An Illustrating Journal Class

While working on sorting books down in the studio I came across this large book. I loved it when I found it and even more so now. Too much moisture has buckled the pages but the influence still remains.

As you can see it delves into the illustrations that accompany correspondence…..mostly French artists and writers.

Francine Prose says the following in her forward to the book:

“It is too simple, I think, to see these letters merely as relics of a bygone era – of a time that existed before the telephone, before email –  and lament the fact that communications as eloquent and glorious as these may never be created again. For what Illustrated Letters gives us, in addition to pleasure, is a kind of faith in the playfulness and generosity of artists and writers who create this art merely out of a motivation to give it – to send it to someone else.

Personalized, individualized, unique, meant for only one reader, letters are the opposite of the commodity, of the object of mass production. These letters are like missiles aimed from one heart to another, or like messages in bottles that reach us from great distance, across lost and far-off seas. Their words and images continue to hold us in their grasp long after we have closed the book – even as the intermission begins and the orchestra strikes up its waltz.”

Isn’t that simply the best way to talk about quick illustrations, done to clarify a point, for the sole purpose of adding clarity to words and thoughts on a page. I love it! Here are some examples from the book.

So when I see the “Illustrated” whatever this book is what comes to mind. It lives in my brain folder named “Illustration”.

And when I saw a class being offered that was titled “Illustrated Journal” taught by a woman I admired, I enrolled. I told myself that this was going to be perfect! I would learn how to draw quickly whatever it was I wanted to convey to myself and the person reading/looking at my pages.

In preparation I made my own journal. Made using folded folios of cheap drawing paper that were stitched into a repurposed file folder.

My thinking here was that it was not about doing good work on archival paper, but quickly getting down the necessary essentials to convey a message. Not unlike drawing on a cocktail napkin at the bar to make your companion better understand what you are talking about.

The first day of class my fellow students line up to purchase journals from the instructor…landscape oriented hardbound books holding an appropriate amount of nice watercolor paper pages. It did not make sense to me then or now. But I came to realize that all but me were interested in making a lovely product out of their learning process for the week.

Here are some of my pages with valuable information and self-criticism…which only had value to me. It is how I learn. Do what I am assigned and make notes on the assignment.

Notice how I am attempting to keep up with the fine calligraphic-style writing that other students are using to “talk” about their subject.

We are to go off and spend only so much time capturing and illustrating what we see. Here I forgot to take my test swatches for color management before actually applying color to the journal page.

I liked this one so much because it occurred to me that the book would have to be turned sideways to complete all I wanted in this image. Making adjustments on the fly so to speak, just what a quick sketcher would have to do.

We were to draw in lightly with pencil, then ink, then color. I am testing my pens for how the water of watercolor affects the lines. We can easily see how long it is taking to do these “quick” drawings.

I like how I ended up lurking in the closet of the spinning studio to get this last drawing done.

Each day we brought our sketchbooks back to the classroom for critique. Each of the other nine books were carefully spaced out along the wall. Mine I placed at the end so as not to disturb the presentation and visual continuation of the more perfected illustrations and written words.

Some time later I met up with the instructor and she asked what I thought of her class. I told her it was not what I expected. I wanted to learn more by drawing less. She seemed puzzled by this and am sure she thought I should have read the description of her class better. And she was right to think that. The only way to get what I wanted to learn was to draw, and draw, and draw.

It does little good to join a daily sketchers group if you are the only one drawing. It does no good to involve anyone but yourself in the attempt to become quicker, clearer, and more to the point when illustrating words and thoughts.

I am not in the hurry I used to be in 2009. Doing something quickly seems silly now. Due to Covid I am no longer sitting in cafes and bars, tucked in a corner with sketchbook in hand looking at how an old man’s hand fits so easily around a pint of dark beer. I miss that. The old man, his hand, the beer, but mostly I miss being there with a small book open and a pencil or pen trying to capture the moment.

I also found my sixty-four year old notebook from my sewing classes in junior high school. I received a “B”. The teacher did not think I was trying hard enough to do things correctly. I believe she is also the same teacher who had each of us girls place a tape measure around our hips and then be seated. Look at the new measurement and know clearly which of us would end up with a “secretary spread”. Now I know that only the anorexic would have kept her tape measure reading the same number but at the time we were a classroom full of girls made painfully aware of what our future rear ends would become….broader!

I think there are no more books that bear discussing in the blog today.

Til later…..