I have been drawing in little books since I was a kid and keeping them since college. I have had a lot of art experiences. Some good, some disappointing but in the end, most of them have been for other people. I always heard that you should do the thing that makes YOU happy and not worry about others. This was a real problem because, as an illustrator, you are ALWAYS working for someone else. But not the journal. It was its own special thing.
I was looking through my photos the other day and it struck me that even though I did not become a world famous illustrator, I did manage to create an interesting and fun body of work that makes me happy. I know that the terms journals, sketchbooks and diaries often get used interchangeably. I do not however. I guess it helps me to make sense of things by labeling them. It’s silly but I think it has to do with the old informational graphic artist in me. Trying to diagram things to make them understandable.
Here’s how I think of them. Sketchbooks are objects. So in this way they are interchangeable with journals. But here is where they differ. I think of sketchbooks as tools to help you plan or practice for larger projects. Simply paper for a job. Diaries are like your imaginary friend whom you talk to about all of your secrets. Journals however are a Frankenstein’s monster. It is a place to draw, paint, write and reflect. It is a friend, a companion, a counselor and confessor. It acts as a mirror and a telescope, looking inward and onward.
With the advent of digital technology like the iPad Pro, you can take things out and turn them into other things such as stickers or products. It is an amazing time. But in the fast paced digital world, it is a slow, steady and sometime anachronistic object that benefits the user in so many ways. I owe so much to the teachers who turned me on to the practice. I will forever love them for it.
I have been a middle school art teacher for the past 15 years. This year, I have gotten to switch schools and change my curriculum to share what I love to do most with my students. I was hired to teach “graphic design” but I have been able to teach design, through the use of sketchbook journals. We are learning how to use bubble letters and typography, comics, illustrations, printmaking and bookbinding. This has been the best thing I have ever had the chance to teach. Now I just gotta not mess things up. Next year will be better. HAHA. I will be trying to write more about the process and the class because I think there are lots of teachers out there who might benefit from what we are doing. Please follow and share with anyone you think might find this material useful.