When I’m not working on art, I’m usually researching and writing books. Well, that or baking bread or cookies… or indulging in a movie or a TV series like Downton Abbey.
Anyway, as I was cruising through some Google+ communities I’m in, I saw a link to journaling as a way to build a book. (Specifically, she’s talking about a novel, but I’m sure this could be adapted to nonfiction, as well.)
If this idea interests you, the best place to start is here:
“Writing a novel isn’t easy. Tracking your world, your characters, and other important events can save you time and save you from plot holes before you even write them into existence.” …click here to read more at that website.
I’m experimenting with writing-related software that will catalogue details similar to what she describes in that journaling approach.
However, there’s something rich and juicy about using pen-and-paper as much as possible, when writing.
Oh, I’m still using my keyboard to compile my books. The ease of working with voice recognition software — so I don’t have to type anything, if I don’t want to — is a time-saver and avoids ye olde carpal tunnel issues.
But, anyway, I’m always interested in diverse ways to use journals for creative purposes. And, this might be a great starting point for a journal about an imaginary realm for artistamps.
Journaling is included in this TED talk about the “happy secret” approach to living a more fun, productive, rewarding life.
It starts with how you feel, and how positive you are. Your emotional level — how happy you are — determines how happy your life events are.
Click the Play arrow to watch it. The video is about 12 minutes long, and very worthwhile.
If you’re in a hurry (though I hope you’re not), the screenshot below shows you the point to fast-forward to. Start at about the 11 minute marker. (The graphic, below, is a screenshot… click on the video above, to watch it.)
All of those suggestions can help. Of course, “meditation” will mean different things to different people, from prayer to conscious meditation, and from time spent admiring art in a museum, gallery or studio, to the simple act of “being there”… being in the moment. However, I believe that the more of these elements you can include in your life, the happier you’ll feel.
In the context of this website, the idea of journaling each day — making notes (words, images, a recording, etc.) about one happy event of that day — can make a big difference in your happiness.
Of course, the studies were based on a 21-day practice of… well, whichever of those choices seem most appealing to you.
In some cases, people will become happier the first day. Others will need to acquire or develop the habit, and — somewhere around day 21 — the person will pause and realize that she (or he) is feeling happier. Colors seem brighter. There seem to be more opportunities, more fun, and more whimsy in daily life. Serendipity is in your favor, and life is better.
I’ve always been an enthusiast of journaling or keeping a diary. Now, there’s evidence that it can improve your happiness, as well.
Today, I was browsing some sites where people have posted their art journals (or artist’s journals… same thing… it’s a term always in transition).
I quickly found a wonderful series of pages, and the artist (Zom) muses if they’re part of an ugly art journal.
I want to say, “No! Those pages are lovely!” but I hold back.
It’s sort of like when I was pregnant. Each time, I’d refer to myself as “the fat lady.” At the time, it amused me. Obviously, I was pregnant, not fat, but the size of my stomach… well, my humor runs to sarcasm. Telling me I wasn’t “fat” made me question the vision of the observer.
Hello. 60 inch stomach…? Fat! *chuckle*
But, of course, I understood the point. They just didn’t understand mine… which was also okay. Often, people don’t get my humor.
I look at these pages in all their loveliness. I absolutely love the juicy colors and the choice of images.
However, if Zom wants to call them ugly… well, it’s her journal. My opinions are different, but that’s my experience, not necessarily hers.
Moving past that semantic moment…
I love it where she says, “I don’t know how much of a connection I am feeling with this art journal. Is the form no longer relevant?”
That resonated with me. For a long time, I didn’t connect with my artists journals. I looked at them, tried to add to them, and generally felt a sense of ennui before completing even one page.
I became a different person over the past several years. The reasons I’d kept an art journal, years ago… they weren’t there any more. It was a different context altogether. For starters, I’d been driven to keep my journal… it was a manic, almost “outsider” thing, for years. It was how I kept my sanity during challenging years.
