I am giving a presentation tomorrow, and am therefore being overwrought about it.
So much time management advice declares The One True And Efficient Way to do things. It’s all very appealing in a sort of model home way, but it rarely plays well with my actual life and brain (no storage space, for one thing). And even when I’m at my most organised, I will still find something to stress about.
Yes it should be more energy-efficient to never have to panic, but it turns out performative alarm is part of my process. And fighting against that inclination is exhausting.
What has worked best for me: scheduling panicking time. That way I get to both hyperventilate AND check “be dramatic” off my list.
Let’s get back to the making things type of Observation Journal page. The first half of this post is about the approach to an exercise, the second half of it is the resulting list of some possibilities to use foil on book covers.
I’m a fan of the twenty things exercise, either starting with an object and working out twenty uses for it (my dad used to make us do this on long car trips); or starting with a question and listing twenty answers.
I think it’s fun, and it’s also interesting to watch the process of ideas being pushed through different barriers — for example:
with the “twenty uses” version there’s often a point where the obvious gives way to the interesting and then to the ludicrous and then circles back to the intriguing;
with the “twenty problems” variant it loosens my grip on the first/obvious choice I imprinted on (even if that turns out to be the final choice, it’s usually stronger for a bit of objectivity).
This is also why I’ve kept the self-reflection panels on the observation journal pages. Not just to do the exercise, but to step back and watch myself doing it, and learn. You’ll see here I noted on the side that “20 really is the magic number. 11 is where I had to look further/do more research.”
This page was also for a cover — in this case for Juliet Marillier’s Mother Thorn, for which we had the opportunity to use foil on the cover of the special edition (out in April). But I hadn’t designed specifically for foil combined with a silhouette before. So I made this list of 20 WAYS WITH FOIL TREATMENTS. (The activity is also great for tricking yourself into working on something.)
Here’s the list (excluding the running commentary to myself alongside). It’s project-specific and non-exhaustive:
GOLD on BLACK (or colour)
BLACK on GOLD
Gold-limned silhouette on coloured ground (almost calligraphic)
Gold base/border on coloured ground
Foil highlights in silhouette design
Above plus gold background (2)
5 plus flyaway bits in foils
Fine foil pattern supporting coloured silhouettes
Black on colour, gold lettering
Gold support/background for lettering
Colourised/textured silhouette with foil ornament bits
1 but with many cut-out details
Multi-silhouettes, different foils
Silhouette (black on colour) surrounded by drawn foil pattern
Gold effect on blue texture
Gold silhouettes, deeper-coloured shadow
Black on colour. Only important details picked out in foil (e.g. figures, coins, birds).
Border in one foil, title in another
Foil silhouette on coloured ground with overlapping white title square
Spot gloss blacks with foil lettering background
You’ll see that my terminology here is not particularly technical! That’s one reason for accompanying it with sketches. Ballpoint drawings aren’t hugely informative for foil/colour treatments but did help me to think through the practicalities, and whether an idea reminded me of something I’ve seen elsewhere, or made me feel (to quote) “ugh”, at least for this project.
The next step (square box on the side) was to do a test version, to run through a few of these.
The final cover used approach C, which was a combination of 11 and 5, although there was briefly a 19 in the running.
20 Things: Pick a handy object (or something you’ve seen today). Come up with twenty uses for it.
This could be as light-hearted as 20 Uses for a Plastic Fork.
It’s good for car trips and working out how your friends think, but it’s also good practice for just thinking sideways.
Afterwards, it can be useful to note where the ideas got more difficult, or sillier, or if you know where some of them came from. This is interesting, but you
It can also be useful for turning objects in a story into plot (or other things).
20 Ways: Think of an aspect of a project that you are stuck on, or something you’d like to play with but haven’t quite managed to, and list 20 Ways To Deal With It.
I find this more useful when the initial problem is narrower — 20 Ways to Tell A Short Story is fine, but I can get past 100 without breaking a sweat. 20 Ways to Tell A Short Story In An 8-Page Accordion Booklet forces more invention. (These examples are from current pages of the observation journal, and I’ll get to them in time!)
Like Ten Terrible Things, I find this lets me have fun exploring options without feeling like I have to commit to any of them, or abandon my early ideas. The list is the point.
Sometimes your first instinct will still have been right, but you’ll be more certain of it (and have stress-tested it, and maybe come up with some new ideas for future projects), and you’ll have released your stranglehold on it a little, too.
I finished approximately 79 books, not including manuscripts for illustration (or at least, the ones I couldn’t talk about yet). You’ll see I got through a lot of 2020 on midcentury murder and Regency and adjacent romance. 15 books were rereads, and many of those were Heyers. It doesn’t include a lot of art books, although I do want to sit down and read them more traditionally more often.
I was trying to do sketches or fanart for each book, but that thinned to a single broadly thematic image over the year. I still like the idea of doing it, but we shall see.
Here’s the list, including links to the individual “Read and Seen” posts, some of which include fanart and occasionally some thoughts on the books (they also show up in Observation Journal posts from time to time).
