Weekly Blog 12/11/18 | My Thoughts on the Paper Planning “Fad”

Hi all! First off: Does anyone actually say fad anymore?! Is it “craze” now, or “phenom?” I don’t even know. “Period of sudden and transient popularity and prominence in contemporary media” doesn’t roll off the tongue quite like “fad.” Can I say fad?

I’m gonna say fad.

So, we’ve all seen it. The beautiful bullet journal spreads. The fantastically complex paper planners. The endless traveler’s notebook brands and knockoffs (even I make them, in my Etsy shop). And, of course, everyone trying and failing to properly pronounce “Leuchtturm1917.” Studying with paper is popular, too. Entire Instagram and Tumblr pages are devoted to being “studygrams” or “studyblrs,” and vloggers describe their extremely in-depth processes of learning foreign languages, complete with gorgeous fountain-pen-written notes. And let’s not forget that entire online subcommunities are devoted to paper journaling, art journals, fountain pens, and stationery hauls. You can even get digital programs for paper planning on your smartphone or tablet.

It’s certainly popular and prominent in social media. It’s come up suddenly. But is it a fad?

Personally, I have always journaled on paper, have always had a paper-based planner, and generally took my school notes in a physical notebook. I’ve always kept a sketchbook in an actual sketchbook, rather than sketching digitally. And call me old-fashioned, but I’m a bit crazy about pens and notebooks.

I don’t actually think anything is really new about bullet journaling, paper planning, and art journals – I think what’s new is that we have the literal and figurative bandwidth to devote entire Instagrams to it. And because of that bandwidth, some very innovative people – like the creators of the Traveler’s Notebook, the designers of Happy Planner, and Ryder Carroll and his Bullet Journal Method – have jumped on the sudden popularity and have capitalized on it. Which, of course, in turn creates products for the YouTubers and Instagrammers to review and use and show off, and the ouroboros of social media and sales is complete.

When I was growing up, it was scrapbooking. Mostly this was done by older ladies – okay, I thought of them as older; they were maybe forty or fifty and up, in my day. I, being the pretentiously rebellious kid I was, made scrapbooks about things like anime art and punk culture. But they were scrapbooks nonetheless. I came up with complex systems to paper plan, and tried numerous notebooks. And I have kept a paper journal for as long as I could write, and longer than I remember. (I read and wrote pretty early.)

I don’t mean to disparage or disrespect bullet journalers or paper planners – quite the opposite: I think it’s fantastic, and bullet journaling has made me way more productive than I ever was in the past. And the proliferation of journaling and art journals on social media has encouraged me to journal more and even share some of my notebook collections. I don’t mean any offense when I say that it isn’t new. I just mean to point out, acutally, to those who criticize it as a fad, that paper planning has been around ever since the first person made the first paper to-do-list. And it’s not going anywhere.

The popularity, form, and nomenclature will ebb and flow. But paper planning has been with us a long, long, time. And it’s not going anywhere.

Happy journaling,

-Taylor

Weekly Blog November 5, 2018 | Looking Ahead: What’s In The Works

Greetings all! It is now the first Monday in November, and now that I’m not quite as absurdly busy, I’m going to *try* to do weekly blogs again. I’m working on getting back into my social media game (loud snort, raucous laughter), and I do want this blog to grow, so I’m going to be at least trying to blog weekly here on Mondays.

It’s just been Samhain (Halloween) and is about to be Thanksgiving, then Christmas, then New Year’s…and then it is TWENTY NINETEEN. So this month and next month, I’m working on composing lists of what I’m going to be making for you guys in the next year (2019). I am forever coming up with ideas for art, comics, decks, books, video series, etc, and while not all of them end up seeing the light of day or being published or made available, I love that idea-birthing process. It’s so much fun to just write down ideas and brainstorm and try to figure out what’s going to work, what’s plausible, and how I can get more things out there.

