This is the format of the observation journal as it developed. I keep it in my general notebook for convenience. For those who wish to know, it’s a large squared Moleskine, indexed on bullet-journal principles.
(I don’t usually colour or ornament my notebooks, except for the observation pages).
The left pages are based (as previously mentioned) on one of Lynda Barry’s notebook exercises with her class, in her intense and splendid Syllabus: Five things seen, heard, and done, and a picture (scribble, diagram, mud-map) of something from the day.
Its original purpose was just to practice noticing, (and give my class a way to actually fill the pages of their journal), but later it got folded into more activities.
The right page is for anything else, as long as there’s an element of creativity and reflection — I send the class a list of thematically-related possibilities each week, but it’s meant to be free-form (I wasn’t leaning into the reflection too heavily at this stage).
The activity here was to take something from my day and apply it to a few current preoccupations.
In this case, the central thing was a dream about accidentally crashing a warlock-werewolf meeting (I was on strong painkillers). You can see here I was thinking about:
- Upper left: Themes of exclusion and secrecy I’d been enjoying, and how that might be relevant to a research project.
- Upper right: The sense of observing things unexpectedly, and how to apply that to being creative.
- Lower left: A book cover project I was wrestling with, to which the atmosphere of the dream seemed relevant.
- Lower right: A few notes on the colours in the dream, and then whether I could apply that to an illustrated project. This started off the train of thought that led to the page where I insulted my favourite watercolours.
Here’s the next day’s pages, too (it was a very exciting day: I was still laid up but the ladies who came to clean brought a cage of puppies).
On the right, the activity was the simple one of coming up with 20 solutions for a problem — in this case, how to bring together competing considerations for the colour treatment on the cover of Lauren Dixon’s Welcome to the Bitch Bubble (here’s the cover process post and the preorder link — it comes on on 12 May!).