Observation Journal: Project review and the brightness of sky in water

This observation journal entry is a further development of post-project reviews, pursuing a set of questions that work for me.

Hand-written double spread of observation journal. On the left page, five things seen/heard/done and a drawing. On the right, densely handwritten notes.

Left page: Butterflies, balloons, the arrival of a giant mixer for the new pie shop. Until the weather grew briefly chilly, I was playing the guitar in the evenings, and will probably return to it in about 7 years (the urge seems to correlate to natural disasters).

Right page:

One of the things the observation journal has been very useful for is reviewing finished projects.

Some previous observation journal post-mortem posts:

On this page, the process is starting to look more like what I do now, superficially at least. (The project is the cover art for The Spellcoats, which needed to be in a style that isn’t quite my usual one, to fit a set of existing covers.)

I started with broad associations: “left too late/delay”, “HUGE file” and “took SO LONG”. Not exactly novel and not particularly helpful (except for the useful reminder that working heavily digitally and needing to match someone else’s existing style take a lot longer than some other approaches).

But then I incorporated the patterns/suprises/likes/dislikes/steal approach (adapted from Todd Henry and Austin Kleon) that I use for note-taking. This was useful because it:

  • gave a loose structure (beyond my various worries and self-criticism)
  • brought balance — one of the things I most like about that set of questions is that “disliked” comes so late in the series.
Right-hand page of observation journal. Densely hand-written chart. Post-job review of cover art for The Spellcoats.

Highlighting the things that felt most significant is very useful for reviews. I need to remember to do it more often. In particular, two elements that have kept cropping up since then are:

  • subtle communications via textiles
  • the importance of surface ornament

Another interesting realisation, however, was that the process of working on a book that has had several covers before is extremely illuminating about why those artists and art directors made the choices they did.

Tiny pen drawing of a boy about to hit a water depth post with a stick.
Boy fights post

Art/writing review exercise

If you want to try this out, consider a project you finished within memory. Then make a few notes (I like to try for a minimum of three) on each of the following points. You can interpret them broadly:

  • Patterns you’ve noticed (in what you do, and what you made, and how you did it, and between this and other things you’ve seen lately)
  • Things that surprised you (in the outcome, the source material, the media you worked in, a response)
  • Things you liked (the pleasures, the things that went well, the reactions you had or received, the feeling of a keyboard or supplies)
  • Things you disliked (in the finished project, the process, the surrounding circumstances)
  • Things you’d like to try (in consequence of the above, or again, differently, for another purpose, prompted by the project)

2 thoughts on “Observation Journal: Project review and the brightness of sky in water

  1. Pingback: November 2020 post round-up | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: Observation Journal: In-world surface patterns | Kathleen Jennings

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