Sunday, December 30, 2007

Thoughts and Ideas About Journalling

I have been thinking about journal keeping and artist journals.

There are so many opinions about what should and should not be in a journal. I'll talk first about what I've read and my own experience and at the end I'll share my new opinions.

I began keeping a diary of writing when I was nine years old. It was the type that held five years of information in it yet only gave you about four lines to write in. I still have this diary and re-read it recently. In it I documented the weather, what I ate for dinner and what special things happened that day, like a big snowstorm, or me being sick and staying home from school. That diary didn't last long. I remember feeling that I wanted to write more but was breaking the rules if I wrote more than the four lines.

When I was a teenager I began keeping another diary. I found this in my saved papers about a week ago and was horrified to see what I had written. I was surprised that I was so honest with some very private details. I was also using a lot of profanity and saying things I'd never want my parents to read. The date indicated that it was September of my ninth grade year which put me at age 14. The crazy thing is I hope that my own kids are not the way that I was back then. Is that a bad thing to think?

I had kept a few journals in my adulthood but tapered off. I was using those as a brain dump type of journal where I'd complain and write out the bad stuff going on in my life to 'get it out of my brain'. However I'd never want to re-read it as when I looked back on it I thought I was over-reacting. Other things I was embarrassed about and didn't want anyone to read.

I was inspired to keep a different kind of journal after reading two books by Danny Gregory: Everyday Matters and The Creative License. Danny Gregory feels that we should look to the bright side of things and to document what we see and feel, but the good stuff, not anything negative.

I read some journals by artist Dan Price and in those he documents things he sees and does. These are simple things. These are not complaints or journals filled with negativity. How to Make a Journal of Your Life is about journalling and shows some of his journals. The other two are copies of his journalled entries for your reading pleasure (Moonlight Chronicles and Radical Simplicity).

In reading the journal pages of artist Teesha Moore, I see she documents a combination of what is on her mind, what she is doing and seeing and other times focuses on making art on the page then putting down a quote she likes in fancy artful lettering. (See Moore's website for examples of her journals. She publishes and has published zines and magazines which you can buy through her site

In reading The Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady, I see that Edith Holden's nature journal was filled with exquisite watercolor drawings of things seen in nature. She also documented things she saw, the weather, and poetry related to the season or creatures she saw. This diary is very intimidating as many of us regular people cannot draw or paint in this manner. The last thing I'll say is that Holden went out in a way that is unbelievable: while on a nature walk she fell into a stream and drowned. At least she died doing something that she loved!

In the book Wild Days, homeschool mom of a bunch of kids Karen Skidmore Rackliffe writes of spending days in nature with her children to escape from the stresses of regular life. The whole family is encouraged to keep a nature journal but each child does the journalling to a different degree. The author keeps her own nature journal and has taught herself to become a good artist using the power of observation and practice.

In Sabrina Ward Harrison's books, (Spilling Open, Brave on the Rocks and The True and the Questions) the first two which are copies of her journal pages, we see honestly and raw thoughts. We see the good and the bad, the fears and the worries, the happiness and the joys.

When I read Wide Open by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts, I was seeing new ways to journal and to be honest. That would open up journalling to yes, include negative thoughts or to document stressful things. We were encouraged to be real in our journalling.

In True Colors we see copies of some pages from artist journals. These journals were part of a round robin journal project where each artist started a book and chose a color combination. The journal rotated through 14 artists and each had to make an entry using those colors. That book is a visual feast. It is more about making art filled pages in colors rather than writing and sharing thoughts in a written word format.

The last book I read about journal keeping was Journal Revolution by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino I read encouragement to journal our thoughts, whatever they may be. We are encouraged to write out and make art about the negative things in our lives, too.

There are so many other books about art techniques that can be used in artist journals. Those talk more about technique itself, giving ideas or teaching certain techniques. The ideas in those books can be used in many different applications. Some of my favorites are The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery by Karen Michel, Alphabetica by Lynne Perrella and Artist Journals and Sketchbooks also by Lynne Perrella.

My Concluding Thoughts
In the end I think we all should do what we want to do regarding what, how, and why we journal. Our journals can be mostly writing or mostly art or a balance of the two. We can choose what we want to put in them. Those who choose to document their lives including the not-so happy parts are free to do as they please. Those who want their journals to be all happy and light can do that too.

If we choose to journal we should use the journal for our own means. We should not feel pressured to copy what others are doing. We should not feel constricted by rules. We should do what we want and have fun with it.

If a certain artist likes to use paint we should not feel mandated to use paint. If a certain artist prefers watercolor but we don't use watercolor paint we should not feel then that we should not journal. If an artist likes vintage images in collage we should not feel we have to use vintage images.

We probably would all be more creative and free if we allow ourselves to make our own rules.

I encourage you to take in as much inspiration and information as you desire. Feel free to take away from these books what you like and want to emulate. Feel free to leave behind what does not appeal to you.

I encourage you also to find your own voice rather than just copying or imiting what some published artist is doing.

Do what feels right and good and have fun with your journalling. The minute it becomes stressful it is more like work and a hassle and keeping a journal should not be like that, I don't think!

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