Introduction: A Little Bit about Roz
I'm a graphic designer, illustrator, and book artist living in Minneapolis, MN. I came up to Minnesota (the thought of snow didn't scare me off) to attend graduate school (I have an MA in English). After graduation I stayed, still not put off by the snow; and I was in love, with Dick who is an engineer (and he's stuck to Minnesota like a tick in a dog's groin).
I worked at a series of jobs in publishing, until I became a production editor for a company publishing college textbooks. Production editors handle the hiring and supervising of all aspects of a book's journey from manuscript to printed form-copyediting, proofreading, illustration, photography, typesetting, and printing. During my tenure there I discovered that my favorite part of the process was design, so I started doing designs for the books I handled, with my boss' blessing (it saved him money). Eventually I went to work for myself.
I like to have a lot of projects going on at the same time, besides work projects, so I started teaching journaling and book arts classes. I was fortunate to take classes with a truly skilled bookbinder, Denny Ruud. I learned several traditional bindings from him, but more important I learned to think about the book structure, the use of the structure, and the characteristics of the component parts. My own current structures are my experimental departures from traditional bindings. They meet my own sketching and painting needs. I have enjoyed encouraging students to look at their own journaling and sketching needs and requirements to create a book that is most useful to them. I try to teach a couple classes a year to encourage the bookbinding and journaling spark in others. My blog Roz Wound Up grew out of my teaching, replacing a Yahoo list I had for past students.
Also between branching out on my own professionally and 2003 we shared our lives with two Alaskan Malamute bitches-Emma and Dottie. Dogs give us great gifts every day. For an artist one of the greatest gifts is the reality of a live-in life model.
And now, on to the interview!
Q Have you always journaled, and when-and why!--did you start?
A I have always journaled. My mother gave me my first journal/sketchbook when I was 3-1/2 years old and we were on the President Wilson traveling from the Philippines to the US. She wanted to keep me occupied. She told me to go and note things down and sketch. So that's what I did. Or as much as any 3-1/2 year old can. Scribbles which I thought were very important and of course meant something to me. I've had diaries and journal/sketchbooks ever since.
Q What's your favorite medium, can you tell me why?
A Pen and ink with watercolor or gouache washes. I like this medium because it's a great way to sketch-the pen and ink for line and even value shading, and then if you have time, the watercolor or gouache washes for adding color. You can take time to do really detailed pieces this way, or quick thumbnail sketches which you can make color notes on with the paint, to use as references for later paintings.
I like this medium because it is portable. A couple pens and I'm all set-though sometimes I do take my dip pen and a bottle of ink out and about for the ink. I like Staedtler Pigment Liners for my fine line-sketching pens as they are waterproof when dry and also the ink doesn't have a chemical odor like other waterproof pens I've used. I also really love the Pentel Pocket Brush Pen for its bold ink lines which can be thin, fat, dense or dry brush depending on how you wield it. So I can get along with a brush pen, a regular pen (or two of different widths) and then my small watercolor palette and gouache palette-both of which hold 11 colors and are children's palettes that are about 1 x 3/4 inch. I've simply popped out the kid's colors and put in my own from tubes. I use Daniel Smith and M. Graham watercolors in the watercolor palette and Schmincke Gouache and M. Graham Gouache in the gouache palette. I chose those brands because they have quality pigments and because they all re-wet really well. I carry a Niji waterbrush to use with the paints out in the field.
Readers can see my palettes (and read about them) at
I think the main reason I use pen, ink, and watercolor or gouache is that they don't smear on the opposite page of a spread.
I used to do a lot of colored pencil in my journals because I couldn't find journals bound with paper compatible with wet media. Colored pencils always smeared over time in my journals and also I was always having to take a large selection of pencils with me out into the field in order to have a range to work with.
Then I started making my own journals and I didn't have to worry about paper issues. I started watercoloring over pencil lines, but something about me prefers using pen and ink. I like the finality of the lines, or rather the boldness. I don't mind that I have to find my way to the line sometimes and have other lines in the image. It's all part of the experience, a record of my seeing of something.
Of course I had those extra lines when sketching with pencil or colored pencil too as I don't erase-but those lines were more muted and easier to cover or fade out.
I will still use graphite or colored pencil for sketching upon occasion and then cover with watercolor washes. The watercolor's gum arabic holds the graphite to the page nicely. But I always end up back with pen and ink. At least if I run out of time I always have the pen and ink and no smudging-if I had sketched in pencil without the watercolor it would smudge.
