Discovering the Art Journal

Feb 14, 2010 by

I’ve long been an avid collector of ephemera. Scraps of daily life: ticket stubs, parking meter receipts, even fruit stickers. (My favorites are Clementine stickers from Christmas that say “Elf Sized Treat.”)

I especially like to collect items with the date or location on them to paste into my journal: “I was here.”

Found Phrases

For as long as I can remember, I’ve also been unable to read a magazine without an X-acto knife in my hand. I’m so enamored of them that the Page gave me an X-acto hobby kit for Christmas last year. It came in a little wooden box with brass latches, filled with a dozen different attachments. Best present ever.

I love tackling a stack of periodicals and collecting phrases, quotes, titles and taglines totally out of context. Since I started using Blueline journals, which have a fabulous index in the front, I’ve paid particular attention to phrases that describe a span of time. I paste them into the index as the table of contents:

“A Bite of October”
“A Year of Magical Thinking”
“The Sexiest Summer EVER

And so on. I’m so dedicated to this art that I have an enormous backlog of sliced out phrases that I keep in a vinyl envelope. I have fun choosing which one to use for that week in the table of contents.

Yesterday I pasted in the theme for my birthday week: “Still Saucy After All These Years.” (My fab friend Kerry saves all her magazines for me, including Gourmet!)

Just Don’t Call it “Collage”

Along with words, I also find myself slicing out images, graphics, borders and anything else that grabs my eye. These pieces make their way into my journals – usually on the covers, inside or out. Occasionally I go nuts and get out the rubber cement and do a two-page spread of found images.

I never considered my craft-littered journaling to be anything remarkable. I kept it to myself because “collaging,” as I knew it, recalled images of middle school projects, stubby scissors and vats of paste on poster board. Not the feel I’m going for.

So my love of collaging was largely a closet hobby until very recently, when I discovered that I was not alone in my crow-like urge to collect and assemble the detritus of daily life.

I discovered that, as an adult, you call it “mixed media.” Suddenly my art form had a name and a voice. When I happened upon the world of art journals, and my head was blown wide open.

I snapped up the few books I could find on the topic, total eye candy – big, colorful pages of words, images, paint, stamping, cloth and ephemera all compiled to mark a moment in time.

I was giddy with delight surveying the innards of other people’s journals. Journaling is by its nature a solitary endeavor. As a writer, my most productive times are also my most isolated. Being able to see and flip through the journals of other people is intoxicating.

The Art Journaling Movement

Every time I go into a bookstore, I check out the area most likely to house books on writing and journaling. Sometimes it’s the “reference” section, sometimes the ominous “self help” shelf.

What I didn’t realize until last week is that there’s a whole section in the “arts and crafts” area centered on journaling, art journaling, mixed media and altered books. Imagine my delight to stumble upon a treasure trove of gorgeous art books in full color, showcasing examples of completed journals and peppered with projects to try.

Art journaling has grown enormously in popularity in recent years – or at least more art journalers are coming out of the closet. It’s so popular, in fact, that art journals now have their own magazine.

I’m in heaven.

I’ll share some of the books and magazines I’ve discovered as soon as I finish digging through the pile I lugged home from the bookstore. It’s a good excuse to load up on these beautiful volumes: “I’m doing research!”

How Do Art Journals Fit In?

My journals have always been primarily about the written word. Literal representations of my thoughts. I wonder what will happen when I dig deep into art journaling and begin to represent my thoughts and feelings figuratively as well?

Art journaling is not for everyone. Some folks are still struggling with whether or not they’re “creative” enough to keep a regular pen and ink journal. As I always say, “Creativity is assembling something out of nothing. If you can make a sandwich, then you’re creative.”

Follow your gut when it comes to this stuff. If art journaling doesn’t interest you, seems like too much work, or is simply not the path you’re on right now, that’s perfectly fine. It will call clearly to some people, who find it more intuitive to work their emotions out in images, rather than words. Art journaling is just one more tool in your toolkit for personal development.

Because I’m so dedicated to working through issues in my life through extensive writing, for me art journaling will be recreational. Bonus materials. B-sides.

I’m excited to see where it takes me. And I’d love to hear where it takes you.

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