Enjoying what we do is essential if we hope to improve any particular skill, and art is certainly no exception. While I’m not sure that “having fun” and “enjoyment” are exactly synonymous, they definitely share common elements.
Most days in the studio I do enjoy what I’m doing. Often I speak of having fun, and that’s a good thing. But when it comes to art journaling, I still have a lot of mixed feelings.
Years ago in this blog, I quoted from Alfie, a play by Bill Naughton. I read the play when I was at a very impressionable young age, and many lines etched themselves indelibly into my brain. One of my favorites is this:
“Has it ever struck you as to how you can be having a good time and not see that you ain’t enjoying it, if you know what I mean?”
So, yes, while I’m having fun with my art journal, I can’t quite be sure I’m really enjoying the experience! How so, you ask?
First, I’m happy that I’ve stuck with art journaling. In the past, you see, I’d tried it a time or two, but never could go more than a few days with it. I wasn’t sure what an art journal was all about, had no idea really why I wanted one, and couldn’t figure out what I was supposed to do with one once I tried!
In recent weeks, however, I’ve learned a lot about art journaling. As I wrote in an earlier post, I’ve learned that there are many reasons why we might want an art journal. I’ve learned that we can do as we please with an art journal, and most of all, I’ve learned a lot about mixed media techniques.
Putting together a journal page is the first thing I do when I come to the studio each morning. I put on a bit of music or nature sounds, I take a deep breath, and I let myself go off into a creative space. That’s definitely fun. In that space, I think of different ways I might approach my journal page for that day.
I always have a theme in mind, I should explain. In my Kindle library, I have a book titled, The 365 Creativity Journal. I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, and if you have “Kindle Unlimited” you can read the book for free. While it’s not a book written specifically for art journaling, it does offer daily “creativity prompts”. Each night at bedtime, I look at the next day’s prompt, and I fall asleep thinking of ways I might use that prompt in my art journal.
Now, allow me to digress for a moment, please. Most books like The 365 Creativity Journal are all about sparking or unleashing creativity. Julia Cameron’s book, The Artist’s Way, approaches creativity from this perspective, assuming readers are blocked, thwarted, or otherwise struggling to bring out their creativity. I don’t have that problem. For me, it’s quite the opposite. I need guidance on restraining my creative impulses, ways to keep them in check, ways to use them more purposefully. This is why these “creativity-enhancing” books and workshop methods have never been a good fit for me. And, this is why, even now after several weeks at it, I still struggle with the entire concept of art journaling.
I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again here. When it’s anything goes, then results don’t matter, and I have a horrible time trying to wrap my brain around anything that has no real meaning. To me, that’s how art journaling seems. I know, I know. I’m being harsh here. Obviously the art journaling process can be highly meaningful — to others. It’s just not all that meaningful to me.
One artist in our local club is a devoted art journal keeper. She even entered an art journal in last year’s member show as “mixed media” work — and won a merit award for it. It was fun to look through the pages, and even more fun to listen to her talk about the memories collected there.
Yes, her art journals have meaning to her, and sometimes I wish I could feel that same sort of attachment to my journal. So, I pick my journal up from time to time, I flip through the pages, and I think about what I see there. I then shrug, put the journal down, and wonder again if art journaling will ever have any real meaning for me.
Of course, I’m not using my journal as an actual journal — a record of events, a collection of memories, a day-by-day look at my life. That’s not the intent of my journal. My journal is not based too much on real-life experiences; the pages, as I mentioned above, are designed — loosely — around prompts from a book.
So what is my art journal all about? Well, as strange as this might sound since I’m not really enjoying the process, my art journal is all about having fun. Yes, there is a difference there, and as Alfie pointed out in his dialogue, it’s possible to have a good time and not fully enjoy it.
For me, the fun comes from having a designated playtime. Earlier in the summer, I was doing watercolor warm-ups each morning; now I’m doing art journaling as a way to start each day in the studio. With my music playing softly in the background, I consider all the ideas I’ve come up with for the day’s prompt, and then I choose one, gather my supplies, and I spend a little time playing.
The results? I’ve done a few pages I’ve liked, a few pages I don’t care for at all, and mostly I’ve made a lot of big messes. I try new things, you see. I’ve been watching different mixed media tutorials, then using techniques I’ve seen demonstrated — not always very successfully.
I’ve learned about doing ink transfers; I’ve bought dozens of small spray bottles and filled them with acrylic paints and alcohol inks; I’ve tried collage. I’ve dug out — and bought more — stencils to make lots of different designs, and I recently ordered two “idea-ology” collections from Tim Holtz. Don’t know what those are? Neither did I until I watched a tutorial that used them. Mine should be here tomorrow, along with a few water-soluble “art crayons”.
During my morning playtime, I’ve done a lot of things I’d never thought of doing before. I’ve brushed acrylic paints on watercolor paper. Interesting. Another morning, I started with a prompt about taking a photo of flowers and ended up with this watercolor plus acrylic creation:
Remember when I wrote about strolling through the park recently? I mentioned the lovely flowers I’d seen. I wrote about how much I wanted to paint them. And I do still want to paint them for real, not just as part of my playtime. The prompt that day was about flowers and photos, and since I had taken a photo of these wildflowers — along with making a graphite sketch — I decided to use it as the basis of my journal page. Actually I never even looked at the photo. I simply opened my sketch book and quickly re-created the basic shapes. I wanted something bright and bold for the flowers, so I grabbed a tube of lemon yellow acrylic. Drips, globs, whatever! In the end, I liked what I’d done.
Yes, it is fun to play with mixed media techniques, to buy new art supplies, to try things I’ve never thought of doing before, all without the slightest concern about the results I’ll achieve. Most of what’s in my art journal is totally meaningless — but that doesn’t mean it hasn’t been fun putting it all together. I think I’m learning a lot about art because of all the new techniques I’m trying. Mostly I seem to be learning things that don’t work too well. I’ve learned about how not to do a lot of things. But none of the mistakes matter.
For now, I plan to keep on keepin’ on, and continue doing my art journal. Maybe, in time, I’ll come to love it. Maybe I’ll someday look back at these pages and consider them as precious memories. Who knows! For now, though, my search for meaning goes on, and each morning I wonder, “Am I having fun yet?” Yes, I think I am.