Self-Assessment: 2018—Filling Journals, Using Up Paint

January 3, 2019


Some Background and The Brand of Paint I’ve Been Using Lately

7-1/2 x 15.5 inch sketch on Fabriano Artistico Cold Press (140 lb. Paper). This is a pamphlet book I made to use at the end of the year. The teal around the image is the cover overhang showing. Brush pen sketch, with Montana Markers (only yellow is still visible) and watercolor, with a little bit of white gouache at the end. (That Lilac is a lovely Holbein Lilac gouache.)

Yes, this painting actually has something to do with self-assessment and goal setting. First I want to say something about the materials…

While I did sketch some more after painting this image yesterday (Dec. 31, 2018) this turned out to be my final painting for 2018. I was housebound (because of cold weather and not wanting to drive with my vision issues). I decided to use up all the dried watercolor in my studio palette.

Currently I use a Heritage palette for studio use. The Heritage palette has a sealing “ring” on the lid. When you close it the paint stays moist (if there is moisture in it when you close it). (Often I’ll simply put my flat ceramic palettes in large Ziplock™ bags.) 

For the last 18 months or so I’ve been using a lot of Winsor & Newton (W&N) watercolors again. I’d left them for 30 years. I came back to them because of some landscape pigment suggestions and I’ve been working my way through the paint. I still prefer Daniel Smith watercolors, but I have found the W&N have lasted fresh longer in the palette without anything “growing” in the paint. I haven’t done a control test with the Daniel Smith, so I’m not giving them up any time soon. I just wanted you to know why I was using the W&N. So I’m painting portraits with a traditional landscape palette and having fun doing it. Oh…

…And the addition of Holbein Lilac Gouache. I couldn’t help myself. I went to the store a couple weeks ago, saw it, wanted it, got it. I love lilac. (Sometimes I am impulsive.)

I also purchased a bunch of different brands and types of white watercolors and gouache. I’ll write something about them in the near future (maybe February). This painting actually has several different types of white gouache in it. But the painting wasn’t a test—I included the different whites simply because the tubes were in grabbing distance. I guess you could say I was warming up for the testing to come.

How My Year Ended: Making a Self-Assessment

Two weeks ago I finished my 11 x 8 inch journal and turned to Dick, “I am not going to start another journal this year, you know how I am.” He just laughed and said “Yes, I know.”

Detail of the image in today’s post. The crease in the center of the image is of course the gutter of the pamphlet. I used various sizes of filbert brush for most of the painting, but at the very end I used two small rounds (2 and 4) to get some thin lines around the eye area.

What we both understood is that at the end of the year I get obsessed with finishing any journal I have going by the end of the year. Well sort of obsessed. I tell myself that it’s OK not to finish them, but if I don’t finish them I don’t get to count them in my page total (you get the idea). Typically I simply go to the zoo a couple days in a row, do some portrait sketches and bingo bango I’m done.

This year was more complicated. (I won’t go into it, but it has to do with classes I was prepping and trips I took.) I ended up having 5 journals running, but one by one in the fall I picked them off—filled them up.

Then the last one was filled with only about 2 weeks in the year left. I didn’t want to start another multi-signature journal and spend all my free time painting when I had so much video editing I needed to get done.  

It looks like I took decades to learn BALANCE. I simply wouldn’t go there.

Then a friend proposed a visit and I knew I’d go to the zoo with her, so I started a pamphlet I’d made with Fabriano Artistico. It wasn’t like starting a new journal—really. (My previous plan was to simply use loose sheets for the rest of the year as I also keep a loose sheet journal—it is included in my totals.)

My friend caught the flu and cancelled her trip. I had those 16 pages and only a few days left in the year. Not a problem. Cross that off the to-do list.

If you’d like to make some pamphlets for yourself go check out my FREE pamphlet making class here.  Who should make pamphlets? Anyone who has a favorite paper they want to work on when they are out and about sketching! (This free class will be available through December 31, 2021.)

But before I finished this pamphlet (it had 16 pages) I wanted to use up the paint in the studio palette!

How This Portrait Was Painted

Since most of you want to know how these sketches happen I’ll give you a quick run down. I had a skull busting headache for the last 4 days of the past year. It’s related to my vision issues. But I had a few pages in my pamphlet journal that was the last journal I had with blank pages for 2018. I decided I was going to finish that pamphlet.

I took some bulldog clips and clamped the open pamphlet journal in a vertical position onto my easel. I have a side holder attached to my easel for my iPod so I called up a photo from Sktchy (Dick was off doing something with his family). I got out the now solidly dried watercolors, spritzed them with water, and started sketching with the Sakura Pigma Professional Brush Pen, FB. I corrected some lines with the MB. I decided that the headache was too annoying to do a finished piece so I got out some Montana Markers and put in a dark blue background and some facial color thinking that I would simply finish one eye and call it quits.

