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Visual diaries


Along with other creative practitioners, I’m a bit of a magpie when it comes to visual material. I’ve always maintained a space to gather images made by other artists and designers or more general visual material that might come in handy in the future. Physically, this space has at times been a sketchbook, scrapbook, or simply a pin-board to stick photographs, postcards, leaflets and the various other bits and bobs that catches my eye.
The purpose of this activity has generally been to find inspirational examples of art and design practice, to develop a broader appreciation of different visual forms and as a reflective tool, to identify the kinds of things I found myself gravitating towards. It made me stop to look at things and make a judgement about them. Sometimes I’ve captured these judgements in my notes, often the judgements are visually implicit in where I’d placed the material, so that I started to develop ideas within collages or series of images.
Keeping a visual diary has also helped to capture the visual material that passes through my hands on a daily basis. Cutting something out of magazine and sticking it in a scrapbook is a small act, but perhaps helps to make the consumption of visual information less passive. It slows down the process to allow you time to look and think about a particular piece of visual communication from the stream of information we are exposed to. For myself, it aids decoding visual messages, noticing patterns or trends.


The downside of maintaining a physical learning log was the amount of material I generated – stacks of scrapbooks and boxes of clippings and postcards. Seven years ago I set a blog called The Digital Flâneur to help collate some of this material and make the transition from analogue to digital, partly to save on glue and photocopying, partly because more and more of the visual material I was encountering was online. In parallel with my physical visual diaries, the blog is essentially a self-curated collection of visual stuff, though more outward facing in terms of gathering the work of fellow bloggers, colleagues or students. There’s some excellent examples of similar activities in John Foster’s Accidental Mysteries, for the Design Observer Blog or the 50 Watts blog.
There are obvious differences between my digital and physical visual diaries – online I can link directly to the material’s source, can include video, interactive pieces and audio alongside static images – however scrapbooks make it much easier to flick back through to find things and allows for the accidental juxtaposition of images that can spark new ideas. The benefit of using the blog has been the development of a public visual diary that other people can comment on and contribute towards. Having other people like or re-blog my posts are gratifying but more importantly, it’s allowed me to make contact with a range of like-minded practitioners whose blogs I follow and occasionally have met face-to-face at exhibitions. Looking at somebody else’s visual diary can be very useful, however the pace of digital information can often feel like a binary conveyer belt of liking or not-liking, reposting or moving on to the next visual stimuli. While I am a very haphazard blogger, rarely publish my reflections online and can be quite lazy in my referencing, I still find it useful to pin images to the board, step back and look what’s there.


More recently, I have been involved in developing the OCA’s Pinterest pages to try and develop a shared visual diary of inspiration and reference material. Examples of illustration, reportage drawing, street art and graphic design amongst others strands are posted on https://www.pinterest.com/opencollegearts/. I spend a lot of time thinking about and sourcing appropriate examples of artists and designers for my students. It occurred to me that if the suggestions were useful for one student, then it might be worthwhile sharing them with more widely amongst OCA students.
Currently there are a number of tutors involved in posting to this site. It would be interesting to see how we could develop this resource, link to more student work, or get more students involved in contributing to the pin-board. Let me know what you think.
OCA Pinterest: www.pinterest.com/opencollegearts/
The Digital Flaneur: http://christianlloyd.tumblr.com/
Accidental Mysteries: http://designobserver.com/topic/accidentalmysteries/1044
50 Watts: http://50watts.com/

Posted by author: Christian Lloyd
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19 thoughts on “Visual diaries

  • Interesting that the OCA is using Pinterest, I use it myself but found that I deviate from photography, so I look forward to interacting and seeing what pins our OCA would share.

  • Like Yian above, I had no idea that OCA had Pinterest boards—so looking forward to having a look. I maintain boards as well—but mostly for my work. The cutting and pasting of images/artists I find interesting happens at the back of my journals. Looking forward one day, to rearranging and putting it all together a little more thematically. But think I’ll start some more photography boards

  • Back—had a quick squid. The photography one must be fairly new with only four pins? What I’d really like to see is a vast number of separate photography boards to which we can all contribute? Something along the lines of the “database idea” I suggested to Student Support a couple of weeks back. This could work here. So, when a student wants to investigate a concept—for arguments sake, I’m going to suggest “contemporary self-portraiture”—there could be a board with images from practitioners. Providing a launch-pad for investigation—not something that was prescriptive and precluded the student from further study. I’ve noticed some students—it may be on the documentary course [can’t remember] attempting to create images that are surrealistic in nature—but they have no clear idea what that means. Again, a board would help. Please—I’m not thinking spoon-feeding, I’m thinking ‘kick-starting’—before I get shot down in flames for suggesting that students do not do their own research.

