Wrapping Up My 2017 International Fake Journal

June 12, 2017

Today I’ve got a gallery of images created in April for 2017 International Fake Journal Month. (Don’t know what IFJM is? Or what fake journal is? Click on the link.)

My first test swatch, made on Day Four when the prompt called for color!

This year’s journal was a loose sheet journal. All the sketch pages were 6-3/16 x 9.25 inches. In keeping with my goal of using what I had on hand these were all pieces of paper cut for making greeting cards. (Fold them in half and they’ll fit one of the standard envelope sizes.) Some of the test pieces and my color chart are on smaller bits of this paper. I had exactly 32 pieces of this larger paper. I did not worry about having enough because for IFJM it’s like my regular journal—I’m not going for a finished piece. Messes are included. I did have smaller sheets (that folded into smaller cards) and I used those for a couple test pieces and charts which appear at the end of the gallery.

The paper is French Paper’s Speckletone. But I can’t tell you which “color” it is because the paper is 20 years old and custom cut and the wrapper is gone. (I’m not only using what I have, I’m clearing out all sorts of stuff.) I’d guess it’s Kraft or Natural. I also went through a Sand and Old Green phase, but it’s obviously neither of those!

The idea for my approach this year came the same way many of my series ideas do—by accident. You can read about this accident here.

There is a lot of serendipity in life if you let it come in. If you do your preparatory work and set some parameters for a project in your head and then go about your regular work (or play) the ideas stream in. Often this is the way you can find out what you want to work on next, or what needs to be worked on next.

These are the swatch cards I made at the end of the project. On the top, watercolors I used: Top, left to right Burnt Yellow Ochre, Roasted French Ochre, Aussie Red Gold, Transparent Red Oxide, Quin. Lilac, Schmincke Titanium White Gouache. Second Row, left to right, Sepia, Raw Sienna Light, Payne’s Blue Gray, Fr. Ultramarine Blue, Winsor & Newton Phthalo Blue Green Shade, Winsor & Newton Ivory Black. Not shown, Cerulean Blue and Schmincke Turquoise Gouache. All colors are Daniel Smith unless noted. Below are the four color pencils I used, all Berol Prismacolors.

If I hadn’t had a limited palette of watercolor paints out on a particularly day in March, working on this toned paper for another project, I would not have thought about painting the man with the glorious white beard I found on Sktchy. And if I had not done that I would not have spent 30 days painting with a limited palette (which did grow a bit) on this paper. Well, my character wouldn’t have…

That’s the issue with this year’s project. I painted from inspiration images on Sktchy and so I posted the finished sketches on Sktchy so the muses (which is what users of Sktchy call the folks who are kind enough to post photos of themselves are called) could see how I captured them. That seems only fair.

But since it was my character who was doing the sketching I had to balance saying things on Sktchy that only my character and I AGREED UPON. That meant I had to live with a character that was very close to me and that always makes doing IFJM a bit more difficult. I like more distance. Somehow I convinced myself this wouldn’t be an issue. It might not have been much of one except for one thing…

Sktchy decided to do a 30-drawings-in-30-days project in April. “Great,” I thought, I could do both IFJM and the Sktchy project at the same time. I thought I could simply post my images on Sktchy and be done with it. So it would all fit in the very limited free time I had in April. But I didn’t read the whole notice from Sktchy. I didn’t realize they were going to provide PROMPTS. I don’t care for prompts. They make me grumbly. Readers will remember how grumpy I got in 2015 when I elected to do a MCBA Visual Journal Collective Project as my fake journal for the year.

I decided, however, that it would still be OK, I could do it. I decided to try to aim for a character more interested in prompts. I fell wide of the mark. I met the prompt challenges, but it added hours to my time each day because I had to find an image that met both Sktchy’s prompt, like “color,” and my own internal guidelines about DETAILS.

OH Yeah, I forgot to tell you that in my sleep-deprived state, when I was setting up this year’s tag line, I went with “Details Matter.”

A frequent participant sent me a note alerting me of the reuse of the tagline. New Roz, swamped in elder care and video editing for classes had about 30 seconds of, “I’d better change that,” replaced with, “Eh, Details always do matter.” So I let it stand.

