My little black book

Dear Artist, Like many artists, I’ve gone through periods of writing down fleeting thoughts in a little journal. Some of the entries are pretty personal — which I’ll tell you about later.

Sara’s Moleskines.
They come in other colours beside black.

Right now we have a worldwide viral epidemic of “gratitude journaling.” This is where folks put down a few nice things that happened during the day. A lot of the good stuff takes place under the covers at bedtime, and is not meant to be shared. As my daughter Sara says, “It’s not a journal, it’s a brain exercise.” Fact is, there’s considerable evidence it makes us into better people, maybe better artists. Sara just closed out last year’s Moleskine and started this year’s. The Italian company that makes these beautiful books with ribbon bookmarks, elastic closures and acid free paper follows a tradition started in Paris about 1850 by a small stationery company that allegedly supplied Vincent van Gogh, Pablo Picasso, Ernest Hemingway, Oscar Wilde, and Henri Matisse. The celebrated Australian traveller and Songlines author Bruce Chatwin used the little books so voraciously that in 1986 he bought up all copies then available. These books are more than journals. They’re a way of life — key, says the Moleskine promo, to “culture, imagination, memory, travel and personal identity.” Understanding that we become what we think, advanced Moleskiners avoid three main negatives — nostalgic regret, adherence to outcome, and fearful anticipation. These sorts of thoughts, common to all humanity, are banned from the tiny pages. Proper Moleskiners stick to a positive, optimistic outlook. I find mentioning things that no one else must know about, even if I have to erase it right after, to be particularly valuable. For example, last night I wrote, “Three square inches in the lower left centre of that 11″ x 14″ are rather excellent.” But I wouldn’t want this sort of flagrant boasting to get around. Keep it under your bonnet, eh? And even though I erased it right after, I wouldn’t want my journal and all that positive erased info getting into the wrong hands. Best regards, Robert PS: “To lose a passport was the least of one’s worries: to lose a Moleskine notebook was a catastrophe.” (Bruce Chatwin) Esoterica: Painter Nicoletta Baumeister uses her journal for another purpose: “A poem, haiku or a small drawing at night has the effect of driving all other thoughts away. The narrowed focus and purity of intent creates a sense of calm after a day of supersaturated activity. It also affords feelings of satisfaction, job well done, if only in the tiniest work, so that I slip seamlessly into excellent sleep. Too many people out there have insomnia!” Baumeister does it again in the morning: “Gratefulness thoughts in the morning light are about the setting of the daily lens. What will we take in, what will we seek and what is today’s sense of self? Feeling grateful puts my feet on solid ground, able to work out the next step; whereas, asking what I don’t have sets my day on a frantic course.”   Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson, MO, USA  

“Celtic Madonna”
acrylic painting, 8 x 10 inches
by Cathy Johnson

I have journaled for many years, have written numerous articles about the benefits in a variety of magazines, and am delighted with the success my latest book is having, in reaching my fellow artists with those same benefits. Artist’s Journal Workshop encourages the same kind of honest work… it’s not about art journals, which I either think of as elegant coffee table magazines or the kind of journals that are works of art in themselves. It’s about an artist, keeping a journal, and all the things and types and reasons and again, benefits that can involve.   There is 1 comment for Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson
From: Lanie Frick — Jan 11, 2012

Love your painting Cathy. I’m a MO gal too.

  Surrounded by negativity by Richard Gagnon, Knowlton, QC, Canada  

by Richard Gagnon

It’s amazing how we are surrounded by and seem to focus on negativity. There seems to be a rush to be the first to bring the bad news. I believe the press call it the ‘dead baby syndrome.’ The Eagles sing that ‘…she can tell you about the plane crash with a gleam in her eye…’ or words to that effect. I was grateful for a happy panda story on BBC News this weekend. The Moleskine concept is a great idea. To carry it a step further perhaps we should get into the habit of dragging out the good writings and reveling in them whenever negativity strikes. On that note I will get off to search for one of those little gems and start recording the good stuff. Later, I will get back to my day job in disaster management. Talk about surrounded by negativity.   Too much sharing going on by Rick Rotante, Tujunga, CA, USA  

