A visual diary can be as simple as a blank page notebook, or a hardcover book made with good quality robust paper, or as complex as a large folio which requires a wheelbarrow and a friend to help you move it. I have a friend who uses their phone to take colour notes and snap images in a similar way to a physical diary. And hey, we don’t discriminate here - whatever works for you is what you should use. Usually you’ll find more than one way of documenting things that take your fancy. I’m extremely disorganised so for any advice on how to keep it “ordered” you’ll have to head to a different blog :)
You can keep a visual diary to record notes, colour swatches, ideas for inspiration, flashes of colour that you want to remember, ideas for paintings, poetry or cutouts that inspire you somehow, or any combination of these things. Or, anything we haven’t thought of here. Your visual diary is a great thing to take with you when you’re travelling.
So why keep a visual diary? If you’re anything like me, the world is full of inspiration, and my head has limited hard drive space. Sometimes it’s almost physically painful trying to remember all the stuff you may or may not use later on. At least if you’ve got it there with you, you can take a couple of notes or a quick thumbnail sketch to jog your brain when you’re back in the studio.
Another reason for keeping a visual diary is to document your progress as an artist. This will happen quite naturally as you fill up your diaries. When you go back a couple of years later you’ll discover a) all the amazing ideas you haven’t developed yet, or b) how much your perspective and technique has changed since then. Or c), you may wish to burn them and hope no-one ever attaches them to you or your name. This will also signify some growth as an artist.
One of the main benefits of keeping a visual diary is the meditative aspect of it. It’s well documented that keeping a diary is good for your mental health. Therefore it stands to reason if you’re also sketching, using colour and sticking pictures into your diary, your mental health will only benefit! And let’s face it, we could all be a bit more mentaller ;)
There are also some really beautiful diaries out there that are simply a pleasure to look at/write/sketch/paint in.
You don’t need any fancy equipment to keep a visual diary - an A5 visual art diary from your local arts supplies store - or smaller - is really handy. You can keep it in your handbag (or man bag - don’t judge, I have one - it’s great. And after brain surgery, also a necessity.) along with a B sketching pencil.
If you want to get a little bit fancy, get a little pencil case to go with it and pop a few watercolour pencils, a small paintbrush, and a couple of copic or artline drawing pens. Add a kneadable eraser, a stick of charcoal and some double sided tape and you’re all set for any situation you want to document.
You also don’t need to have a particular skill level to keep a visual diary. They are just notes - just for you. No pressure. You never need to show anyone. Just record anything and everything that lights you up. You never know when it’ll come in handy. For a painting project, a renovation project, a gift for someone; or anything you want to create. I like making furniture from recycled timber and often do quick sketches of designs that take my fancy (What? It’s called inspiration :p).
Keeping a visual diary is relaxing, therapeutic, and so beneficial to your painting process. If you don’t have one already what are you sitting here for? Go get one today!!
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