Since then, my world gradually shifted. It wasn’t quite like watching paint dry, but it was very slow-moving. I didn’t want to articulate it because the changes — even the minute ones — were radical, but — at the same time — they were constantly in transition.
What I’d say one moment might be totally different, even an hour later. I suppose they were very subtle ah-HA! moments.
So, I’d put things down on paper and, later that day or sometimes a few days later, I’d shred them. They weren’t me… not a “me” that lingered for more than a few minutes, anyway. And, with such fleeting changes, I didn’t want to keep art around that represented that. It took me back in time, uncomfortably. It wasn’t a real ME-me, if you get my meaning.
I do like to document the process, no matter what the process is. However, there are times when the changes are like trying on a huge stack of clothes in a fitting room: By the time I find what fits me and looks good, I’ve pretty much forgotten the oh-dear-heaven-that’s-not-me stuff, now at the bottom of the pile.
I don’t want to save some of those half-baked journal pages any more than I’d take photos of myself in unattractive clothing in the fitting room.
They’re not me.
They don’t have significance in my life, even as process.
Keeping those pages would be making the moment more than it was.
Perhaps I should journal about those pages.
Anyway, this blog entry (linked below) is wonderfully, deliciously thought-filled. Click to read the pages. They’re very good and some may resonate with you as they did with me.
I don’t write as often about my art journal as I used to. I think my AJ and I have been going through a difficult phase. I knew things needed to change, not because anything was ‘wrong’ but because, for me, the innate nature of …
Two phrases are often used interchangeably: ‘Art journals’ and ‘artists journals.’
For me, an artist’s journal is an illustrated diary or journal representing the artist. It’s about the person’s life, or some aspect of it, such as a travel journal, a diet & fitness journal, or something like my ‘decluttering journal’.
It usually includes art and the journal is also a work of art, in itself.
By contrast, an art journal is where I keep notes about art I’m working on or might want to create later. It includes visual inspiration — photos, articles, etc. — as well as my own thumbnail sketches, etc.
It’s sort of my pre-art brainstorming, in a journal format.
At left is a page from a 2011 art journal. The photos and sketch represent ideas that I used to inspire an oil painting.
I use an art journal as my on-paper memory of inspiration and original ideas. It’s sort of like a visual thumb drive of art ideas, for later use.
If I don’t jot down my ideas in a journal, they’ll vanish from my thoughts in a matter of days, if not hours. I tend to have a steady stream of creative ideas, and one soon replaces another in my consciousness.
For me, it’s part of the creative process.
People often ask me where I get my original art ideas. Well, I’m not sure that they’re entirely “original,” but they are fresh and new, if only to me.
Here’s a typical sequence: I started by surfing the Internet to see what other artists are currently working on.
Yesterday, I viewed a website called The Starving Artist’s Way, which included a project using second-hand woolen sweaters that had been washed and dried to shrink them in a “felted” style.
I didn’t think much more about that — not on a conscious level, anyway — but later in the day, after a nap, I woke up thinking about what else I could do with that kind of wool.
While the thoughts were still fresh in my mind–and evolving–I jotted them down in my art journal. These are my two pages of notes:
Click ‘play’ button to hear me talk about the wool-related pages
In a nutshell, I was thinking about the kinds of wearable art that I could make with felted-style wool.
(Geek note: It’s not actually “felted” wool when you wash & dry woven/knitted/etc. wool to shrink it. It’s called “fulled” wool. Felting is when you use the raw fibers and a tool to tangle and/or compact them.)
This merged with the Mondrian art that I was reminded of when I was playing an online game, Kingdom of Loathing, yesterday.
And, once I started jotting down these ideas, I remembered when I used to make stained glass windows. Those patterns would adapt nicely to this kind of wool treatment, too.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever actually do anything with this idea. I get a bazillion of these ideas, steadily.
So, I’m scanning the pages from my idea journal, and putting them into an art zine for two reasons. (The zine will be online, by the way.)