The biggest thing I’d like to make happen in the new year is a video course on reading Tarot cards. I have been reading and studying the cards since 2002 and I am feeling finally ready to share what I’ve learned – and I do see some major gaps in what’s available in terms of free online courses. So I’m going to be providing a course by the end of 2019 that will go over EVERY CARD IN THE DECK in a balanced way – not focusing 90% of the “Card Meanings” section on the Majors and then mostly skipping over the Minors. It will also go over basic things like spreads, combinations, and reversals – but also detail some more advanced things like creating your own spreads, using different systems of interpretation, and even ethical and legal issues around card reading for pay.

Whether the course will be free or not is going to depend largely on how my finances are looking as we go into 2019. As previously mentioned, I quit one of my jobs, and so while some things are a lot easier, financially things could be quite tight for a while. So, I apologize for not being able to promise right from the beginning, for sure, that it will be 100% free, but I just can’t make that promise at the moment. However, I will do my utmost to make sure that it is FAR more affordable than most (I’m thinking $50 or less for unlimited access to the entire course).

I’m also preparing to do a Christmas/Yule themed Tarot/divination challenge, over on Instagram, called #SimpleGiftsChallenge. It contains 31 prompts for the 31 days of December, and you can do it with Tarot, oracle, Lenormand, or angel cards; Oghams, runes, or geomancy; stones, bones, sticks, what have you – even a pendulum reading of some sort would be awesome. I would adore hearing from you, so tag me (@taylorjohnson.art) and hashtag #SimpleGiftsChallenge and I’ll check out everyone’s posts each day! I will personally be using the Moonchild Tarot, which is my new fave, but you’re not required to even limit yourself to one form of divination, let alone one particular deck. Use whatever feels right for each day.

These are, for reference, the actual questions, in image style:

Okay guys, I have to get this blog out so I’m going to go ahead and post, instead of writing more and more and more ad nauseum. If you’d like to support this whole operation, please do head over to my Etsy shop (http://artbytaylorjohnson.etsy.com); to contact me, please use the contact page.

Until next time…

~Taylor

Weekly Update 4-30-18 | Time Off, Game On!

Hey guys, it’s Julian. And I have been away.

Well, not really away. I’ve been right here, mostly making and packing and listing stuff for my Etsy shop. I hit 25 sales and I think Etsy’s algorithms must have (for some dumb reason) rewarded that, because all of a sudden I’m hecka busy and getting 3 orders a WEEK instead of 3 orders a month!

Like I said. Hecka busy.

I’ve been actually taking time off of my Tarot deck, and “artsy art” in general. I say artsy art because I NEVER want to say that things like design and bookbinding are not art. Making traveler’s notebooks and inserts is no less art than painting, so if you’re more a craftsperson than a painter, don’t ever say to yourself that you’re not an artist! But yeah, I’ve been working on bookbinding more than sketching or inking.

But it’s time to get back to it. My deadline for the inking of my Tarot deck is (hopefully) in mid-June, and I just found out I’m going on a super remote camping trip in May, so I really don’t have time to be taking a break.

I don’t really regret the break. I didn’t draw for about a week, and that’s okay. I was in the middle of losing a job and re-negotiating a lease, so I was emotionally exhausted and just couldn’t face the blank page on top of all that. All’s well now, though, and I really feel that it’s time for me to get my head back in the game.

Deciding when to take a break is not something I put a huge amount of thought into. If I’m too exhausted/overwhelmed/emotionally fried to deal with art, then my art is going to suffer anyway and I’ll have to take a longer break later, so unless I’m really close to a deadline, I don’t tend to think much of taking a break. I don’t take long breaks – rarely longer than a few days or a week – and I don’t plan my break. I don’t plan the end of it, at least. I just tell myself “I’m on break right now and I don’t need to think about work until I’m back to work.” Then, once I’ve been on break long enough to be able to think straight, THEN I think about getting back to work and when I should do that.

So that’s what I did this week. Monday I just said to myself “I feel dead, I’m working on losing a job and getting a new job, plus I have to deal with the leasing office, I’m exhausted. I’m going to take a break.” And it is Monday again and I didn’t really think about deadlines or workload or what percent I’ve finished, until yesterday. At which point…yes, I did freak out a bit and hurry back to work and inked 3 pieces.  And that’s freakin’ great! As long as I can finish my work, as long as the project gets done, I’m happy.