Instead I started playing with the paint, moving the shapes about, and refining, until I got to the point when I knew I had corrections to do, but if I did them I’d mess up bits that I really love. (I really like from the nose tip down!)

In the 90 minutes that I was sketching I also got out the Holbein lilac gouache and the various brands and types of white gouache that I’m going to be testing later.

A great side benefit was that I was able to use up most of that old paint, clear off the palette, and be all set to start the new year with fresh paints!

So, journals filled, palette paint used (and palette cleaned), all that remained was to look back over 2018 and make a self assessment.

Assessing How 2018 Went

If you’ve been a reader of my blog over the 10 years that I’ve been posting you know that I end each year with a self assessment. I look at what I’ve been able to accomplish and how that relates to my goals. Then I make some assessments.

Today with you I’m just going to take a quick look at two areas of my life—workouts and physical health, and journal pages.

These two items tell me a lot about each other, but also about how other things in my life went. For instance if I have a low page count in my journal it typically corresponds with a high output of gallery/show paintings. And the physical health connection is obvious.

I want to say something about both of these areas because I want to make a case for keeping a journal, for setting goals and then assessing them. It’s a positive thing that I’ve been doing since childhood and I recommend it.

So Why Is It Important to “Keep Track”?

A lot of people I know keep journals or sketchbooks and never look at them after they close them. I know that those same people often complain to me about how they didn’t get anything down “last year.”

But yet they have a record that could set them straight.

This past year was hard on me. I spent the first part of it recovering from a fractured foot and torn ankle which meant I couldn’t get in my daily cycling (indoor because it was winter). That made me a little grumpy. Then my mother-in-law Phyllis died. That knocked me down pretty hard.

Grief is different for everyone, but I found it hard to stay connected with things I typically do. I still did the things I typically do, but I didn’t really register the doing internally.

So my first point is that if you keep a journal and do all the things you typically do in that journal, you can look a back at them at the end of the year.

In the fall I was feeling a little frustrated that my miles for cycling were down so low and that my journal page count was also lower than I can remember it being.

But the wonderful thing about having the journal (and my cycling log book) is that at the end of the year you can look  back at it with your goals in mind and think about where you want to go moving forward.

This year my outside miles (which included a couple of snow-free days in December!) totaled 1,697.4. 

My already somewhat dismal attitude about 2018 could have taken a hit with that number, considering that I’ve been averaging 2,500 or more per year. But because I have records I could remember that I couldn’t ride through April because of the ankle and foot injury so I got a late start. And additionally I sliced off a large portion of my left index finger at the end of March. (I just have one word of advice for you: Dermabond.)

Next my records remind me that from the beginning of June through the second week in August I was sick with bronchitis. That’s like 10 weeks right there. And it’s some of the most productive weeks of the cycling season. It’s when I’m warmed up and road ready again and putting in 100 or more miles each week. Well if we add the weeks I missed in the spring I could have easily reached my normal numbers.

My point is don’t beat yourself up about these deviations from the norm without looking at the reasons behind them.

If you’re just sitting on the couch, well you don’t get any credit for that, but things beyond your control happen you have to learn to go with the flow.

Looking back at the training log I can see that I’m still as interested in cycling as ever, in fact more so. With the help of my massage therapist David Wicklund at The Doorway for Better Health I actually rode the whole season without shoulder pain. 

So what about the journal pages? Well at first that seems a little more problematic to me. The page count was very low through the summer; and a little low over all. I got through journals A through M, with a total of 1,083 pages. (I compare this to great years when I get through journals lettered U, V, X…and have 1,800 or more pages.)

The great thing about having a journal in which you keep track of what you’ve been up to during the year is that you see immediately where your time has been going.

OK, keeping a time sheet on all your projects helps with this too and I’ve always done that, and really enjoy using Toggl for that process now.

When I look back at my journal and see that my year was taken up with preparing for teaching at Sketchkon and also dealing with the injuries already mentioned. For Sketchkon I picked a topic which meant I needed to paint a bunch of paintings to discuss with the students. That’s not a hardship, but it means attention away from my other tasks and goals. And with injuries you simply have to allow yourself to recover. Another nod to seeking balance.

Because I have my journal, and my timesheets, I can very quickly see where my time was spent and also see that the page count I is totally reasonable. It’s especially reasonable when you consider that my goal for this year was to finish my Sewn-on-the-Spine online binding class and my timesheets tell me how much time I spent shooting and editing video.

