Observation Journal: Deconstructing Giants

Note: I’ve put together a draft introduction to the observation journal here: Observation Journal. Comments and further questions are welcome.

This instalment of the Observation Journal features a semester commencing as if nothing very different would happen this year, and also a critical look at a drawing of some giants, as I felt my way towards a framework for reviewing my own projects in a way that would actually be useful for me.

(I’ve enjoyed how much the process and purpose of the observation journal has been about working out how to use it in a way that pleases me, rather than following a pre-existing template. In that regard, there can’t be any wasted pages.)

Double page of observation journal, densely handwritten. On the left, 5 things seen, heard, and done that day. On the right, handwritten notes on what worked and didn't about a project.

Left page: The nerves of the first day of teaching for the semester, in the class that would have the observation journal assessment, and also the memorable sight of a bush turkey self-consciously taking a dust bath in a garden bed in the middle of a high-traffic area of campus.

Right page: Another attempt at a creative post-mortem (see also the Observation Journal posts: Creative Post-Mortems and The Opposite of Unicorns). This time i wanted to try adapting Doug Sundheim’s “The 4 Questions to Ask When You Debrief on a Project”, from the Harvard Business Review, with some additions.

The project I was looking at was the March Calendar: Giants.

I can see the value of the questions Sundheim proposes, (goal, degree to which it was met, causes, things to change). However, they didn’t quite fit the things I wanted to record about a creative project — or at least, not an art project (I could see them working well with non-fiction writing, and some fiction, and on particular aspects of technique).

There’s so much exploration in many of the projects I do, and often there are interesting discoveries along the way. But the 4-question framework focuses on measuring the difference between goals and results, and doesn’t really have a place to think through those necessary wanderings and catch hold of stray ideas and possibilities.

The right page of an observation journal spread, with handwritten notes on what worked and didn't about a project.

It was the “Happy”/”Could do better” columns that drew out the most specific and useful thoughts. I’ve typed them up here, but note that they are very specific to this project and my preferences.

Happy: This was a lot of fun — it’s nice to have the freedom to honestly compliment yourself! These aren’t necessarily things I think are perfect, at all, but they are the bits that pleased me, or flirted with ideas I want to play with more.

  • Poses & faces, especially breathing fog, carrying books
  • War pig! Just the whole scene — movement, interaction
  • Long odd feet [there can be so much character in strange feet]
  • Tiny things that look smaller even without context [this always interests me]
  • Working lines + select = cleaner [I don’t know what this meant — possibly something to do with how I was setting things up in Photoshop]
  • Extra ink + watercolour texture = good [trying to push past my defaults]

Could do better: I don’t like this phrasing. And most of these could be summed up as “push past your habits”, which might be a more useful category: habits to shakeup.

  • Plausibly deniable nether regions
  • 3D-at-the-edges, especially rounding of tower
  • Advance colour choice
  • Earlier. Not at 1:30am [Hah]
  • Shadowing
  • Noses and narrative questions [I can work this out individually but not as a combined issue]
  • Occasionally too Hilda-esque (including colours) [I love being influenced, but also trying to adapt away from those influences (not for the first time that week), and/or only using one element at a time, and after sitting with them long enough that they lose their attachment to the usual source. I do really like the giants in Hilda, though! And the simplicity of the colours! And…]
Pen drawing of a long-haired dachshund
Long-haired dachshunds always seem to have too many legs.

2 thoughts on “Observation Journal: Deconstructing Giants

  1. Pingback: August post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: Observation Journal: Project review and the brightness of sky in water | Kathleen Jennings

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