My point being: As much as possible, take breaks when you need to, and as much as possible, don’t stress while on break. But don’t let yourself STAY on break too long. I’m in a bit of a luxurious situation in that right now, at least, I CAN take a break from my art job for 5 days in a row. Not everyone can do that. I can’t break from my day job, but I can at least take away the stress of assigning myself 7-10 art pieces a week too.

Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can. And that goes for caring for yourself, too. 🙂

Anyway, thank you to everyone who’s been reading along, watching YouTube videos, buying from my shop…it’s awesome to have this much support. 🙂 I’m really excited about upcoming videos (and yes, there are upcoming videos!), and am going to continue to do 2 a week whenever possible. I really do appreciate everyone’s support, though. You guys are the bestest. 🙂

~Julian

Weekly Update 2/20/18 | Completing My Life On The Sidelines Prologue, Designing an Oracle Deck, and Balancing Projects

[Image: The Wishing Well card, #1, from my upcoming Starcatcher Oracle deck.]

Hey y’all!

My gosh, I have been BUSY. Life…work…conventions…and art and cards…*zones out more*

So. First off: Yes, I missed had to reschedule my deadline for My Life On The Sidelines. It’s unfortunate, but I had to – I just could not work last week, and that was the last week I had to work. Fortunately, I’m very nearly done, so that should be done by the next time I update. This particular comic has gone much more smoothly than my previous projects, and I think I’ve worked in a balanced way – or, at least, a more balanced way than I have done past projects.

I’ve already jumped into the next project, though, which is typical of me. I’m now working on…the Starcatcher Oracle! It’s a deck of oracle cards (similar to to tarot but without the typical Tarot system) and it is inspired by my own spiritual/mental landscape and language of symbols.

The Bouquet sketch

I believe that all tarot and oracle decks are languages of symbols, and different decks/systems just have different vocabulary in that same language. So this is a deck of MY symbolic vocabulary, the set of symbols that MY subconscious speaks and thinks in.

This particular copy – these physical cards – are MY copy of the Starcatcher Oracle, and depending, it may be the only version that ever exists. However, I’m hopeful that this will lead to me making actual illustrations and having them printed as a deck.

Why am I doing this? For the same reason that English students are encouraged to write and speak in English, and Spanish students are encouraged to write and speak in Spanish, as much as possible. In the same vein, I’m “speaking” in the language of symbols, specifically the ones that work for me, by making this deck.

The art isn’t actually the most important part, for me, and that’s been hard to accept. I always asked “why do deck ‘Authors’ get so much credit? Why is there not more credit for the people who actually made the cards? Why is Doreen’s name so big on this box??!” (I still wonder SOME of that.) But I never realized how much planning, thought, and research goes into just deciding on those symbolic images and the titles and the keywords and guidebook. It’s not as easy as one might guess; it’s not JUST drawing 78 (or 80, or 88) images. It’s designing everything from the color language to the density of symbols in each card. THAT is often what “deck creators” who don’t do the art, actually do. And it is valid, challenging work.

So yeah. I have a new appreciation for deck/guidebook authors. I do still think that the artists’ names should be much more prominent on packaging and advertisements for decks, but we can’t have everything right away.

I’ve illustrated one of the cards fully and have sketched several more. The one I’ve completed is the Wishing Well

The Shaman sketch

And my favorites that I’ve sketched are The Bouquet, The Drifting Ashes, and The Shaman. The Shaman illustrates beautifully how I’m going about my goal of creating a “naturally diverse” deck. What I mean by naturally diverse is, as opposed to “intentionally diverse.” In my humble opinion, intentionally diverse decks (and media) use tokens and try to check off every minority they can manage to include, as if we are but boxes to check on a list as “INCLUDED – NO RIGHT TO COMPLAIN.” I don’t feel like the intentionally diverse decks are actually diverse because they’re trying SO HARD to be inclusive that they’re just a too-perfect rainbow of…tokens. Stereotypes. There are trans people other than middle-aged blonde trans women. There are LGBTQ+ people other than two white gay men. There are races other than the very few one might name off the top of their head.

