At last I have been able to work in the
garden; the soil is fit, the weeds have not yet overtaken me, and yet there is
so much to reclaim from last year's neglect. But my topic scheduled for this
week is the importance of keeping records - not lists or charts or annotated
plans, but diaries, journals and jotters. The former are of course vital, but
when I came to sort mine from recent years, I realised that they in no way
conveyed what I felt about the garden, my successes and failures; the feel of
the seasons, the scents, colours and sounds of the garden. And good food
enjoyed from produce we have grown ourselves.
|An ordinary notebook transformed with acrylic paint, peper napkin motifs |
and a white pen for the text.
I started keeping garden diaries many
years ago; for a long while they were just words, but then I began to add
photographs, and attempted to sketch as well. Somewhat laboured at first, yet
confidence grew as I experimented with various materials and techniques.
Notebooks proliferate; if I see a sketchbook that I like, I snatch it up. I
rarely start on page one; it’s less intimidating to feel you have spoiled a new
book because the title page didn’t quite work. All notebooks and sketchbooks
have different surfaces and weights of paper; coloured paper removes the fear
of sketching somehow.
|An ongoing project: Spring colours in a hand-made journal|
Sometimes I create my own journals, as
here, because then you can tailor the size you want, and sometimes even add
relevant scrapbook papers. For this one, prepared in advance of days away in
the caravan, I bought an inexpensive spiral bound sketchpad (A3-140gsm), ripped
out a quantity of pages, spread them on my workroom table and smeared them with
white poster paint, acrylics and colour spray. When dry, the pages were sealed
with ‘Golden Fluid Matte Medium’, cut in half horizontally and then sheathed
together loose, ready for adding text and illustrations. You need a waterproof
pen to write on the glazed surface; those used for garden labels are fine.
In spare moments, I experiment with
effects so that when the time comes to work in a given book, I am confident
that some ghastly disaster will not occur; though if it does, I can always
superimpose another piece of work. This experimental page was to see what I
could do if I stripped up and old book and worked over papers torn away from
the spine. (Some people work direct in a cheap, second-hand book – known as
‘altered books’; I find it slightly restraining as you constantly have to
interleave your work with baking parchment to protect the pages from glue and
paint spattering, and in any case, I quite like to stitch into the page, and
stitch around pairs of pages mounted back-to-back to make them stiffer.
|Experimental page exploring materials and techniques|
This was the case with this second
experimental page – a practice piece for a collaborative projects being
undertaken by a group of local friends. The pages will be a collage of fabric,
printed paper scraps and applied sketches; and because we are an embroidery
group there will be quite a lot of hand- or machine-stitching. Our gardens
inspire us, trigger our imagination. We will be working in A5 horizontal
spiral-bound sketchbooks, so will mount fabric-based pieces with ‘Golden
Regular Gel (matte)’ which secures pieces without damage to book or textile.
Many of my finished pieces use old maps
as a base – a strip is already pre-folded providing a zig-zag booklet all ready
for journaling. Though first a prep the map surface with a light coat of white
poster paint, just sufficient for the cartography to still be seen. I write
direct onto the finished page using a sepia-coloured Artist’s Sketching Pen (it
gives it a sort of antique appearance). Illustrations may be sketched coloured
with water-soluble crayons (Neocolor I), or as here, a paper napkin motif
applied to muslin or cheesecloth, trimmed and fused to the background with gel
|Up to the minute: a pocket-sized garden jotter|
My latest project is also paper based; I
designed some tiny packet-sized jotters that I could slip into my pocket when
working in the garden, to record rough random notes. Very easy to write the
text on the tough surface without sitting down; I left space for illustrations
which were sketched during a gardening coffee break. To make something similar,
take one sheet of 16”x12”
(40.6x30.5cm) 190gsm ‘cold-pressed/not’ watercolour paper. Cut the paper
vertically into four equal strips,
and cut each of those strips in two. Fold and collate the pages and
secure with a rubber band (though I used a small pony-tail hairband.
Is this really about gardening? Yes it is. Nearly
all that I do creatively is inspired by our eco-friendly garden and orchard.
Without the constant toil to keep the acre productive, the therapeutic benefits
of journaling, sketching and book-making would cease to exist. And you could do it, too. Don't be afraid to start - and for those who
wish to find out more about my journals and technqiues used, you are welcome to
visit my ‘Journaling the Journal’ blog. And in this post, click on any image to view it at a larger size.
Technology allows us to share so much, but I should be back in the garden, or allotment. Sowing and planting is now in full swing; we need to take advantage of the better weather, and longer evenings. Visit Dobies' website for all your gardening needs and requirements.
Labels: garden diary, garden journals, inspiration, jotters, sketches, therapy