More and more I care less about smudging-but instead of going back to graphite and colored pencil I find that my growing tolerance for smudged artwork has led me to the brush pen's bold lines covered with Stabilo Tones (which will smudge). (Stabilo Tones are a water-soluble wax pencil that used to be made in a 60 pencil range and now is available in about 12 colors now called Woodys. It's a delight to use and I'm enjoying every last speck of my large set. People interested in working in a similar medium with a large color choice can try out the Caran d'Ache Neocolor II line. They aren't the same in all characteristics so the fun level is a little less, but it's as close as we can get since Stabilo doesn't want to make the full range of Stabilo Tones any more.
If you go to my blog and search under Colored Pencils and Stabilo Tones you'll find lots of articles on how to apply and work with this medium, and it's pretty much transferable to the Caran d'Ache, except the blendability is a bit different (less fun), but you'll get the hang of it.
So that's where I am right now. In 10 years I may be back to graphite and watercolor. Meanwhile in the studio I seem to be veering off further into fluid acrylics. I don't try to control it, I simply follow my nose. I do believe you have to stay with a medium long enough to really explore it, to understand how it works and what applications and situations it works best for. Other than that I'm always experimenting. Odor limits my choices, I have to stay away from any art materials that have either a chemical or strong floral odor. But I still have plenty of choices.
Q What made you start the Daily Dots? How do you feel about them now? [Roz's journal pages about her beloved dog.]
A I almost always have a DAILY project going on for a YEAR at a time. I was working on "The Correspondence Lab" which was a year of writing a letter every day. (I printed special stationery and envelopes with a logo, it was great fun; and I never worried about writing a long letter-just wrote something every day for a year. I did it because I felt that email was killing my correspondence habit!)
Well as "The Correspondence Lab" was winding down I got to thinking what I would do next for a DAILY-year-long project, and of course I looked down at my feet and there was Dottie. I'd been an illustrator since before I got my first dog Emma, and I didn't draw her much, or Dottie at first, just every so often. I regretted not drawing Emma more when she was alive. She died in 1996 and the letter writing project started in 1997 and ended in 1998. My train of thought was "Don't regret not drawing Dottie." So, like most things, two thoughts crash into each other at just the right moment. I knew it would be easy to do the Daily Dots because she was right with me all the time, there was no excuse not to sketch her. So I started right after I finished the last letter for "The Correspondence Lab"-within a couple days. I'd purchased 10 or so Michael Roger Press casebound drawing books that were all covered with linen fabric (I love that sailcloth "color") and off I went. It was always about what I could do in 5 or 10 minutes. In the entire time I was working on the project I only missed about 5 days (maybe less), and those were all because of trips out of town for work. I would draw her the day I left (even if it meant getting up earlier than usual because of my departure time (that's one day taken care of), and I would draw her the day I returned, even if I had been traveling for hours and it was almost midnight! (So that was that day taken care of.) That left only the days I was actually out of town and there were few of those.
I wasn't obsessive about it-dogs have a nice way of being in the moment and that helped me be in the moment as well. And it was always meditative. She was so BEAUTIFUL. Every hair on her was lovely. Even hardened dog owner friends who never say any dog they meet is cute confessed after she died that she was lovely. Emma was striking and handsome-imposing like a lion. Dottie was simply lovely. So every drawing of her was a delight-even when she wasn't cooperating. I was learning patience with the best of teachers. And rewarded with a lot of insight into her as a dog, a presence, and a companion.
Drawing Dottie, paying so much attention to each detail of how her white eyebrows melded down into her muzzle, how her black mask changed over time to gray, how her hair changed over time, and such-it all helped me see her health-to see how she was aging. Even while the project was going on I realized it was one of the most moving experiences I'd have in my life. I had already bonded with this dog through training, through tracking training, and now I was bonding with her through observation in a quiet setting, just being. (Well she was just being, I was sketching like a fiend to finish before she decided to go "be" somewhere else.)
When the first year of the Daily Dots ended (I missed no days that year) I just couldn't stop. There wasn't any reason to stop. So I kept going. July 1, 1998 to January 26, 2003, almost 5 years. The first three years I used those Michael Roger Press casebound sketchbooks with thick drawing paper. I mostly worked in graphite or black pencil (Koh-i-nor's Negro 1, which became Cretacolor's Nero 1; or Derwent Drawing Ivory Black). Then I decided to shake it up a bit. Each new volume was one I bound with a different paper to use with a different medium-one for watercolor pencils, one on Magnani Pescia's blue paper for pencil, one with pen and ink and watercolor wash, and one with pen and ink and gouache of course.
When we got the liver cancer diagnosis I allowed myself to draw her more than one time a day (she only had about 3 months after that diagnosis, which we discovered because of another unrelated operation). I say "allowed" because throughout the project I had to limit myself to one drawing a day, not just because of pacing, but because of the realities of life. We all have work to do. I would have easily spent all my time sketching her. As it was, I filled 43 volumes with drawings of her.