First, it documents that it was my idea. It drives me crazy when I decide to run with an idea and it turns out that another artist has been working on a similar concept… and people think that one of us is “copying” the other, when we’re not.
Second–and more importantly–I am sharing this idea so that someone else might be inspired by it and adapt the concepts (or copy it line-for-line, for all I know/care) to his or her own art.
When my grandfather’s original ideas were copied, he used to chuckle and say, “Plenty more where that came from.” In other words, he didn’t feel any need to complain about those who copied him. I’ve always liked that, and he was the richest man I knew, when I was growing up. He literally made millions (when that was a lot of money) from his creative ideas; he was a good role model.
But, I’m also sharing my art journal pages so that people see what one can look like.
However, these may be my own definitions. How you use the terms ‘art journals’ and ‘artists journals’ may be different… and that’s fine with me. The creativity that matters more than the words!
Saving collage photos, papers and ephemera… it’s always a challenge. But, I’ve found a system that works well for me. It might help you, too.
Step One: Sort collage elements by themes
I save my collage elements — especially magazine photos — by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.
I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.
Of course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at Aisling.net.)
For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.
Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.
Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio
All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio thingie. You know, those huge black folders made from heavy cardboard, covered with a black, textured surface, and they tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.
(Collaging the outside of that big portfolio is optional.)
You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.
In my studio, my portfolio fits nicely on top of my chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies, like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc. (It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage bits folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)
You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.
I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. This has worked the best for me.
A composition book art journal is any journal that’s kept in a composition book. Those are generally school-type, saddle-sewn (along the crease) notebooks with cardboard covers… similar to exam/test booklets, but a little more permanent.
Composition books are inexpensive, so many people like them especially for informal journaling. It feels less intimidating to use a journal that doesn’t cost much, and is familiar from our years in school.
They’re so affordable, you can buy several. Put one in your car, one in the baby bag, one by your bed, and so on. Then, you’re ready to create a journal page when you have some free time. The journals are so inexpensive, you can rip completed pages out and bind them into your more formal artist’s journal.
(“Binding” the loose page can be as easy as taping it into your other journal. Or, you can glue it, sew it, staple it, etc.)
Composition books have lots of lined pages in them… as many as 100. They come in a variety of sizes, but the traditional ones are about 8″ x 10″ or so. The traditional ones often have a b&w cover that looks sort of marbelized.
You can also find composition books with red covers, plain manila covers, green covers, and so on. You may want to choose one with a color that reminds you of your childhood. (But, the color may not matter if you’re going to cover it with art anyway.)
Also, it’s easy to embellish the cardboard covers. I’d still use something (such as fusible interfacing) on the back so that threads don’t pull through, but you can sew through the cardboard with a crewel needle. Then, you can embroider on it, add beads & buttons, etc., in addition to other embellishments.
You can sew embellishments onto your paper journal pages.
You can use any page in a book like fabric (to sew on, for example) by using iron-on interfacing on the back side of the page.
Yes, just iron it on, the same as you would iron interfacing onto fabric. It won’t always stick 100%, but it will work well enough that you can sew through it.
(If you try to embroider or sew beads onto regular pages in a book, the thread tends to pull right through the paper, if the thread is tugged.)
You can do the same thing with your journal cover. A strong crewel embroidery needle will usually sew through cardboard… but you’ll probably need a thimble to push the needle through.
You can then embroider with embroidery floss, yarn, thin ribbon, etc. You can add buttons, beads, and so on, too.
At left, you can see one of my journal covers that I’ve embellished with sewn-on buttons. (Click on the image to see it larger.) The biggest button is part of the journal closure. When it’s not in use, a string of hemp (secured to the back cover) is wrapped around the button on the front cover to hold the journal closed.
