Monday, 13 July 2009

Art Journalling - Ur Doin It Wrong!

About 18 months ago, I started an art journal. About 12 months ago, it got lost in the hobby room somewhere. I did about 10 pages, but it slowly petered out. I wanted to journal, but it just didn't happen. It wasn't for lack of ideas or materials: I had plenty of both. I had logistical difficulties, you see. I would cover a page with layers of lovely, luscious glazes, and the page would just warp and go wrinkly. I would colour in an area with black crayon, and it would end up marking half the other pages too, even when I inserted a piece of tissue paper. The cover went all floppy when I tried to put a base layer of paint on it. After a while, it wouldn't lie flat when it was open because the previous wrinkled, warped pages were so bulky. It drove me nuts, and I gave up. Then, over time, my painting station slowly accumulated mounds of unrelated junk - receipts, doctor's letters, magazines, souvenirs and other random stuff - making it completely impossible to do any painting or drawing without spending hours moving and sorting all that stuff first. It was all just too hard. I was sad, but I didn't have the motivation to do anything about it.

Last weekend, motivated by an urge to write, I cleared off my painting station (converting it to, as I thought at the time, purely a writing station). I had the smart idea of putting all the junk in a box, so I could go through it at my own leisure. Here is my writing painting creating station now:

1. Mug with gel pens, scissors, smaller paintbrushes.
2. Vase with larger paintbrushes, foam roller, pencils with Star Trek toppers, mirror.
3. Glue caddy. A wire caddy that was originally full of hot sauces.
4. Bizarre purple ceramic thingy that I got at an op-shop, which I think might be a pen holder. I'm using it as a brush holder.
5. Chinese ink and larger paint pots.
6. Organiser drawers which I installed just yesterday. They contain my art journal, writing journal, spare writing journals, and pencil case with special writing pens.
7. On top are my rubber stamps, another pencil case with my special drawing pens, and a dinosaur figurine.
8. Window. During the day, there's a nice view of a tree and courtyard of my building.
9. Lamp. Hanging off it are beaded book thongs and elfy Tree decoration I bought from Jelli Bat last December.
10. Spools of ribbon and candle holders with sponge and aloe vera gel in them. That's just stuff I haven't gotten around to tidying off yet.
11. Box with acrylic paints in it.
12. Inspirational dragon plaque and kapibara-san coin purse that I got in Japan. Also a lip balm. I have stashes of them all over the house.

When I sat down to do some creative writing exercises, my metallic textas and rubber stamps were still on the table. After I finished the exercises, I found myself spending just as much time decorating the borders of my pages as I had writing! And it felt good. So what's wrong with decorating my writing journal if I feel like it?
It got me thinking about my old art journal, and what had gone wrong with it. For a start, I'd bought the cheapest scrapbook I could find. It needed to be sturdier, with a real hard cover. It needed thicker paper. It needed to be bound like a proper hard-cover book so it would lie flatter. Basically - I had to stop being tight for a minute! Secondly, I hadn't done any research on materials. I had just used whatever I had lying around. But I didn't know anything about what the best paints were for laying down backgrounds, what the best markers were that didn't bleed through to the other side, what glue was best for adding collage. No wonder it went wrong more often than not! This time, I'm going to try to keep in mind that it's important to observe and learn, not just to do. My perception has changed - I thought that a tutorial on 'how to make art' is a bit beside the point. You just DO it. You just ... be creative. But then it occurred to me - when I was a little kid and I learned to knit, I had to actually learn to knit. Then I learned more techniques and practised and I got better. Singers learn how to sing, writers learn how to write. They need to get to know their instrument or medium before they can get the most out of it. So I would like to do some research (as an information geek, I have no issues there!), start over again and make a better art journal. No, not better, just more appropriate to my needs.

Yes, I'm proud of some of the pages I did in the old one, this one for example:

but overall it just doesn't inspire me to get it out and turn the pages, reminisce over old ones and be excited about making new ones. And I think that's what's important.

So I've enrolled in an online course run by Dawn Sokol of the art journalling blog D'Blogala (among many other projects). I find her blog very inspiring, so I'm sure it'll be good. It consists of a weekly e-mail every week for 10 weeks, with attached tutorial, tips, etc. It's US$15, which seems very reasonable. The only problem is - it doesn't start until 12th August! That's a whole month away! I bought a lovely sturdy journal from Riot Art n Craft yesterday and I'm ready to start! I'm the kind of person that wants it now, cause I know that tomorrow I'll have moved on and be all excited about something else. But the thing about art journalling is that you can put it aside and come back to it later. It's as finished as you want it to be. And there's such a huge scope with what can be done with them. Why couldn't I write in it instead of paint sometimes, take some photos and stick those in instead of draw, if I felt like it?

I started already, last night. Here is page One, a declaration of intent:

[The text says: "ART JOURNAL No. 2. Yes, I know the first one isn't finished yet, but I really feel I need to start afresh."]

P.S. I also wrote a Tanka poem tonight too! I'll post it next time.

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