“Not all work”
oil painting
by Rick Rotante

In my opinion there is too much “sharing” — especially on the Internet. Information that should never be shared on any level with anyone. Also, I am bored of those who admit the dark side of life. It’s equivalent to sticking your head in the ground at the first sight of danger. If you are an artist of any worth, you see the good along with the bad. If you choose to ignore the bad, you do so at your peril — but that is your choice and I don’t take issue. As humans living in similar societal settings, we all experience life’s ups and downs. I am not particularly interested in reading about it. Many more are. We’ve become a voyeuristic people, reveling in the misery of others. This shows us how superior we are or how much better off we are than those on TV. It explains the popularity of “reality shows” in America. (RG note) Thanks, Rick. We are in an age of democratic self-expression where even the lowliest millipede is encouraged to express himself. Indeed, he becomes vexed when he can’t. So I’m afraid we are stuck with an ever-growing barrage of verbiage (and paintage) for the near future. Maybe some over-lettered country will bring in the “Journaling Police,” where only those critters with something to say will be allowed to own a Moleskine. There is 1 comment for Too much sharing going on by Rick Rotante
From: georgianne fastaia — Jun 02, 2012

in response to OVERSHARING ON THE INTERNET and ART I believe that Social Networking can be a very powerful tool for Artists if used judiciously and in keeping with the true spirit of the word “social”. I will share an example of my successful use as well as an example of my disastrous misuse of the Facebook Platform. The following excerpt from my Facebook page reveals how posting an image of one’s art with enough relevant “back story” about the painting offers an opportunity to understand that art is not an abstract concept, a decoration, but a real conversation with the world. By talking about what inspired me, what is challenging in the painting process I hope to diffuse the mystery surrounding the making of art and the meaning behind my life’s choice. When posting my Art on Facebook I am always thinking about encouraging the dialogue between the artist(who functions as a translator of shared experience) and those who are not fluent in the language of art. Georgianne Fastaia remembered tobacco barns south windsor this painting is a recollected landscape from my summer picking shade tobacco age 14. from a high school friend, — Denise Marie Letendre “i really like this! there are still some left. whenever i go back to ct. to visit relatives i give the boys a little history of them when we drive by- which they know by heart now and are totally bored with- they used to be everywhere and what’s left stand like ghosts…” May 21 at 9:55am Erin Gyolai “i will never forget the tobacco barns… about working for your money! i remember the bus driver, his wife, and tall Monty!!” May 21 at 12:16pm · Carole Lund “Memories of Private Stock on Fridays. Haha!” May 21 at 7:05pm · Andrea Ginn Chalon “Monty! Forgot all about Monty! What a summer it was! Every time we are driving the back roads i can’t help talking about the summer spent tying and sewing tobacco…my kids just roll their eyes. I thought it was $1.14/hr thanks for verifying that Georgianne!” So yes, I will post news of Exhibitions and painting sales, but all within the greater context of engaging both Art lovers and those just curious about “what I did after high school”…with what is truly meaningful in how I spend my days. Before congratulating myself on my successful use of Facebook, this comment from a Collector illustrates the Achilles Heel of Social Networking:Laziness. At my recent Solo Exhibition, this man praised me but not before asking, “I love your work. I drove 40 miles to attend your show. So why do you hate me?” He explained that he felt I did not like him at all because the only way he found out about my events was through mass shares or wall posts on Facebook. I was guilty of using Facebook as a catch all, neglecting to answer emails from patrons, aware that “They can check my Facebook page” to find out where my next show is at. Needless to say, I answer every email now.

  The perfect sketchbook! by Brenda Swenson, South Pasadena, CA, USA  

Sketchbook and Purse

Oh, my gosh… you have now opened up conversation with the Moleskine community! When I bought my first Moleskine I thought it was a nice sketchbook and gave it a try. I went online and Googled Moleskine. What I found was a huge community of artists, doodlers, writers, musicians…

The pamphlet inside touted ties with Europe and history, with some of the greatest artists of all time. I liked the idea of working in a sketchbook that had a history built on tradition. I was under the assumption it was made in Italy. Imagine my surprise when I took the colored band off the book and noticed the very small type on the back. “Designed by Moleskine in Italy — Manufactured in China.” I still use Moleskines because I adore them. The book feels of quality, pages lay flat with stitch binding, cover is sturdy (protects artwork inside), it’s travel-friendly, and there’s a variety of papers and sizes to select from. Some of my greatest travel adventures and sketches are contained in the pages of these books. My only gripe is they only make the watercolor sketchbook in a landscape format. I became determined to have the normal format and size (8.25x 5.0 inches) which would fit into my travel purse. What I did was the unthinkable… I took the bandsaw to it. What I ended up with is the perfect sketchbook! I would much rather the company make it this size… but in the meantime, a girl must do what a girl must do. There are 3 comments for The perfect sketchbook! by Brenda Swenson
From: Diane Overmyer — Jan 09, 2012