Here’s my point, we get so wrapped up in what we are doing, whether it’s healing, or keeping a healthy regimen, or doing our work, that we forget the specifics when we look over our year. And if you have a journal and you keep minimal stats on your activities—simply notes as your days go by on what you do (you don’t have to be as obsessive as I am) then you cannot help feeling good at the end of the year that you’ve been productive.

Did you get everything done on your goal list? Nope. I still haven’t finished the videos for that class (but hope to soon).

Did you bust past personal bests in your physical or creative activity? Well in my case this year, nope. But what I do see is a clear picture of time well spent; that goal to finish that binding class was important to me and I can clearly see where the time went.

How Do You Use This Information?

It’s not all rainbows and light. Sometimes we look carefully at our year and see that we’ve been churning our gears with no clear reason as to why.

Here’s where it gets even more important to think about what our goals are and look at how we’ve spent our time—because now we can make a new plan that takes into account the reality of our lives. I make plans now based on how much time I spend on eldercare—can I spend as much time as I used to on my projects, both personal and work related?

No. But because I’ve made a choice about how I’m spending that time I can feel good about it. And I don’t fret that I didn’t spend more time on my personal and work projects.

We only have so much time in life. We have to look at how it is breaking down and getting used and then make a plan to use that time better.

The journals, the exercise log (which is kept in my date book, which is another great thing to have for planning), and even timesheets are great tools for you to look at how you met your goals or used your time. Through them you can begin to see a better picture of your real life.

Give Yourself Some Credit

There’s one more thing that the journal will do for you. If you didn’t get those 15 new paintings for an upcoming show painted, or you didn’t do ——– (fill in the blank), look at your journal and see that at least you were showing up for your life, documenting moments of your life, engaging in your creativity. That’s huge. So many people walk zombie like through life.

Is it enough?

Well if you set goals for yourself, just looking back through your journal is probably not going to be “enough.” But it is going to be the starting point for you to set new goals and to manage your time more successfully.

Long ago I found that if I really wanted to paint large (or small images) for a show, I had to have a year with fewer journal pages. Are you willing to give that up? That’s the type of thing you ask yourself when setting your goals. It doesn’t mean that you’re giving up journaling, it just means that you are giving up a chance for a personal best of pages. (OK, some years you might be able to do both but remember I’m writing about BALANCE.)

How Do You Start?

First take a moment to look over your 2018 journals. Count the pages if you want, but more importantly look at the days on which you worked. When were there gaps in your productivity? What caused those gaps? Work demands, family travel, illness, etc.?

Make some notes. Those notes will help you find triggers that district and derail you. Then when they come up again you’ll be able to handle them better, if only to accept that there are things in life that derail you. Or you’ll devise a way to not be derailed!

Next, cut yourself some slack. Think hard about what really worked for you last year—family gatherings you put together, paintings you did get into shows, books you read, whatever. What of all of that do you want to bring forward into 2019?

What new stuff do you want to bring in?

I suggest to my Drawing Practice students that they do a self-evaluation every 6 weeks, that they plan projects based on an analysis of what’s going on in their lives and what time they really have. 

Having realistic goals means you have realistic expectations. And that’s the best way to get things done.

I suggest you do a self-evaluation of your entire year. Look at the “stats” from all the areas of your life and decide how you want to spend your time better.

You might find activities that you want to let go of. You are sure to find activities that you want to devote more time to. Whichever it is for you, you’ll have to make choices and that means you’re showing up for your life.

I hope you all have a great 2019.

    • Karen Vandergrift
    • January 3, 2019

    You inspire me, Roz.
    Sometimes, I go through phases where I’m simply “zombie-ing” through my days. My goal for 2019 is to not beat myself up about that. . . .what I accomplish in my journal (or anywhere else in my life for that matter) is not nothing, y’know?
    So, thank you for sharing your struggles and successes. They’re something, all right!

    1. Reply

      Karen I think it is important to find a balance and understand how we each individually cycle through periods of activity or non-activity whether it is daily or over a longer term. And knowing those ins and outs of ourselves it’s then possible to maximize our productivity and enjoyment of life. So knowledge of your phases is great.

      I’m a little concerned about “zombie-ing” description. I would nudge you to look at that characterization and what lies behind it. Words have power and that description drains the power of you as actor with choice. Look at what level at which you are showing up and noticing things at these times. See if what is really happening is that you’re going through a “fallow time.” Thinking in those terms gives you back the power of development and choice.

      Not beating yourself up is key. Look at what you have done and celebrate that and build on it. That celebration will also give you more energy to turn around what now characterize as “zombie-ing.” And look at what precedes and follows these phases so that you can begin to sculpt them into what you’d like to see.