The *asterisks are for books which did something (style or trope or idea) I’m still thinking about.
Mistletoe Wishes: A Regency Christmas Collection (The Winter Wife, Her Christmas Earl, A Pirate for Christmas, Mistletoe and the Major, A Match Made in Mistletoe, The Christmas Stranger) — Anna Campbell.
One of the unexpected results of the observation journal project was that it provided a thread through 2020 — something colourful holding it together, and occasionally a way to work out what was happening.
I’ve mentioned several times that the journal helped me to clarify (and work around the fact) that I don’t enjoy extended introspection (see e.g. Observation journal: flirting with contagion, and soothing with reflection and the links there). But from time to time the journal was a usefully contained place to work out why I felt a certain way (instead of analysing stories and motifs about which I felt strongly, which was more fun).
These two pages were a week apart. The context was April 2020.
On the first, I was trying to work out 10 WAYS TO ACTUALLY STOP AND NOT FRITTER:
My go-to emergency relaxation/circuit breaker is going to the movies. (It’s air conditioned and you can’t wander off and do something else around the house and sometimes there are large explosions). Making a list of other available (and actually relaxing) options was… not helpful, in that most of my go-tos had vanished. There was no-one to sketch, and the cafes were closed, and I couldn’t meander on errands, and most other options either ran up against or turned into actual work at some point.
It was illuminating, though. I never quite worked out better alternatives (my housemate and I did watch a lot of Midsomer Murders and Miss Marple). But it made me realise that although I thought I was already working from home, I really wasn’t.
This led to the page below, in which I was TRYING TO FIX WORKSPACE.
I had worked from home, yes, but actually from two desks, both sofas, both ends of the kitchen table, bed, and (for various purposes) the spare room and store room. I’d also been working from my desk at uni, other people’s offices, several classrooms, two campus cafes, two local cafes, etc, etc, and quite often those each served a different project. (The eagle-eyed will also spot at least 11 categories of project, and conclude that might be TOO MANY, but it took me a bit longer to work that out.)
But I’d also been living alone for a couple years. In January my new housemate moved in, and then of course everything outside shut down and my housemate also suddenly had to work from home (none of this is a complaint — we’ve had a great year). So my working space was compressed to one desk, one sofa, one end of the table, and bed. Which is quite a lot of room, really, if I’d noticed what was happening. But I didn’t, and all the projects began crowding each other, mentally and physically.
Just realising this — sketching it out on one page and going oh — helped a lot. My mind was a bit cacophonous in April 2020.
The best practical/physical changes turned out to be as follows:
I took everything that wasn’t a computer off my desk. This created the illusion of elbow room.
My housemate and I both bought some rolling caddies (a la the RÅSKOG, and off-brand equivalents).
Each trolley was assigned a broad project category (i.e. general art supplies/admin/teaching).
The trolleys were herded out of the way at night. By day, the relevant trolley would be dragged alongside the relevant space, creating the illusion of a dedicated workspace.
We also bought a TV (my first for about 8 years!) and a rolling stand, so it could be trundled into place for Evening, and back out of the way for work.
Some exciting news about a project that’s been a rumour for a while now. Angela Slatter‘s story Flight, with illustrations by me, is being published by PS Publishing UK, and is currently in layout and design mode.
consider the sort of effect those events might have on the project/idea; and
come up with at least 3 possible variations to the idea in consequence of that impact.
So, for example, you might be planning a cocktail bar. The big local news, however, is about an unprecedented rise in the crocodile population in the area! So you might make sure your bar is crocodile-proofed, and offer crocodile-trained security escorts to and from the carpark, and/or build a viewing platform and sell crocodile-themed cocktails. And silly as that is, it does prompt lines of thought about safety and aesthetics and marketing.
However this was at the end of March 2020, so current events (postal delays and lockdowns and the economy) seemed more all-encompassing than they had been used to. That made the activity feel very earnest, and therefore (in my opinion) inclined to be a little wearying. (The project I was trying it out on was a deck of creative prompts, and the silliest/best lockdown idea was to use the cards as exercise prompts.) I still think it’s a useful exercise/stress-test. But crocodiles would have been more fun.
A lesson I learned from doing the activity, unrelated to the point of the activity itself, was to not rule out listing duplicate ideas. I’d initially tried to make them all original ideas, but that bogged everything down.
Allowing myself to list duplicate ideas/consequences made it easier to:
come up with more original ideas later, by getting the obvious out of the way and out of my head — otherwise those ideas just keep floating around and getting in the way of new ones (this is part of the usefulness of the twenty-things approach to ideas, too);
collect groups of ideas that had elements in common;
notice patterns in my own thoughts; and
find solutions that might solve more than one problem.
After that, I started letting myself repeat ideas and state the obvious, as long as I later pushed on to include three new solutions for each problem, in addition to any duplicates.
A strong commonality among the December books was a twinned sense of costuming on the one hand, and becoming more who you are on the other. How that turned into a moth girl I’m not entirely sure, but that was where the associations started.
Borrowed Dreams — May McGoldrick (romance, villainy, benevolent interference)