Your comments are wonderful Brenda! They got me even more interested in beginning to keep an art journal. I have kept a lined journal that is doodled on in the margins, for years, but I love the photograph of your journal and am now looking forward to trying something similar myself. Thanks for sharing…loved the bandsaw bit also!!

From: Jackie Knott — Jan 10, 2012

In China last year I came upon a market store that sold plainly finished leather bound journals. The larger ones were fastened and bound by leather strings. I was thrilled to find something to journal/sketch in. As I sifted through them I never could find the size and thickness I wanted. They were either much too small and cute or so large and cumbersome as to be impossible to handle. One was school notebook size and over an inch thick — it weighed more than my purse. I walked out thinking, “No artist designed those things.” It was just another touristy thing to buy that looked cool but wasn’t functional at all. Oddly enough, the Chinese were swarming the place … and buying.

From: Brenda Swenson — Jan 10, 2012
  G.R.A.B and homemade tarts by Lynne Sawford, Petawawa, NF, Canada   When I come downstairs my first task is immediately to feed the birds, squirrels etc. and then I sit in a comfy leather chair overlooking the Petawawa River and the woods into Algonquin Park. Most days the doe and buck and nine wild turkeys and noisy blue jays, etc., visit the deer and bird feeders. It is in this quiet time that I multi-task by enjoying an excellent cappuccino that my husband has made. This cuppa is accompanied by two of my homemade butter tarts. Half way down the cup of coffee I start journaling in a quality journal with a nice ink pen. My first entry is to G.R.A.B. G is for the things I’m grateful about. R is the things I’m receptive to occurring that are in my control. A is for the things I ask for. B, as in be, is how I am going to attempt to proceed through the day. Most days I find that the g for gratitude is the easiest and most extensive entry in G.R.A.B. While in Rose Blanche, Newfoundland from May to October the pattern is similar except I write while overlooking the harbour. I have been writing three pages of 8 1/2″ x 10 ” for over thirty years, recording anything that comes into my head. I find my routine a harmonious way to start the day. And it isn’t just because of those two butter tarts, Robert.   Three rules of journaling by Damaris O’Trand, CO, USA   I have been an avid journal keeper since high school. One of the best books on journaling I’ve ever found is Writing Away by Lavinia Spadling. For those who write and draw, I recommend, An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory. And for artists who think some things are too awful to be recorded on the page, let me steer them to the two-volume graphic novel, Maus, by the Pulitzer Prize- winner, Art Spiegelman. Spiegelman also did the cover for The New Yorker magazine after 9/11. Four things: 1) when I was 16, a teacher saw me writing in my journal; he grabbed my diary and started reading it aloud to the class; I’ve never forgotten his name; 2) at age 23 after being beaten by my boyfriend who was in a drunken blackout at the time, I poured my heart out in my journal; later he read the entry when he sobered up; both events changed my life; 3) in my 40’s, while on a trip, I left my journal behind in a camp ground outhouse; my husband and I backtracked over a hundred miles so that we could rescue it; 4) in my 50’s, I kept journals as I watched my parents become ill and die. Last year, when I learned a friend had raped our next door neighbors’ nine-year old daughter, my journal kept me sane. There are only three rules for journal keeping: 1) Always have pen and paper handy. 2) Never edit. 3) Know where your journal is at all times.   Journaling the difficult and challenging by Rachel Webb, Ireland   I cannot agree with only using positive stuff in notebooks. For me, art is a way of exploring whatever I am feeling and thinking about — and sometimes that is not so positive. For instance, I have been dealing with a possible heart problem and waiting for an angiogram. I have been using meditation, the support of friends and family, connecting with nature etc. to deal with this stress — but have to admit I am also very frightened. I write this fear in my own notebook and am currently engaged in a self-portrait that explores my fear, my sense of vulnerability and my feelings of mortality. Surely this exploration has aided many artists to deal with their demons, to reach out to others who experience the same and also produce some great art. As a counselor I know that feelings cannot be denied. Although I do try to help myself and my clients to use gratitude and to challenge negative self-talk, I also know that suppressing negative feelings often leads to depression. Even calling these thoughts and feelings ‘negative’ might be a mistake. I try to think of them as difficult or challenging instead. We are animals and cannot over-ride our animal nature — which leaves us prey to adrenaline, cortasol and all the other body chemicals that lead us into fear, anger etc. Like you, I know that love and connection is a path to well-being and creativity, but we need to stop being afraid of our own darkness, our fear, our rage and our shadow. Our inner darkness is the lead that we, as artists/alchemists, can turn to gold. There are 2 comments for Journaling the difficult and challenging by Rachel Webb
From: Bobbo Goldberg — Jan 09, 2012
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jan 10, 2012