  • Hello Vicki,
    I think this might be a workable idea, perhaps if we set up a designated OCA student pinterest account, students could email us to request access in the first instance then we can invite you to edit so as a student body you can take ownership of it and create and add to the boards. We’ll have a think about how it could work and be monitored and test it out. We will email you via our course support email once pondered!!

    • Brilliant Joanne. Will leave you to work out the technicalities; but if it is workable I think it could become a great resource—and possibly easier to navigate because it is visual. Let me know how it goes.

  • Thanks for your interest Yiannitsa and Vicki. As you’ve already worked out, some of the boards are just getting started but the idea of a series of themed boards is an interesting one and as Joanne suggested, perhaps an opportunity to get photography and other students involved? Christian

  • Great post! And particularly interested in your use of pintrest!!! I found this resource about a year ago+I love it! Its like electronic hoarding!!! I’ve lots of personal as well as OCA/art specific ones which I use for collating visuals,research,ideas and as a focused exposure tool. Its fantastic! I would like to know though how to reference or link it to my blog/in my sketchbooks so that I can use it officially?

  • I’ve found Pinterest really useful as a visual diary – there was a discussion about Pinterest on the student site a while ago. One thing though is that, whilst Pinterest lets me know if someone has ‘followed’ me or re-pinned, it doesn’t let me know when anything has been posted by someone I’m following. There have been warnings about Copyright issues I know and I’ve found that some Photographers websites don’t allow a Pinterest link so I have to go around it another way by linking to their Gallery representatives. I always give the URL of sites and I know that Pinterest do monitor because I have received one message from them saying they had to withdraw one of my pins because an artist had complained – not about my Board but about someone else’s.
    That apart Pinterest is good and I definitely like Vicki’s idea of having a Pinterest site that students can add to.
    Rachel – I think there’s actually a Pinterest widget that you can add to your blog feed – although I could be wrong.

  • My general rule of thumb for referencing is to always name the artist and clearly identify the source you’ve got the image from. If as Catherine points out, the artist objects, then that’s fair enough and Pinterest have their own system of removing images.

  • I have been developing my own Sculpture Pinterest boards and would like to an OCA resource (little enough for Sculpture). I think theming is the way to go rather than everything in one big bucket eg Relief Sculpture, Contemporary Sculpture etc but without getting too hung up on classification.

  • This is great. I’ve never used Pinterest before but I’ve just signed up. This is an amazing step forward for me – I just don’t do social media and have no idea about it.
    I’m now trying to work out what pinning is or does, whether it is private or public, what boards are etc. So if anyone can point me in the right direction to finding out – is there a written source somewhere? – the video tells me nothing at all – I’ll be very grateful.
    I think I have elected to follow a number of oca pinterest sites and if I can just find my way in I’m sure I will use it. There seems to be some good ideas coming in regarding it already.

  • Very interesting. I did start some boards when I did my taop course, linked them to my learning blog but couldn’t see how to hook it all up so that I could show my new pins on the blog. Ultimately I found that pintrest was such a time sink (totally addictive too) I wasn’t updating my official learning log as often so I stopped. Looking forward to seeing what the OCA have pinned though.

  • I am a big fan of Pinterest and have 1 board per assignment as well as other research based boards. I also have boards for future courses I am considering completing. My previous tutor also advised me to add some personal response/comments to each image I put on a board to make pinning an active rather than magpie like passive process.

  • Hi, I’m a Pinterest addict and would love to help with a textiles based pin board. I’ve just started my BA in Textiles with the OCA – Sally514264.
    On Pinterest I’m Sally Harrison @mollymeg69. I’m following the OCA pin and have boards relating to my course,
    Good luck x

  • The problem with Pinterest is when you repin other peoples pins there at times can be a lack of information about the artist/photographer and clicking on the pin leads you to a dead end. Not everyone on Pinterest is vigilant in putting names and sources on their pins unfortunately. I too have delved deeply into Pinterest, love that a world of visual input is just a click away, it’s a fantastic resource well worth looking into. A word of warning though, it is highly addictive 🙂
    🙂 Christine

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