How do I feel about them now? Well every friend knows that if the house is burning they need to go to that shelf, grab those journals, and leave me behind. I'll get out some how!
Seriously, they are a document of observation and attention and love, but not obsessive love. It's the type of love that sees what is. And the daily practice of sketching her taught me a great lesson about love. Ultimately, when it was time for Dottie to die, that daily drawing practice helped me let her go.
It also taught me a lot about what I take for granted in my journal practice (which is also pretty much daily) and in my drawing skills and where I want to go with my art in general. Bottom line, the Daily Dots are about gratitude. I can see that clearly as I look at them now, and could see it clearly in the final months. That gratitude fills me up the way nothing else ever had before.
I made two facsimiles of the journals early on in the project so that I could take samples to classes without taking the original books (because I didn't use fixative in the journals and I didn't want the drawings to be smeared-my students can be hard on my journals). In one of the facsimiles I wrote a little essay in which I summed it up this way: This daily drawing practice has been a tremendous gift. I've learned to see more clearly, look more closely, savor my time with Dottie, and put my life in perspective. I encourage everyone to set up their own daily adventure in observation.
The project really did change my life. My observations at the zoo, my observations whenever I drew changed, improved. The amount I drew increased across the board. I stopped working 14 hour days at the computer without drawing. In other words I learned to slow down and breathe.
In a way I also feel the Daily Dots redeemed me in my own mind. I had not drawn Emma enough and I was honoring her by drawing Dottie. Now when I keep up my daily drawing projects I'm honoring Dottie, but I'm also honoring myself and my perspective on life. I'm taking time to listen and see. This is an odd thing to say because I had been an observer and journal keeper all my life up to and including the time I had dogs and started keeping the Daily Dots. The project created fundamental life changes and I'm grateful for it every day.
It has also given me a way to deal with grief. The project in part was a way to insulate me from the grief of losing Emma and it had the exact opposite effect in that it broke me wide open. It made me love Dot all the more, and ultimately, as I said above, allowed me to accept her passing.
It has also lead me to the rather obnoxious behavior of throwing myself at my friends who have dogs, simply showing up to sketch their dogs. Happily many dogs have enjoyed coming to stay at "Spa Roz"-"where the walks are long and interesting, the treats are plentiful, and all you really have to do in return is nap a bit so she can stare at you quite a lot!"
Q How do you find time to sketch when other people need to do things elsewhere?
A If I see something that I want to sketch I just sketch it. I would love to take more time over things, and sometimes my sketches are very quick and not as "polished" as I would like, or as I am capable of. The point is it is more important for me to get a sketch in my journal (along with other notes) than it is for me to make a polished sketch, so I'm OK with rough pages. And as for the people I travel with or hang out with-well they all know I like to sketch, and most of them do too (or take really fabulous photographs). There is a wonderful accommodation that has happened in my life (and made me again, so very grateful). By showing up and being present and needing to take notes and sketch, I've attracted people to me that are OK with that, enjoy doing it too, push themselves to sketch because I am (that's their learning piece that they've chosen), or allow me the time because I am quick and it's not really disruptive. They know they can sit with me for a moment or two while I sketch something, or they can wander off and we can meet up later. It's all open, and it's all OK. There isn't a lot of ego pushing. I think this is because I have always tried very hard to be quick and also respectful of other people's time and their needs and this has been given back to me.
It really is a seamless process and I talk about this in my classes and try to create this atmosphere for my students when we sketch out in classes so that they can get a taste of it and carry it into their own lives.
As I've said, the people in my life are really interesting. So I simply love hanging out with them and seeing what they like to do and going where they like to go. I can be happy anywhere they want to go because I am with them having fun and I have my journal. So I don't have to have an agenda. (The State Fair is the only time I have an agenda: arrive at 10 a.m., spend three hours in the barns sketching hard; take a one-hour break for food and diversion; return to the barns and sketch hard. There are friends who go to the Fair with me who will meet up with me after all of this is over so we can just be at the Fair!)
[You can see Roz's 2010 MInnesota State Fair Journal HERE
and if you go to Roz's blog and use the search feature you can find tons of posts on the state fair.]
I think if you don't have an agenda and you just draw what presents itself, and if you work quickly, and if you don't make a huge production about it, it just happens. Unfortunately some novice journal keepers do make a big deal about sketching by saying things like "Sigh, I want to sketch this so let's stay here for an hour and I'm going to get all my gear out." We don't have to wonder very hard why people stop going out with them.
