July 22, 2007 was the day I started painting again after a five-year absence. It was on my daughter’s sixteenth surprise birthday party that I pulled out a 36 x 36 x 1½ inch canvas which previously had been given five coats of gesso, was now finally being covered with various shades of acrylic crimson including a variety of other rich and deep yellows. The painting would later be finished in multiple layers oil paint that was thinned down with Winsor & Newton’s ‘Liquin’ in order to produce a smooth glass like surface.
After a couple of weeks the painting would be named ‘Symphony Number One—Red Dawn’ and this would be followed by two more paintings of the same size.
Two weeks later after having started ‘Red Dawn’, I began —what I consider now to be the most important tool in my arsenal of paints and brushes—a journal.
The next nineteen months these journal entries would not only reflect the progress of a painting, its technical challenges or ideas for others but most important of all, I began writing about creative issues and questioning what was my purpose for creating art in the first place, other than an internal urge to do so. Ultimately this then lead into my developing a personal mythology, including a set of symbols imbedding through the use of materials that then would begin to define my work, a process that still continues to this very day.
The journal does more than just record the events the artist sees fit to acknowledge, it is the very process of writing that one might consider to be the most valuable.
Consider for one moment that we contemplate our next step in a painting. There is no interaction of that thought other than it remains being a thought, while acknowledging the thought by putting ink to paper, we are engaging in a process where thought and writing are interacting as if in a conversation and the act of contemplation no longer remains a solitary event.
Keeping a journal or notebook will over time appear less as an unpleasant task but more like as if meeting and old friend and catching up on events over a cup of tea or a glass of port or wine, especially if a beautiful leather bound book is selected and a pen that not only feels comfortable, but fits in the hand effortlessly and glides over the page with ease. Even going so far as to set aside a time and place to when and where one has that conversation adds to the experience.
Give it a try and I promise you will wonder how you ever did without it.