If it is all about sweetness and light, mental diabetes is inevitable. Life is not just a walk in the woods, (Russian proverb). To refuse to admit negativity to your consciousness and to work with it is the sublime negativity. You are setting yourself up for a good old gob smack.

  Illustration and fine art by Nader Khaghani, Gilroy, CA, USA  

“Cinque Terre, Liguria”
acrylic painting
24 x 30 inches
by Nader Khaghani

We love you and Sara for sharing your insights and intuitions with the rest of brothers and sisters in arms that is the brush in hand. I never get tired of saying that. Can you kindly shed some light in art versus illustrations? Of course both are arts but you know what I mean. My own understanding is the art work emphasizes the elements of design and surface quality verses the other more an idea. But what if the idea is strong in a painting? How close that gets to illustration? Do we need to feel guilty that we are more idea oriented? And trying to paint an image with an idea strongly presented? After all, idea is at the heart of paintings and yes I know Picasso’s statement that you can’t stick ideas on the canvas. He certainly did exactly that. (RG note) Thanks, Nader. The trouble with that thought is many illustrations are driven by ideas while some “fine art” is practically devoid of it. One needs to drop the loaded words and look at all visual efforts for what they are. As you are probably aware, there is currently a big collectorship for illustration, both historical and current. The new collectors, we are told, have grown tired of the vacuity of much of modern art and are busy collecting what they see as craftsmanship and skill. There are 5 comments for Illustration and fine art by Nader Khaghani
From: Casey Craig — Jan 10, 2012

When I was in an illustration class in college we had Murray Tinkleman come and do a presentation. He defined illustration as commissioned artwork that is to be reproduced in print or other forms of media and “fine art” is to hang on the wall. Nothing more, nothing less. I like your painting too Nader!

From: William Band — Jan 10, 2012

I also was an illustrator. My comment would be: you are hired to do an illustration and receive money within 60 days. You do a painting for your own pleasure and you might or might not make a sale and it is c.o.d.

From: Sharon Cory — Jan 10, 2012

Love your painting. I’d hang it on my wall.

From: Sheila Minifie — Jan 10, 2012

My own *personal* interpretation of the difference between illustration and fine art is that the former is generally not at all or less concerned for the aesthetics of painting and tends to be narrative driven while the latter is concerned with the aesthetics and reaches a deeper level of the psyche. I would say that despite the proliferation of abstract work and ‘nature’ paintings, that fine art is related much more to ideas, overt or covert. Of course in our current times, because of art school practices, the two do sometimes mesh together, so it’s not such a great dividing line as it used to be. As for graphics you don’t want me to get going on that…

From: Jane Brenner — Jan 10, 2012
  Suggestion for Robert by Priscilla French   I really enjoy these pithy letters you’ve created for all of us artists, both seasoned and budding. There are a lot of pragmatic gems (truisms) embedded in your twice-weekly material. Some of your letters I’ve printed out and posted on my studio wall for inspiration! But I have a 2012 suggestion: Would you consider a once-weekly letter? I think I’d find a weekly letter from you with all of its content to be enough spiritual sustenance. (I’m being complimentary here!) I can barely keep up with all the daily email I get, and we all get these days, with the reading/replying which takes so much time and takes us away from our painting! (RG note) Thanks, Priscilla. I know, I write to you too much. But for me it’s just so much fun — it’s like gratitude journaling — I’m addicted to it and I can’t get it stopped. Not right now anyway. And people can continue to use my letters and get benefits from them. Just the other day a woman wrote to say she printed them out and put them on the bottom of her bird cage. Perhaps, in your case, you might just delete me more regularly. It would be better for the environment if you did that. Birds are not good readers. There are 5 comments for Suggestion for Robert by Priscilla French
From: Sally Chupick — Jan 10, 2012

once again Robert, you make me chuckle…but thanks, as i am glad that you will continue twice weekly.