After you’ve finished your sewing (or other embellishment), you can glue a page or fabric over the ironed-on interfacing, so your stitches are concealed. If I’m doing a lot of this in a book, I’ll buy a second copy of the same book, so the “backing” page is what it would have been, if I hadn’t covered the original with interfacing.
You’ll find iron-on interfacing at any fabric shop. It’s usually kept in a bin or on shelving next to where they cut fabric yardage for you.
You can also iron on Stitch Witchery or another fusible adhesive, and that gives you the option of sticking something wonderful on the other side… interfacing isn’t all that interesting.
For example, you could fuse an actual piece of fabric to the paper page.
Then again, after I sew beads onto the page, I like to cover the interfacing side with more paper… maybe a collage.
You can sew onto your journal pages, or turn them into fabric. It’s easy!
The good news is, the next announced sketchcrawl is October 16th. I may organize one around Salem, MA. It could be cool.
Right now, I’m on the fence. The email I rec’d from SketchCrawl.com was very different from the fun, wide-open, no-rules announcements of the past.
First, there was this:
– A key thing, help us spread the word!
If you are reading this, we are sure you have a number of friends that might be interested in this as much as you are. Tell them about SketchCrawl! Let’s share this idea with the rest of the globe. No borders.
“No borders.” I like that reminder. The idea of a global, art-based event always delights me.
So, I was in a happy mood, already thinking about where I’d like to organize a sketchcrawl in October.
Then, I reached the list of rules that weren’t on previous SketchCrawl announcements. Here they are, cut-and-pasted from the email.
When you participate, please remember to:
-Notify us of any sketchcrawl events (as applicable)
-Link back to sketchcrawl.com
-Give credit to Enrico Casarosa as the founder
-Must be a non-profit event
-Include sketches in sketchcrawl.com/forums and Flickr pool (as applicable)
-Try and time your sketchcrawls with the World Wide dates we promote at sketchcrawl.com
Those sound reasonable enough, individually, but — in combination — they seem a little too much like corporate rules.
I did a quick check. So far, the U.S. Trademark Database doesn’t show anything when I search for “sketchcrawl,” so the term “sketchcrawl” is still free to use without trademark-type restrictions.
However, it bothers me that I even thought to do that.
I may have to come up with a new word for these kinds of adventures. I’m fine with giving the founder credit voluntarily, linking back to the official site, and so on, but… I dunno about this email from them. Something in those rules feels a little hinky*.
Maybe it’s just the times, y’know? Maybe I’m being hypersensitive. I’m seeing people staking out their own territory, trying to make money off things that were initially created to be free, fun and cool. I don’t want to see SketchCrawls edging in that direction. It’d be like someone slapping a trademark on Earth Day.
I’m watching what’s going on, cautiously.
*”Hinky” is a reference to a term used by one of my favorite characters in the TV show, NCIS, to indicate something that’s not quite right. (No, I don’t usually watch NCIS. I don’t like crime shows. However, the character in the show… she’s truly cool.)
I’ll be speaking at a (non-art) conference in Canada during the May 15th weekend, so I’m not able to participate in this upcoming global sketchcrawl. However, between now & then, I plan to go on at least one independent sketchcrawl around where I live.
Sketchcrawls are great practice for creating travel journals, too. The materials & techniques are generally the same, so why not try a sketchcrawl somewhere near your home?
When I travel, I often take my journaling supplies onto the plane and begin (and conclude) my travel journals during those flights. (Just remember the four-ounce rule on liquids… no big containers of gel medium, glue, or tubes of paint.)
“Sketchcrawls!” will be the theme of my first/newest zine as I’m relaunching my art zines. So, if you have art or (especially) articles related to sketchcrawls — materials and techniques — I’m interested in including them. Remember that my zines are generally b&w, so any art should look good when photocopied.
All you really need are some pictures, something to use as glue, and something to support your collage, like a piece of paper.
For pictures, words & phrases
– Magazines, newspapers, printed materials, junk mail
I especially like fashion, travel and nature magazines for photos. “W” magazine is great for huge, almost surreal images, as well as great words & phrases. “Town & Country” magazine offers a nice mix of fashion, travel, home & garden photos, as well as yummy ads.
