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MCBA Visual Journal Collective: The June Meeting

June 20, 2009

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Above: After the presentation and discussion we had sketching time. I stepped outside into the parking lot to work on my buildings! Then it was back inside for more discussion. (Here I am being crafty: no way am I going to draw all those cars so I simply stopped my drawing at car height. I used a Faber Castell Pitt Artist Brush Pen and light washes of Schmincke Gouache.) The scanner clipped off the left and right edges of this spread, but you get the idea. This is the first spread in a new journal, 6 x 8 inches approx.

Fifteen journal artists gave up a beautiful summer evening in Minnesota to share their work and ideas about journaling. Collective member Clare Farrell gave a great presentation on Corita Kent’s art “rules.” She prepared a colored sign for each rule and placed them out on a wide table in front of her as she talked about them.

I particularly liked this because I could see the rules over and over during the discussion which followed. It turns out that I’m both more literal minded and grumpy and non-trusting than I had originally thought! I had a hard time understanding rule #1 “Find a place you trust and then try trusting it for a while.” During the discussion Marsha explained, “Pentel Pocket Brush Pen.” Ah, I’m always complaining that people don’t stick with something long enough to see results, that’s the place, the trust is the sticking.

Clare did manage to budge me also from my grumpiness. In fact, through her presentation I see that I’m rather in sync with these “rules” in general. In fact my favorite rule of Kent’s is a rule I have long held, born of my own experience: "Rule 7: The only rule is work. If you work it will lead to something. It’s the people who do all of the work all the time who eventually catch on to things."

True to Kent’s rules about students pushing teachers and teachers pushing students Clare provided the group with some discussion starting points which brought out some fascinating points of view. Whether it was a philosophy that guided her work or a favorite saying that motivates her (the conversation wove back and forth) Marsha shared her approach: “Everybody knows something I don’t know.”

Ken reminded us that “no matter how awful something I’ve done looks—no one else notices—except Bert.” (That’s his artist wife Roberta, a useful critic to have.) Carol replied, “If I could be awful at that level…” (We all wouldn’t mind that.) Ken reminded us also that we have to beat down the inner critic.

Sarah shared with us the working method of a philosopher (name illegible in my notes) who said “I can’t write.” He says he is brainstorming and then the writing happens.

At Kent’s encouragement to read everything I had to play devil’s advocate, however, and ask when one needs to throw in the towel, go on media deprivation and quiet all the pulling influences? Too many students show up in my classes frustrated and exhausted because they are reading all the magazines and trying everything they can and have lost touch with their own voices.

P.J. helped me see that in Kent’s time there weren’t as many magazines about craft, paper arts, painting techniques and such. (We do have to look at historical context.) And she also reminded me that we’re always breaking all the rules and making new ones so we can stop following this rule at any time!

Briana brought up the 1000 journals project and how the film of that project has inspired her to new approaches in her journal. (I hope to have a copy of the film to show at an upcoming meeting.)

Many other interesting ideas were exchanged on what is the interconnection between playing and working and what keeps each of us from getting stalled.

And on that happy and encouraging note the meeting moved into drawing and journal sharing. It is awfully fun to get to look into other people's journals!

We’re fortunate to have a group like this in the Twin Cities. A group where we can exchange ideas and information. If you don’t have such a group in your area I encourage you to consider starting one. You might get a copy of Kent’s book and use her “rules” as a point of departure for your discussions. You could work through the exercises in Betty Edwards’ “Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain.” Members could pick favorite artists and do short presentations after which there could be discussion and sketching! Set a clear start and end time (to be respectful of everyone’s schedules). Take turns presenting inspiring ideas and information. Create a place where you can feel good about sharing your work. (I recommend you don't have treats because who wants to have a sticky journal.)

If you happen to be in the Twin Cities on July 20, join us for “Bringing Art Out of Your Journal.” Participants are encouraged to bring 2 or 3 examples of journal work that they have drawn on as resource material for artworks found outside the journal (paintings, fabric pieces, jewelry, sculpture, whatever.) They'll also bring the finished pieces. Even if you don’t use your journal in this way you’ll come away with ideas on how to harness your creativity.

And if you are in the Twin Cities on August 17, we’re having “State Fair Warm Up.” The Avidors will be sharing their State Fair work and giving you tips on how to work in and with a crowd. I’ll be passing on some tips on how to approach the animals (artistically, not in a “wrangling” sense at all). We will also have details about a full-day State Fair Sketch out event. Where else are you going to have this much fun? You need to draw at the State Fair!

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