Looking Back for Insight
Updated: Jun 13, 2022
The other day, just after I finished my fourth art journal, I flipped through my previous ones just to see if and how my journal spreads have changed over time.
Here’s what I noticed.
In the very beginning, I included my own drawings in about half my spreads. Some were large, but most were fairly small, playing a starring role in the ‘story’ but not necessarily taking up a lot of territory on the page.
Then, there were many, many spreads which included no drawings at all. They were still image-oriented, but the images were ones I’d harvested from magazine pages. In those spreads, there were lots of layers and lots of media and lots of detail. I embraced certain favorite motifs, like dots forming spirals, or leaves on twining branches, or line work with a gold gel pen. I loved using color washes to tie the spread together. And, always, there was at least one animal. (Animals were definitely the subject matter from the very beginning.)
Then, I saw a shift back to including images from my own artwork. At the time, I was preparing to move cross-country and was going through my studio, thinning stuff out. As part of that process, I’d find little pieces of art tucked here and there, or I’d be looking through old sketchbooks and find a few pieces I wanted to save. They seemed perfect candidates for preserving in art journal spreads.
By then, I’d pretty much given up on creating wall art. I just didn’t have space for it. So, the visual art I was creating was either illustrations for the book I’m working on or art journal spreads. The result was that when I had an inspiration to create something that in the past would have been a painting, I redirected myself to embody the inspiration in a journal page. The pages became more and more like paintings, with the subject image taking up more and more of the space and often one I drew of painted myself. I also noticed a tendency to cut back on layering and detailed embellishment.
Lately, I’m finding myself using less variety in media, likely because my studio is such a mess after the move. I should explain this since it doesn’t seem to make any sense, having been in my new home for four months now. The big issue is that my sister and I moved together, and we moved from two houses into one. We’re in the process of building a second house on the property for her, but completion is many months away, and in the meantime, much of our stuff (including many of my art supplies) is still packed, and the boxes are stored in the room that will eventually become my studio.
This all said, in the four journals—64 double page spreads, including the covers—it’s been a back-and-forth process. When I first started thinking about the changes I saw over time, I thought I was moving, in the sense of ‘developing’ in a certain direction.
But as I think about it more, in many ways, the type of spreads I do results from my circumstances. There are constants: the focus on animals, my love of drawing, my devotion to images, my fascination with decoration and color. But, on that base, things change over time, and the movement would most likely be back and forth unless I decided there was something I never wanted to do again.
So, the things that change include techniques I use (my attraction to drips waver), materials I use (collage takes the most devotion because of sorting through the piles and piles and piles of clippings I’ve saved), simplicity or complexity, or the colors I choose (using certain colors is an act of supreme will).
When I started writing this, I thought I had something to say. Now, I’m not so sure! But even though I have nothing conclusive to say about my development as an art journalist, I did find the exercise of ‘looking back’ very useful. Primarily, it brought techniques, materials, and styles that I liked but had forgotten back to mind, and I’ll be using them again.
Hopefully, you’ve found something of interest, or something amusing, or—and this would be best of all—inspiration to look back over your own art and see what you can find!