2003 we were still in Seattle - we moved to Misery in June of 2003). I was still putting the wrong year on pieces.
I didn't realize until much later what a great composition this was - the eye is led up and around in an oval around the figures.
Here is another one, from that first semester in 1997. Me and Steve sleeping. Button would massage our heads with his paws.
I did a lot of experimenting throughout that first semester, with different materials. I often just made a mess, putting wet media over a drawing, smearing the writing and sometimes ruining the piece. In the years after, I quit trying to add color to the pieces. When we moved to Seattle, I think The Journaling Project was at its best. I developed a shorthand scribble for figures. I drew scenery while I was out and about.
But I kept thinking that I needed to take the little drawings and make them into something more, something bigger, turn them into big paintings. I stated at the beginning of the Project that 'The Sketchbook IS the work!' and 'I took the sketchbook out of the sketchbook.' - and yet I kept trying to force them into something more. I just couldn't do it. I couldn't 'Make it Work' (apologies to Tim Gunn).
While in Seattle I began to worry that if there were a fire my Journaling Project pieces would burn and I would have nothing to show for my years since grad school. I purchased a fireproof safe to store them, and it wasn't big enough. I purchased a 2nd fireproof safe. Nearly four drawers full of these little pieces. In Laurel I trashed (shredded) a lot of the writing (they don't need to be filled with journaling writing). And we sold the two safes before we moved.
Bin in front of me is for shredding; bin next to me of pieces in paper lunch sacks sorted to keep.
As I have been working on my Putting Away project, putting all of The Journaling Project pieces into big journals, I have sorted out still more of them. Back in 2012 I was burning them (my brother has a 'burn pile' out on his property). Recently, as I continue to sort them out, I have just been tearing them up and throwing them away. If the stories have been written out in blog posts, I don't need to keep the pieces - a lot of them were written in Seattle when I began going over my life and sorting all my photos and letters and mementos. I kept a lot of the writing about my undergraduate degree and artwork; family stories not so much.
I have wanted to get back to The Journaling Project way of working - making little drawings about Daily Life. But I have been unable to get it restarted. I am not sure why. I have tried. While in Chicago, I began doing little faces during my train commute downtown. Those ended up in my A Lovely Dream big journal. After we 'crashed' and moved in with my brother in 2011, I was so beaten down by the whole experience I was finding it difficult to do much art at all. I worked on my Suzi Blu classes, A Lovely Dream art journaling and then the Fairies class. Besides continuing with my Martha Beck exercises, still just Four Day Win at that point, Suzi's classes had similar exercises (Fairies was all about figuring out how we wanted to live our lives and having the Fairies help us).
Having Symon as a kitten helped us heal our lives, but I couldn't manage much drawing.
My mind just wasn't in the right place for it. I kept trying and failing. I worked on 'busywork' - mixing paint colors and making swatches. And sorting for the Putting Away project. Below (working in my brother's garage) I printed out small versions of the Grass Cat print and glued them onto a canvas to be painted over - but this just ended up a mess (copy paper is a horrible art paper).
In Seattle my writing was more fact-based: this is what happened. I tried to put it into a context of 'What was life like then?' I called it my Self-Esteem Project, trying to figure out why I am the way I am. I wrote up a lot of notes and intended to analyze them, but I didn't really get anywhere and finally put it away while in Springfield, MO.
The blog posts for the current Putting Away project have gotten at deeper core issues of who I am and why. Maybe it's been the Martha Beck exercises and actually clearing out my mental clutter, which I didn't know how to do before.
But when I try to get back to The Journaling Project, it's like trying to run a fan that's unplugged. I turn the knob and nothing happens. I carry my box of paper and pens and pencils with me, and I don't open it all day. I used to always have paper and pen in my hand -
Maybe my brain is rewiring itself, as explained by Martha Beck. This has been a surprisingly tiring process, with occasional 'blank' periods of time, where I feel like I can't get anything done. I have been moving away from paint, from color, from all the mixed-media experiments and going back to just drawing. The Journaling Project was done with ink pens, but I have been using pencil. I bought a box of my old standby Journaling pens, but I haven't gotten back to drawing with them. Everything is unplugged.
I don't know yet what the answer is. When I figure something out I will let you know.