Final Totals for 2011

December 31, 2011


Above: Sketches of various actors viewed on TV during a lunch break. Faber-Castell Artist's Calligraphy Pen in a handmade journal (approx. 8 x 8 inches) containing a defunct drawing paper.

After December 25's bike ride I was able to ride outside 3 additional days. Today was the final ride for 2011. While all the rides were on the "cool-ish" side and wind was always a huge factor (i.e., always around 20 mph and a cause to work even harder) I'm thrilled that I was able to ride my bike outside on the last day of the year, in Minnesota. (I'm sure we'll pay for it with a long and snow-filled winter next year.) My final total for outside bicycling this "season" was 2,521 miles. There will always have to be an asterisk in my log book next to this total—an odd year with too much rain, a virus, and an unseasonably warm and late winter.

Tomorrow the bike computer's counters get reset to zero. And it's just as well, as we have some rain and snow promised for tonight, and colder temperatures coming up. If any snow we get melts I'll keep trying to ride into January, but if there is ice on the ground I won't be on my bike; and the totals will build for 2012.

Another counter starts over tomorrow. I managed to finish the in-studio and carry about journals I wrote about on December 2. I actually didn't have enough pages and ended up using two paper test sample journals (one signature each; 24-32 pages each) for journaling as well as sample testing.

The final page count for the visual journals for 2011 is 1359. (Actually I have the final spread in my carry about journal to finish and I'm going to do that as soon as I get up from the computer.)

If you would like to read more about why I keep stats please read "Stats: A Yardstick for Planning and Assessing

What immediately jumps out to me in this year's total of visual journal pages is a return to the totals of the 1990s. I can quickly see the reason for the bump up. I did less teaching this year (so more time to journal) and I sadly did less painting (something I have assessed, found wanting, and am planning to fix beginning tomorrow!). Additionally I did a lot of paper testing (so Gert was very busily employed as a constant standby model on papers of all types). I kept track of those tests in my journals, or the papers were actually journals.

I've also assessed all that testing. I'd like to say I'll be doing less of it in 2012, but I think it's silly to make such projections. I love trying new papers, even when I am disappointed in the outcome I love the suspense just before the first stroke of a brush pen or the first swirl of a wash. Will this paper be a new favorite? I'm always optimistic. (I will have some test result posts coming up in January 2012.)

This year also brought a swing back to more privacy in my visual journals. As I reduced the amount of teaching I had been doing I started writing more in my visual journals. I am really enjoying that swing back to more writing. (I do keep a separate writing journal which is never shared.) This shift always comes to me when I am more focused on larger projects. It tells me that my mind is eager to push ahead and look at the questions that have been filtering up in my mind. 

Looking at the page counts (and also the miles on my bike) as it broke down over the months I can see other things about my life and output that will help me plan and pace myself in the future. On the spread posted today from July the page numbers are 510 and 511. In the second half of the year I did 338 more pages than in the first half of the year (i.e., 848 pages in July through December). Some of that can be chalked up to recovery time when I was sketching and not riding my bike. The increased output in the second half of the year again points to the decrease in teaching for that portion of the year.

And so it goes. I can look at the themes I worked on for additional information about where I might want to branch out or scale back. I have already identified themes for paintings in 2012.

Awhile back (probably over a year ago) a reader wrote in about one of my journal stats posts. She was concerned about comparing her output to that of other artists. I think it is very important that you not compare your output to that of another. I wrote back to her saying that: 

The numbers are really a concrete way for me to make a point about my own output, relating to my own output in previous years, time periods, whatever. [A point I should also say is one I make to myself every year as I make an assessment.]

One of the things I stress for all my students is that everyone journals differently and if they listen to themselves that journaling reflects and answers the needs they have for the journaling to answer.

Some folks spend hours and hours and hours on a page, returning multiple times over days and finding more and more to do, more to experiment with on that page. They'll be lucky to do a page in a week or maybe even a month. But every stroke they make on that page is giving them satisfaction.

