These observation journal pages feature a simple activity: make a small thing, then make notes about making the thing.
The thing I made was a silhouette with imitation gold foil on it — a function of Inktober and Mother Thorn and other silhouette projects and interests at the time.
A few days later, I played with the same ideas again, this time with a gold leafing pen (Krylon).
This time, I was more focussed on a particular question (18k gold leafing pen vs imitation gold leaf) — how they handled and what effects they suggested. (See also: loving the tools.)
Observations (true for me):
- Making something, however tiny, is immediately good — it’s forward motion.
- A first attempt, even (perhaps especially) if it doesn’t work quite as imagined, unlocks new ideas.
- Some practicalities can only be practically considered.
- Getting words on screen or ink on paper is so much more powerful than thinking.
Or perhaps: it is a much more powerful way of thinking.
See also: Making Little Things; The Tiniest Things; Small Projects and Tiny Unicorns.
These epiphanies are small and frequent. But it’s less important to know them intellectually than to learn them viscerally, and remind myself through my hands.
(if you keep an observation journal, activities like these are a good way to find some personal fascinations and questions to pursue — they’re also a nice way to just calm down and make things)
- Make something small. Write a 50 word story or description of something you can see or draw a tiny portrait or try out a new pen or cover the page with fingerprints and draw legs on them or embroider a flower.
(Bonus: if you’re stuck, try a separate exercise and make a list of at least 20 tiny things you could make. Be silly. Note where your thinking shifts gears. See if there are any patterns you could use to invent more activities, e.g. approaches you obviously like or are clearly avoiding.)
- Stick it to the page (or if that isn’t feasible, note what it was you did).
- Consider the thing you made, and how, and why, and what it was like to make and what you ended up with. You’ll have your own interests, but some places you could start are:
- why this
- senses (touch, smell, how the light affects it — these can be important for achieving an effect or working comfortably, but also for pursuing things you like)
- ways you could use or develop it into something further or new
- ideas it gave you
- what you liked or resisted
- is it (or could it be) connected to anything you’re currently interested in
- is it pleasing (why)
- is it X enough for you [dreamy, horrific, utilitarian, etc] and how could you make it more so
- here are some others: Project Review Questions
- Make a couple extra notes on how the activity as a whole worked for you, or what it revealed about how you work.
- Think of a specific creative question you’ve been wanting to answer (or one of the ideas from the step above).
- Jot down a few subquestions — whether a technique will work at all or suit a particular purpose, how it would compare to a different approach, whether it will create an effect you saw someone else achieve, or be more fun, or change your speed, or any number of specific questions.
- Make a tiny test-patch experiment, as small as you possibly can make to answer the question (a blurb for an experimental trilogy format; two colours blended; pickling one slice of an unusual vegetable).
- Paste it in or make a note of what you did.
- Around it, again, make observations. This time, answer some of those subquestions. But also look at the list of questions for the previous activity, including ideas to try next…
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