If I’m going to sell the finished work, I’m careful about using magazines such as National Geographic. Though their pictures are gorgeous, they have a reputation for being difficult about copyright issues.
For words and phrases, I like health, fitness, religious and New Age magazines, as well as junk mail… including the envelopes, which are often better than whatever’s enclosed in it.
I find free magazines at public libraries and sometimes at laundromats (ask if they’re ready to get rid of some of them).
Adhesives and glues
For now, I’m using Golden Gel Medium (Soft Gel – gloss) with a sponge brush. However, I want to try other kinds of glues and mediums. Golden works fine, but I’m not thrilled with how they run the company, and I suspect that other, less expensive gel mediums work just as well.
When I use a sponge brush, I rinse it out completely as soon as I’m finished with it. I can usually use the same sponge brush for a week before it starts to fall apart.
When I’m applying the gel medium, I use an old phone book underneath my work.
Support for the collage
Anything can support your collage. I generally use a regular spiral-bound sketchbook for my daily collages. However, for this one, I used a file folder. I’m not sure why; it seemed like the right choice.
You could use poster board, canvas, wood, or almost any surface that will accept glue.
(Some dishes or tiles work well with collages, but others don’t. Test different materials and adhesives to see what works for you.)
I like gold leaf and glitter, but that’s a personal preference. Almost anything that you can glue to a surface can be used as an embellishment.
2. Select images and words or phrases.
Go quickly through your materials, and — without much thought — choose images, words & phrases that appeal to you. Tear out the entire page and set it aside.
Tip: If you like more than one element on a page, separate them. Otherwise, it’s easy to forget that you were going to use more than one item from a single page.
I often select a word or phrase early in this process. In this case, I chose “Uncompromised” quickly. The word “promise” is in red in it, and I realized (light bulb realization) that when I compromise, I’m breaking a promise to myself or to others. Even if it’s just small and unspoken, it’s still a betrayal (big or little) of an ideal that I held or aspired to.
That’s a concept worth examining, as I work on daily priorities.
Remember that you can use a word or phrase from a sentence. I chose “you deserve” from a laxative ad!
When you feel pleased with your collection of pages, or when you have a stack of about ten pages, pause and begin working with them.
3. Tear the images in the approximate size, and then to the exact size.
If a page is really large, it can be more difficult to tear out the precise element that I want. So, I tear the page around the general area of the element, and then tear more exactly.
When I’m making the final tear, I try to tear it all in one go, not inching along, a little at a time. A smooth tear usually looks nicer, unless you have a specific reason for a very jagged edge.
Also, when you tear the magazine page, there will be a white edge in one direction of the tear. (The yellow arrow points to it.) I like to work with either all white-edged images, or keep all of my images without white edges.
4. Apply adhesive to the back of the image.
This is going to be a little messy… or even a lot messy. Revel in it!
With something underneath the image — so you can smear or practically lather the gel medium (or whatever glue) — apply the adhesive to the back of the image.
If the adhesive is too thick, it can be lumpy underneath the image. If the adhesive is applied in a really thin layer, it can dry too quickly. However, as long as some of it sticks to the collage, that can be enough.
If you’re using gel medium, remember that it sort of melts with extreme heat.
You can use an iron (there are special irons made for this, too) — with some sort of release paper between the collage and the iron, so the iron doesn’t get all gooey from the melting medium — and the heat softens & reactivates the gel.
So, even dried gel medium can be reactivated and it’ll suddenly adhere the entire image to whatever’s underneath it.
I only do this when the collage is nearly completed — before I apply any glitter or gold leaf — if there’s clearly a problem where part of the collage didn’t adhere correctly.
Keep in mind that your lower layers (and at least some of their edges) will be covered by later additions to the collage.
