Letter Journal - Newbie's Thoughts

Over the last two weekends, I spent some time working on the aforementioned Letter Journals, one each weekend. It's that thing where we make small booklets, work on a bit of mixed media, pass it on to another person, and when we get our own back the book will have been worked on by around four people. I wanted to record my thoughts before I forget them.

Material/Media: I'm unfamiliar with too many. In drawing classes, we used mostly dry media: pencils, charcoals, conté, pastel and graphite; occasionally crayons and felt-tip pens; wet media and other techniques like collage and print less often. We also used inexpensive drawing paper, (for me, the larger the better,) and I chose to always use a easel and work standing up.

In these journals, for whatever reason, I tried to use what others appear to be using to achieve the mixed-media-y look. Most of what I own are the cheapest and/or student grade; I live in a small town where that is what is readily available, and it's never hindered my enjoyment. Alternatively I could shop online or in Japan, but even then I tend to buy the cheapest or whatever is on sale, because I don't take my paper play seriously. That's not a bad thing, is it?

I don't have many fancy mixed media "products", but I have enough stuff, and once or twice "products" disappointed big time. (It probably would have been a different story had I gotten better-quality brands.) As I said, I have enough, but what I do have, I need to spend time with, play with, learn characteristics and workable combinations. (I am the weaver who wove nothing but plain weave for seven years. I like learning.)

Because of the postal weight restrictions of many countries, (NZ Post allows 200g for a DL envelope as opposed to some countries' 50!!) we're recommended to use copy/cartridge and other light-weight paper. Papers I chose didn't like water at all and in some cases even iron didn't remedy the warped shapes. I've more light-weight paper to experiment with, like onion-skin typing paper, (remember them? I still have some!) coloring book pages, accounting and music notebooks, thin graph papers, etc., but familiarizing myself with material/media is urgent. I will probably start making my own collage material, too, as I use glossy mags in the main but they really add to the weight. Collage being my go-to technique, this is important.

Drawing: I never learned to paint, except to make backgrounds/washes, so that's a totally different kettle of whales, but I did take drawing lessons for six years and I loved it, so I should be less reluctant to draw. But I am. So I started copying tiny drawings and photographs, but it's not going well and sitting down at the coffee table and drawing in A4 or smaller sketchbooks is a completely different activity to what I did in class. I could get my easel out, I suppose, but I couldn't work on my journal this way, can I?

Layers: This is like texture in weaving: I love it when others do it well but I like to make simpler, "thinner" end-product. With collage postcards, I've become less reluctant to to create layers on paper, but my preference is still less/fewer, and I may be doing too little backgrounds.

Originality: As with my drawing, I want to eventually make my journal contributions look different from other folks', (or that's what I thought about my drawing but it may not be the case,) to claim I'm not a paper/mixed media person but I'm a weaver, (beyond pasting tiny cut-up drafts,) and a bit weird. (Which is one reason I don't want to accumulate "products".) To that end, drawings has got to be at the top of the list; I also want to try stamp-making and small prints; even turn my drawings into stamps and prints.

Collaboration: We are meant to complete a couple of spreads in every journal so nobody else works on them, and create/add to backgrounds on other pages. So far I've not worried about originality on my or anyone else's because I'm too busy "doing", but I worry about layers of backgrounds I see posted in our Facebook group. Some, to me, look much too much from the start, and at least in the thumbnail pictures I see no way of my adding anything further. On the other hand, I wonder if my background contributions will look less-than-half-hearted for their sparsity, although at least three others are going to pile on stuff, so I don't think it's a big problem. Maybe there're folks who love to pile on stuff.

We'll see. Experience will help, but in the end I think what others in a particular swap like/make will tell me what to do. Fingers crossed.

The first theme I signed up for was "patterns". What weaver wouldn't. I made the cover paper with acrylic two years ago post-Seth's workshop. It's actually more saturated and has purples, oranges and quite a few blues you can't see in the scan, and I thought it was regular but not identical, my kind of a pattern.
This is my one satisfying background page. On other pages, I sort of cheated, pasting one or a few big pictures showing patterns. I had printed/cut out some weaving drafts but they never found a place in this journal; perhaps they will on others' on the same theme.
This is my "finished" page, which turned out completely different from how I imagined. For one thing, cheap paint is less intense! I signed it to signal "finished", but I didn't spray the top coat because I want to work some more in the bottom purple part when it comes back. (Not sure if you can see the original painting on the top half of the right page; I used the colors and extrapolated the lines.)
Jade is in Oz and there are a lot of Oz members, and because their postal weight limit is 50g, there are a lot of calls for Australia-only swaps; the group has been going for a while so some are by-invite only. But the group is kind to newbies, to everybody, so no worries. After I sent off my first journal, I was itching to join another, and waited for another International swap with a not-too challenging theme. Not finding any, I went called my own, with a Mail/Post/Letter-theme.

Not thrilling when I don't like the cover, but live and learn. It's a recycled envelope. And though it's a theme/motif I liked since I was little, somehow it wasn't as encouraging as I thought it would be. Maybe I have to many preconceived images.
This is a spread where I used wax and water-soluble crayons. The wash was so pale and crinkly I worked over with more crayons, which made it worse. I thought of gessoing over, or at least sponge-rolling with gouache, but gazing at a totally different example on Facebook, I started making shapes with gel pens. What I really wanted to do was to draw a woman writing and reading letters, and I practiced about eight times each, when it came to drawing on the page, they turned out weird. I'd like to blame the crayon build-up underneath, but that would be untrue. The hands on the cover didn't have crayon underneath. I thought of going over the drawings with a thicker pen, but whenever I try to remedy things I made them worse so I left them. Finished.
The small page is a postcard I "wrote" to Dad; the picture side is blank. The text side is finished.
This is how I feel every time I finish a journal. And just when I gave the envelope to Ben to post, he remembered I had received someone else's! But I think I'd like to work on twill drafts now.

If you are interested in joining the Letter Journal group, contact Jade.

* * * * *

Ben's back at work this week. We only gardened that one afternoon, but he smoked a big piece of pork, and beef (?) sausages one day, chicken drumsticks and salmon another day, and chicken breasts, and pork sausages another day, and we had bread from the best bakery in town, so every single day we had healthy open sandwiches laden with lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins and smoked protein. Which reminds me, we ate the last of the chicken last night so I have to cook dinner tonight.

I finished threading the white warp on Monday just so I don't have to tell mom I hadn't, again, on our weekly Skype.

Dad would have been 89 today. He's gone 3.5 years but I don't miss him any less, so it's a big fat lie it gets easier with time. The good part for me is, it's darn hard to remember his bad bits.


Meg said...

We all know I don't play well with other children, but I'm discovering something new. We are supposed to "finish" two spreads (four pages) in every journal and I'm working on someone else's for the first time. I've added backgrounds to a few pages, and I don't want to finish any of them because now I'm dying to see what others will add to it. Of course there is a chance someone will obliterate my hours of work, but it's the suspense I'm enjoying. For now. (I might scream so loud they can hear me in Sydney later.)

Meg said...

I got good feedback on what I did on my first Patterns journal from the next person who does a lot of paper art, so that was reassuring but she thought a few more pages could have been signed/finished. Hummm.

Meg said...

Am I doing too much, now...