 

What I’m doing is just going intuitively and trying my best to just allow my ideas to include people of different abilities, ages, races, genders, sexualities, sizes, and so on. When I was creating the Shaman card, I had an image in my head of an elderly, heavyset black woman knitting. I thought this was lovely. Not because it included a person of color, person of size, person of a different age, but because it just fit for the Shaman AND included some diversity!

That’s kind of where I’m going with this: incorporating diversity as PART of the deck and part of the meanings of each card, not just cramming diversity in wherever I can manage it and where it doesn’t actually make sense. I think that’s where a lot of modern “Diverse Decks” go wrong – they just cram in diversity for diversity’s sake. I’m trying to include diversity where diversity fits and suits the cards’ meanings and symbolism.

Will I be intentional about adding some diversity? Certainly – I’m going to make sure that I include at least one differently-abled person, even if it’s just a woman with a cane; I’m going to ensure that I include ethnicities other than black and white. Yes, I will have a checklist, in a way. But it’s not going to be the primary direction for my deck.

I am making an oracle deck that includes diversity. Not a Diverse Oracle Deck.

The Drifting Ashes sketch

Other than diversity, the Starcatcher Oracle will focus on sacred storytelling, universal myth symbols, Jungian archetypes, and Pagan/New-Age spirituality. All pretty standard for a modern divination deck. But I wanted to mention those factors, regardless.

I have NOT chosen a name for this deck officially yet – I’m torn between Starcatcher Oracle and Sacred Storytellers Oracle. Let me know what you like better!

And if anyone’s interested, the tools I’m using in creating this deck include:

  • 300gsm white card from Recollections (Michael’s) as the actual cards
  • Graphite mechanical pencils for sketching
  • Sakura Pigma Micron pens for inking
  • Crayola 100-colors colored pencils for coloring
  • Going to seal them with matte spray-on Mod Podge.

That’s all I’ve got for now; that’s the process (so far) of the oracle I’m making. I have a BUNCH more card-reading videos coming up, so stay tuned for that. And if you’d like, you can follow the Starcatcher Oracle’s Instagram – http://www.instagram.com/starcatcheroracle – to get notified when there’s anything new, or to see work-in-progress images!

I wish you abundant blessings, and I hope you’re having a great day.

~Julian

Weekly Update 2/6/18 | The New Copier Is Here!! | Starting Out Self Publishing | Investing in Technology

[Image: Photo of CANON ImageClass MF632Cdw consumer-range office printer/copier. source: canon.com]

Oh gosh, I have so much to talk about. I rambled about the new copier in a video here, but I’ll give you the run down in text form too:

Basically, I am now the owner of a Canon imageCLASS MF632Cdw – a mid-range color laser printer/scanner/all-in-one. It is a beautiful little machine and I’m really happy with it so far! I got mine from a big chain electronics store (won’t say which) and

I have already had to replace the toner cartridge, but that’s to be expected. They give you a half-full toner cartridge to start with, and when I got it, I was kinda hyper and printed a crapton of test editions to figure out my offset layout software…So I wound up buying a toner the next day. I’m sure the store thought I was absolutely out of my mind but I needed that darn toner!

But the proof is in the pudding: I’ve been able to print my first zine-size (6×8, roughly) editions of You Are In Love and The Cheyenne Line, my first two comics. They are so beautiful, dude, I’m just freaking out that I was able to make them at home, for so little money. 🙂 I’m also developing a couple of other zine-format (folded, stapled) publications, including an Inktober zine (containing my Inktober illustrations from 2017).

So what do you DO with a bunch of zines? And what about those slightly-off-kilter, misprinted misfits? Do they get thrown out or wasted? Nope. I’ll be using those as promotional items – I’ve found that people who would NEVER buy a romance comic based on a song by The Ataris, would totally take a free copy. People love free shit, is what it comes down to.

And as for the nice ones, I’ll have them on sale, but most of the ones I’ve already printed will be given or traded to artists when I go to Katsucon in a couple weeks. I’ve never been to a convention, and while I’m not tabling this year, I’m definitely going to be heading into Artists’ Alley, and I want to have something a little better than a plain old business card to hand out.

