One of the things I like to do in my little blank books is write down funny nonsense phrases. Things like:
French Toast Frenzy
The Parmesan Pals
What’s the point of this you might ask?
Amusement. We like to try and make ourselves laugh.
Sometimes we say something funny and I just write it down. Sometimes we actively try to create funny phrases. It’s actually pretty challenging. You say a lot of super stupid stuff. That in itself starts to be funny. Sooner or later a noteworthy phrase blurps out and you laugh.
Sometimes I have whole columns of these phrases, sometimes just a single one. Almost always they re-surprise me. They take me back. They fill me with a mixture of happiness and melancholy. They are a portal to all the past good times.
A book you have filled up yourself over the course of several months is a potent time capsule. Writing down funny things (or anything you write down) is a powerful way to recall the past. Rather than reminding me of my outer reality, it calls up my inner world, how I was thinking and perceiving. Photos are great and I enjoy remembering the events they capture, but if I am in them, my vanity is triggered, and I start thinking about whether I look good and how my looks have changed. So boring! I don’t want that. When I see silly things I have written down, it just makes me want to write down some new silly things. Nothing negative is triggered and I feel connected to myself past and present.
I have a brand new category – Art Journal. This is for writing specifically about the practice of keeping and filling up small blank books. I usually refer to them as little books but art journal is the more commonly used desgination so I am using that. I don’t care about journaling, I care about making blank pages non blank.
It’s really super important to me to have a place of artistic freedom. If you have no art practice at all, then any art may feel like freedom. But if you have an ongoing art practice, you probably experience some sense of being hemmed in. It’s not bad, it’s rather necessary for most elaborate pursuits. If you are knitting a sweater, you need to follow the pattern or it’s not going to fit. If you are editing a documentary, you need to have a story structure or it’s going to be incomprehensible, if you are cooking dinner, you need it to taste good or what’s the point? Artwise, we follow certain rules to get desired results. That’s good. A useful rule is very handy. I love rules. Especially the ones I have made for myself. I wrote all about it here: Rules. Can’t Live With Them. Can’t Live Without Them.
But I also yearn for adventure. I want to wander the streets blindly, not knowing where I may end up. I need a place to do that creatively. Small blank art books are that place.
I’ve been keeping a small blank book for decades. I like them small enough to:
Fit in a bag or pocket without being a pain in the ass.
Not be intimidating (not too much surface space to deal with, not so cool looking I’m afraid to make a mark)
The number one rule of the personal blank art notebook is no rules! If you feel like doing it you can. If you feel like doing it you should! The weirder and worse the idea sounds, the more likely you should do it. Otherwise how will you know? It’s so easy for our minds to tell us no, to make us afraid of failure. This is the andidote to that. This is a pocketful of yes.
The stuff you do in the black book is not there to impress you. It’s there to entice you. It’s not a museum, it’s a workshop. When you look at it you should be think, why am I so wild? When can I hang out with myself again?
I hate crumbs on a table. I like a clean table. Kitchen crumbs are no good, but they are the byproduct of doing kitchen stuff. Has anyone ever eaten without crumbs? No. And we love to eat so, hello crumbs!
In art, crumbs are a great reminder to use the kitchen. The kitchen is the studio or wherever, however, you are making art. Because we don’t have to make art the way we have to eat, we can sometimes prefer neatness to the point of nothingness. I think it’s a really good idea to actually see, with your eyes, the art tools and some of the art, to remind yourself to do it. To remind yourself you like doing it.
I just got a new blank book. It’s called Summer 2021 Fun Book. Can you guess why I named it that? It’s aspirational. I need to have more fun. And even more importantly, I need to honor the fun I allow myself to have. I need to not take it for granted. So, I am marking it down.
One way I am having more fun, and conversely, having less not-fun, is I’ve put an end to reading the news on my iPhone in the morning. Instead I am drawing a quick abstract in my fun book. I am currently doing them all in a grid style, so I hardly have to think about what to do when I am still coming to consciousness with the first coffee of the day.
As a world class guff giver, some grumpy part of myself will grudgingly grab the book and start grumbly about the point of it all, or the lack of point. What are you going to do with this abstract? What’s it for? Who’s going to see it? SHUT UP! It’s for fun you asinine loudmouth! It’s a crumb. It’s a trail of crumbs to lead us out of the forest of depression and anxiety back to the meadow, to the light, to love. It’s a gift to our future self. It tells us we care; we are brave, and we didn’t’ waste our life wondering but never trying. It’s not for anyone to see but me! It’s for me. It’s to save me from gloom. Now go get the bucket of markers, hit play on our Spotify Morning playlist and enjoy yourself for a change.