Observation Journal — Paired points

On this page of the observation journal, I returned to an earlier idea (points of habit and resistance) to see what else I could tease out of it. Also on that day, my housemate and I started watching Shakespeare & HathawayPrivate Investigators and got extremely into it.

Double-page spread of observation journal. On the left, five things seen, heard, done, and a picture. On the right a handwritten list of "Pairs of things around points to lean on".

One of the strengths of the observation journal has been having a place and structure within which to revisit ideas, turn them over, try them again, vary them, etc.

Earlier, I had made a list of my art and writing habits and then worked out what the flip-side of those would be (Observation Journal — points of habit and resistance). On this page, I was reversing that process. I took some points I wanted to concentrate on in my art, and found their pair. It gave very different results. For example, a habit of drawing plain surfaces might be flipped into a reminder to consider surface texture. But texture as a pair works well with structure.

In this case, though, the pairs weren’t intended as a corrective for their partner. Instead, I wanted a list of things to consider at the same time. For example, a prompt to address both structure and texture, or to offset a sense of revelation with one of mystery. It’s quite valid to only do one. But the possibilities of doing both and playing them off against each other are intriguing, and can add impetus to an idea. (For the prose version of this, see: Observation Journal — The Caudwell Manoeuvre.) It’s also a good way to add contrast and variation to a piece.

A handwritten list of "Pairs of things around points to lean on", with a small sketch of a person and a list of STRUCTURE elements (bones, stitching, hairspray, gesture" and TEXTURE elements (cloth, skin, eyes, colour)

I could also feel how it might feed into character or world design, making me consider both the bone structure and the clothing choices of a person (or clothes structure and skin texture), for example. Or, if drawing (e.g) shelves in a closet, the same pair might prompt me to consider both the carpentry involved (how the shelves were supported, etc) and what pattern of paper might be used to cover them — and suddenly there’s a vivid image of a house and an era and the decisions made by the people in it. (Related: Observation Journal — Surfaces).

It’s an idiosyncratic list, particular to my interests and my own loose interpretations of terms. In addition, not everything has a neat pair — but that just makes the process of making one more interesting.

Art/writing exercise

  • List a few things you like in art/writing, or would like to work on. (E.g. forward motion, deep shadow, Regency aesthetic…)
  • Think of a pair for each term. (There’s no right answer — maybe today Punk feels like the opposite of Regency, maybe they have more similarities than you’d expect and the opposite of Regency is Sesame Street.)
  • Now, pick one pair at random. Apply them to a piece of art/writing you are working on (or do a sketch in art or words of your favourite character). How can you enhance or use both terms in that piece?
Tiny pen drawing of person in exercise wear, holding a phone and a ball-thrower, while a dog chases a ball.
motion vs stillness

4 thoughts on “Observation Journal — Paired points

  1. Pingback: Observation journal — practical application | Kathleen Jennings

  2. Pingback: March 2021 — round-up of posts | Kathleen Jennings

  3. Pingback: Observation journal: patterns and textures | Kathleen Jennings

  4. Pingback: Observation Journal: The evolving review, art process, sparks | Kathleen Jennings

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