Keeping a Painting Journal

150-painting-journal.jpgWhether you’re a person prone to keeping a diary or not, keeping a painting journal can prove to be invaluable. Placed near your easel while working in the studio or close at hand while out painting on location, a painting journal allows for notes and observations to be recorded while they’re fresh in the mind.

Some artists prefer to keep daily records much like diary entries. They record the happenings of their artistic day and make note of what they hope to accomplish tomorrow. Others prefer to record thoughts specific to an individual painting by writing down technique notes and conceptual goals specific to an individual painting. This reminds them of where they left off when last they painted, making it easier to slip back into a painting. I prefer to do a little of both, making notes of the painting day from a philosophical perspective as well as recording technical painting notes to spark my memory when I return to the easel.

To record these thoughts, find a book that meets your individual needs. If you plan to make written notes exclusively, a book designed for journaling with lined or blank pages may be sufficient. If you plan to make sketches along with notations, an artist quality sketchbook will be required. A standard run-of-the-mill sketchbook will work for most pencil work. If you plan to do ink or watercolor sketches, a heavier weight paper should be considered. A few years ago I discovered an 8.5×11 inch “Note Sketch Book” made by Bienfang (available at Dick Blick and other art supply outlets) that has worked very well for my studio journal. The pages are divided with one part lined for writing and the other left blank for sketching. They are available in a couple of sizes with the division being either horizontal or vertical. This allows me to make notes, along with a sketch or color notations on the same page. When out on location, I tend to use a sketchbook with heavier paper since I often do a series of value thumbnail sketches with ink markers and the ink will soak through lighter weight paper. Notes can be made on the facing page to the sketch.

No matter what means you employ for journaling, doing so will prove invaluable in the future. Reading back over the entries reminds us of what we were thinking when we were in process with a specific painting and the ability to reminisce about just how far we’ve come in our painting.


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2 thoughts on “Keeping a Painting Journal

  1. Lee McVey

    Richard, what a great idea. I’ve never thought to keep a journal along with my sketch book. Thanks for writing on this particular topic.

  2. Casey Klahn

    Since I just recently decided to keep a studio journal, I have experienced ups and downs. One problem has been using the notebook for an interim inventory, and all of a sudden I lost track of the journal part. I found out that keeping specific goals for this tool is going to be helpful.

    Thanks for this post, Richard. I very much like the idea of a ruled/sketch book combo.