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Artist’s Journal

September 13, 2006

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For a while now I have wanted to do some art quilts based on the San Antonio River Walk. The relaxed atmosphere, the colors, the shapes, the variety of people; it seems a treasure chest of lovely images and textures waiting to be captured in fabric.

I have been puzzling over exactly how to do it. When I go to the River Walk I take lots and lots of photos. But when I get home the photos seem cluttered, flat, void of the atmosphere that I loved so much (even though the colors are still there!). So I’ve been wondering if I should work from sketches as well as the photos. Sketches might help me to eliminate the clutter and focus on the important parts of the view. I don’t have much confidence in my sketching though. So this weekend I picked up this delightful book at the library.

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Create Your Own Artist’s Journal was written by Erin O’Toole and is published by North Light Books. Erin says keeping an artist’s journal gives you the opportunity to practice being observant. “Observing means letting go of the way I think things ought to look and really seeing them for what they are.”

The book takes the reader through all the steps of keeping an artist’s journal; from assembling a hand made journal and making the first marks on the first page to who to share your journal with after it is full. She covers page design and adding handwritten notes, sketching in the back yard and sketching in public. She actually makes it sound like journaling is something I could do. And she makes it sound like fun! What’s the catch?

Just like everything else, it takes consistant time and effort to develop the skills for sketching. “Find the time and the place that feels best for working.” “Journals thrive on routine.” Ms O’Toole says she works on her journals about 1 hour every day. I’m going to be looking at my days very closely and thinking about what kind of routine I could set up for sketching. I’m thinking that the improvement that it would make to my quilts would be well worth the time.

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3 comments

  1. Deb, another thing I have found helpful is to look at Sandra Meech’s Contemporary Quilts book – she uses a lot of photos in her work, but more than that she has some suggestions for abstracting the colour/feel of photos into piecing. Sketching does help – but don’t feel you have to sketch on location – photos can be a valuable resource, too. And don’t show your sketchbooks to ANYONE unless you want to! In art classes, the thing I find most encouraging is that MOST people’s sketchbooks are filled with scratchy, note-taking scribbley bits that look like nothing to an outsider – it just has to work for YOU.


  2. This journal suggestion reminds me of The Artists Way, where Julia Cameron recommends writing (in longhand) every day. It is a proven method for awakening the creative spirit. I suppose it is but I find it to be a very difficult discipline to stay with.

    I had my laptop open to your page yesterday morning and set it down and went about my day. As I saw the River Walk picture from across the room with my poor vision, I was struck by the riot of color. I could see no detail but yet the subject was obvious. Perhaps if you do the piece as abstract shapes and colors you might achieve the look you want. I don’t find the picture to be cluttered, it says activity to me. And it has good perspective.


  3. Depending on how you do it, but yours is a fair example, I think a quilters blog can also be interpreted as an artist’s journal. Let’s face it, you could sketch scan and enter, or sketch and photograph and enter, too



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