Sunday, November 11, 2012

Meaning and Aesthetic in Art Journaling

I have been "Art Journaling" since February. I went to Michaels (Arts & Crafts store) on February 14, 2012 to buy a journal, and some supplies. I suppose, in retrospect, it was a Valentine's gift to myself.

I can't recall what exactly first got me interested in learning about having an art journal, but I *think* it was several of Suziblu's YouTube videos with her Mixed Media Art Journals... I've enjoyed watching her for a few years now, and I believe her journal work inspired me to start one of my own.

I bought the "The Journal Junkies Workshop" book by Eric M. Scott and David R. Modler early on,

soon followed by "Journal Spilling" by Diana Trout.

Both books are chock-full of ideas and techniques. I recently re-read "The Journal Junkies Workshop" and am currently re-reading "Journal Spilling." When I first got these books, I flipped through and glossed-over a lot because I was eager to just journal! Now, however, I am paying closer attention, and getting more out of each book. Both are similar, and very unique unto themselves simultaneously. I recommend both, but I suggest you start, as I did, with "The Journal Junkies Workshop" first.

The hardest issue for me in my journaling that I still grapple with is meaning, second only to aesthetic. To me, a piece (or journal page/spread) IS art, whether it's hanging in a gallery or stuffed in your desk drawer. It is a visual representation of your feelings, experiences, wrapper from that piece of candy that you know you shouldn't have eaten, whatever. You write, draw, collage, etc. all of this and more into your journal. Sounds fun? It is... BUT...

I still have problems disassociating from the notion that 1.) it has to MEAN something (or at least have a cohesive theme), and 2.) it has to be somewhat aesthetically pleasing (it must look good!) Now, the whole point of art journaling is to let go, be free, just create and PLAY without the constraints of worrying how it will look or what it's about. Yeah... I'm not there yet.

Perfect example- here's a fairly "pretty" page with some paint, collage, and stencil.

I actually like how it looks so far, but it has no meaning. It's a bird bath and some letters... you know? I can't, in my mind, justify it. It is unresolved. Many of my spreads are unresolved... perhaps one day I will reach a place where I no longer care, but the artist in me, or rather, the critic, is always there... nagging. That being said, please enjoy looking below at some of my journal. I won't indicate which spreads are considered to be "finished" or not, because I don't like putting too much definition on my art... I rather leave much up to the viewer. It is up to you to decide what it means to you, and if you like it or not, whether you feel it needs more or is perfect as is. It's up to you to decide. Please click on the image to see it fully. :) and tell me... do YOU experience any similar difficulty relating meaning (or lack thereof) to your work?

28 comments:

Angels and Everlastings said...

Well written!

ChocolateDogStudio said...

I understand what you are saying. I also struggle with the feeling that the art is unfinished. Perhaps we unconsciously prefer to have things finished, boxed and marked off the list. I think the unfinished part is what makes it art. It requires the viewer to think about the art and provide meaning and an ending.

ChocolateDogStudio said...

Not your art but mine... :0)

Diana Trout {Nan.DT@verizon.net} said...

First, thanks for the plug! Next, and far more important, is that what you are writing about here resonates with me deeply. I've written about it before and perhaps it is time again, in my on-going Taming the Critic series. I hope you won't mind if I refer readers to this post. Well said. And I am always struggling with this same thing. Meaning, concepts, "pretty" - ugh.

Aloquin said...

Thank you, Diana. By all means, refer away :) It is a comfort to know that I am not the only one... I wish we all didn't have to be faced with this, but *maybe*, in the long run, the struggle makes for better, more emotional art.

Kathleen said...

I haven't ever been able to be really excited about journaling. I would rather just sketch something or do a painting... maybe I just don't really understand the purpose or process... LOL - or maybe I just like to paint ;-)

Pam of alwaysartistic said...

Very nice journaling pages. I love the idea of art journaling but I haven't done many pages and wasn't happy with the way they turned out. I do love to watch you tube videos on them though...

Marlene said...

Love your pages, I too am fascinated with the idea of journaling but have found I don't even know where to start. I have the book, Journal Spilling, and an empty journal that I have had for over a year. Still I have no clue where to start as I too think it needs meaning and a theme, which I have neither of. Some day I may get inspired.

Lee Pierce said...

Ah, you are always your own worst critic. I have countless sketchbooks and haven't been able to get into journaling...something always is in the way. Letting go and being satisfied with the result never seem to coincide.

pinkglitterfae said...

seems a common problem with journaling. We do feel like everything has to be perfectly finished to be successful, but the point of a journal, is to just spill your life into it (at least for me it is).
Your pages don't have to be finished right now, you can always go back later, and add text, an image you found, or ephemera, doodling, etc. Just keep playing.
I enjoyed looking through your pages :-D

Sheila Fisher said...

Jen, I'm not an artist, but it seems to me your journal art is a reflection of you. It's not to please anyone else. And I think it must be hard to see your art through someone else's eyes. To me it may be a masterpiece, to you it seems unfinished or lacking in some way. I recall all the great artists like DaVinci who's unfinished journal sketches are treasured pieces of art just because they reflect his inspirations for his other works.

