• Kaaren Poole

Why I love Art Journaling

Lately, I've spent most weekends working on my art journaling, a practice which began for me by watching several Laly Mille videos last summer. I signed up for her art journaling class which was to begin in late August, but I couldn't wait that long. I followed her video on making my own art journal and got started in July. Here it is the next May, and I'm on my third art journal (each has the covers and 15 two-page spreads). It's been an enchanted journal, and I'm so grateful to Laly for setting my foot on this wonderful path!


In telling you about my weekend project, I'll also be extolling the process of art journaling. If you haven't tried it, consider getting started. You just may be hooked like I was!

The other day when I was doing a little decluttering in my studio I ran across this beginning of a drawing of a Corgi. Since it had already been abandoned for a few years I knew it was unlikely I'd finish it as a drawing, so decided to use it as a collage element in an art journal spread. The hints of wings and aerials told me I'd intended a Corgi fairy, and that fit right in with the spread I finished last weekend - 'Book of Fairies' which I meant to be the first in a series of spread featuring animals fairies. The first one was a frog.

I haven't been including that much collage in my recent spreads. I have so many magazine clippings that it's become a real chore to go through them to pick some for a project. But this time, I decided to overcome that obstacle and consciously instructed myself to look through my collection - or at least part of it. Since Corgis are Welsh dogs, I picked images which somehow reminded me of ornate decorative images that might be right at home in an old Welsh castle. I particularly liked the second from the right bit right along the top edge. The color really grabbed me. It's hard to describe, but it's almost a strawberry red and seems particularly vivid to me as it appears to contain both warm and cool tones.


And that brings up one of the reasons I like art journaling so much. I may have a starting point - as, in this case, the Corgi - but I never know where it will lead me. Inspiration can come from anywhere - again, in this case, anywhere in my magazine clipping hoard - and it could be so many different things: an image, a color, a combination of colors. Or even wanting to try out a new art supply.


Often, I will writing about my intention once I form it. Most likely it will be partially or fully covered in the end, but it helps narrow my path through the many choices which will present themselves. My intention statement is: "what I want for this piece is a fitting tribute to the glorious, magical spirit of the Corgi." And here's another aspect of art journaling I find so appealing. In the beginning, the possibilities seem endless and in danger of leading to confusion or staying off the path. It's a challenge to set a path then travel along it while still being open to whatever comes up for me along the way. The whole process is an exercise in creativity, in openness, in welcoming all the choices that come up and making the best decisions I can. It's all an experiment, and along the way I may discover some amazing things - techniques, color combinations, noticing what works and what doesn't in any particular context.

Here's the "finished" piece. I put that in quotes, because maybe I'll go back later and add a touch here or there. And, in fact, I did. I felt the image of the ducks didn't really fit the piece. I liked the dark values, but the ducks were troubling. My first solution was to smear some light brown opaque paint over the upper part of the image. I thought reducing its size would reduce its important and thus its impact as a potential problem. But the ducks were still there. The next morning - after I took these pictures - I used my gold pen to add tiny fairy aerials to all three of the ducks. That, I thought, integrated them better into the piece overall.


Another thing that bothered me was the straight white line under that beautiful strawberry colored bit I talked about before. I generally like to avoid straight lines, so I usually tear away any straight page edges from my collage bits, but forgot to do it on this one. I used my white Posca pen to add a line of text above and below the line. One could say that emphasized the line, but one could also say it visually blurred the line. Anyway, there are other straight lines in this piece, but that one bothered me.

In the end, I added so many little touches - the cut-out brown stars, the dots, smudges of paint, text, stampings of bees, that the impact of the straight lines was considerably lessened. But, in the process, I lost some of the pattern that I liked so much of the original image. This is an ever-present danger in working with layers of mixed media and collage, that favorite little pieces may end up losing their character. But I was happy to not lose that gorgeous strawberry color. I was keenly aware through the whole process of preserving that patch of color and pattern.


By the way, the tiny Corgi image was the original inspiration and source for my drawing. I think it came from a catalog, and I found it irresistible. Fortunately, it was still taped to the drawing paper. With that level of care in keeping it, it definitely deserved a place in the finished spread. And I found that place by using a recent purchase, the elaborate frame stamp. The main text for this spread is in that frame behind the little dog. It says, "I live in the castle, but my heart's in the forest, spreading my wings and living fey."

The Corgi was the most difficult part. My drawing and painting style is ordinarily very tight, and I started further developing the drawing in just that way. But I felt it wasn't working and was getting sort of desperate, so in the end I just let go and tried everything I could think of. I used pencil, colored pencil, Pitt artist pens, and washes of Golden fluid acrylics in transparent colors. Finally, I felt it was working. And, as a result of feeling lost and moving to a style of desperation, I found I could work looser. Yay!


By the way, something I really like about the Corgi is the reverse text on her chest. It's image transfer from some text from a magazine. It doesn't matter much what it says - when I chose it I paid more attention to the size and font. Since the transfer renders a mirror image of the text it's not easily readable anyway. For me, it adds an important bit of visual texture.


Art Journaling - an exercise in creativity, imagination, problem solving, spontaneity, and being led by the piece itself as it develops. I love it!

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