Kat Johnston art - looking at a blank page is hard. Its so full of potential, and -you- have the potential to screw it up. But as the saying goes: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

A quick note on the picture above, before it goes into the hugely long post of today. I’ve entitled it ‘Dandelion Dreaming’ and it currently occupies a place in one of my ‘real’ sketchbooks. Please read on – the site has been live for a month today, so it is a bit of a long post to kinda reflect on this fact.

Atelodemiourgiopapyrophobia – the fear of imperfect creative activity on paper. A word first coined in this post. It may not be a ‘true’ phobia, but it is certainly something a lot of us must face at one point or another. Ever sat down to write a hand-written letter and been scared to start because you just know that you are going to misspell something? Atelodemiourgiopapyrophobia.

Whilst the above example is certainly pertinent, the more common one for me has to do with sketching in a nicely bound, beautifully presented sketchbook – not the spiral-bound cheapies, or the lecture notepads… with those, you can always just turn another page, or even tear it out. There is something special, something exquisite about a sketchbook that is just waiting to be a showcase of the things that flitter around on the edge of your consciousness, works in their own right waiting to be committed to a journal, which, while rough and underdeveloped at times, you would be proud to hand to someone else and go ‘this is mine’.

Having a ‘digital sketchbook’ such as this blog may go a way towards battling this, but I am able to, as with the ‘cheapie’ sketchbooks, pick and choose what I display here. I can toss away the incredibly bad bits and pieces and just throw up the ‘this is passable’ stuff. It just isn’t the same.

Thus, I’ve started trying to draw in ‘actual’ sketchbooks now and then. It is something that I have seemingly avoided for quite a while – it does actually scare me. I see pictures of people’s sketchbooks and I am in awe of the things they produce, page after page of perfection – or at least, that is how I see it. How can I live up to that? Sketchbooks such as these are creative works in their own rights, no matter how much people may argue to the contrary. Whilst they may not have the centre-stage such as a well-worked painting under spotlights may have, I find them to be just as interesting, just as relevant, just as fascinating – perhaps even moreso at times because it is so raw and often unfiltered.

Anyhow, this roundabout post is kinda just trying to point out that I am trying to do something about this silly fear I have of ruining a perfectly good sketchbook. ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’ is the old saying, and I’m coming to realize that it is a saying I should pay more heed to.

On May the 16th, 2008 I started a little blog on the spur of the moment, thinking ‘if not now, then when?’. It was updated only semi-regularly, though the goal was for a once-a-day sketch as it is now. It was frequented only once in a while by a few friends, some family and so on. I never did anything to promote it, beyond telling a person or two.

Then I had a chance to do my major assignment for my coursework on a subject of my choice. This website became that project. The saying ‘It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool, than to open your mouth and remove all doubt’ did occur to me, but I had been doing that forever – if no-one ever sees your work, then they can’t point out that its not great, right? But nor are you going to get anywhere or move forward. Whilst I don’t generally go in for the whole ‘self help’ mantras, this one has always rung true for me: ‘If you always do what you’ve always done you’ll always get what you’ve always got’ (Tony Robbins, in case you were curious… I had to look it up). So I did it anyway. I could have gone with a safe project, and written an essay, but instead I decided it was time to promote me.

On the 29th of August, after weeks of learning css on the fly, modifying wordpress themes and making a place to call my virtual own, KatJohnston.com went live. As of the moment I write this, I have had 1,293 visits to this site, ranging from people I know, to people that I certainly hadn’t met before this project went underway. I’ve been putting myself out there on social networking applications: facebook, twitter, delicious and more, actually trying to get people to see what I do, who I am, even if it is just the rough sketches and flittery thoughts rather than the refined works. I’ve been consistently throwing up at least one sketch a day, even when that sketch is barely more than a few flicks of a pen to say ‘there, I’ve done a sketch, now I need some sleep’.

Before I started out on doing this, I wasn’t drawing consistently. I wasn’t doing something day by day, every day and I certainly didn’t feel as if I wanted to be in my studio every waking moment. Right now, I cannot wait until my time at university is over. I am still working strong on assignments with another month ahead of me, but I’m almost counting down the days until I am done and will have time to paint and draw for more than a minute here, or an hour there. Believe it or not, doing this has actually made me enthusiastic about something that has fallen to the wayside for far too long: creating.

Perhaps it is the fact that people are actually seeing my work, or the fact that I have people now who I know check this site day by day to see what I have drawn. Perhaps it is just that I can scroll through these pages myself and go ‘you know, I actually like what I do’ in a way that can’t really be done with scraps of paper scattered from one end of the house to the other in a dozen different books and places. It isn’t life-changing stuff, its just random thoughts, random sketches and things that make me smile – but it has made a real difference. I’m showing my work to people, risking ‘failure’, rejection and more by throwing the good up with the not-so-perfect, but I’m doing it anyway. I’m also starting to sketch in sketchbooks now. Yup, I am a little scared – I think I always will be when it comes to this. But I’m doing it anyway.

Something has been ventured: everything has been gained.