I took a silkscreening class in college with an instructor who regularly railed against various indignities: the complacency of his lazy, American students (he was a Polish émigré); the Communists (ditto); the weather (Ithaca being quite possibly the only place worse than Poland as far as this went).
He had particular disdain for what he considered the craptastically low design standards of American art-supply producers. He’d snatch up some egregious example—a sketchbook, a layout pad—and launch into an impromptu diatribe on horsey type and lowest-common-denominator layout.
As much as his outbursts frightened me, I began to notice that he was right: the colors, the photos, and pretty much everything else about most American paper products except the paper itself just…sucked. And we lived with this affront day after day—we, who were supposed to be surrounding ourselves with great, inspiring examples to help shape our fledgling art consciousness.
Last fall, while attending a retreat that left me with even more time than usual to avoid doing my work, I was seized with the hideousness of the cheap spiral notebook I’d bought to journal in. I don’t like to get too fancy with my tools; it’s too easy to obsess about them rather than focus on the work. Still, the hideous green of the cover and clunky faces of the text were an affront. I grabbed a Sharpie and scribbled out an improvised manifesto, not stopping until I’d covered every inch of the cover. If it wasn’t beautiful, it was at least mine.
Since then, I’ve hacked every cover of every notebook I’ve bought. I draw, I inscribe, I doodle, around, under, and right on top of their design elements. I take all of two minutes to do it. Quickly, with whatever words or thoughts pop into my head in the moment.
It by no means turns them into the most beautiful of notebooks. But it turns them absolutely into my notebooks.
This is Day 12 of a 21-day series. For more scoop on the who/what/why, go here.