Choosing to invest in this printer – and choosing to commit to the continuous investment in toner cartridges – was a big decision. I had to talk with my partner about it and think about whether it was the right time to buy such a thing. Financially, it’s perfectly plausible; but whether this was the right place to put the money was another matter. I’m not exactly a big name, and I’ve sold a grand total of one of my comics. One COPY. EVER. (As of this writing, anyway.) So, sadly, I’m not sure I can justify it based on “I’ll definitely be printing enough comics to make back the money in six months!”

However, my partner and I agree that based on the quality of my work, and the consistency with which I produce content, indicate that yes, it’s time to own a nice copier. It’s worth it to invest in, because even if it’s not within six months, this copier WILL pay for itself.

I intend, however, to prove myself wrong and “pay it off” (make back the same amount we spent) within 6 months. I’d like to at least use it to pay for the toner!

Anyway, you can click here if you’d like to purchase one of my comics. I had fun putting them together, and I think they came out great, so head over to the shop to explore what I have for sale.

Also, I have FINALLY got my mojo back on working on my spiritual stuff! So expect more grimoire/Book of Shadows posts soon. I’ll be doing flip-through videos once I’ve got some done, and until then, there will be at least text updates.

Sorry this update is going up late this week, I had kind of a crazy weekend. But all is well now. 🙂

~Julian

Weekly Update 1/29/18 | Zine Influences, Comic Inking, and Self-Publishing Rebellion!

[Pictured: An assortment of the zines and self-published publications I’ve collected over the years.]

Hey y’all! It’s Julian. I’m in the midst of a comic-inking marathon, but I’m taking a few minutes to write up an update. 🙂

I’ve been really inspired by zines, zine culture, zine discussion, and zine documentaries this week – and self-publishing in general is becoming even more appealing to me than before. I’m really excited and, in fact, proud to be self-publishing. I honestly think that self-publishing is the future of art, rather than a dying concept. I see more and more young artists self-publishing zines, books, and comics, and more and more big companies going down…in a way, it makes me happy. We are still here.

I’m currently working hard on My Life On The Sidelines, my current comic project. I’m on the Prologue right now and am about 2/3 done with those 24-ish pages. I’m looking into formatting and printing it, and it’s going to be more zine-sized than my previous (8.5×11″) comics. Every day I’m learning more about what my technology can do and how I can print them without going to a bigger printing service. It’s awesome!

(If you’d like to read Sidelines now, please click here.)

The whole idea of self-publishing appeals to me partly because it’s an act of rebellion. Not just if you make an explicit, politically drive riot grrl zine – I mean that self-publishing itself is an act of rebellion.

How so?

Well, first of all, it rejects the very idea of needing permission: permission to speak, permission to share your ideas, permission to promote your art. It rejects the idea of needing validation; anyone can self-publish, so it doesn’t matter whether your art is “good enough” or “high quality.” And perhaps best of all, self-publishing is no respecter of persons. Rich, poor, POC, white, male, female, nonbinary – anyone can make a zine, and for the most part, no one can stop you.

Of course, I realize I’m speaking from a place of privilege in that I’m in a country and area where if I say (or self-publish) something outlandish, I’m not likely to be killed for it. But really, in most places, anyone can self-publish. You can even be anonymous or use a pseudonym if you’re really uncomfortable about it. I do.

But really, I believe that self-publishing is an act of rebellion, a show of courage, and a practice of self-worth and love. Self-publishing your work shows that you are unafraid and unabashed and unashamed.  And so I’ll keep running off photocopies.

Until the next time we speak, I hope you’re having an excellent day, and I’ll talk to you again very very soon!

~Julian

Weekly Update 1/22/18 | New Materials for Old Artists; Choosing Proper Paper; and Creating Consistent Content

Hey y’all! It’s Julian, and this is the weekly update for January 22, 2018. I’m going to be talking today about being an experienced artist with new materials, the value of using appropriate paper for whatever medium you’re working in, and also my main New Year’s resolution.

IMG_5998

First off, I don’t pretend to be a highly experienced artist – I just mean that I’ve been drawing for about 15 years, and seriously studying since 2016, and so I’ve tried a lot of things and failed at a lot of things. (“The beginner artist has ruined dozens of pieces; the expert artist has ruined thousands.”) So I kind of know what I’m doing…with a few things. Ink pens, I’m good at. Markers, I’m pretty good at.

