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Thursday, January 20, 2011

The MCBA Visual Journal Collective—Third Annual Portrait Party

Left: A montage of participants at the Portrait Party. Image ©2011 Ken Avidor, used with permission. Click on the image to view an enlargement.

On Monday, January 17,  twenty eight people drew portraits of each other, created printing masters, printed using a photocopier, and then bound 35 books commemorating the event. You can read about The MCBA Visual Journal Collective Third Annual Portrait Party on my blog (with photos of some of the action).

I'm posting a notice here to draw attention to the fact that if you are a journal keeper and you know other journal keepers you can get up to a whole lot of fun in an evening!

The idea to hold our first portrait party in 2009 came to me when Danny Gregory introduced me to Rama Hughes' blog The Portrait Party. I thought it was a great idea—a fun way to get all sorts of people to practice sketching. Since I'm also a bookbinder I thought it would be even more fun if we also made an editioned book of the event. (I pretty much look for any excuse to make a book!)

When you are a journal keeper and you know other journal keepers, and you are a bookbinder you can get up to a whole lot of seriously dangerous fun in an evening! (What do you think the Founding Fathers were doing with all those broadsides!)

I hope you and your art group will consider doing something like this in the future. (I'll be posting a short video on binding the style book we made, and also writing a more detailed explanation of the pre-event prep, over the next month or so. I hope that this post and that information will help encourage people to try this.)

If you do host a portrait party and bind a book consider making an extra copy of the book in your edition. Donate that copy to MCBA for their library. It would be great to have a series of portrait party books residing somewhere, inspiring people. (We did a pamphlet book for our 2009 book, same size paper; just drew in each other's journals in 2010; MCBA has a copy of the 2009 and 2011 books.)

Still not convinced a portrait party would be doable—let me just say this, it sure brings the page alive and makes sketching a shared reality when you crank out a book in an evening. So you ruin someone's mouth; who cares that you can't get his nose quite right—you observed your model steadily for a space, and captured that moment. It won't ever repeat, but you've got the evidence. And of course there is conversation, journal sharing—and cookies are good too.

Here's my final pitch: making content (in this case a portrait party) and creating an editioned book in an evening is a great way to encourage and nurture a whole new generation of journal keepers, sketchers, and book artists. And it nurtures creativity in general. Go for it.

As for us, well we're doing it again January 16, 2012. Hope to see you there. Roz Stendahl (Journalrat)


  1. Kate, it was fun. I hope some other folks try it. We'd love to have you show up of course!

    This idea can be done without portraits of course—drawing groups can get together and do urban or nature sketches, or zoo sketches or whatever, and then make a book, as long as they do a bit of pre-planning, and have a copier, and a bone folder and thread, simple things like that. Roz

  2. Oops, I should have read my note before pushing send. I didn't mean to imply the copier was a simple thing—it's a big deal. The other tools are simple!


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