I have to keep an artist’s notebook for one of my classes this semester. Spoiler alert: No one “discovers” my doodles or a hidden talent for visual art. My professor (Kirsten Kaschock) told us to look through sections of Da Vinci’s notebooks (the snippets that have found their way onto the internet) for inspiration. Even if it’s hard to navigate to his pictures and the online layout is nothing like the original, they’re definitely worth checking out here.
As I was been thinking what I might put into my own notebook, I realized that too often my inspiration comes from “20 Things in Your Twenties You Wish You’d Done Differently,” “12 Pictures Of Death Row Prisoners’ Last Meals,” or “Who Said It, a Child or a Serial Killer?” These click-bait lists have their place, but they don’t usually inspire a creative response. Making a notebook has slightly augmented all the mental Cheetos I eat when I want a break from intelligent thought. It’s something I can look through when I’m low on ideas and remind myself of some of the wild things that other people have made or that have happened naturally.
Embroidered circulatory system, based on an anatomical drawing by Joulien Bougle from 1899. I love to see how art and science can come together. Source
My professor gave us the option of creating our notebooks as blogs, but I was afraid that would give it the same feel as Buzzfeed lists, something that I threw together with a CTL C here and a CTL V there. Personally, being on a computer makes me more passive, more boring, and generally less likely to get anything done.
Hand-carved ceramic from crowfootstudio on Etsy.
What my notebook lacks in volume I’m hoping to make up for in quality. My notebook will be partly a visual timeline of the creation of a final project for the class that my group designed ourselves: a representation of mental illness through poetry, embroidery, and photos of mouse brains taken through a confocal microscope (by the bio major, not me). But my notebook will also be a catchall for whatever beautiful detritus I find along the way.
You don’t have to be an artist to keep an artist’s notebook. We all have passions and obsessions and a need to create. We all need something to get us through slow days. It’s ok not to organize it. Just create something that makes you want to create more.
Swedish mittens, knitted 1855, found here
But don’t take it from me, listen to my good pal Kurt:
“The arts are not a way to make a living. They are a very human way of making life more bearable. Practicing an art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow, for heaven’s sake. Sing in the shower. Dance to the radio. Tell stories. Write a poem to a friend, even a lousy poem. Do it as well as you possible can. You will get an enormous reward. You will have created something.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, A Man Without a Country