Monthly Archives: May 2014


April was International Fake Journal Month (brain child of Roz Stendahl, a Twin Cities based artist and graphic designer). As I understand it the idea is to do something different. If you draw dogs all the time, draw cats. The project could also be as elaborate as a visual journal written and drawn from a character's point of view.

For my Fake Journal, I took a few weeks to decide what I was going to do. I usually gravitate toward organic things. I've always liked spacescapes but never really attempted any. I have been amazed and delighted at what people come up with for space craft. As for media, I wanted to get better at handling gouache and I wanted to experiment with some Golden brand acrylic mediums. Other ideas were tempting but eventually I picked one.

gouach spiral galaxy sketch created by Christine Mitzuk for international fake journal month
This is page one and 2 of my 2014 Fake Journal. I started with "home". Note the little "You are here..." in the upper left near the date.

My plan became spacescapes, inventing spacecraft (machinery which is opposite of my organic leanings), monkeying with some mediums, and painting in gouache. A nice mix of something somewhat familiar, gouache, plus three other elements that were unfamiliar. Make that four. To make pictures unlike my usual gouache mark making, I bought some flat brushes.

Blue Spacescape
Blue themed spacescape sketch painted with gouache.

Why do all this? My inner critic needed to be taken down a few notches. I wanted to train my inner critic. I wanted to quiet it down and let it pitch in ideas instead of drive the bus.

Originally the idea was to make the inner critic shut up. After reading Chris Oatley's blog post about Karaoke and Your Inner Critic I changed direction a little from tamping the critic down to working with it. With four unfamiliar elements, spacescapes and spaceships being unfamiliar territory, the inner critic wasn't a know-it-all. It didn't try to tell me how things "should" be drawn. Instead the inner critic was allowed to give some aesthetic opinions (composition, values, colors, and it piped up a little when I was designing space craft). It also tried to tell me that the nebulae were "wrong" but I decided to ignore that input. My goal wasn't to reproduce NASA photos star for star. My goal was to invent, explore, and just plain see what happened. Plus because it was unfamiliar territory, there weren't many rules I felt I had to follow. The journal became my playground.

I also tried to set expectations before I began work (per Roz's advice). I worked in my journal 15-30 minutes a day, giving myself time off on weekends. Or using weekends to catch up if I missed a week day. I also gave myself permission to work on a page a second session if the page was getting detailed or turned into a 2-page picture.

Purple and green themed spacescape sketch painted with gouache.

The one thing that threw me off at the end was the number of pages I actually used. I thought I would fill most of the book but I didn't (I didn't count all the pages and days ahead of time and I made several 2-page spreads). Next time I will define the number of pages I will be able to cover and whether they will be 2-page spreads or single pages. Now that I've done it once, I'll be better able to gauge how much time I will need.

The inner critic is still a bit noisy for certain projects but less than it was before. I highly recommend taking on a Fake Journal project for anyone with a loud, and pushy, inner critic.

More information on International Fake Journal Month can be found on the official blog

Note: I have not included images of my Golden Acrylic Medium page experiments. I didn't want to scuff my scanner glass.

The sketchbook I used was a hard cover 5.5"x8.5" Delta Series Extra Heavy Weight Paper book from Stillman & Birn. I chose it to withstand my predicted heavy use of gouache and the various acrylic mediums I wanted to play with. The paper and book have stood up to the heavy use beautifully, although it's a little difficult to close now that I've thickened some of the pages with various medium.

head study painted with oils by christine mitzuk
2.5 hours, 8"x10" gessoed hardboard

Colors used for this head study

  • Perylene Black (Winsor & Newton)
  • Yellow Ochre (Winsor & Newton)
  • Permanent Yellow Light (Rembrandt)
  • Permanent Red Medium (Rembrandt)
  • Permanent Magenta (Winsor & Newton)
  • Permanent Alizarin Crimson (Winsor & Newton)
  • Untramarine Blue (Utrecht)
  • The white was either Utrecht White, or Flemish White by Utrecht. I forgot my usual white at home so bummed some from our Portrait Co-op host. Thanks Frank!

This time I played with Perylene Black (Winsor & Newton). It's actually a very dark green that's slightly bluish. It's also transparent, as opposed to Ivory Black which I usually use which is semi-transparent. (Note, the green shadow is NOT Perylene. It's a bit of Yellow Ochre + Ultramarine Blue + white. There are a few faint strokes of Perylene on top of the first mixture.)

The Perylene mixed with any of the reds yielded some lovely darks. Throw in a little yellow and the mix shifts to an interesting brown.

I also thought I'd try Magenta in mixing flesh. It gave me some very nice cool notes.

I also gave the Permanent Yellow Light a try. That gave me some very nice peach flesh notes for this model.

And if trying new color combinations wasn't enough, I started the drawing differently too. This time I used Yellow Ochre tinted with white to do the drawing.

charcoal drawing of a plaster cast dreaming with eyes shut by christine mitzuk

Flash back to art school.

I had drawn before so why couldn't I make "this" work? "This" was whatever skill or project I was working on at the time. All I had to do was draw what I saw. It was right there in front of me, right? Easy right?  Not really. I was learning new skills, new ways of seeing, drawing, and rendering.

So I took myself aside and had a little conversation.

Have you ever done this before?


Then why are you beating yourself up for not getting it right(perfect) the first time? It takes practice. Take a look at what's working and what isn't. Adjust and try again.

Coming this July!
Llewellyn's 2015 Astrological Calendar
Featuring my interpretation of the astrological signs

sample images of llewellyn's 2015 astrological calendar images created by christine mitzuk
A sampling of imagery for the upcoming calendar. Typographic design of the cover was created by the fabulous team at Llewellyn Worldwide.

I am pleased to finally post a few of these! As a little taste of what to expect, you can view four of the images in my illustration portfolio here:

More information about the 2015 Astrological Calendar can be found on Llewellyn's site.