From: Kathy Kelly — Jan 10, 2012

I wait impatiently for that twice-a-week letter, Robert. It is amazing what you come up with and wouldn’t miss it for the world. I only have as many emails as I want, and I want yours.

From: Sarah — Jan 10, 2012

Your twice weekly letters are most definitely not “too much”!!! I love that you write two–I feel so enriched by your knowledge, your humor, your pragmatism, your erudition, and your encouragement. I tell all my artist friends that you are the best site on the internet. Please don’t change a thing.

From: Laurel Alanna McBrine — Jan 10, 2012

hmm, how about daily – that would be nice :) But, seriously, just thanks for what you do – I look forward to hearing from you as an old friend.

From: georgianne fastaia — Aug 10, 2012

re;priscilla,robert; my solution is to periodically type ‘genn’ into my yahoo mail applications search box. instantly all of roberts twice weekly letters are in one spot in my inbox. i then highlight them all and ‘move’ them to a permanent ‘to read’ mail folder.


Archived Comments

Enjoy the past comments below for My little black book

From: daniela — Jan 05, 2012

I have a different problem which is, that I just switch off and stop verbal cerebral exercise because I find it boring after awhile and limited, no matter WHAT words are doing that may even be important to listen/attend to, and it gets more like this for me, the longer I do any type of art and the longer I know musicians….words are just words are just words…I think I am lucky. (Just hope no one is trying to tell me about a tsunami or avalanche in an eloquent sort of way one of these days…)

From: Ib — Jan 05, 2012

So does the book self-destruct when we expire?

From: Nina Allen Freeman — Jan 06, 2012

Those Moleskine books are magic! You want to touch them because they feel good to hold. I can imagine them filled with interesting drawings and notes and when I see them in the store, I want to buy every kind they make. I have stacks of filled ones and love to look over the old sketches and words I put in them. You remind me that I have not picked up my current moleskine for quite a while. It’s been patiently waiting for me. Have I given it up for a hard bound? Maybe I went over to the dark side and am now using a spiral bound? No, I have just been too busy to seek out my favorite Moleskine and write down my thoughts.

From: Joe Rademan — Jan 06, 2012
From: Susan Kellogg, Austin, TX — Jan 06, 2012

On the rare occasions when I read my old journals, I can be embarrassed or amazed by my attitudes, my ignorance, my outrage, my insights, but it always seems like the same day…time is so fluid. Odd.

From: Melissa B. Tubbs — Jan 06, 2012

We are definitely what we think and focus on. Without being a Pollyanna, when we focus on the positive rather than the negative, we are not only helping ourselves but others too. It seals the deal when you write things down, including drawings. It’s like writing your resume. Until you start writing down all of your accomplishments you forget about how much you have actually accomplished. When you go back and re-read them it is confirmation that you are on the right track.

From: Bob Brendle — Jan 06, 2012

Writing on any available paper, those urgent messages from “out there”, is a practice of storage, as is nurture stored in leaves of trees…to confine them to journals and their ordered habits is ok. I prefer to allow the breezes to scatter them about my personal landscape to be occasionally discovered as food for new germinations.

From: ReneW — Jan 06, 2012

I’ve been using moleskin books for years. Mostly I like the smallest size that they make. They fit in my pocket nicely. I only put things of personal value to me. Drawings, sketches for future art works, art ideas, quotes, things like that. I am not into journaling although I’ve tried. Just does not do anything for me.

From: Virginia Andrade — Jan 06, 2012

The problem I have developed is becoming an addict to Journal keeping. 1. A personal journal and 2. An Art journal plus sundry work books, sketch tablets and the list goes on. Seems to me I am dissipating my energies by scattering myself too thin. Any reader thoughts on this sort of thing being overdone? On top of all this I now find out I am deprived of a moleskin. Help.

