Thursday, April 30, 2015

IFJM 2015 Wrap-up

click image to enlarge

It is really hard to believe that IFJM has come to a close! As a first time participant I have to say that I'm hooked, and look forward to next April's IFJM project!

Here's a wrap-up of how things went for me.

My Goals

  1. Write more in my journal
  2. Use heavy mixed media: collage, Gelli prints, stamps, stencils, a variety of wet media 
  3. Work intuitively, freely and boldly
  4. Worry less about the outcome
  5. Use paper that will get wavy, wobbly, warp and crinkle
  6. Do the unexpected

How I Did

1. I did write more in my journal. That's been something that I've been trying to do in my regular journal as well.  Creating a character for IFJM meant that I had to write enough to have a least a bare bones story line going. I find that I very often like to simply write quotes, or even single words in my journaling practice. However, if I'm honest, I think that may be an avoidance behavior because I seem to resist creating original written content. I think I write well enough, but some part of my inner critic still seems to hold me back from writing more original content, and feeling good about including it in my journal. I need to get over this since increasing the amount of original writing I do in my journal is a goal I value.

2. Use heavy mixed media. This I totally achieved and really loved.  Now the question is do I keep a separate mixed media journal that's created in the studio or do I try to incorporate more mixed media into my regular journal which is usually created from life when I'm out at a location. Good question, no firm answer yet.

3. Work intuitively, freely and boldly. I also achieved this goal. I think working working first thing in the morning helped. From this goal I really got a shot in the arm, gaining confidence that if I allowed myself to work this way and things went awry, 99% of the time I could rescue the situation and in the end have a page that I at least liked even if I didn't love it and that's OK.

4. Worry less about the outcome. I still worry about the outcome, but I'm willing to risk more now and as stated above my confidence in my ability to reclaim a mess and create something has been strengthened. 

5. Use paper that will get wavy, wobbly, warp and crinkle.  This was a big one for me, I owe my fascination with this and my new found love of warped crinkly paper to Roz (Roz Wound Up) and a description she wrote of sharing just such a journal with a friend whose reverence for the textures and sounds of heavily worked paper captivated me. Normally, I only use archival, very heavy weight mixed media or watercolor paper, that will not buckle, and must not have any bleed through or show through to the other side of the page, not even a faint ghost image, nothing at all. I've been really picky about that in the past. I may still be in the future but, at least for a mixed media journal I love the wobbly, wavy, warped, crinkly paper. So again, will this kind of journal become my "regular" journal, paper and process, or will it be for a separate special one where I want to work with those qualities...I don't know yet. 

6. Do the unexpected. I had several things in my head that I wanted to do in this journal that I've never done before, and by doing them I gained insight about possibilities that previously I had only considered but never put into practice.  In the IFJM journal I did paper weaving, stitching, added in a page, incorporated a charm and heavy collage elements.

I also used this project for an unstated goal and that was to work though a personal issue. I found this to be such a helpful way to deal with the issue, without getting swamped with overwhelming emotions. Using art allowed me to think and express what I was feeling in a positive and controlled way, which was a good way to do things for me.

I wrote several pages of notes at the end of my IFJM journal exploring my process before IFJM and during and tried to see where I might go from here. 

My Usual Process

My usual process is to work in a sketchbook with archival paper that's very heavy weight with no show through and no buckling with any media. I work almost exclusively from life with only the occasional reference photo which is usually of an animal I sketched in the field that I couldn't get enough info down from quickly enough before it moved on. Then I will use a reference photo to add more accurate sketches. I usually work directly in pen, and then add watercolor or gouache. Difficult subjects like architecture may require some pencil guidelines first. Every once in a while I will switch to colored pencils or markers just for fun or use dry media if the situation (like in an art museum) requires it. But the usual is heavy weight paper, pen and water media.

It's in the winter when the weather prohibits much outdoor sketching that I begin to experiment in my sketchbooks with mixed media to keep boredom at bay.  It is those explorations that made me want to try an entire journal of mixed media for IFJM.

