Tuesday, July 13, 2010


Journals and diaries, some personal, some not so much?

I know I've written on this theme before, but I'm still mulling over the differences between journals and diaries. Besides semantics. My latest unprofessional hypothesis: I suppose diaries are the most personal documents of all, written with no one else in mind, written (among other reasons) to unload some of the baggage we carry around with us like so many steamer trunks full of all of our past possessions and experiences - those trunks sure gets heavy sometimes - while journals perhaps are best kept on particular themes or for more specific reasons than merely the unloading of the cumbersome luggage. My diaries are extremely private. My journals however, well, here I am writing one in public. The one that has become my book journal, and now my art journal, for the most part.

So, I keep a personal handwritten diary and a typed book blog. And I know I've mentioned once or twice that I also keep a handwritten garden journal. Almost three years have passed since we bought our house and inherited the gardens and plantings here, and each season we've modestly added to both. I was so excited to get my hands back in the dirt after far too many years of city living without so much as a pocket handkerchief's worth of lawn to tend. So the joy I felt and still feel had to find some kind of an outlet. I've always been this way. Something wonderful happens (or something terrible) and I want to chronicle it and explain to myself how I feel about it. Get it down, somehow. The garden journal took me by surprise - I started out merely wanting to make a few notes about what is planted where, that first spring we were here and were still discovering what was emerging from the ground. Make a few maps of the perennials, note where the bulbs were, that kind of thing. Then I started sketching a few things in, with the same fountain pen I write the text with, then I colored in the sketches with colored pencils. No underdrawing, just a rough sketch and some color and text. I realized quickly that this activity felt very similar to using coloring books when I was little, which I loved. But now I'm creating my own and I must say it's an extremely satisfying activity.

The garden journal has evolved into a chronicle of the seasons here. Maple syrup time, when the berries ripen, when to dig up potatoes, reminders not to be sad when the lilacs are over because something else equally beautiful is happening immediately after they go by. All this activity means when there's something great going on in the garden, I can often be found sitting outside sketching it into the journal. Ryan caught me between rain showers this weekend - one more heavy downpour and the delphiniums were going to break like matchsticks, despite my cobbled-together staking job. I was out there to see what I could see, before it was too late:

Then I looked up and saw Ryan, who brings a goofy smile to my face, no matter what the weather:

The sketching is done, and I'm trying to match the delicate colors of the blue-purple flower petals, which is impossible, but still, I made a valiant attempt. Which is all I ever hope for:

The finished page has more text and color and is a good approximation of what I think I saw:

All this chronicling. Do diarists ever know why they do it, really? Some days I'm not sure and I worry it's all a bit too obsessive. It keeps me busy, I know that, all this writing and drawing. And of course my paintings are also a diary of sorts. Pretty much everything I have to say about everything appears somehow in each one. It's a mystery to me, but it keeps happening. And as long as it does, probably longer, I think I'll be out there looking and trying to get it down somehow, in whatever form I can.

Dont get too hung-up with analyzing where it all comes from, Sarah. I occasionally wonder what it is about your modest posts that gives such pleasure. I enjoy them just as they are, wouldnt want you to change a thing, but if you felt an overwhelming urge to include some of those journal sketches from time to time, well, I wouldnt complain.

Hi Theo - I know, when one starts obsessing about whether or not one is too obsessive... weeeell, it might be a good time to take a nap or a long walk or read some Tintin.

I'll post some other sketches soon - thanks for commenting. And for reading.
Lovely summer afternoon post, lovely sketch
Thanks, Dilettante! Too much happens out in the garden to get it all down - this weekend I have vowed to sketch in the burgeoning summer squash plants.
your garden journal has opened James' eyes to the possibilities found between the covers of a store bought [or handmade] diary/journal/sketch book. I thank you. And, oh! not to forget, yours is beautiful! _Robert
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