From: Karlene Kay Ryan — Jan 06, 2012
From: Albert Smathers — Jan 06, 2012

I like to keep a prayer journal, I record the answer to my prayers sometimes 2 to 3 years later…when it finally dawns on me they’ve been answered to His will. Thank you for your thoughts Robert. I share them with my art students often.

From: Alba Di Bello — Jan 06, 2012

I love my little black books and have long used them but I got into trouble when I started keeping separate books for different experiences, i.e. travel, responses to museum trips, lectures, working thoughts for projects, unlined for sketching, graph paper,etc. I think I need to go back to one book and simply label it with the time period covered.Thanks for the reminder about these books and Chatwin’s work.

From: Joan Fraser — Jan 06, 2012

Your letter on your journal and little black book was very enjoyable. In looking for one previously there are so many lined, unlined etc and a sketch book in the art supply store. I know it is a matter of preference but what do you choose. Thank you.

From: Judy Motzkin — Jan 06, 2012

Many light or fewer heavy pages? I am about to leave on a 7 week journey and cannot decide which paper quality. Any thoughts?

From: Joyce Cavanagh-Wood — Jan 06, 2012

I find two Moleskines are warranted; one a weekly agenda with pre-printed date pages, another small plain black for personal jottings. In the black one I write with a beautiful hand-crafted pen, using green ink! Real ink flows so smoothly on those lovely little pages…

From: Paula Timpson — Jan 06, 2012

yes~ creating on napkins, whatever it takes to remember the free ~flow of ideas that passes quickly into the Light~!

From: Georgia Mansur — Jan 06, 2012

Thank you for your lovely post, I also use the moleskine ‘little black books’ for sketching, journaling and jotting down notes. I believe Bruce Chatwin was actually English but did travel extensively in the Australian Outback, journaling his perception of the indigenous Aborigine people’s ‘Dreamtime’ and ‘Songlines’ meaning to their culture. I happened to read this book whilst travelling/painting in the Outback, Central Australia and the Northern Territory so I found it particularly interesting at the time. Thanks for all your wonderful insight and continued stimulus and inspiration.

From: Andrea Tiffany — Jan 06, 2012

So—–Moleskinners are Buddhists then.

From: Tatjana Mirkov-Popovicki — Jan 06, 2012

People like you, Sara and Nicoletta fascinate me. I feel like you are a different kind of being. I am terrified of journals and for the longest time even resisted putting down my appointments in a calendar. I always felt that recording my thoughts would take something from me that I can’t spare. Interestingly, I always loved writing letters with intent to explain something to someone, but never just for myself. For example, I am curious why you needed to write that thought which you then erased. How come it wasn’t enough for you as a thought? Do you ever read what you wrote in the past? That’s what scares me the most, as if my old thoughts would somehow corrupt what’s evolving and hold me back. Also I wonder if your love for moleskins has anything to do with your hatred of moles?

From: Apryl Zarfos Anderson — Jan 06, 2012
From: Susan G Holland — Jan 06, 2012

Secretly, (not sensibly) I hope that the things I write in big or little journals will be read and that they will go on record to great acclaim accompanying my enormous fame when people see the secret masterpieces I have not put out there for the world to discover. I am sure I will die an undiscovered starving artist, and I am sure I have written about this fantasy somewhere. My books contain bright things, but also dark things. It’s good to get the dark things out on paper so they can’t hurt me, you know. What I really believe will happen to the moleskins is that some nostalgic member of the family will collect them in a box and stash them away, unwilling for these personal writings to be lost, but also unable to spend a lifetime full of hours reading them. I have my mother’s little books. I look through them, but have never read all the pages. It would take a lifetime! Do people go back and read these, or is it that there is always a fresh page to write on? I have bound notebooks from my college years that document all my avant garde “aha’s” and the Sturm und Drang of young adulthood. Later, children got in the way of my self-absorbed writings. I collected kids’ art in piles of disintegrating paper, though, and won’t part with them. Now I blog instead. Does that count?

From: Randall Cogburn — Jan 06, 2012

I lost one of those Moleskine sketchbooks the watercolor version. Well not lost more like stolen right out of my car. I was upset for at least two weeks because i had some really good watercolor sketches in there. It also had my professional watercolor paint in there along with the $40 zippered leather case that’s extremely hard to find. Luckily I found another but it’s just not the same as the first. I have a whole drawer full of those sketchbooks. Even made some of my own with Fabriano watercolor paper the good stuff :) Now my sketchbooks are more like 5×7 or 6×8 planks slathered with oil paint :) Let’s see them take that.

