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For me my visual journal is a lot about play. And play can be defined in a lot of ways. Play is overhearing and jotting down interesting comments as you sit in a waiting room. Play is sketching that waiting room. For some play might be the creation of a unified page spread in one sitting or the accumulation of elements over time until the page is bursting.
On this spread I sketched a pet store budgie with a Faber Castel Pitt Artist's Calligraphy pen. Then I left the page for days and days and did other things in the book. One day I simply started to doodle "Budgie" above the bird. Then I filled the letters in with colored marker. I was killing time thinking about something else. It sat for more days.
Then one late night I was playing with my loose drawings—drawings I make when I'm warming up or when I want to draw on a certain type of paper that isn't in my journal. I've written about these before. I keep a big pile of them and often use them for collage. On this night the little Pentel Pocket Brush Pen drawing of a small worried dog rose to the pile surface, staring at me. I started trying it out on various pages that weren't finished in this book. He was trimmed closely to the line so he could have easily been added on top of a painted page or collaged patterned paper. He seemed to fit here. Immediately the rest of the lettering popped into my head. The juxtaposition of oddly scaled indivuals prompted it.
I thought about painting this spread, but went on to something else, the book filled. As I finished the last page of this journal I gave it one last flip through. I decided I liked this spread as is.
I could spin you a lot of bullshit about how the budgie was representative of my attitude on the day I drew it (actually I was just drawing the bird so that wouldn't be accurate) and how it dictated the addition of the dog; or how something was going on in my life that made me feel like the dog and the bird represents something else, etc.
But the truth is, this is just something I was playing with. I had fun then, I have fun when I look at it now. It doesn't have to mean anything. In fact it might be great if it didn't mean anything.
I think it is important that my finished art have some sort of meaning or goal, but in my journals that isn't necessary for me. Play might actually lead me to meaning in another piece.
When I look at this spread I just remember the joy I had drawing the bird. The fun of deciding to write the type over the bird. The enthusiasm I felt when I sketched the dog. The joy I experienced when I realized I could put him on this page and save him from the slush pile, at the same time I was setting myself a mental game to play—finishing that "title."
Will something come out of this? Will it ever be a painting? Will it lead me in a new direction? That's part of the fun of this, I don't know. And unlike so many other questions in life, I don't need the answers to those questions, but I can search them out if I decide I want to.
It doesn't matter how you define play. Just discover what play is for you and start doing more of it.