How I Came To Do My 2018 International Fake Journal Month Journal in March, not April
In February I learned that I would probably need rotator cuff surgery. On the drive home from the doctor I realized that the only time I could have surgery would be April. Otherwise I had too much deadline work that couldn’t be shifted. And once I had surgery on my dominant shoulder I wouldn’t be working for some time.
I was scheduled to be one of the three mentors in the Sktchy App 30 Pages/30 Days challenge.
I decided that if I wanted to do a fake journal in 2018 it would have to be done in March. I would have to find an approach to balance the fake me with the real me.
I’ve done this before—created a character who is a side step away from my real self, a character uncomfortably close, as I have found in other years when I have tried this. Also in 2017 I did my fake journal using Sktchy images during a 30 day challenge. No one knew I was doing anything else except drawing a face a day, until the month was over. They didn’t even know that my character was not me, and that she was only drawing certain portions of the subject because that’s what she focuses on. That 2017 journal shows up on my Sktchy page, scroll back into 2017 and look for all the tan paper! Or you can go here to read about how I made my decisions to work with that character and in that way.
I wasn’t thrilled about two things in my decision—working in a prompt environment, and being a character close to who I am.
I don’t like to work from prompts. I always spend more energy working away from prompts than trying to work towards them. I’ve written about this on my blog and even, in 2015 explained my dislike of prompts In the video link I give below.
One of the things I’ve learned in the past few years is that when you are involved in the care of elderly parents and you are seeing them lose their minds and slip away, and you happen to be the sort of person I am who is always conscious of what her mind is doing, you become stressed, stop sleeping, and in sleep deprivation mode you forget the promises you made to yourself, like “stop doing prompt projects”
The Sktchy 30 Pages/30 Days Project and How I Worked Within That Project
Once I decided that March was my only option I looked around and found that I had some 15 x 11 inch Richeson Recycled Watercolor paper (RRW). I decided that I would journal on 30 loose, flat sheets. I would leave an inch of space on the left for a Japanese Stab binding. I would then have another 1/2 inch margin on that side of my page so things didn’t get lost in the binding.
Note: I only had 8 pieces of the RRW when I started on March 1. I had ordered more. I couldn’t find any called “recycled” but had found a Richeson “Studio” and everyone I asked guessed it was the same. Let me tell you it is NOT. The Richeson Studio I used was 135 lb. cold press watercolor paper (so far no different) but unlike the RRW, the Studio had a flatter, more compressed, harder, less responsive, and less durable surface. That’s saying something because RRW wasn’t that durable to begin with. Aggressive techniques would not be “tolerated” on this paper.
I toyed with cutting down some of the remaining 22 x 30 inch RRW sheets I had, but the Studio paper appeared before it was needed and I decided that much of what I was doing was collage. It was also an OK paper for the studies I was doing.
Unfortunately when I got to page 8 I also noticed that with all the collage I was doing the pages were too stiff to work with a Japanese binding, so for the rest of the project I just kept normal margins around the entire sheet. The journal pages are now stored in a neatly labeled box on my shelf, along with some additional project papers.
I also decided that my character would be someone like me (i.e., same age, sex, geographic location, job, etc.). The difference would be that unlike me she would take her time journaling, do lots of studies a SLOW painting. Savor the use of collage. In sort, do all the sorts of things I used to do in my journals before life commitments killed the time frame.
My character could use any art supplies I already had on hand. I wanted to focus on watercolor and on brush pen/ink studies, because of the paper and the scope of my goals for the month.
I looked at my schedule and set aside 90 minutes every day in March when she could do this.
I know that the push for this came from that possible surgery—a large dose of painting before a long period of no sketching.
My MRI took place at the end of February. There were no tears. We have been going forward with different physical therapy exercises.
It was too late to reschedule my rescheduled life so I stepped into March and my fake journal.
There was another great reason to proceed. International Fake Journal Month 2018 was going to be a prompt year—I had decided at the end of 2017 when I began to think of this year’s theme, that it would be fun to have prompts. I actually thought that people sitting on the fence deciding to participate or not would be swayed if they had prompts. I thought that if their character didn’t have to think up lots of stuff each day but could just respond to a prompt it would be easier for first time participants. And for those returning, I thought it would be a bit of a lark.
And then because I am who I am and I wasn’t sleeping, I decided that it would even more fun if there would be five sets of prompt lists:
List A: Finish This Sentence…
List B: Questions
List C: Quotations
List D: Found Dialog
List E: Objects
And because there would be all these lists of prompts I started compiling them in 2017, then did a random sort on them so that I could use them myself during IFJM, without any pre-thought out combinations. But I was concerned about how the prompts would work so I decided it was a good thing for me to be working with the prompts in March to work out the bugs. (And it was fortuitous because the random sorting created some very odd match ups that I had to fix before the lists went live in April.)
As always people are encouraged to ignore the theme if they want/need to. So too people were encouraged to ignore or use any or all of the prompts for a day. Well their CHARACTERS were encouraged to do that.
How Did My Prompts Work with the Sktchy Project Prompts?
To make matters a little more complex the Sktchy project I was working within was set up with three mentors providing a prompt each day in rotation. I was one of the mentors along with artists Anita Davies and Allan Carandang.