Julia Badgley said...

What I do on Etsy doesn't provide this conflict for me - it's just about the aesthetic. However, I was an English major and I think the conflict would fit better there for me. I was much more comfortable deconstructing someone else's work than making my own. I think my expectations were too high both for meaning and aesthetic for myself.
Good for you to follow through consistently even though you feel the struggle.

Recovered Fundie said...

It's neat to see how different minds work yet connect. I'm more of a writer and a crafter than an "artist" so my journals are full of words. I did venture into doodling once because we were on a plane and there were no peanuts. The airline was trying to save money; I thought they were cheap so I drew a sad elephant in my travel journal. It was fun! I don't think that words can have any more meaning that a picture. It depends on what the reader is feeling at the time. Keep up the good work!

AnnMarie aka Vintage Junkie aka NaNa said...

I have always felt that I SHOULD journal but don't have anything to say! I am not an artist so I couldn't do what you have done here....which is FABULOUS by the way! It doesn't matter to me if they are finished or not or if they mean anything...they are just so cool to look at and I like to think they were just something that was on your mind that day. Glad to see you back on Midweek Blog Blitz! Missed your posts!

Angels and Everlastings said...

Love your journaling art. I somehow couldn't get into journaling myself. Maybe because it makes you look within and that can be difficult.

sammysgrammy said...

That's the thing - look within. Sometimes pretty scary. Bible says the Lord desire truth in the inward parts. This is what journaling (whether with or without words) is all about. Getting down in there and fishing it all out and onto a page.

Doesn't mean we need to stay there, just need to examine our motives, reactions, thoughts and carry on - the better for it.

Recovered Fundie said...

Then, if you decide to look back at your entries someday, you can see how much you've grown and write about that.

Journal entries, even if it's just about your day - it doesn't have to be deeply spiritual all the time - mean something to different people at different times. Think of the journals of people who lived long ago. They give us insight into what has changed and what hasn't.

Susan Windsor said...

This is something I've always considered doing, but it so intimidates me for the reasons you mentioned. But I LOVE your entries! Just glancing through what you've done is inspiring to me. Maybe I need to really reconsider. Like has been mentioned by others, it would be such a visual for your artistic growth and thought process. Great entry!

Abby / Linda said...

I wouldn't know where to start. and, I would think, "What for? What purpose?" I'm just too practical minded. I want a finished product. I like to paint, like Kathy said.

Aloquin said...

Abby/Linda- you're outlook is precisley what worries me... I am afraid of it being a waste of time, without any purpose. But K appreciate immensley what Diana Trout writes in her "Journal Spilling" book about our inner critics:

"My critic says, in his nasally whine, that my ART must be labeled: Meaningful, Thought-Provoking, Important, etc. etc. etc."

When I read this, I realize that other artists struggle with the same things I do. Then I tell myself that the purpose of my ART is to create. Why? Because it is who I am, like breathing... I must do it, and I love to do it, and unless I am working on a commission, then I don't HAVE to be concerned with what others may think of it :) How's THAT for freeing?

Recovered Fundie said...

I think your art journal is a good way to let go of ideas so that they don't clog up the inner passages. These ideas might develop into something bigger or they may just stay in your journal. At any rate, you are expressing yourself and getting things on paper.

Diana Trout {Nan.DT@verizon.net} said...

This post has certainly brought up alot of ideas and feelings about making art. Thing 1 that I know to be true: making art makes me feel good. Thing 2: searching for meaning before you have anything on a page defeats you before you've begun. Thing 3: as I am working (and perhaps you too) meaning begins to emerge. Sometimes. Thing 4: I don't care if no meaning emerges. Maybe it is not Art when that happens but it is something I enjoyed making and that is enough for me.

Aloquin said...

Couldn't have said it better, Diana!

Mechelle said...

I have art journaled in sometime.Thanks for the reminder.

Fred said...

I always find it helpful to write things down. But I'm more scatter brained and my notes look like confettie fodder. I have a real problem finding the notes I need when i need them. My website is beginning to look like a junk drawer and there is nothing I want to eliminate. Signed Art battlefatigued. Fred

Vicky Williamson said...

Sometimes I wonder if a journal spread is really relevant (as in, "it's stupid!") --- but I tend to post anyway, unless it contains private stuff.

I am very often surprised when something I feel is uninspired is the very image that evokes the most interesting comments from others. Including comments about how the random bits fit together as a whole or my composition being well-thought-out --- on the very pages that were totally random and unplanned!

I can only come to the conclusion that, as believers, the Holy Spirit often gets involved in our art work, and takes it somewhere we'd never reach on our own.

Chris Linton said...

I have struggled with having to have a meaning in my art journals; a bit like everything you make has to have a purpose ..... I'm finding I need to consciously say to myself, art for art's sake is just fine.

Pam of alwaysartistic said...

I haven't done much art journaling... But love to watch videos of other people doing it. So glad your keeping with it. Must be a lot of fun!