Category: Journal ideas

Doodling matters

I have a small confession: I am self-conscious about doodling, but I really want to do it.

I can approach many illustrations or paintings with a degree of confidence, but the thought of making a page of doodles makes me balk. Not because I am prejudice against doodling, but because I was convinced I couldn’t do it; that I didn’t possess the skill or imagination to do even a passible job. It is a shyness I’ve found difficult to overcome.

What do I mean by doodling?

Sunni Brown, a creative superstar and author of The Doodle Revolution, which I am currently enjoying, rejects the dictionary definition of doodling as absent-minded scribbling and defines it as “making spontaneous marks (with your mind and body) to help you think”. This definition suits me better too and does go some way to demystify the act.

As much as I love getting lost in tight drawings, becoming engrossed in the fine details of a complex illustration, they can be rather stressful and time consuming. They require a particular state of mind and while they are challenging, they don’t necessarily challenge me to expand my drawing skills, nor do they utilise my expertise in daydreaming. They can be predicable, which is convenient, but lazy.

I picked up Sunni’s book in order to help me overcome my shyness, but it is also helping me redefine my attitude and expectations about doodling. It’s also helping me discover where some of that shyness came from. Unfortunately I grew up in an era when doodling in your exercise book was considered vandalism. These same adults pushed the notion that drawing was only for those with “natural talent” to be executed at appropriate moments in appropriate formats. Basically, doodles were ugly, unsophisticated and a waste of time. Even if I never adopted that belief about other people doodling, I felt I would be judged for my clumsy scribbles and no one would take me seriously. Fortunately maturity has a way of, not only changing the way you see of yourself, but also the way you feel about how you’re seen by others.

In other words, other people’s judgements aren’t my problem.

So I’m going to doodle and daydream.

I started out doodling just with a black fineliner and a black coloured pencil for shading, but felt I was boxing myself in using only one colour. The idea is to be loose and spontaneous. So I tentatively started adding colour without really caring about the consequences. I hope it will be filled with rainbow flavoured connections by the time I’m done with this notebook.

Kermit would be proud.

Sketchbook habits: prompts

When I start a sketchbook I make a contract with myself and I try to stick to these three Cs:

  • creativity – creativity begets creativity. Sketchbook often;
  • commitment – keep doing it often. Even if it’s not as pretty as you’d like, don’t give up;
  • carry on – Fill the sketchbook, stow it away somewhere safe and grab a new book or piece of paper.

But sometimes inspiration is lacking and it becomes an excuse to get lazy. So to keep myself accountable to a sketchbook habit I’m going to post daily prompts and share my journey. I hope some of these prompts inspire you too.

Today’s prompt is spiral

I chose to do a fossil ammonite:

Ammonite in pen and ink
© S M Egan

Travel journals from home

For many of us, even at the best of times, overseas travel is not an option due to work and family commitments and/or the insurmountable expense of going abroad, so we have to make do with living vicariously through others. But the current circumstances have made international travel all but impossible for most of Earth’s citizens. While in some places tourism has resumed, albeit with restrictions and caveats, the majority of countries remain closed to overseas adventurers. But that doesn’t mean we can’t still be adventurers, because, while we might be physically confined, our imaginations are not. All humans are equipped with this immense creative power: the ability to see with our mind’s eye. If your mind’s eye needs a bit of prodding, inspiration can always be found from photos of a long-ago trip lingering on a portable hard drive since you returned, unused and rarely viewed (I’m so guilty of this). Failing that there is always the internet with its myriad of images. There are plenty of sites for good quality free pictures. A favourite of mine is Paint My Photo, which photographers use to share their images with artists to paint or draw using traditional mediums. You can share within the community or on your social media profiles, or just keep it for your own enjoyment. Photographers in the community love seeing their compositions illustrated, especially if you have used it in an original way. It’s also a good way to get supportive feedback on your artwork and test your skills. Other free photo repositories are Pixabay, Unsplash and Pexels to name a few. (Side note: If you plan on selling your work it’s a good idea to check the rights and if you need the their permission. The penalties for copyright infringement are enormous, so err on the side of caution and make sure you know the rules).

In 2006 I went to Bangkok and Phuket, Thailand. I took hundreds of photos, but I’ve never had them developed and I didn’t keep a travel journal. It’s been a long time and my impressions are no longer fresh, so I’m not inclined to create artistic impressions from them, even post-dated ones. Nevertheless, the photos do give me inspiration and I can still use them in other projects. One such photo I found recently, shown below, is of a boat wrecked in the 2004 typhoon that devastated the entire region and changed the look of Phuket’s beaches. At the time, I took the photo because the wreck stood out and spoke of the significant impact the typhoon had on the lives and economy of the local community. The boat had been stripped of as much as possible, its parts reused to rebuild the community. When I looked at the photo more recently, though, I saw a whole new story and was inspired to use it to sketch a loose thumbnail for a project I’m working on. Though it’s not a faithful rendering of the photo, I wanted to capture that feeling of abandonment and raise some new questions about why it was there in the shallows of a populated bay. From this one photo, the thumbnail will be developed in to a two-page spread for a travel journal (with a twist) I’m working on.

A quick, slightly altered thumbnail of the boat
A photo I took from Ayuttaya in Thailand in 2006. I love it, but I’ve never done anything with it.

So, if you’re pining for the road, collect a bunch of photos from your own collection or the internet, pick up a pen and a sketchbook, and let your nomadic heart wander.