In the gallery containing my journal below I have listed the mentor and an abbreviated version of the Sktchy prompt, as a reminder of that other level my character was working with.
If you would like to see the other prompts my character was working with you can go to the Official Fake Journal Blog and this linked category. Each day’s post on that blog in April has the set of 5 prompts. You can view my work in relation to those prompts. (I’m sorry the caption space in the gallery can’t accommodate all that text.)
I didn’t use all five IFJM prompts every day, but initially I tried to use as many as possible. As the month went on I used fewer because life started getting complicated again.
Also I set goals to meet for this project, because I set goals for all my projects.
Goal 1: I’m working with Sktchy so overall my character wants to do portraits every day. You have the muses, so use them.
Goal 2: Link everything to the IFJM yearly theme: Translating the Inevitable (You’ll just have to trust me on that one.)
Goal 3: Do the Sktchy prompts whenever possible. (I was able to do them on most days, but at the end of March I cut off a large strip of my left index finger, ironically while trimming collage material from the daily piece. This made getting out and about for the rest of the month out of the question. When you hit a difficult point in a project I believe you need to default to your main goal, and for me that was Goal 1, and that’s what I did.)
Goal 4: Make sure that the prompts I created for IFJM can be used in some way by people’s characters, and that they aren’t self-cancelling, contradictory, etc.
So How Did March Go?
I got through with only the accident mentioned above. Since the injury was on my non-dominant hand I could keep drawing and painting. At the emergency room since the piece was cut clean away and the wound too wide to stitch they put Dermabond on my finger—It’s amazing stuff. The finger still hasn’t healed at the time of this post. As John Candy and Chris Farley have both said, “That’s going to leave a mark.”
Note: If you don’t remember John Candy and Chris Farley saying, “That’s going to leave a mark” then you’re probably from a different generation. Here’s a fun little video about the history of this joke.
Injury aside I loved that I stuck to my plan and sketched for 90 minutes (sometimes more) each day for this project, regardless of whatever other work I had to get done that day.
The house is very dusty.
I don’t care.
I reminded myself of a couple of things. The me that takes time to do this sort of thing has a lot of fun with papers and collage. But she also has a lot of fun making studies and thumbnails and working on something that may or may not get developed.
My character had so much fun doing this, added so much breathing space to her days, in fact, that it caused the real me to stop and think about my life and what I was doing and what I need to be doing. Major life decisions came up during March.
I also found that this character’s behavior and focus allowed the real me to get a better grip on my grief over the death of Phyllis (my mother-in-law who passed away in January). Not a great grip, just a grip.
Those realizations gave me more information about how I am living my life and how I’m not allowing myself enough breath, space, mental downtime, whatever you want to call it.
I feel that it can be difficult to create a character who isn’t far removed from yourself, but this time around it showed me that real past practices which sustained the real me in difficult times are still available to do so. Ultimately it does all come down to the choices we make.
My 2018 International Fake Journal Month Gallery
The gallery below contains the pages included in this journal. Most days I did one page. Some days there are two distinct pages. Other days you’ll see that there are multiple versions of an image because I thought it would be fun to show the process.
As mentioned above I was acting as a mentor along with Allan Carandang and Anita Davies. And each day one of us supplied a prompt to the Sktchy project group.
If you go down to the gallery and use the arrows beneath the first image, you’ll navigate through and see captions at the bottom of the image and titles at the top. And the image will be a smallish size.
I suggest that instead you click on the first image right away.
A larger view will open and it has more navigation features. There are arrows to go backwards and forwards of course, but at the base of the new screen which comes up there will also be a long line of thumbnails to jump around on if you wish.
Also along the bottom of the larger gallery screen you’ll see on the left a small letter “i.” Click on that and the title of the image and the prompt for the day will come up in the caption below the image. The captions list the name of the mentor responsible for that day’s prompt, as well as a short description of that prompt.
There is even a way to click on the speech bubble at the bottom left and leave comments on a particular image.
And if you like to watch things as a slide show go to the bottom of the large gallery screen and click on the arrow next to that lowercase “i.” It starts and stops the slide show.
Three other notes—The first image is a paper test. I thought I might use Skizzie from Hahnemühle, but it wasn’t what I wanted to work on, but it is part of the process so I include it: a bunch of doodles in different media.
Unusually for me, I used almost no gouache in this project. (Too many projects going on during March—no room to set out another palette!) Day 5 may look like gouache (the chicken) but it’s all watercolor with a little bit of white gouache added to some of the colors so I could get opaque tints. (The body of the chicken—that is paper white.) Day 14 is all watercolor except the white head feathers at the side of the comb—I was talking while I was sketching and didn’t reserve my white paper there. Days 19 and 26 might look like gouache, but they are Nicker Poster Color. And because people are always asking about the pens—the color pens were Uni Poscas for text, and for some brush lettering when opacity was required. (Yes Uni Poscas make a brush pen too; Wet Paint and Jet Pens both carry them.) Transparent red lettering was a Pentel Red Color Brush used on various days. and day 11 was sketched with light lines of non-reproblue pencil to hold proportions, and then the magenta Bienfang-Speedball Watercolor Brush Pen.
And finally, Richeson Recycled Watercolor paper is very GRAY. Your eyes are not fooling you.
I hope you enjoy this journal.
Day 2, #2018IFJM, Monochromatic Portrait