5. Place the image where you want it to be, in your collage.
Try to place it exactly where you want it to be, or at least fairly close. If you lift, stretch, or drag a piece of magazine paper, it can stretch and look a little odd in your final work.
If your collage element seems to bubble, it’s okay to pat it flat, but don’t try to smooth it. (I learned that from collage artist Claudine Hellmuth.)
If you brush it or rub it with your fingers to smooth it, it’ll stretch the paper and the finished result might be disappointing.
Bubbled paper seems to shrink back to shape was the adhesive dries, or at least some papers will do that. So, if you’re going to put something over the bubbled piece, let the bubbled part dry, first. It might flatten out on its own.
6. Keep working. Build up more layers. Tear more images as you work, if you need more images.
I usually tear out the first three or four images that I’m going to work with, and then start building the collage.
When I’m happy with them, or if I decide to add another image that I haven’t torn out yet, I pause and tear out what I’ll need next.
If I have a massive pile of torn paper — good stuff and paper that I may (or may not) use — it can become confusing.
7. Continue to build your collage.
Remember that the first layers are the background. As you add layers, they’ll be on top. (It’s amazingly easy to forget this, sometimes.)
The focal point (or points) of your collage should probably be on top. The leading areas tend to attract the attention of the viewer.
However, it’s okay to tuck little surprises in the lower layers, for the viewer to “discover” as he or she explores the collage.
Also, don’t despair if your collage looks messy. Some will be more messy than others. It’s okay.
Here’s a close-up of one area on this morning’s collage.
Here’s what you need to know if you make a “mistake.”
1. Milky areas will probably dry clear.
2. If the paper looks translucent in some areas (like right above the letter T in the photo above), they’ll probably turn opaque when the adhesive dries.
3. Anything that looks weird when the collage is nearly finished, can be covered with embellishments (glitter, gold leaf, threads, pieces of mica, paint, etc.) or you can cover it with another image or phrase.
It’s okay to change your mind.
For this collage, I’d selected a great image of a model looking in one direction. However, I discovered an even better photo on the back of it: Mulawi children in colorful, traditional clothing.
So, allow for serendipity as you work.
8. Keep building your collage until you’re happy with it.
It’s okay to take your time. It’s also okay to rush through this in a flurry of creativity.
You can start the collage, walk away from it, and finish it later in the day, or the next day, or the next week!
Tip: When you think to yourself, “I think this is nearly finished,” it’s probably finished. Stop! Take a break, and then take a fresh look at it.
It’s better to stop too early than take the work too far.
9. Consider adding embellishments.
I love embellishments, but you don’t have to add any at all. Every artist has his or her own style.
Tissue paper (it may remain translucent if you use gel medium over and underneath that layer).
Thread, glued on or stitched on.
Beads, mica, sand, pieces of glass.
Paint, oil pastels, stencils, rubber stamp art.
You can even embed something that plays a tune or says something (like in greeting cards) in your collage, for people to press.
The possibilities are unlimited.
10. (Optional) Finish with a coat of gel medium.
After the collage is fully dry, you can seal it with a thin coat of gel medium. It’s not necessary, but it will give the collage a uniform level of gloss (or a uniformly matte finish, if you used a matte gel medium).
This will also protect the collage from dust and damage, if you want to leave it “as is” instead of displaying it under glass.
Tip: If you’re using this in an artist’s journal — such as a spiral-bound sketchpad — place a piece of wax paper between the collage and the facing page. That will prevent the pages from sticking together if the journal is stored where the heat might soften the gel medium.
My finished collage
Though I could probably explain all of the elements, it’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”
Basically, this is about re-evaluating compromises… things that I decided were okay, short-term, as a step to a more important goal. for me, it’s easy for those to become long-term issues.
For me, the image of the happy children in colorful clothing is important. It’s how joyous and self-expressive we all can be.
And yes, we all deserve to live deliciously, savoring every moment!
Here’s the YouTube video. It’s only four minutes, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind.