Why Art?

Art class, photo by erdogan ergun, TurkeyWhy art? Really, why would anyone take the time to create art, unless  he or she is a full-time artist?

The answers are clear to anyone who’s independently created art of any kind.

Even if it’s a scribble or a graphic note in the margin of your class notes, if you’ve ever expressed yourself visually, you’ve created art.

Note that I said independently created art.  That’s important.

If it was a class assignment, or something you had to do, the art process may have been vacant.

For many artists, the art process is where the value is. If the process is drudgery, it’s only mimicking art.

Artist Harley Brown said it well. “Within a second of starting a picture, I’m on top of a mountain which has finally become my reality. So, when I tell people to do a drawing a day, it is not only to learn to observe or perfect skills, it is putting ourselves closer to what we really are and for what we live.”

Art Gallery, photo by brendan gogartyWhat makes art important in our lives is how art makes us feel.

Whether you’re creating the art or admiring it in a gallery or on your drawing pad, art should evoke an emotional reaction. If it doesn’t, the art isn’t necessarily bad, it’s just not resonating with who you are, inside.

For most artists, particularly when you’re starting out, the focus must be on the process. Your results will improve with practice. The joy is in the creative moments and the discoveries you’ll make — good and bad — as you work on art.

Your art, whether it’s drawing or painting or singing or fine-tuning a recipe, is a process that makes you feel more authentic… more alive.

In The Book of Awakening, Howard Thurman is quoted, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”

Separate the technical aspects of art from the joy of creating. Sometimes, the learning process can be as exciting (or boring) as singing scales or reciting multiplication tables. However, the process of putting the pencil to the paper, or paint on the canvas, is where the magic is.

Little girl playing, by Armin HanischAim for something original. That won’t come from copying others, or measuring your work against theirs. The finished product may be a disappointment, but the more important question is: How did you feel when the work came alive? Did you forget about time and tidiness? Did you feel in flow, following a joyful current?

Musician Jeff Beck said, “As long as there’s something original going on, that’s all that really matters.”

He’s right.

Art can be about the finished work. However, it’s more important to focus on the energy that is grounded in and emanates from the creative process.

If you feel that spark of vitality, even for a few seconds as you’re creating art, you’ve seen a glimmer of what drives us to be artists… and what keeps us fully alive in every moment.

We create art for how it feels, not necessarily for the merits of the finished work.

Photo credits
Art class – erdogan ergun, Turkey
Art gallery – brendan gogarty, Australia
Girl in field – Armin Hanisch, Germany

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Sewing Onto Your Journal Pages

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.

artists journals cover - treated as fabricYou 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!

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Foam Brush Notes

PaintbrushesPaintbrushes are important for many artists.  I have jars & jars of them for all purposes.

Foam brushes are useful in almost every kind of art I create.

When I’m creating collages, especially torn-paper collages in my artist’s journals, I apply the gel medium — as an adhesive as well as a sealer — with a foam brush.  (That same gel + foam brush works fine for applying glitter or metallic leafing to my art, too.)

I also use foam brushes to apply cheap, vivid, cadmium red paint (acrylic) as an underpainting when I’m working on an art shrine (that I’ll also paint) or a fine art painting.

Stores such as Michaels, A. C. Moore, and Hobby Lobby often feature foam brushes on sale.  For example, from 16 – 22 January 2011, Michaels were selling 14 foam brushes for $1.

Check your local Michaels’ weekly ad to see if the same sale is at your store.  (I don’t know if this link will work for you, but I view their weekly ads at http://michaels.shoplocal.com/michaels/default.aspx?action=entryflash )

Two more notes: I generally get at least three to five uses from each foam brush.  I wash them thoroughly and promptly after using them.

And, if you use the kind with wooden handles, the wood can be recycled in a variety of projects.  (For some of my cloth dolls, that handle is the perfect size to reinforce the doll’s neck, as the wooden dowel will extend from the head through the neck and then into the torso.)

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Artists’ Journal RR #2b – Debbie O’s pages

The following two journal pages are glorious examples of work by Debbie O. of our Yahoo Group, ArtistsJournals.

They’re wonderful mixed media journal pages with fabric elements, and they’re full of personal insights and juicy imagery.

These continue the journey of Round Robin #2b (a larger blank journal) as it traveled across the U.S. and then to foreign lands.

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