      I hope you have a great 2019 in which you learn more about yourself and your process and have fun celebrating it.

  1. Reply

    ah Roz, happy brand spanking new year to you and Dick…

    I resonate, as I spend this strange time after Christmas and before the year starts proper in a kind of frustrated restlessness. Feeling neither fish nor fowl I am neither on hols or at work proper so I’m taking a leaf from your extensive and generous book and having an evaluate!

    I suspect it will show a vast amount accomplished last year but as yet, nothing perceptively significant planned for this year… so I am in the doldrums.

    and as usual I will draw my way out of the funk

    1. Reply

      Deb, so good to hear from you and know that you are drawing away down under! This can be an odd time of year for people. So many external expectations for happiness and family and whatever, get placed on us.

      What I think evaluations are most helpful for is that they force us to see all the great things we have done or clearly see the reasons we didn’t get things done, and with that knowledge we can continue to grow.

      I know you’ll get out of your funk. (I’m not worried about you at all.)

      I might suggest something for next year though that has always worked for me at Thanksgiving (in November here) and the whole December string of holidays that I don’t participate much in. During those times I have projects set up that are going to extend over those times. Nothing extensive so that I can’t participate in some holiday fun if I really want to, but something that keeps me focused on what I really want to be doing, which is always working.

      If we have a project at those times when our energies can be pulled away, we can get back really easily to our work each day. Just keep the expectations simple for the finished works and it won’t be stressful. And you won’t have that neither fish nor fowl feel.

      On the other hand, sometimes having that nfnf feeling can be a great way to send your creativity out into the world and imagine something new. So in that case, and I think that’s really what it is for you, stop using the word “funk” which is heavily ladened with “meanings” and simply realize it as part of your creative battery recharging and finding new stuff.

      Have great fun this year imagining something new.

    • Tina Koyama
    • January 3, 2019

    Happy New Year, Roz! I always find your self-assessments fascinating and informative. I’m not as ambitious as you are 😉 , but I have a system that works for me. My only drawing goal is to draw every day. So I scan or photograph every sketch I make and file each image in a folder for the year. Each image file has a name that begins with the date, media used, and description of the subject. (It’s codified so it doesn’t take long.) On some days I make lots more than one sketch, but on many days I make only one. If I’m kind of lazy one day and the sketch doesn’t show much effort, then the next day I try to do something more challenging. (If I’m taking a formal class, I’ll usually have a built-in goal for the class.) And sometimes I take part in social media goals (like InkTober or NaNoDrawMo). At any time, I can easily see the number of files I have in the folder (thus the number of drawings I’ve done so far in the year). That’s it — pretty easy, and it reflects my level of ambition. 😉

    1. Reply

      Tina, thank you for your comment because it hits the matter on the head—a system that works for me. That is what we all need. And you have a clear understand of that in your goals and your work.

      Like you I scan my pieces—I tend to do it once a week) and I have them labeled with the date, e.g. today would be 190107_titleorsubject-paper-versioncodes. (The version codes help me tell if I have already cropped and fixed the scan from raw.)

      I think you have a great system and understanding of how it supports your goals. Thanks for writing this out so others can see your perspective.

    • Rachel
    • January 4, 2019

    Roz, I look in awe at your evaluations. You might as well be working in a language that I don’t understand. It all makes sense that it works for you, but I never understood how to.make and then achieve a goal. How do you know you are doing to do it? I can only MAKE myself do a very few things per day and what with tooth brushing and dishwashing and getting up and going to bed at a *reasonable hour, there is not much gumption left. I do do at least one sketch/watercolor per day, and have for over five years. Usually in response to a group prompt, but not usually in pursuit of any specific learning goal. I spend a lot of time *catching up* on the internet, reading things that interest me, and working up the energy for the next thing I must do. HOW do you make yourself do so many, mant, many things in a day? And things that lead somewhere? What is the magic ingredient? What must I do differently? I am a woman of a *certain age* but still trying to get things RIGHT.

    1. Reply

      I actually started writing a post based on your comment, there’s a lot here. I’ll say this, if it seems to be in a language you don’t understand that’s OK, you can do evaluations differently. The fact that you have your list of things to do each day, that’s how you evaluate. What works for someone else might not for others. There isn’t a magic ingredient so much as a growing understanding of your own process and then how you want to honor or change that. Letting go of getting things “RIGHT” is the first step. I’ll write more about this in a post as it’s too much to do in a comment. Have a look at some of my other “evaluation” and “self-assessment” posts through the search engine in the blog or the category list if you want to start exploring this right now. Thanks for reading.

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