Wrapping up the Not-So-Blank-Page Journal Project

June 6, 2014

In the past few days I have been editing a lot of video. My final project with the MCBA Visual Journal Collective as coordinator wrapped up on Dec. 16, 2013, but it has been sitting on flash cards and my hard drive since then—it's the video documentation. (I'm usually much more efficient than this, but sometimes life takes odd turns.)

After the show of journals at MCBA (which you can learn about in the Introductory video I posted on Tuesday) I brought the journals of the 20 artists who completed the project home with me. With Dick's help we did a video flip through of each of the journals and soon they will be all edited and available to the participants.

Since I regularly post video flip throughs I decided I'd post mine for this project on YouTube. If the embedded video doesn't work you can view it here on YouTube. (If other artists decide to post their individual flip throughs, and let me know, I'll be sure to post links.)

Once I started in on the individual flip throughs a whole lot of ideas on how I would do the project differently in the future of course popped up.

I want to share the main idea with you in hopes of sparing you from the same agony I'm going through right now.

With each artist there is an artist statement. To save myself lots of typing, or even cutting and pasting, I simply cut the PDF of the label files (the labels we used at the show) and used them as jpg text cards in the video. It wasn't ideal, but it was quick and it meant the information would stay with the videos in the set.

Since some of us wrote lengthy artist statements there is a huge disparity in the time this text card takes from video to video. Of course someone can stop the video and keep reading, but I tried to time them so they could be read without stopping the video.

This meant I had to adjust the music for each video around the card duration. (Most of the flip throughs are roughly the same length if the books being shot were full. We then counted a standard number of seconds per spread.) 

If you're adjusting the sound track then you have to listen in real time to the whole video to see you don't goof something else up. (Or at least I do. I don't want to crunch a video and find out late I have to go in, fix, and recrunch. Hey, I have bike riding to do now that I'm healthy and on the road again.)

I have now heard the lovely song that accompanies these videos several hundred times, over and over and over. I have made up 3 separate sets of song lyrics for this song, ranging from silly to sad to punchy. (That is I was punchy from listening to it so many times.)

Of course I wanted to use the same song because I wanted to minimize my work making the sound track. It was video flip through four that broke my back. I realized the perfect solution would have been to record each artist reading his or her artist statement and drop it in as a voice over. DUH.

That would have meant fiddling with the music after they stopped speaking but it would have also meant fewer repetitions of the song.

And it would have been wonderful to hear each artist reading his or her own statement. Now of course the push is to finish up, and there is not time to gather folks and record. This is a good example of how sometimes you just have to stop with what you have and realize that the next time you'll do something different.

But I mention this for the future—it would have been a very delightful solution to a pesky problem.

Artists will be getting a whole set of videos and if the repetition of the song bothers them they can of course simply push the "mute" button.

Another "wish I'd done that" thought that came up—it would have been nice to take more video of the people at the show, people reading the pages, and people in conversation off to the side at various times on December 16. I would have liked to have interspersed this footage throughout the flip throughs to make them less static. I do have extra footage of people at the show, but not enough to start to interject it into the flip through videos. So whenever I do something like this in the future I will be more alert to those "needs." (And I hope you will learn from my mistakes and be more alert too.)

I think that's really all. I'm ten videos away from finishing and that feels good. And music or not, it is exceedingly fun to watch the flip throughs and see how each artist has responded differently to a pre-printed page. Since I know the unaltered pages intimately from scanning them, cropping them in Photoshop, and putting them into the Introductory video, it always comes as a bright spark of surprise when I see a page and remember, "oh, yeah, that was the page so and so did with the blah, blah on it; so and so did blah, blah."

At the meetings of the MCBA Visual Journal Collective we try to have time at the end of each meeting to share current work (sometimes the speaker, film, or project is too long for this) so I know what people are up to in their journals. However, with the exception of Suzanne Hughes, who is now the coordinator of the group, and Ken Avidor, who will tell you boldly as he hands you his current journal, "My life is an open book," I don't think I've ever seen anyone else's journals all the way through. And it is always a wonderful experience to see how someone else's mind works.

My journal for this project was made under stress from a family health crisis and changing family situations. It reminds me how much sketching keeps me going when I am under stress. But it also reminds me that I hardly ever lose my sense of humor.

One of my favorite pages is a blue French bulldog early on in the journal (1:42). A self-portrait of course, with a clear expression of the prevailing attitude. And there is a lovely gouache painting of one of the nursing home aviary birds towards the end of the book that I am quite fond of as well.

But my two favorite pages have got to be 1. the Tootsie Pop page which falls on a page of colored squares (opposite a little boy's face) (2:12). There I admit that I ate my Tootsie Pop model while paying bills for the folks—and I am without guilt or remorse. Art is important. But then sometimes other things are too.

And 2. About three quarters of the way through the journal (5:23) a brown paper portrait on a white background is covered with the text: "You know what people your age are doing?" And a bird (watercolor that I cut apart—I did a lot of collage and also piecemeal sketches [see piecemeal in this blog's search engine, the face on this spread is actually one]) says, "They are not at home planning covert ops!" Nothing sums up my life in reality and imagination more. (I posted a scan of this spread here. And write a little about my approach to this spread.)

The real gift of any visual journal isn't just our favorite pages (which might alternate in ranking depending on where we are in our life [and our covert ops plans] on the day we view might a journal), but it is in the pages on which we work through ideas, and methods of approach, experiment with tone, expose our emotional position, discover a way towards composition, and work with the variable energy levels we might experience throughout our day. It's those pages that are the real gift of journaling because those pages get us through to the epiphanies and skills that make any future favorite pages possible.

Those favorite pages aren't possible without the work that goes into the other pages. I'm just so glad it's so much fun that it doesn't seem like work.

So make some future favorite pages possible by sketching today!

    • Miss T
    • June 6, 2014

    Roz, I love love love your journal!

  1. Reply

    Thank you Miss T, I’m glad you liked it. It seems like centuries ago now.

  2. Reply

    Helen thank you for taking the time to come and view it. It was a great project and I’m glad we all did it.

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