I don’t know how many visual diaries I have and I don’t know where they all are. My first experience with them goes back to my days at art school. Being a letter writer, I enjoyed recording my ideas and thoughts and plans for my artworks and I have continued that throughout my art career.
These days I send emails and blog posts rather than written letters, but the importance of visual diaries has never escaped me. I still enjoy documenting my artistic journey and whenever I can, I preach their value.
It really ‘came home’ to me at the recent Cairns ARTescape that visual diaries are an integral part of an art student’s development. A good habit begun early is one that will always stay with you and this is one chore that all artists should practice. But why?
Visual diaries contain more than working drawings and detailed descriptions of possible artworks. They are the opportunity for self-evaluation and ‘honest’ reflection. It’s the place to talk to yourself about yourself. It can be on a daily basis or at any time an idea occurs that needs to be recorded. Diaries are great when working ‘plein-air’, not only for sketches, but for written observations. Daily comments are often invaluable because they contain reflections of the previous day’s work.
The most important aspect of the diaries is that they are a reflection on who you are. They are often personal and rarely are they shared. When a high school and college teacher visual diaries were rated very highly not only for assessment, but they were cherished by most of my students. I was required to read all of them, but the comments I wrote about them were only shared with the author and no-one else.
Diaries were a major part of my beginners’ course at the recent Cairns ARTescape. The first thing each day and the last each afternoon saw my class making entries as well as note taking and idea planning throughout each day. The students’ reaction to the diaries was an overwhelming vote of confidence. In 5 days they had learnt so much about themselves as well as the art they produced.
What should a visual diary look like? These diaries can take the form of a sketch book, a lined pad, a folder, it can be hand-made and bound. Some diaries are themselves works of art, often containing hand-made paper. In fact
it can any form you like as long as they make sense.
Always date your entries for reference.
What do you put in a visual diary? In my diaries I write all of my ideas as soon as I have them. If a diary isn’t handy I write on pieces of paper and later they are glued onto a new diary page. I comment on things I’ve seen, I write statements about my work, not only after I have finished that particular piece, but sometimes before I begin its creation. I attach some of the photos I take, interesting articles on art and of course I ‘doodle’ a lot. The main stay though of my diaries, are the countless drawings I do in order to realise future artworks. Drawing is also great therapy. Some of my most innocent sketches have become major paintings or drawings.
I currently have 5 diaries of various sizes. A small one goes with me in my backpack when I fly and another one travels in my suitcase, larger ones usually stay at home in my studio. I even have one on our coffee table in the lounge room!
Never underestimate the value of these diaries; they are more than a collection of pretty pictures!