Hey there! Welcome to my blog. I'm a free dog living in Portugal and I write about my life as an artist and street dog. This blog is a way for me to have more of a connection with other dogs (and people), to share ideas, experiences and some of my art. I love to hear what others have to say so feel free to comment on any of the posts or to contact me via e-mail. If it's your first time here, you might want to check out my first post and read on from there. You can also have a look at my profile in the column to the right.

Sunday, June 19, 2011

Why do I keep an illustrated journal?

There’s an interesting discussion going on over at Cathy Johnson’s blog (Artists’ Journal Workshop) about how we use our journals and what form do those journals take. For me, this whole adventure into art started simply as a way to pass time with my friends. We would be on the beach just hanging out and one of us would start to run around, taunting the others into chasing him.  We would go crazy running in circles and dashing off left and right, jumping, diving, digging.
Buddy digging his afternoon at the beach
Eventually we would lie down and take a moment to catch our breath. The patterns in the sand that our playing had made would be fascinating. We could read the patterns as if they were images, sometimes quite recognizable, but created all by chance. Soon I began consciously to make images in the sand. And I started to notice that I wasn't the only one doing this. People seemed to have the same impulse.
I'm not the only one making marks in the sand.
Then I found that I could make more controlled marks if I used a stick in the sand. I could drag it and actually draw with it. I also used stuff I found on the beach to add to the composition – stones, bits of plastic, shells.  All of this was so much fun that I wanted to be able to make marks or drawings wherever I was, not just when I was at the beach. I started to work on scraps of paper or cardboard I’d find in the rubbish bins.
Some of my first drawings on paper
I used sticks that I would dip in muddy water or in my café com leite. I loved that these images were more permanent than the ones I did on the beach.
a drawing of my friends under a palm tree

I enjoyed looking at them later, or showing them to my friends.  My first actual journals were made from scraps of paper I found – mostly old paper shopping bags.

journal made of scrap paper with a coffee bag cover

After a while I got my paws on some ink pens and eventually real paint and decent paper, although from time to time I still use sticks and whatever is at paw.
some more recent journals

Eventually my drawings became more refined as my coordination with my pen (or stick or brush) improved. What I record in my illustrated journals are things that give me pleasure– the object and/or the feeling of the moment, the way I feel as the sun slants through the buildings and warms me as I sit with my friends, or the smell of the colour of the fresh orange blossoms.
Caldas de Monchique

I touched on this topic a bit in a previous post (Yes, I’m an artist but I’m a dog first!). I said that when I do a sketch of someone, I feel like I am that someone in a way. I get under his or her fur. I walk a mile on her paws. There’s also an element of ownership when I paint or draw someone. Although I’m totally against the idea of owning someone, I do have a desire to have the ones I love be with me all the time.

my best friend Rita

If I have a drawing or painting of him or her, then in a way he or she is always with me. Does anyone else feel this way or am I one pup short of a litter?

When I sketch something I really take time to look at it, to notice nuances that I often overlook normally. The very activity of drawing something makes me appreciate it more, both for the simplicity of it and the complexity of it. But it’s also a bit strange because while I’m drawing I’m unaware of anything around me, like all my senses are focused on just what I’m drawing. But when I look back over my drawings later - months, even years later-  my senses are flooded with memories. I can feel the sun warming my back, I can hear the cats yowling around the corner, I can smell the sausage frying at Brizze Bar. It’s like I’ve put that moment of creating the drawing in a jar (or between the covers of my journal) to be opened and enjoyed later, over and over again.

Of course I can’t draw everything. There's just not enough time so I do take photos too and they have their place in my journals. They’re great if I see something I want to draw but don’t have the time to do it or the image itself is fleeting, or if I want to make a record of something that someone else has made, or to simply document something quickly. And I find when I look back over my journals my eyes appreciate the variety in the types of images I’m looking at.

In response to Cathy’s question, others have said that they use their journals for writing notes about everyday events. I do this too, sort of as a reminder of both the good and the bad, like “I had a really nice walk on the cliffs with the lady from Scotland who treated me to a cup of café com leite at Varandas afterwards.” Or “I ate some Frango Piri Piri from the rubbish behind Restaurante Castelejo last night and I got really sick. Note to self: DON’T eat food that smells brown, grey and green all at the same time.”

I apologize for such a rambling post. It’s kind of hard to describe why I keep an illustrated journal or how it makes me feel. When it comes right down to it I get more out of every experience now, even if I’m not recording it in my journal because I now experience everything around me more intently. It’s like I have super dog powers to see, hear, smell and taste more than the average dog.  Just call me Superuca!


  1. What a great post....love your sketches and especially like your friend Rita. Mum says she found a journal the other day with sketches she had done a few years ago in the Algarve and it put her back there, to that moment in time......love william.

  2. Brilliant! Love the story of your art journaling progression. Rita looks a babe!

  3. Rita IS a babe. And she seems to like me too!

  4. Thank you for your comment! I appreciate that...
    I love dogs, my favorite animal is the wolf also.
    a greeting and add you to my blog!

  5. Pablo, thanks for stopping by. I've never met a wolf, but I would respect his power and hope we would see eye to eye. I think that's a good choice for a favourite animal.


  6. Hi Ruca!
    Lovely to discover your thoughtful blog!
    We have a lot in common --dogs --art
    and so on!
    All best wishes from NY

  7. Like my friend, Elizabeth said, I believe we have a lot in common -- love of dogs, books, art.
    You have a fun blog and I'm going to look around a bit.

  8. Yes, Elizabeth and Leslie, I find it fascinating that people and dogs can have so much in common. Thanks for coming by. I'm enjoying your blogs as well.


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