This page of the observation journal is me playing with some discoveries from previous pages.
It’s a follow-up to the last post (Observation journal — paired points). I was again going back to the earlier exercise on points of habit and resistance. It’s interesting tracing these explorations and variations through the journal.
I gave myself the task of inventing a pattern (a fairly common occurrence, given the calendar art). Then I picked at random some of the flipped habits, and applied them to the task — getting close to fairy tales where I could.
It was fun to do, but also interesting to see what fell out of the process. They are as follows:
- Pulling petals off the flower for “whole/fragments”. I like the simplicity with which this one varied the pattern.
- Doing — I think — aggravated deities for “body language” (I’d been listening to Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and if you like a gif reaction thread, here’s mine). Funny, but energetic.
- Swapping stereotypes/archetypes (I can’t remember what they all started as, but there’s definitely a man with great boots dressing a cat in fancy clothes — as ever, the Caudwell Manoeuvre is relevant). I like it, but it heads straight into new story territory, which might be more than is needed for a repeating pattern.
- Choosing a random Wikipedia topic (something about swimming). A classic.
- Setting it to a song (“My Queen Bee”, having just watched Emma., which previously featured here: Observation Journal — The Emma heist and concert strategies).
- Asking “whose POV” which somehow became about chairs. But tumbling them around added a lot of interest to a pattern.
- Introducing a time limit. This is the sort of prompt that obviously does interesting things to a written story (adding a race against time). But it also adds some impetus to a drawing. I’d already covered body language, above, so the idea evolved into a claustrophobia/panic dream of underground station staircases.
- Novelise (+POV). I… have no idea what this was. It has a bit of Cinderella and My Fair Lady, but that can’t have been the starting point.
- Trope. Again, I wish I’d written it down! Something about vigorous family games in historical novels.
What I noticed about myself from this page was that I still tried to force everything to become a story. Having the “pattern” limitation helped moderate that impulse. Also: drawing is a fabulous way to work through an idea, but written notes are far better at capturing the thought process.
Looking back at it now, I can also see a few lessons about what makes a pattern pleasing to me:
- It’s nice when the repeating of a pattern makes sense (or at least if the pattern doesn’t make the viewer wonder too much about why these things are here, recurring).
- Too much energy (narrative or otherwise) can distract from the smooth operation of a pattern (if not handled judiciously). I tend to prefer some vivacity in my pieces if I consider them just as an illustration, but more soothing compositions give a more classic feeling.
- Simplicity can be pleasing, but it’s not my natural state. See the point above.
- Different angles on a thing (e.g. chairs) adds depth and variation to a pattern while keeping the selection of objects to a minimum.
- Patterns are a great place to play with variations on a motif (not news, but confirmation).
Exercise for writers/artists — originally from Points of habit and resistance.
- Look back at your work: the sum total of it, or comments you’ve received, or a piece that you’re working on at the moment.
- Look for patterns and habits. If you’re looking at one piece, what are some distinctive features? Lyricism? Vigour? Tiny pen marks? Make a list.
- Now flip the list. Think of opposite(s) for each item. (Hardboiled prose? Calm? Bold brush strokes?)
- Try applying a few of those approaches to your work — a sketch or a paragraph, new or existing (or rework a piece by somebody else, as a way to study it closely).
- What do you notice about what you resist, and why? What changes?