I know many textile practitioners are interested in keeping a visual or studio journal but they are intimidated because they see the explosion of art journals online. They feel that they have to create something that is a piece of art work. In other words an object in its own right, that is complete and beautiful.
At the moment there is huge interest in decorated art journals. In these people explore not only who they are but often mixed media techniques to paint, print, texture and generally work up imagery of one sort or another.
I see studio journals as a place to toss ideas and let them develop rather than something you work at to produce a finished art object. There is nothing wrong with creating a journal that is an object in its own right but for me I see them as tool boxes to use rather than something to show – a place where work takes place and part of a creative process.
There is a difference as one is about producing something – an art journal and the other is about a process that I think helps creativity.
I have spoken about the advantages of keeping a studio journal before and you will find a whole pile of links in the visual journal section. Simply put however studio journals can be a place to note down all the bits and pieces of your creative life and let it compost down into something that becomes a resource for meaningful work.
What happens is often a textile practitioner decides to start a journal and they walk into a art store and don’t know where to start. Well you don’t really need much. It does not have to be an expensive investment with oodles of art materials you actually only need a few things.
What sort of Journal should you buy?
The first thing you will need is of course some sort of journal. As with everything associated with journals there is no right or wrong way to do it. Just your way. This applies to choosing a journal too.
Strong Unlined Paper
The main thing I would say is to make sure the one you choose is unlined with heavy weight paper so that you can use water media. Paper that is heavier than the usual is solid enough to glue stuff to.
Think about the size. Do you want something that you can pop into a handbag? Or do you want to treat yourself to lovely bound journal? On the other hand if you feel a visual journal is daunting or pretentious buy a small one. You don’t want to buy something that is so large and imposing you are fearful of using it!
Spiral bound journals allow you to have the book open flat while you work and allow for some expansion but the pages can rub. Bound journals do not rub and damage pages in the same way and I have found can take more hard wear and tear. A good bound journal should open right up and lie flat too. If it does not you are looking at a trendy fashion notebook which is possibly not the best choice. So both bound and spiral journals have advantages and disadvantages. It’s up to you and the way you think you might work to decide on what might work best for your taste. As you can possibly see from the photograph I have used both at various times n my life.
Other art materials
The next big investment you need to make is a 2B pencil and an art rubber. If you really want to lash out you can buy a Pigma Micron pen as they are good for writing and sketching. But really that is all you need to start a visual journal.
If you want to explore colour you can use colour pencils, or invest is small set of water colour paints and a few brushes. If you do not like the transparent nature of water colour invest in a small set of acrylic paints. Nothing too fancy or expensive and if you are on tight budget you can simply buy the 3 primary colours, black and white by the tube. Five tubes of paint that is all that is necessary. Everything after that is simply fun. As time goes on you might want to try out different art supplies but it is definitely not necessary to simply get started.
Other things that are handy are paper scissors, PVA glue and glue brush, a glue stick for when you are away from your desk, and a ruler.
Why is this photo of my visual journals here?
I am currently writing an online course on how to keep a visual journal. Artists Studio Journal: A Designers workhorse aims to cover the nuts and bolts of working in a studio journal and is directly aimed at textile practitioners who want to use a visual journal as part of their design process. It covers how to catch and record ideas, explore them further, and push them to the next stage in the design process. I have assumed that work in the visual journal is being done in order to translate it into a textile medium. In other words the work done in a visual is part of the process but not the sole aim of keeping a journal.
Oh and about that photograph … these are my visual journals from the last decade there are more from further back … but they all bulge and this is as high as I could stack them without them toppling over. So I decided a decade of journals was enough.