Other folks might only sketch while they are out and about, or on the train. Their books might be filled with a new page for every trip to work, yielding 365 (minus days off) pages a year.

Some people also make their journals into what I might call artists' books. They aren't concerned with getting all the details of their lives down, but instead are interested in making artistic statements on each page (which often will reflect their lives but do not necessarily do so).

For me the journal is probably my main personal art form, and a lot of times instead of doing a stand alone painting I'll work in my journal. 

Also my journal isn't an art book in my mind, so I have pages where I draw sketches of a book structure I'm trying to work out, to make an artist book or editioned book for instance; and there are other pages where I have some meeting notes; and other pages where I do thumbnail sketches of paintings that I want to do. Add to that all the stuff I see on the street when I'm out and about that interests me, and photos of projects that I finish and want to remind myself of the details of (like some beaded ornaments I made over the holidays—I wrote detailed notes on how I worked out the pattern so I wouldn't forget if I want to make them again and included close up photos—my own "how-to" article within my journal). [With all this happening] the journal fills up pretty fast. 

And finally add to that the fact that I am basically a "portrait painter," so if I do come face to face with someone (person or animal) I'll pretty much use the whole page to capture them—I like going large). Well you get the idea.

So you are totally right that one shouldn't compare his or her output to any other person. (I've written about this somewhere on the blog but darn if I can remember what I called the post so I don't know what to search for!)

I think the best approach one can have to looking back at one's journaling output over the year is to see HOW IT FITS IN YOUR LIFE, so [posting about stats addresses that introspection] in my life. [And allows me to share that concept with my readers, many of whom might need to develop such a tool.]

Seen in that context your one journal in 6 months I am sure served your needs and fit into your creative life which is focused on your [other] art. And it was much healthier than what I was up to in December! [I believe I was referring to December 2010 when I seemed to have several journals going on at one time and a flurry of journaling activity.]

Because if we look at what happened to me in December, we can see it ultimately wasn't healthy. And I'd like to point that out to people to watch for in their lives.

Journaling is a wonderful gift we can give ourselves but we have to make it work for us.

My journals really are just for me and I like it that way. The healthiest gift I give my students I hope, is the clarity to think about why they journal and [guidelines for] how to set boundaries around it that work for them, and to think about all aspects of sharing journal work and how it may sometimes be counter productive.

I've written a bit about this in the early days of the blog and even have a note on my desktop from a reader asking me to write more about this, but I haven't had the time to condense it down into one post yet, or a series. We'll see. I probably need to do that soon. [I will write a dedicated post about this in 2012.]

{Items above in square brackets are grammatical corrections or other corrections for sense, as well as a couple comments to clarify.]

So my final point for 2011 is a wish actually for everyone reading this—that he or she develop a journaling practice which is deliberate and thoughtful; but most of all useful to his or her needs. (And remember your needs can change over time. And when you remember this you allow more flexibility in your life; which I believe brings in more creativity and leads to greater productivity.) At various times in the year it is important for us all to look at what we have been producing and discover what it reveals about our concerns, our obsessions, or interests, and of course our enthusiasms. Armed with that self-awareness we can go forward in a way that is balanced. I hope to look for this throughout my life; I have found the journal an elastic and valuable tool for the task. I recommend it to you. 

P.S. I also recommend homemade chocolate chip cookie ice cream sandwiches (with vanilla Häagan Dazs ice cream), which is what Dick and I baked and made to celebrate this afternoon, after my final ride for 2011.

    • Bill
    • January 1, 2012

    Thanks so much for this and the previous article. I realized in reading them that 1) I haven’t taken the time to sit and have a conversation with myself about what I want from my artwork, and 2) I have no real measuring stick by which to gauge any effort I am putting into my artwork, just a vague notion of movement (though in which direction is anybody’s guess). As someone who is entirely self-taught it’s this kind of stuff that gets missed and I appreciate your blog for the extremely valuable insight it gives into process and proper mindset. Congratulations on what you have achieved this year and may you be richly blessed in all you put your hand to in 2012.

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