So I think it helps to have no agenda and to have interesting friends and travel companions who are strong enough in their own egos and able to self-entertain and engage with the world. And you need to sketch a lot so you can be quick about it; enjoying, at the same time, whatever the result is of those quick sketching moments.
To me it is also important to make a travel journal adaptive to the circumstances of travel. If you are going to be rushing from place to place with other people you need to travel light with few supplies. My Madison journal on my websiteHERE is a perfect example of this type of strategy. I was traveling with 4 people for the first time. I didn't know how long we would stop anywhere. I carried a pen and a pad of sketching paper with me. I also had a rubbing crayon and thin Japanese paper to use for the rubbings. I gathered materials and made notes (on my pad with my sketches) during the day. At night I collaged the various elements together on cards that I had prepainted before leaving home. I tied things together with bits of color added by colored pencil. It worked really well. And when I returned home I made the case to fit the stack of cards I had created.
I think it is also key to have time alone. So when I travel, I typically get up early and sketch something before other folks are even up. Or late in the evenings when people are talking, or maybe watching TV (depending on where we've traveled), I'll sit at a table nearby so I can be companionable, and I'll sketch (and chat if it's appropriate). I'll sketch rocks, local plants, or other items I picked up earlier in the day, of if I'm really lucky and a dog is with us-you get the idea. And at other times, well if I want to sketch my food before I eat it it's just me who's going to get a cold meal, and I can eat pretty quickly so I won't hold people up. It's a combination of adaptation to the circumstances. If you don't make a big deal about it the process is seamless.
Q Does the new blog (OK, not so new, now) enhance your journal keeping, or take time away from it?
A I've found that it takes time away from my WRITTEN journal, since Roz Wound Up is really about the writing, in that I'm writing about my journal pieces, about my paintings, about my enthusiasms (biking, baking, dogs, painting, etc.). This means my written journal has really thinned down. The visual journal has stayed pretty much the same. (I know this because I page my journals and have a yearly total that I can compare to to see what's going on in my life.)
The blog has taken time away from other things however, since I don't let it take away from the visual journal. Those other things include personal projects and painting projects and house related projects-you name it. I started blogging in October 2008 and as I wind down year three, I've toyed with the idea of a brief hiatus to get some pressing deadlines finished. It's also always good for me to look at how my projects fit into my current creative needs, so it's good to take a look at where the blog needs to go in my life. I just wrote a piece about how the blog is pretty much a letter writing substitution for me and so it was very easy for me to make space in my life for it (as I'm a huge fan of letter writing).
We are coming up on International Fake Journal Month (April) and my blog for that starts to demand more time. (I post actively on that blog from March through May of the year.) People can visit that blog at http://officialinternationalfakejournalblog.blogspot.com/
This year I have quite an involved project for IFJM and I know I'll be blogging less in general. I think blogging has reached it's own level in my life. It's a combination, as I said, of letter writing with looking at process. I love to do both. Every time I think I'll just take a haitus I think of 15 things I need to post about during what would be my time off. As long as I enjoy it I'll keep it up, but no more than one post a day. I have to have time away from the computer!
Q Other thoughts? Whatever else you feel is more important, personally, to YOU...
A I say this all the time to students, and I've said it in other interviews, the most important thing to me is that I work in the journal all the time, and that I love messy, ugly pages, and experiments gone wrong. In fact if I don't have a complete disaster every five page spreads or so I really feel I'm not trying, I'm not pushing myself. The journal for me is a place to play and explore and that means every page isn't going to be pretty, but every page is going to be a learning experience for me in some way-otherwise I doubt I would have kept up with it for so long. It's fresh every day I pick it up.
Another part of welcoming "disaster" pages is that the journal is for me. Just me. I'm the audience. This is very important. If the journal were to be something to impress someone else, or communicate with someone else I just don't think I would keep it. To me, the journal, containing all the things I notice and write about and try out, is a document that captures the way my brain works, the way my creativity works. I have pages and pages where I keep swatches from paintings and photos of the progress of paintings. I have notes on why I decide to do X with this artist book binding instead of Y. I have lists on how to cut materials for classes with annotations on why I made certain choices. All those types of things I write down because I want to have them to jog my memory. And they do that sometimes, other times they are never viewed again. Whether I look at the journals or not, just looking at the shelves which hold the more recent volumes (I have to rotate earlier books into storage for space reasons so I have about 10 years worth of books at hand in my work area) makes me feel good about how my brain is functioning, how it is producing, how it is noticing, and how I'm remembering to breathe! And they remind me to be grateful.
Thank you, Roz, this was wonderful! I know everyone will enjoy it...
Be sure to visit Roz's website at http://www.rozworks.com
and her terrific blog at http://www.rozwoundup.typepad.com/