Notes to Myself


I’ve used every sort of journal-book over the past decade, but the one I’ve returned to the most was the pocket-sized, drawing Moleskine. The paper is a little odd; it has a water resistant treatment designed, I guess, to make one’s page hardier in the field (I imagine them being tested in Amazon jungles and blustery Scottish heaths) which became quite frustrating when I first got into watercolors. I also got fed up with the size (3.5 x 5.5″) and wanted to do bigger and bigger drawings.
When I went to Amsterdam, I decided to bring a long a little Moleskine, though this time I used the new watercolor book.
My friend, Tom Kane, had made an observation to me a few months ago: that there is a huge difference between one’s approach to journaling in a bound book vs. a spiral bound book. Since I had been using the latter for the past couple of years, I discounted his distinction. But then I looked through some of my earlier journals and reconsidered. Tom’s main objection is a matter of commitment; he says that there’s a real sense of permanency to a bound book: the pages can’t be ripped out so one works more carefully. I think that’s true to some extent but I rarely tear out pages. For me the difference is that when a book is perfect bound, one can think in terms of spreads far more easily. Increasingly over the past year, I have just been doing drawings in the middle of a page and not thinking nearly as much in terms of design. lettering, writing, all the things that make for lovely journal pages.

My hiatus from this site and my change in materials have been all part of my growing unhappiness with the path I’ve been on. I would say I’ve been ‘pursuing’ this path but I haven’t been doing it consciously. Instead I have been ambling and stumbling along, not paying enough attention to why I’m going where I’m going, pursuing objectives I now question.
I began drawing in spiral books because they were easier to scan. In short, it was more important to put my journal pages into a computer, a book , a magazine, a website, that to record and cherish my life. Sure, these are not mutually exclusive goals, but increasingly I was making decisions about my art because of the pressure of external forces. That ended up making me unhappy. Drawing has brought so much to my life and suddenly I felt I no longer had that peace and pleasure. I was spending more and more time administering web sites, talking to people about teaching opportunities, doing interviews, planning sketchcrawls, answering email, and less and less time drawing,. My most recent journal seemed symbolic: a big, bright red journal, custom bound with gold letters on the cover. Cool in a way, but ostentatious in many more.
My ego seemed to have taken over. Not just in the sense of being egotistical, but in the sense that I was more preoccupied with what I was than with just being. I don’t need to spend every waking moment thinking about what other people think, though the temptation is certainly there.
Over the past couple of months, I have been far more productive and exploratory. I have brought journaling back into my everyday life, I have decided to think a lot harder about the opportunities that come my way and recognize that there are only 24 hours in each day and that my priorities are: my family, my health, my job, me time, and other stuff, more or less in that order.

I do not think that I am a particularly special person and see my own flaws without a mirror. That fact has made me uncomfortable with the idea of teaching or preaching or leading or even setting an example. I also have a deep and dark streak of judgmentalism that does little but cause me pain. As soon as I come up with some fantasy of what I am supposed to be, some vaunted, lofty burnished image, reality and my inner critic soon set me straight.
I don’t want to waste a day of my life. I want it all to matter. Life is not spiral-bound and I want to cherish as much of it as I can. At times that will mean laboriously scanning and annotating drawings; at others, it will mean shutting of my computer and slipping that comfortable little moleskine out of my hip pocket and drawing my lunch.