It’s a reminder to me that I can only hold so much in my brain at one time. I think that’s a really humbling reminder that I didn’t need while I’m watching the brains of everyone I know seep away. But a necessary one. We have to learn to sit with the message even if we don’t like it. And then make something positive out of it. “Details Matter, AGAIN,” I told the participants, and let them all sort it out. That’s what IFJM is good for, learning to deal with creative curve balls.

Two swatch strips I used at the end of the project to work out whether I wanted to use a different approach. The watercolor brush pen sunk into the paper in a way I didn’t care for.

What was I focusing on this year? Most of the folks who’ve seen the full set of images aren’t sure. I won’t even hint. I’ll just tell you. My character was focusing on what was the least bit of stuff she could include, while still getting a recognizable image and meeting the Sktchy prompt. Sometimes these things were mutually exclusive. On Day One I managed to limit my palette to a brown, black and white as originally intended, but I loved the face so much I let my character keep going, or she insisted, I don’t recall. Day Two was more successful, everything fades away from the dog’s eyes and nose. The arrival in email of Day Three’s prompt of color, when my character was particularly focused on a limited palette, resulted in a long hunt for an image that my character could bend to her will. I was happy with it, but the search for an image and the mental gymnastics needed to arrive at a solution had me scrambling.

And so it went, throughout the month. Sometimes the stance was “it’s about the face,” other times it was, “what can you do in only the few  minutes you have because of schedule?” Day 17 is a great example of the latter. The snow on this young man’s beard was what interested my character. How do she capture that in paint. Nothing, well almost nothing else (the blue yes I think help sell it), was important.

On some days I used my painting session as a “break” from answering student questions in my Textures class (running simultaneously as a fully interactive class with me present to help them; yes, when I scheduled it I thought it would be a piece of cake to teach and do images for IFJM at the same time—I had not counted on prompts.) I had to remember to brush off my grumpy character before I went back into the online classroom for my evening session of answering questions!

And let’s not kid ourselves. Somedays the daily entry was about emotion (Day 27) and some days it was simply, as usual, about birds (for example Day 28, though one could argue [and my character and I did argue about this], that Day 28 was also about cool color on a warm background).

Day 29 was about facing my fears. Day 26 was about light and gesture. You get the idea. It’s always some “detail,” and nothing else mattered. That’s why there are so many unfinished paintings. My character set the goal, and then worked until it was met to her understanding.

Of course then I had to post and interpret it as myself to the Sktchy project which took a lot of time and some carefully parsed wording. I laughed a lot in frustration as you can imagine!

But I loved every minute of it. I got back to using pencil (color pencil) and watercolor, with a little bit of white gouache. Something I haven’t done for this extended a time period since the 1990s!

I got to use toned paper (always a delight in my mind), and I got to spend a month staring at faces. (Including bird and dog faces!)

But if my character ever decides to do something with prompts again will a group of you please come over and do an intervention?

All I have left to do is make a small case for the sheets and put it on the bookshelf! It’s waiting for me on the work table.

As You Move Through The Gallery Please Note The Following

1. Some images didn’t scan well. Day Six looks like it was drawn on a different paper. Despite my best efforts all the white in the image foiled my attempts to get an accurate scan. (I have an appointment with someone to recalibrate my system!)

2. The Sktchy folks really bent over backwards to make the project interesting for the participants by providing an email each morning with images that might suit the subject (I didn’t use any of those) as well as links to topic related TED Talks and such. (I didn’t have time to watch or read any of that.) They often asked for some sort of topic related statement. If you’re interested in any of MY responses to my character”s work you can go and check out my posts on Sktchy for April. To give you a sense of what the prompt was I’ve included the prompt word or subject line, beneath each of my gallery images.

3. My character wrote a couple points on the back of some of the images. Often just the name of the person whose photo was the Muse for that sketch. Sometimes her focus. Sometimes a bit of spluttering about using prompts. But I didn’t scan any of the backs of the pieces. She is not a communicative sort. She was only interested in her narrow focus. I could write about that, but let’s just let the focus be on the pieces.

