Monday, June 20, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 5: Own It.

I want to talk today about making your art journal your own. As with most any art form, there is a tendency for artists to jump on the bandwagon, so to speak, and follow the lead of those before them. While being inspired by another's art or learning a technique from someone else to use in your own journal is helpful, outright copying of another's style is not something I am a proponent of. Right now, in the art journal community, I am seeing a lot of the same kinds of pages done over and over. Sometimes your own style and the art you tend to make just happens to be the current trend, and that can't be helped. I'm not saying you should stop what you're doing if your pages look very similar to someone else's, but try not to get caught in the trap of thinking that your pages have to look a certain way to be art.

I hope I'm getting my point across here without being preachy. What I'm basically saying is, make your own art, not someone else's. Getting ideas from other artists is one thing, but don't try to force yourself to recreate someone else's pages. You have your own voice, and your own story to tell, in your own way. And even if you do attempt to copy someone's work, either for practice (as is sometimes done to learn a medium or style) or because you've reached a creative road block, know that your own style can't help but come through anyway. You can't silence the artist in you; even if you try, your voice will find a way to come through.

To give you an idea of the variety art journals out there, I'll share some links to other artists. Feel free to share links to your favorite journal artists in the comments.

John Copeland One of my favorite artists. His own website once showed many of his journal pages, but unless I'm missing something, doesn't seem to now. He is an amazing artist who has been inspiring me for years.

Barron Storey Barron was responsible for getting John Copeland into art journals. Amazing work to be seen here!

Sabrina Ward Harrison I first discovered this artist not long after her first published journal, Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, was released. I didn't know anything about her at the time, but after only flipping through a few pages, I bought the book right then.

Traci Bunkers I really enjoy her raw and vivid pages.

Aisling D'Art You may already be familiar with this artist. Lots of info to be found on her site about journaling and other arts.

Amanda Kavanagh A link to her blog where you'll find further links to her sketchbooks and other book arts. On a side note, her blog name is "craftmonkeys", which was one of my ideas for a blog name when I was ready to start my own blog here. I was actually shooting for "craftmonkey", but alas, it was taken here at blogger, and elsewhere on the web.

Margaret Huber

Guylaine Couture

This is just a very small sampling of journal artists out there, but I hope it gives you some idea of how varied art journals can be, as varied as the artists themselves.

To further lessen any fear you may have, how about I share some of my own less-than-successful pages?

This page is a mess, in my eyes. It has no direction at all, no purpose. A page doesn't necessarily need purpose, but this one isn't saying anything especially meaningful to me. What a waste of good, vintage children's book pages! Ok, it's hurting my eyes. Let's move on.

Another doozy. My only goal in making this page was wanting to use crackle medium. Well, I did succeed there, but again, this page isn't saying anything, and it's visually very unappealing to me.

Ay yi yi. Ok, this page is not me, at all. I was playing around with using painted tissue paper, and somehow I channeled whimsy, which is generally not my style. Nothing wrong with whimsy, it's just not me.

Art being relative, there are those that might actually enjoy these pages, and that's fine. But it's my journal, so the audience I'm looking to please is myself. The reason these pages feel "wrong" to me is not as much their visual aspect (though they're not too pleasant to look at) as the fact that they aren't "me". I was trying to create a certain look and missed being true to myself and the artist inside me. These pages do not read authentic to me, because they're not. They're kind of empty and lacking soul.

I hope showing these pages can help you feel better about making mistakes and learning from them. Everyone has "ugly" art hiding somewhere, it's just that most of us don't like to show it off. Maybe we should. Those just starting might feel less intimidated if they knew other artists don't always hit the target.

I feel it very important that I say this, in regards to any kind of art or craft you'd like to pursue (and this can apply to most anything in life, as well): you can. I'm not saying every one of us is going to be the next Van Gogh. What I am saying is you can do this. You can make the art you see in your mind, you can learn the ways others make use of their tools and mediums, and you can take your knowledge and apply it to your own art. It's not difficult; it simply takes time, practice and a willingness to learn.

Make your journals authentic by being you. Let it out. Don't be afraid to get messy and make mistakes. