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Keeping A Visual Journal The Couch Potato Way

Keeping a Visual Journal the Couch Potato Way

Whilst flicking through an old sketchbook earlier this week, I came across some drawings I’d started when we did a family road trip down to Queenstown a couple of years ago. It was all the excuse I needed to step away from the computer, ignore the small mountain of paperwork on my desk, ditch the dishes and the slightly larger mountain of clean laundry… to draw for a few hours.

Journal-keeping takes effort

I always like the idea of journal-keeping, but in reality I just don’t have the stamina for it. I start off with a hiss and a roar and a huge flourish of good intentions. I fill pages and pages with great long paragraphs and deep insightful thoughts, detailed recounts of many and varied moments of hilarity generated by the kids being…well…kids…(because one day it will be great to embarrass the hell out of them with the recollections…or at the very least they will serve to remind us how lovely they once were before the dreaded teen years took a hold on their brains and turned them into aliens from our own planet.)

If journal-keeping were a sport it would be an ultra-marathon. Three ultra-marathons probably. With an Enduro thrown in just for fun.

Pretty soon, however, the enthusiasm begins to dwindle. The paragraphs get shorter. Gaps start to appear and I end up having to wrack my brains to remember what happened last Saturday week so I can go back and fill it in. Which possibly isn’t in the true spirit of journal keeping – but hey, I never said I was a purist.

Just another ‘thing’ to keep on top of

The truth for me is that journal-keeping is a nice idea, but it’s simply another ‘thing’ I have to make time for in a day stuffed full of ‘things’ to be achieved and ticked off The Grand List of Things to Do Today, before the next day begins with its own Grand List of Things to tick off (not to mention the things carried over from the previous day.) It’s an exhausting process. If journal-keeping were a sport it would be an ultra-marathon. Three ultra-marathons probably. With an Enduro thrown in just for fun.

Anyway, back to our road trip.

I figured that it would be great to keep a record of all the cool things we were about to do, all the places we’d visit and special things that happened, but I wasn’t going to fall into the journal-writing trap again. Oh no. I’m too smart a cookie for that. Instead, I decided I’d keep a visual journal. Ta-dah! You know the sort of thing, I’d be all arty-farty and whip out my sketch book at the cafe while we were all chilling and chatting, do a quick sketch on the road as we trundled along in our little old campervan, put down a few strokes while the kids were busy enjoying themselves at the lake and trying not to fall in, or arguing over who toasted more marshmallows than who on the beach – you know, the usual holiday fun. It would be great. Definitely much quicker and easier than that old writing nonsense.


So, anyway. I found these sketches the other day. Needless to say, they weren’t finished. I hadn’t even completed the first ultra-marathon. In truth, I’d probably faltered at the first drink station. Sorry, we’re changing your classification from ‘ultra-marathon runner’ to ‘couch potato.’ No gold medal on a ribbon for me then.

Discovering the memories

But all was not lost, because what I had done was to make the briefest of sketches and notes about things we did along the way, so that almost 3 years later I was still able to pick up where I’d left off and continue working on my sketches. The coolest thing was that those briefest of notes and those beginnings of sketches were enough to reawaken the memories. When the kids got home from school and checked out what I’d been doing that day we had a great time remembering all the things we’d forgotten about the trip.

So perhaps, in a funny sort of a way, my fairly minimal visual journalling method worked. It was great fun to revisit it and finish some of the sketches, and it prompted a wealth of memories of our trip for all of us:

I remember that, she lost her shoe in the mud and fell over…

.. that was me…I was the one who touched the lizard!..

.. she rode her bike into the skate park bowl and couldn’t get it out… I’d forgotten about that…

Perhaps I’ll try it again on our next road trip. In the meantime, I’m going into training. To keep myself inspired, I’ve found an awesome travel journaller Dina Brodsky, who creates the most amazing sketchbooks. Definitely the ultra-ultra– marathon approach. Check out this article on her work: Inside the Well-Traveled Sketchbooks of Artist Dina Brodsky.

Watch this space…!

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