4. On Day 12 I allowed my character to fall back on my default for self portraits—birds. Let’s face it, if she drew me, that wouldn’t be a self-portrait would it? And I had never given thought to what my character looked like I’d been so pressured to get things done. I dismissed a back of the head self-portrait as I’ve done so many of those. Maybe next year I’ll give thought to what my character looks like?

5. On Day 22 I allowed myself to go against topic because I prefer the asymmetrical in the world.

6. On Day 25 I posted two images on Sktchy and both are here as well. The prompt was about technology with suggestions of how we use it. While lots of Sktchy artists use digital tablets I prefer to work with analog media. I use technology to scan my work (which I referenced in another similar topic in the series) and so digitally present my art. But I also use technology to scan versions of my work, so for Day 25 I posted both a composite of three points of development and the final piece.

Was It Successful?

During the days, or in the evenings when it was time for bed (and I had many late nights juggling too many projects) I felt that I had accomplished that day what I had hoped.

And I find, as usual, that at the end of the project that stack of loose pages (or in some years a book) filled with the daily efforts makes me sigh with a sense of contentedness that comes not from creating perfect images, but from sticking to the task and producing, working the problem, seeing what can be seen.

All that said, mark your calendars, we do the whole thing—International Fake Journal Month—all over again in April 2018. You should think about joining in!

Roz’s 2017 International Fake Journal Month Journal Gallery

I’m sorry. I’ve just spent a couple hours writing and posting this post and the gallery doesn’t work. I’ve double checked and revised. I will have to come back once I can talk to the designer who set up the site. It worked fine in our meeting last week! 

Please check back. I’ll post about it when I get it fixed.

  1. Reply

    Roz, this post makes me feel a whole lot better. When seeing, and enjoying, your posts for Sktchy 30, I knew that you were also busy with Fake Journal Month; the online course; elder care as well as other work commitments.
    I wondered “How does she do it? Never sleep?
    Now it makes sense that at least for Sktchy and the IFJM you were killing two birds…

    I fell into using a toned sketchbook for the Sktchy portraits more by accident than design. The book was convenient to carry around to Physio appointments for my daughter (broken ankle – now thankfully she’s able to drive) The compact size meant that I could often complete a drawing during the half hour.

    I, too, get grumpy with prompts and often stop a challenge because of them…
    The Sktchy were excellent although for me arrived late on each day so sometimes I used them and sometimes not

    1. Reply

      Carol, you don’t know the half of it. I have to laugh when I think what was on my plate in April. I got by on too little sleep!

      I’m glad you’re experimenting with toned papers. There is a new wet media toned paper from Strathmore that I used for another project at the same time IFJM was going on. I will have a review on it in a little bit. And my favorite wet media toned paper is Magnani Pesci’s Annigoni Designo. You used to be able to get sheets and I’ve bound it up into books. I also enjoy working on Nideggan with watercolor and gouache.

      I’m glad you were able to have a sketchbook with you during your emergency and the aftermath. I was very sorry to hear about your daughter’s accident and I’m sorry I couldn’t write back right away. I’m glad you were able to distract yourself with Sktchy!

      I just don’t do projects with prompts because I don’t like them. I will take a theme and work with that through a whole project but I just can’t deal with the prompts, it’s too much like regular work I think, except without the fun and the pay. Once I start a project however I have to keep going. It’s one reason I typically plan my projects to only last for a month. I know that even if everything else falls apart I can get a daily project done in a month.

      But I don’t want to deal with prompts ever again. Of course I said that after the 2015 project which was combined with prompts from other project. Maybe the answer is to just not get involved in more than one project at a time because that seems to be the crack in my defenses that let’s the prompts in!!

      I think with Sktchy they were totally happy if people didn’t use the prompts based on the open-endedness of some of the defining memos. The late arrival thing is pretty bad for people not in the US.

    • Tina Koyama
    • June 12, 2017

    I love your “self-portrait”! I can only imagine what your character had to say about it. 😉

    – Tina

    1. Reply

      Thanks Tina, like me she thinks every animal she sketches is a self portrait. But I think there is a little hostility in this one!?