But dip pens with bottles of ink and watercolor painting?!

Nope. Nope nope nope. I know NOTHING.

And yet I am trying those things right now!

I’m very new at watercolor. I reeeaaaally do not know what I’m doing. I’m screwing up a LOT. And yet…I’m having a blast!! It is actually really fun to not know what you’re doing, and to make mistakes, when you have the right approach and the right mental attitude towards it. Personally, I love trying new mediums and screwing up. I don’t always love screwing up (it’s really annoying when I accidentally plop ink in the middle of a beautiful painting!), but I really love the overall experience of trying a medium I’m not good at.

I think it’s because I love the challenge. I love that each medium has pros and cons and that each tool solves some problems and causes others. I love figuring out how the heck to work with each medium.

I’ve gotten to the point in my artistic life, I think, where I can just try new things and it doesn’t emotionally destroy me when I fail, or mess up, or whatever you want to call it – when things don’t go the way I’d imagined. The thing is, I’ve accepted that art will NEVER go exactly how I imagine it. I never will be able to pull that perfect image directly out of my head. Ever. It’s just not going to happen.

But once you let go of that pipe dream of perfection… gosh it’s fun to try!

Jimin Watercolor

Now about paper. Paper is so, so important. I think my latest piece (the boy in blue, aka Jimin Park from Kpop band BTS, pictured above) is proof of this.

I used a bit of watercolor from tubes that I got in a set of 12 for $5 from Michael’s. These watercolors are probably a nightmare to a pro, and yet even in my hands, on decent paper, I got pretty darn good results (well, I’m happy with it!). But crummy paper, even with nice watercolors, would have turned out super messy. Maybe, when I have some really much nicer watercolors, I’ll do a video discussing/demonstrating this.

My excuse for a long time was “I’ll ruin the good paper! It’s not worth it to invest in good paper! My art doesn’t deserve good paper!” That was BS. It is, to me, the same as saying “Well, I’m investing in the red and orange pencils, yes, but if I buy nice blue and green pencils, I’ll ruin them. Never mind that I’m using the reds and oranges. Nope, can’t invest in blue or green.” See? The paper is as much a tool as the paint/pencil/marker.

My point is this: Invest in paper. Doesn’t have to be Arches. Just at least buy the right kind of paper. So if you’re learning watercolors, invest in basic watercolor paper (Canson XL is great and very cheap!). If it’s uncomfortable to use fancy paper, remind yourself: Someday you will be working on fancy paper anyway, so you might as well get used to it now!

Get comfortable with the “fancy” paper as much as you get comfortable with the pen or brush. You can always have a “messy page,” a spare piece of that paper that you JUST use to test colors/paints/brushes/etc. Or doodle on a page or two. Just get your brush wet and get something on that freakin’ paper!!

IMG_6239

Finally, I want to talk about my biggest New Year’s resolution, which was actually just the choice of a Phrase of Intention for the year. Many people choose a “word of the year,” but I chose a phrase: Create Consistent Content. It’s my aim, my goal, my guidance for the year. When I don’t know what to do with myself, I intend to turn to this phrase and remind myself that the key to building a brand, and also the key to building a creative practice and improving on one’s work, is Creating Consistent Content!

Yeah. Yeah, I know it’s cheesy. But it’s helping me so far.

I had to find a way to quantify this, though – how to know whether I am indeed creating consistent content. Thus, here are my goals:

  • Create one color illustration (9×12″ or larger) every week in 2018. (Bonus points: Make 55 total so that it’s a bit more than once a week.)
  • Release a comic issue every other month in 2018, for a total of 6 issues. (Bonus Points: Release an offset-printed collection, containing the first 5 chapters plus the prologue, at the end of the year.)
  • Make a net profit of [number I won’t share] off of my art.

Basically these goals are to keep me accountable to that idea of Creating Consistent Content. I wanted to share them so that you can help keep me accountable too.

Well, this post is already late, so I’m going to send it off to y’all. Thank you again for all your support, and please do check out http://www.etsy.com/shop/julianjaymesart if you’d like to purchase anything and help me towards my goals!

~Julian