From: violetta — Jan 06, 2012

The archeological dig in some future time makes me giggle – “some of them were documenting everything.” People do this with cameras, too…get off some form of transport, all other senses lost, buried, or suppressed, and click, click, click, documenting it instead of living the moment or sharing it?! I think we are all mad – no one really meets anyone else, too much in a rush to go some place and text, email, facebook. It is like making sure we are not really here.

From: Jean Thielen — Jan 07, 2012

I am a cancer survivor (6 years). Being a watercolor artist and teacher greatly helped my recovery along with the support of my family, friends and students. I was planning on starting a note-sketchbook this year. Your suggestions are so very helpful I am getting a Moleskine sketchbook.

From: Leonard Skerker — Jan 07, 2012

I find ideas flooding up when sitting strapped in a plane. Notes from these trips are very useful. Perhaps we should convert a small room or closet into simulated aircraft interior for convenience and to save cost of flights.

From: Mel Davenport — Jan 07, 2012

During the 70-90’s, preschool teachers like me were taught to push self-esteem, and today we have the second generation products of those years. Teens in my Art Classes in high school are so full of themselves that they rarely value, much less heed, artistic instruction, sometimes feeling that education of any kind is worthless. If they have a cell phone and a computer, they are ready to face whatever comes to their lives. I somehow wonder if I felt that confident when I finished my first “typing” class and faced the new working world of women of the 60’s. I teach high school Art now and I encourage my students to keep their dated artworks forever, no matter what they think of it. When they ask “Why?” I respond with “for your posterity.” I’ve been saying this for many years, and yesterday one student said, “I have drawings my grandmother did in high school.” Her eyes glowed with pride as I asked her what she thought of them. “She was very good,” was her reply, but there was an overlying strength in her words, a confidence built by that other generation of “artistic journaling.” I’ve begun to save, date, and catalog my artworks and photos of my artworks, meager and amateurish as they are, for my granddaughter, who is still an art education major here in a Texas state university. Someday she may be able to use them as samples in an Art class, but more importantly, she will have inherited the strength of my years of experience and see and have examples to show her classes the small steps of growth through a lifetime. Word journaling was one of this New Year’s Resolutions, but I’ll continue to encourage artistic journaling. The only artistic inheritance I have are pieces of molded ceramics done by both of my grandmothers. Each example is amateurish, but a priceless treasure to me. When I put my hands on these pieces, I can see their faces, smell their fragrances, somehow feel their hearts. Artistic journaling, indeed!

From: Anonymous — Jan 09, 2012

Violetta hit the nail on the head for me. I don’t journal and I don’t use social media. Friends that I used to socialize with are not available any more – all too busy “with life” – be my FB friend they say, or read my tweets. Some do daily paintings and want me to read their blogs. It’s getting awful lonely around here. I would like to see my friends, go for a walk together, or for a cup of coffee, go gallery hopping as we used to. Everyone is too busy for that kind of stuff, but hours go by clicking the keyboard… They seem happy with their devices, and there are fewer and fewer of us who prefer to communicate directly with humans.

From: Zev — Jan 09, 2012

I don’t care for any kind of writing – paper or computer. I like to talk and to listen – that makes me feel alive.

From: Ellen Chow — Jan 09, 2012

The only thing I read is this thing.

