Module 21 — Disaster Management

Is there a page in your studio notebook (or an artwork lurking in your studio) that makes you feel annoyed, embarrassed or discouraged every time you look at it? 

We all have this experience sometimes. Inevitably, some artworks don’t turn out well. But unlike a bad day on the golf course or a subpar piano performance, we visual artists have a tangible reminder when things didn’t go as planned. You need ways to deal with the ones that make you cringe, so they don’t make you want to avoid your studio, or your studio notebook. 

This is more of a problem for sketchbooks and notebooks than other work. If it’s a loose sheet, you can put it away where you don’t see it all the time, repurpose the paper for collage or opaque media, recycle it, or trash it.

But what do you do about about a page you dislike in a bound notebook? Cut it out? What if there’s something you want to keep on the other side of the page?

Module 21 Thinking Prompt—Dealing with Tangible Discouragement 

Is there a page in your studio notebook that makes you feel annoyed, embarrassed or discouraged every time you look at it? Do pages like this—or the fear of them—make you more tentative in working in your studio notebook? 

Do the troublesome emotions arise more from the appearance of the page or from the memory of the experience of making the page (maybe you were frustrated or upset when you made it)?

If the problem is the memory of a frustrating session, is there anything you can do to deal with the source of the frustration to at least prevent a repeat experience? 

Do you have strategies for dealing with these pages? Do you do something to remove or alter them? Or, do you deal with the emotions and try to keep the pages intact? Or are you unbothered by things that just didn’t work out? 

Module 21 Activity Prompt—Transformations

Spiral-bound journals make it easy to tear out pages, so I used to use spiral-bound for that reason. But then I decided I didn’t want to let myself get in the habit judging sketches too soon.

Especially after I realized how often an ugly, awkward sketch contained the germ of a great idea; I just needed time to see how to develop it.

And those ugly, awkward problem-solving drafts are also fodder for testing ways to transform and make changes to paintings and sketches. This is experimentation, too, so sometimes even the “fix” goes wrong. But no worries! The ultimate solution to an ugly or awkward sketch in my journal is to glue in something on top of it. Something I know is pleasing before I glue it in. 

Today, let’s explore transforming a page or sketch that’s bugging you.

Options for Transforming a Sketch or Page

Many of the materials from Module 13 (on continuing work) are useful here, but sometimes you want a bit more “hiding power”. 

  • glue or tape in another piece of watercolor paper (acrylic medium, PVA glue, YES! paste or double-sided tape are some options) 
  • multiple coats of acrylic or acrylic gesso (Note: Acrylic takes to 2-3 weeks to fully cure after it dries. Until then, facing pages may stick to each other, especially with heat or pressure. You may want to insert a piece of waxed paper or plastic wrap between pages until the acrylic has a chance to completely cure.)
  • tinted or metallic acrylic or gesso (sometimes hides better than white)
  • multiple coats of watercolor ground (Also an acrylic product, but tends not to stick because of the absorbent materials that are added to it.)
  • collage with heavier paper, printed paper, watercolor paper, or multiple layers of thinner papers

(Remember that watercolor will bead up on acrylics, so you’ll need to continue to work with other media if you use acrylics to cover something up.)

In addition to simply covering it all up, you can also cover or push back just parts of it and use other parts to create a new artwork. This is another good way to stimulate your creative imagination. 

Having some opaque media is really helpful here; I often use fluid acrylics. You can use the “hobby store” version in the small plastic bottles, such as Apple Barrel, DecoArt, etc.—it works great for this and it’s cheap. Fluid acrylic handles much more like watercolor than tube acrylics, it dries quickly, and it’s more flexible than gouache (which can flake off in heavy applications).

Module 21 Journaling Together Video

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