My Process during IFJM

I usually tried to get backgrounds done a day or two ahead of time using the Gelli plate or acrylic inks and a big brush, both became favorite ways of creating backgrounds. Often I was thinking ahead to what the next few pages would contain (quotes, story line) so I could make suitable backgrounds. Sometimes I had no idea where things were going and sometimes I had to do the whole thing at once. I would begin adding layers (stamp, stencil, collage) and then try to leave a place where I could do an original sketch and add some writing. I created a lot of hand made stamps, masks, and stencils to use along with purchased ones. When I felt my ideas were flagging I'd take a day and create new imagery to work with. 

Moving Forward and Incorporating New Process Elements

I really love the richness of the backgrounds I created. It took some getting used to just working over the top of stuff and ignoring the background colors and textures,when I was sketching but I'm getting the hang of it. I have only very occasionally pre-prepared backgrounds in my sketchbooks. I'm always worried that they won't fit well with what I end up sketching that day, and then I'll have to skip pages and the chronology (important to me) will be disrupted. I also worry that I'll struggle with getting the media I work with to adhere to the pre-prepared background. Watercolor over acrylic mono-prints and even acrylic inks is difficult, gouache is a little better but still can require building up layers for good adhesion and that requires time I might not have if I'm sketching live. So maybe the backgrounds need to be watercolor or gouache to begin with, or very thin and very light. That's an issue that needs working on.

The other issue I face when trying to incorporate mixed media into my regular journaling is the question of cohesion. Do I want my journal to have a cohesive look as a whole, from cover to cover.  Should the media, materials and style be the same throughout the journal. I already struggle with the very different look I get from fountain pen and Pentel Pocket Brush Pen, my two favorite pens, and the visual weight difference between watercolor and gouache. Do I dedicate one book to only fountain pen and watercolor, then maybe the next journal to PPBP and gouache?  I hate limiting myself that way in a fifty page journal. I like the freedom to choose the tools I think will best capture my subject. I'm trying to avoid having multiple journals going at once. (Though I never avoid this completely). So there are lots of questions about how to go forward, most of which I think will work themselves out as I try to find the solutions by experimenting with different approaches. 

 At the very least I can see myself having a mixed media journal in the studio going all the time that will be a counter part to the pen and gouache/watercolor work I do in the main journal that I take out and about with me. 

To Sum Up

I had a great experience. I really love the IFJM journal I created for its creative experiments and elements and the way it helped me work through a personal emotional situation. I gained confidence working in mixed media, and pushed myself to create more original written content, and more personal visual imagery. I now have a number of new directions I can explore further. I'm so glad I finally took the plunge and joined IFJM this year. 


  1. Great wrap up. I also struggle with the various types of journals, and having pushed through and done it all willy nilly in this one I think I may just stay with that idea now. IF I was doing a sepcial journal of some kind though it would be tempting to do what you did -- what an amazing cohesive beautiful presenation!

    Based on things you've said, two recommendations:
    Natalie Goldberg, Writing Down the Bones (if I only had one creative book to recommend, she is amazing, this one, not the others.)
    Her book, Long Quiet Highway: Waking Up in America, may be of interest to you as she describes her spiritual life. I love reading autobiographies and this one sang to me mostly because she is a writer and artist -- and for me, a Buddhist, though I also read other religious spiritual books that are very much about retreat and integration.
    Finally if you are in a big bookstore you might like to look at her books as an artist and poet, like Living Color: A Writer Paints Her World.
    Big Huggs. Glad i will still get to see you post all your other art!

  2. Jan, I've been dropping by every day to look at your beautiful journal pages and to read about Mavis. I got caught up in her story, and I did wonder if it had a particular personal meaning for you. I'm glad this exercise helped you process whatever you were going through. I have not been journaling long, and I find myself creating more pretty pages than working through any challenges I might be facing. I would like to do more of the latter, so I really appreciated your insights in this wrap-up.


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