    • Pat Morin
    • June 14, 2017

    After reading the wonderful descriptor of this year’s IFJM, I cannot help but say you absolutely made lemonade out of lemons. I love your self portrait. Some days just the pure imagination in choosing how you responded to a prompt is a delight. Workspace made me laugh! Of course my favorites are the birds and the dogs, but some of my habits die hard, Thanks for sharing!

    1. Reply

      Thanks Pat. I really did enjoy every moment I was painting! I’m glad I did it and I’m glad I experimented with painting this way. It will be great when I crack open the next journal that has Nideggen in it! Thanks for stopping by.

    • Paul
    • June 17, 2017

    Love the combination of transparent and opaque media on toned paper here! I’m trying hard to stick to my set goals but when I see what can be done with different media it’s very tempting to deviate. The are so many directions one can take with art. I’m with you on the matter of prompts, it takes me longer to come up with a suitable subject than to do the sketch, I hate prompts! Glad you were able to push through April. Hope things have settled down a bit.

    1. Reply

      Paul, keep sticking to your plan, but make a wish-list of things you want to do. Bookmark the post so you can return. I know that you can stay the course! Thanks for the good thoughts!!

    • Evie
    • July 16, 2017


    As always, these are amazing! (I especially love the ones where only part of the image is painted.)

    Did you only use watercolor (and Prismacolor pencils) on these, or did you use gouache as well? I am just wondering because I can never seem to get my watercolor to be as opaque as you do in some of these.


      • Evie
      • July 16, 2017

      Silly me! I re-read the list of paints you have above and see that you did use some gouache (turquoise and white and cerulean blue). Did you mix gouache and watercolor — like for Day 28 with the opaque pink on the bird?


      1. Reply

        See my full reply on your first message. And note, the cerulean blue used was watercolor not gouache. Per the other response, the only gouache paint used in this project was Titanium white (as needed) and Helio Turquoise Gouache for days 3 and 4.

    1. Reply

      Thanks Evie, I’m glad you enjoyed these portraits, and got into the idea of partials, that was key to my character.

      I sketched with ONE color of Prismacolor Pencil. The colors I used throughout the project are on my swatch card in the post. There were 4 that I used, but only one in each image. And just for basic lines, no fill.

      I painted everything with WATERCOLOR PAINTS (Daniel Smith) and for some colors a little bit of white gouache was added to get the tint. Remember, on toned paper, if you use a watercolor tint it will be dulled down by the tone on the paper, so if you want a tint that reads as a tint (i.e., lighter) you’ll need to bump it up with a tiny bit of white gouache—and you really only need a tiny bit).

      In general I tend to use watercolors thickly, but for the most part in this project watercolor density was built up through the application of additional layers after the first was dry.

      Days 3, 4, and 5 were days when I did use a little Turquoise gouache. If you read the caption to the swatch card you will see that all the paints except for the white and the Turquoise were watercolor.

      So for instance Day 12 has a lot of dark red in it—that’s all watercolor, ditto the “black” which is a mix of complementary colors to get a neutral; again, also watercolor. There is white in the ear fluff, and the top of the orbital ring, highlights of they eye, that sort of thing, and a light drop in of white at the throat to gray-out the neck feathers, but all the other paint is simply Watercolor used thickly or layered to the desired thickness.

      I think that you are simply adding too much water if you aren’t getting these darker results.

      If you look at day 10 for example, all of that is watercolor, including the dark I mixed for the eyeglass frames, with the exception of those highlights I put in on the forehead and eyeball; and the pink I mixed up. All that hair, beard, eyeglasses, that’s all just watercolor. None of it is gouache.

      In your second message you asked about day 28’s Gallah. It is an exception in the set because it’s a color I couldn’t get by tinting on toned paper so the entire bird with the exception of the beak, is made by mixing WATERCOLOR with a a little bit of white gouache as needed.

      I was taught how to paint in watercolors this way as a child, it’s referred to as “body color.”

      Hope that clears it up for you. Take a look at that swatch image to see what was used.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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