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Getting the most out of Art Journal January

Art Journal January has been an annually recurring theme for creatives at thalo since it's inception on December 5th, 2017 (read the original article here). To help better elaborate on how Art Journal January can benefit artists, we sat down and talked with the author of the article, Brett Kelley, so he can give some details on how it can be helpful! 


Thalo Team: What inspired you to embrace the idea of Art Journal January? 

Brett Kelley:  I'm a fan of the old adage that the New Year is a clean slate or fresh start, and I am a bit of a sketchbook addict on top of that. I'm also notorious for forgetting to write things down before I forget them. I use Art Journal January to help organize myself and also create a personal database of ideas to use throughout the year. I have always filled out sketchbooks and then either discarded or lost them, and instead of using a sketchbook to document my past work, I wanted to do the opposite and use a sketchbook to help plan out my future. 


TT: Has Art Journal January helped you at all? 

BK: Without a doubt! This past year I ended up using my art journal to catalog and compile all my sketches for several illustration series that I fashioned over the course of the year in between commissions and events. Because I dumped every visual idea I had into my book it also helped relieve some mental exhaustion I had built up over the years. It's great to have an idea out of your head and on paper so you can revisit it and approach it as an external concept to strengthen it, and Art Journal January helped me do that. I've been able to develop and strengthen so many ideas through Art Journal January that I truly believe it can be a helpful and fun resource for anytone who has a ton of ideas or projects to manage. 

Another helpful thing I found is that I would post a page or two around a concept and gauge the interest from my audience on social media. When I started getting a ton of positive feedback and reactions from certain sketches, I then pushed those ideas to the front of the production line, and in turn, sold out every item I made from those sketches (which were zines, stickers and small art prints). 


TT: How do you approach Art Journal January? 

BK: I try to challenge myself every year with a new approach. The first year I just pushed myself to fill a page a day with anything/everything I had in my head. I wrote out entire comic book stories, I blocked out full painting and drawing series, I revisited old ideas I had from five years ago. It was a great way to pick away at some ideas I wasn't ready to let go of and see if any of them still had any value to them. My second year of Art Journal January I decided to build an entire world in conjunction with a story I had come up with in 2016, and that yielded several dozen pages of concepts that I then turned into content for a role playing game I made with friends. 


TT: Who is Art Journal January for? 

BK: I truly believe that Art Journal January can help you no matter what your artistic discipline(s) or interests are. If you are a designer or illustrator you can use it to help think-tank new visuals or concepts. If you are a writer you can build up premises and pair them with visuals or develop written poetry that you can either perform or incorporate into other projects. And you don't have to be a professional, either! Having a means to empty your head into every now and then can be helpful (if not therapeutic to a degree), and even if you don't necessarily plan to do anything with those ideas, it's fun to have them. I feel like you can use Art Journal January almost like a Dream Journal, but for daydreams when you are awake, if that makes sense? 


TT: Do you have any ideas or plans going into this year for your journal? 

BK: A few! I have a couple project deadlines I'm participating in that I am using my Art Journal Pages to prepare for. Lots of fantasy illustrations and technical drawings. I'm also revisiting a few products I've had on the backburner for a few years, hoping to get them into a better place for development. It's been tricky balancing my work and my commissions these days, but I think I found a healthy balance this week in particular.


TT: What do you hope people take away from participating in Art Journal January?

BK: I hope folks can use this exercise to cultivate their ideas either internally through organization, expanding skill sets and exploring concepts, and also externally by building a bigger audience and test-running ideas before investing more time into them. Art Journal January can mean a lot of different things to different artists, and I hope everyone can use this as a way to get them into a better place artistically. Art Journal January can be a very personal project or a public one. 


TT: What do you like MOST about Art Journal January? 

BK: A number of things I really adore about this challenge. I love how it is open-ended so anyone can do their own take on it. I like how it can be adapted to whatever style you like, whether it be a "Draw something a day" or "build your next year of research and reference for your artwork", or even "Explore with materials every day using different techniques to help build your repertoire.". So, in a long-winded way, what I like most about Art Journal January is the potential it has to help artists in more than one way. 


TT: How can people participate? 

BK: It's fantastically simple! All you have to do is make a page however you like, whether it be through sketching, drawing, inking, writing, coloring, whatever you want and posting it to your social media handles with the hashtag(s): #ArtJournalJanuary2020 #thaloartjournaljanuary

That way other people participating can see how everyone else is working and can inspire each other! 


- You can follow Brett's work @bkartmerc

- You can follow Thalo @thaloart