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Blind Contour Drawings

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This is a tactic against two common brain-bugs: “I can’t draw” and “I don’t know what to draw.” It’s also quite effective against the less common brain-bug, “I hate my drawings, they all look so lifeless and stupid and it’s pissing me off.”

It’s a nice practice to try if you’re just starting to add drawings to your notebooks, or if you already draw but are feeling inhibited/cranky about it.

Get your pen or pencil and your paper, look at anything, and while not looking at the paper or lifting your pen, slowly and carefully draw around the edges (contours) of the object. It feels like you are touching the object with your gaze, which is directly translated to your hand as it moves across the paper.

“The goal of blind drawing is to really see the thing you’re looking at, to almost spiritually merge with it, rather than retreat into your mental image of it. Our brains are designed to simplify — to reduce the tumult of the world into order. Blind drawing trains us to stare at the chaos, to honor it. It is an act of meditation, as much as it is an artistic practice — a gateway to pure being. It forces us to study the world as it actually is.”

Sam Anderson, “Letter of Recommendation: Blind Contour Drawing”

blind contour drawings

Once you get the technique down, try experimenting with drawing several objects in the same/overlapping space, drawing the same object multiple times, using different color pens, lifting your pen off the paper as you move to a different part of the object, drawing textures or details (not just contours), mixing in other kinds of drawing, etc. If you sit in one spot and do blind contour drawings of as many objects in the space around you as you can, all together on one page–you’ve created a record of what that particular place & time looked like from your eyes as you really got to know it carefully. And since you’re not looking at the paper, you could even do blind contour drawing while walking around…

Blind contour drawing

 

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Make Your Own Symbology

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Do you ever go through old notebooks and end up feeling exhausted &/or disoriented from the ordeal? I feel this way whenever I have to read a good chunk of every page just to figure out what it’s about.

You know what’s cool? If you come up with a few symbols that represent the main kinds of content you tend to put in your notebooks, you don’t have to re-read everything…you can just have a quick look at the symbols labeling your content, find what you need, ignore what you don’t, and not waste time getting mentally discombobulated by it all.

Having your own symbology is useful both for long-term organization of notes (using different icons for ideas, research/book notes, gratitude, venting, dreams, etc) & for short-term use in everyday planning pages (using icons for tasks, deadlines, important information, ideas to follow up on, etc).

Patrick Rhone's dash-plus icons via http://patrickrhone.com/dashplus/

Patrick Rhone’s dash-plus icons via http://patrickrhone.com/dashplus/

Mike Rohde's sketchnote icons via https://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/13792208535/

Mike Rohde’s sketchnote icons via https://www.flickr.com/photos/rohdesign/13792208535/

From the ever brilliant Kent from Oz.

From the ever brilliant Kent from Oz.

 

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Use a Daily Planner as a Notebook

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For the past few years I’ve been using Moleskine’s page-per-day planner, large (13 x 21 cm) size, as my main catch-everything notebook (not as a planner as intended). Why do I love these?

  • They already have something printed on each page–dates up in the corners, some tiny numbers down the sides, little weather icons & such at the bottom. Just enough stuff going on to kill that PRISTINE BLANK PAGE anxiety. It’s easier to relax and write whatever, not worrying about if it’s worthy enough of the usual expanse of uncorrupted whiteness.
  • Because it’s a planner with thin pages, it doesn’t give off a pretentious “fancy journal” vibe. It’s made to be a workhorse, something to scribble quick notes in and spill coffee on. It’s not meant for feather-quilling your highfalutin memoirs…though the notebook police probably won’t bust you if you do.
  • The dates can be used as a page numbering system.
  • The edition that I use comes with a separate, alphabetized address booklet you can stick in the back & use as an index.
  • They’re nice and fat! Heaps of pages…so many pages that you can scrawl all over the place and make a dumb mess and not care about wasting paper.
  • THEY COME IN STAR WARS EDITIONS.
  • You can sometimes find older versions for cheap, like this 2014 Star Wars edition or this 2015 Star Wars edition (this last one is under 5.00 as of Oct 2015). If you’re using them as general notebooks, it doesn’t matter what year’s dates are in them.

Moleskine Daily Planner 2

Pages numbered from 8-20 & weather symbols at the bottom

Pages numbered from 8-20 & weather symbols at the bottom

Moleskine Daily Planner on Top (400 pages) vs. Moleskine Journal underneath (196 pages)

Moleskine Daily Planner on Top (400 pages) vs. Moleskine Journal underneath (196 pages)

2014 Yoda Edition

2014 Yoda Edition

Address book that comes with 2014 edition

Address book that comes with 2014 edition

Disclaimer: If you purchase something using the above links, a small percentage goes toward supporting this blog. If you use them, thanks!

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Track the Moons of Jupiter

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The honor of idea #1 goes to one of my favorite astronomers: Galileo.

In 1609/1610 he turned one of the earliest refracting telescopes toward Jupiter and observed a few nearby “stars” that seemed to travel along with the planet. In his notebook, he logged the positions of these four satellites relative to Jupiter over the course of several years.

Galileo's Notebooks

One of the earliest entries (before he observed the fourth moon) reads:

“January 11, 1610. It was in this guise and the star nearest to Jupiter was half as large as the other, and most close to the other, whereas on the other evenings the said three stars all appeared to be of the same size and equidistant one from another: from which it appears that there are around Jupiter three wandering stars up to this time invisible to one and all.”

(trans. Charles J. Donovan)

The four “Galilean Moons” were later named Callisto, Ganymede, Io and Europa. We now know that Jupiter has (at least!) sixty-seven moons; the four that Galileo observed are the biggest, and are fairly easy to find if you can get your hands on a small telescope (or some good binoculars). Back when Galileo made his notes, he was documenting the first known example of something orbiting a solar system object other than the Earth (our Moon) or the Sun (the Earth, though this was somewhat controversial at the time). This was one of the first big leaps in our cosmic perspective: Hey, there are other planets with their own moons…not everything revolves around us! A pretty cool use of a notebook, don’t you think?

Jupiter-moons

Source of quote: http://www.dioi.org/galileo/galileo.htm

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