I'm finally getting around to writing this wrap-up of IFJM after a lot of 'life' interruptions. It was good to sit down and reflect on my experience as I hope it will help me for next year's IFJM and maybe help some of you too. So here are my thoughts...
1. It always takes more time than you think. I had wanted to keep my daily time to a minimum after previous years having to drop out due to lack of time to work on the journal. This year I just wanted to do quick watercolor and pencil sketches. Well, that quickly turned into very detailed drawings/paintings that took a lot of time. Plus I was spending a lot of time reading and researching the birds I was depicting. I was really enjoying myself so I decided to start getting up earlier so I would have more uninterrupted time to work on the journal. This worked well. I also decided to scan the finished pages in batches as that seemed a more economical use of time vs. scanning every day.
2. Paper issues. I searched for one of the Alvin Field Journals that Roz Stendahl has used in the past (I loved the crinkly sound of the pages) but was not able to find one. I bought several other brands and decided on the Sokkia Economy Field Book as the one I wanted to use. It measures 4.5" x 7.25" closed which yielded a nice aspect ratio open at 7.25" x 9". Another bonus was it fit on the scanner easily. The paper was fairly tough, yet I managed to tear it in several places by going back in with pencil or pen while it was still wet with heavy washes. Also the paper buckled so badly I had to weight it in-between working on spreads. Bleed through was another issue as well, but I found if I let things dry completely before adding the next layer (a tough one for me) it was better. One of the things I've learned is that I really love working on non-traditional paper surfaces, the only problem with that is if you end up with a nice drawing that you want to reproduce or use in some other way, you are limited. It makes me think that I need to make some sketchbooks with my own paper in them that is more friendly to the heavy working I'm doing to the surface plus holds back wet media a little better.
3. Accidents can be happy…go with them. I tried to keep a open mind about my character and go with the flow. I did a test page in the back of all the books I was considering to try to decide which one to use. When I decided on the Sokkia book I did another test page in the second to the back page…a trial page with a possible layout using all the materials I thought I might use. Horror of horrors when I counted the remaining pages in the book, there were just enough left to finish the month with no extras! I decided then to keep my first test page as April 1 and work backwards in the book. Kind of weird, but it worked.
4. Doing preliminary sketches allowed me to get a feel for the shapes of the birds and how they are put together. I made lots of preliminary quick pencil and watercolor wash sketches in a large (for me--8.5"x11") spiral bound sketchbook. This really helped me to find the essence of the bird and understand how they are put together. I'm really fond of many of these loose sketches and plan to do more. I started out with fairly simple illustrations and as I worked on in the journal the drawings became more detailed and studied. This is funny since I have always tried to break from this style as I had worked this way for so long. But I think there is something I enjoy about working and reworking an image that I need to pay attention to as well.
5. Trying new media. I decided part way in to start working with my Inktense pencils as well as the watercolor and pen/pencil. This turned out to be a good thing because as I became more detailed with my drawings and familiar with the Inktenses, I could work the drawings up and layer slowly, developing a lot of new effects I hadn't known were possible.
6. Go with the character flow, if you don't like your initial choice--Change it. I started out thinking I would do one thing with my IFJM journal. About two days before I was due to start, I realized I really didn't want to go where that character might lead. I was mildly freaking out, thinking, "what the heck am I going to do???" Luckily I was in the middle of shooting photos at a wildlife area and the thought of documenting birds in a 'field journal' was something that I really resonated with. It's not a new idea, but the combination of learning to draw birds plus learning more about them was a huge pull. I think that was the big take-away for me on this project. One thing that was really helpful was John Muir Laws' book "Guide to Drawing Birds". It really made a difference in how I looked at birds and drew them.
So all in all a great experience. I'm already planning for 2014!