Thursday, March 18, 2010

Technique Journals

I’ve been pondering technique journals for awhile, now.

A technique journal is a place where you play and with different techniques, but also where you note HOW you did something…that would be what works, what doesn’t, the steps you follow, etc.

This is different than an idea journal or an inspiration book because it is filled with things already tried, as opposed to things you might want to try or that inspire you to try.

Its different than an art journal in that art journaling is about journaling, where a technique journal is about the techniques with which you play.

I think artists sort of naturally keep logs of their work, but don’t necessarily note what works and what doesn’t or why a particular project got abandoned. Scrapbooking as an art creates a technique journal as you create pages. I don’t know if most scrapbookers do this, but I put a little label on the backs of my pages with the supplies and techniques used so that I can have ready reference later.

Certainly the advent of digital has made it easier to keep technique journals in some sense. Digital brushes are saved, colors stored and photographic actions are recorded as a matter of course when creating digital art.

I’ve somehow always assumed that teachers and home-schoolers are naturals at technique journals. I imagine them having vast files of “things that work” stored away in notebooks, journals, or file boxes. I suppose I come at this assumption very naturally. My mother is a teacher and can to this very day look at cookie cutters, markers and a hole punch and concoct an absorbing craft for my 3 year old based on some technique she’s used with students in a classroom.

My grandmother kept gardening journals. These are technique journals of the most detailed kind….what kinds of seeds were used, where were they purchased, where in the garden where they planted, what was in that same spot last season, how were they planted and cared for, what was the weather like, what sort of extra attention were they given, what was the crop yield. You can see that journaling a technique under these circumstances is a huge amount of valuable information for the next season.

My assumption is further reinforced by homeschoolers such as Amy Anderson who has been digitally storing her own technique journal via her blog (she wouldn’t necessarily call it a technique journal, but I am.). She has parlayed her vast collection of things tried into a successful blog and on-line business. When she’s discussing a particular technique, she tells you all about what materials were used, how they were used, whether or not it works, what sort of variations she might do, and she always posts pictures of the resulting work. For example, here are pictures of the happy experimentation her daughters did with bingo daubers:



Because technique journals are the place where an artist stores work in process or ideas tried but not necessarily successful, they are hard to find on the internet. Artists don’t necessarily show works in process or divulge the secrets that might make their art different from others.

I came across these in my pursuit of what a technique journal might look like in real life:

Heidi Swapp posted her technique tag book from Ranger University. I found this an inspired idea – using tags to try an idea out, jotting some notes on the back and then putting them on a key ring. This could be a hugely successful way to store “trying” without taking up much in the way of space:




Patti Van Dorin has a post about a fabric/quilting journal. This thing is so lovely! Her blog is about art journals, so you may find tons of inspiration there if you go take a look.


The Fancy Pants design blog has this wonderful flower techniques album by Jolene Pienaar. I thought this was the most amazing idea – a technique book dedicated to a very specific area.


Marie Wise has an amazing set of posts about the color pallets she tries out for paintings…it resulted in these technique pages:



I have a friend who is a card maker who gave me instructions for a card technique in a most unique way - she printed the technique instructions inside a simple card then did the technique on the outside of a card. Sorry, I don’t have a picture of that one readily available, but you can imagine how this might turn itself into a sort of technique catalog.

I haven’t bothered to keep a technique journal up to this point. But I’m considering it. Mostly because I don’t often get the opportunity to just play and when I do, its hard to pick up where I left off.

It seems to me that I would have an easier time of finding my groove if I could pull out my technique journal and look at what I was trying out last time I had a few seconds to spare. It would also give me an opportunity to evaluate sketches, products or tools or to mature my own style.

Its also a reminder of artistic growth and maturity…how have I grown as an artist? What have I tended to shy away from? What have I embraced?

I think it would be an interesting exercise…

What do you think?

Peace, ya’ll!

1 comment:

Enjoy the Ride said...

Totally! I just made a Junk Journal in the hopes that I would finally have a place for all the odds and ends that I don't scrapbook but can't bring myself to throw away... and when I was making it I thought... I could use this to try all of those Ranger and Tim Holtz techniques without feeling I'm going to ruin a real scrapbook page. But now... I just might create a seperate "journal" for those "practice" or "try" sessions. Thanks for the idea and all the info. I say, go for it!