From: Rick Rotante — Jan 10, 2012

I regret not keeping a journal of my journey in art. As a young man I thought it pretentious of me to consider anything I had to say about art meaningful. I struggled and suffered in silence trying to figure it all out. I didn’t relate my life as being equivalent or as important as the great artists I admired and aspired to paint like. I didn’t keep a journal. With time and experience, as a young man researching the history of artists, I began to understand that if these artists hadn’t recorded their thought and beliefs, the world would never have known their struggles and triumphs with creating their art. The inner turmoil most suffered to achieve the successes we now take for granted in churches and museums. Works we see so often we forget the origins of what it took to create them. Many of these artists didn’t have the means to create without the generous monetary contributions of nobleman and clergy, so they wrote into journals their ideas for a time when they could get the opportunity to show their talents. I now know of their disappointments and suffering, because of their journals or the journals of those who knew them. Great works were hard to create and many masterpieces would not have been had it not been for their struggle and perseverance–of minds that also thought they too were not worthy of doing great things. The men and women we consider masters painted works that attempted to explain the world they lived in and their place in it. They were concerned with the mystery of humankind and tried to put a face on the unknown in nature. They portrayed man as he should have been; as he strived to be– to live up to the notion that we are created in His image. Society today moves so quickly, many don’t take time to sit and record our thoughts. To be an artist in any era was not easy. It is not easy today. The purpose and reason for creating art today has altered irrevocably. Much of what has been created before and after the Renaissance is considered passé today– clichéd or antiquated. After all, we have unraveled the human genome; traveled to other universes; replaced body parts and have–within our grasp–the possibly to create life itself. We have discovered most of what there is left to be discovered. So what purpose is there for art today if not to postulate these questions? How do we get to the artists that produce work that only reflects our mundane existence and doesn’t ask important questions? What are the questions for today’s artists? What purpose should art now occupy? In this fast paced disposable world, who is taking the time to record their thoughts about art? If no one is writing down what it means to be an artist in today’s world–future generations will be more in the dark than they realize.

From: Ann — Jan 10, 2012

Rick, you can still write your memoirs. Many people did that and many of us are grateful for that. I think that art is important and valuable as ever. If you look at any of the portraits you have done for example, look at the face you have created – nothing and nobody else can make that. Our art may be a drop in an ocean, but so is any of us. Some genius convinces the world that he is bigger than he is, makes more money, gets more breaks…so what – we all are moving in the same direction, we all die and get forgotten. How many kids these days know who mother Teresa was? How many people any of us touched, with or without journals and memoirs? Have no regrets, all that matters is that we do the right thing that we can.

From: Raynald Murphy — Jan 10, 2012

I’m confused. I spent three weeks in Europe in October; was on a 12 day cruse which visited 12 major cities and spent a week between Florence and Venice. I painted 108 pages of watercolor and filled a sketchbook. I met no other artist sketching on site or journaling as I was not even on the ship. Yet many locals curiously came over to see what I was drawing or sketching which leads me to believe I was a rarity. Yet I get the feeling that there are so many journaling artists. Where are they if not in these populated European cities? I must be blind!

From: Valerie VanOrden — Jan 10, 2012

I journal for several reasons. It’s cheaper than psychotherapy, quieter than screaming, and it’s funny when you read it back after the fur and feathers have settled. It’s corrective when you read it to your spouse, sharing your feelings as you dare. Throw out a “ladyfinger” and see how he reacts, then go for the roman candle. I don’t read my journal to Paul my hubby that much. My husband is dyslexic and cannot read. One more reason I can journal to my heart’s content and not worry about loss of privacy. Yes, be grateful, be positive, but pepper it up with your true feelings and then later review just what tics you off and promise yourself to correct the situation if you can. Pray about it. So, this is my take on journaling. I have make-up bags with colored pencils, stationary, and other drawing, painting instruments in them, which I throw in the car and take to the restaurant or coffee shop and embarrass my spouse by taking out and doing indoor landscapes. This also is way to journal. It is a record of where I have been, in pictures.

From: Christie — Jan 11, 2012

I have a visual journal. I don’t use it every day, but I draw and write at least 5 days a week. I have made a choice to keep it as positive as possible because I need to be reminded that things are often far better than I think they are. In the years I have been doing this, my drawing has gotten better and so has my outlook. I am more forgiving of my errors and definitely more confident in my drawing skills.

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011012_robert-genn Michael Chesley Johnson workshops   The Workshop Calendar provides up-to-date selected workshops and seminars arranged in chronological order. 


mixed media, 24 x 30 inches by Karen Blanchet, AB, Canada

  You may be interested to know that artists from every state in the USA, every province in Canada, and at least 115 countries worldwide have visited these pages since January 1, 2013. That includes Alison Aldrich of Fort Worth, TX, USA who wrote, “I am curious where to find a Moleskine as they sound very nice and must be affordable if Vincent Van Gogh had one.” (RG note) Thanks, Alison. I’m sorry that we do not supply Moleskines. Lots of folks put in their order which we were unable to fill. Amazon has an excellent selection of Moleskines, although readers have reported that a few sizes of the specialized 2012 books are sold out.    

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