Sunday, April 12, 2020

Our New Normal

I mentioned in my last post that I had started a pandemic journal to document this weird and wild coronavirus roller coaster we're on. The overriding theme that seems to be emerging as I complete one page after another in this quarantine sketchbook is change and the way our lives today differ from what's normal.

I decided this week to put together a two-page spread (which quickly turned into four pages) with written notes about our new normal and all the changes we've adjusted to over the past few weeks as we've withdrawn from the world and begun sheltering at home, all day, every day.

I wrote down each idea as it came to me, working on the pages over the course of a few days. It wasn't until I finished it and went back to read over everything that I realized how this pandemic has touched every facet of our lives. It was shocking to see it all laid out in one place: the loss of the freedoms we usually take for granted, the changes to society, the product shortages, the lack of physical contact, and the many illnesses and deaths. 

There are moments when it's all seems horrifying, and I can't stand to read another article about it or watch the news, but in the next moment I read a story that illustrates how loving and generous and creative people can be, and my spirits rise again.

The full four-page spread (click to enlarge)

I guess this roller coaster ride is here to stay for awhile, and I'll continue to document it in my journal, because I don't ever want to forget what we lived through and how we survived. And it will be a reminder forever of how precious a normal day and regular life is.

The pens that I used for the text on these pages are Chameleon Fineliners. They're a unique type of felt-tip pen that enables you to seamlessly blend colors as you write. I used this set of bright colors, but because the paper color in this journal is a warm creamy yellow, it changed and muted the ink color to what you see here.

The journal I'm using is a 3-1/2" x 5-1/2" Moleskine Japanese Album. It has smooth 90 lb. paper that's intended for use with markers, pencil, and ink. It's not ideal for the wet media that I prefer, but I wanted to use this sketchbook because of the accordion-fold format.

I can choose to work on a single page or spread my sketch across as many panels as I want. The pages featured in this post fill four single pages.

The paper is slick and my Micron pens and fountain pens glide across it nicely, but I don't love it for watercolor. Paints don't blend and combine the way they do on watercolor paper. The pages stay nice and flat, though, even when adding watercolor washes to a page.

I really dislike cream-colored paper because it's impossible to get clean, bright colors on it. Everything looks a bit dull to me. Challenging as it may be to use this journal for watercolors, I'm not unhappy with it. I'm learning how to deal with its idiosyncrasies.

And it's really fun to unfold the pages and see my sketches all lined up side by side! Being able to see all those different facets of the pandemic experience at a glance is an advantage to using a Japanese album sketchbook for this journal.

Let's hope this is a once-in-a-lifetime, never-to-be-repeated opportunity to chronicle something this far-reaching and life-changing.

Stay well, my friends!


  1. Hi Leslie! I am also journaling this time in our lives with words. I love your work! So inspiring! I hope one day to take one of your classes. Be forewarned, I have difficulty drawing a stick figure. Am I even allowed to take one of your classes? You are making masks and I am crocheting ear savers to go with the masks. Not being able to hold my grandson is the hardest part of this for me. I used to watch him three days a week. But I know there is an end in sight. I even ordered cabinet locks for when he returns. While reading your list I was thinking about the changes that we want to keep. There are definitely some of those. Stay well and keep posting please. Thanks, Terry

  2. Stick figures are definitely allowed - maybe that's your style. :) And landscapes and still lifes are a lot easier than drawing people, so maybe we'll start you off with one of those. I do hope to meet you in a class one day when things get back to normal. Until then, we can be online friends!

  3. Thank you! I look forward to meeting you. I love that we are online friends! Another positive in this challenging time --- new friends!


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