Dawn DeVries Sokol


The Gender Label

I’ll let you in on a little secret: I’m not completely pleased about the title for Doodle Sketchbook: Art Journaling for Boys. It’s something I went back and forth on, and I tried to discuss an alternative with my publisher, but after a couple of mentions, I didn’t want to be a pain, so I backed off. I’m totally fine with Doodle Sketchbook. That was a title I came up with shortly after finishing Doodle Diary. I felt that it would be more appealing to all and come off older. I am fond of the word Diary, but I think it connotes secretive journals that have padlocks, ie, that’s what appealed to me as a youngster. For the latest book, it’s “for Boys” I have an issue with.

I’m not fond of gender labels. There, I said it. I think it’s limiting in many ways. Of course, it is bias at it’s best. In this day and age, you’d think we’d get beyond the labels. But no, our society is more gender-driven than ever.

Whether it’s the double standard, the sexism and exploitation of women, the theory that sex sells so what does THAT mean for advertising (women), and so many other issues. And no, I’m not a feminist in all senses of the word. But that’s a post for another day.

Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Girls was originally titled Doodle Diary: Art Journaling for Kids. But the design was so obviously feminine (there, another label) that the publisher felt it was more appropriate “for Girls”. And when Doodle Diary dropped (meaning was released, published) there were certain parties who questioned the gender label with, “Where is Art Journaling for Boys?” Yeah, gotcha.

So of course, the obvious next project was “for Boys”. We wanted to create something more gritty, edgy and therefore, more appealing to boys. Honestly, I had great difficulty with this one. It stretched me style-wise far beyond what I thought possible. I’ve loved street art for a while, but to actually bring it’s influence into my art was another story. The color palette was at first an issue, so that had to be adjusted and then adjusted again. The cover design was not too far off from where I started originally, but I had started with a darker color palette upon suggestion from my publisher and then was directed to brighten it. I still wanted to design it as above with the “Boys” in the title crossed out and “Everyone” written underneath, but it was a no-go.

Labels are a marketing strategy. But boys aren’t really known to art journal as much as girls. Yes, I want more boys to art journal. I think it’s an amazing form of self-expression, and we need our youngsters to engage in more creative activities. And there are well-known male art journalers: Danny Gregory, Dan Eldon, Dan Price (wait, why are they all named Dan?). Their styles vary greatly from one another—Danny Gregory is a sketch artist who documents the world around him in that manner; Dan Eldon was an all-too-young extremely talented photojournalist killed in Mogadishu several years ago, and his journals are filled with gritty photography married with his handwriting, drawings, and collage; and Dan Price is a storyteller through his sketches and drawings of life. They are all incredibly talented in their own right and should be introduced in every high school art class.

So why aren’t more boys journaling? And why does it even have to be a girls/boys thing? Doodle Diary was obviously a feminine journal, so did we have to label it with “Girls”? And Doodle Sketchbook has an older, edgier spark that really could work for both genders. But I already see it not starting off as well as Doodle Diary and that bothers me. That is why I’m trying to shoo the Boys label aside and tell you it’s for EVERYONE. REALLY AND TRULY, IT IS. If you loved Doodle Diary, you will also love Doodle Sketchbook.

Why can’t those in the marketing department let the readers decide? Why must we be so quick to label everything? And this isn’t a bash at my publisher as much as it is at society as a whole. I honestly think Doodle Sketchbook would do better as Art Journaling for Everyone. Just my two cents...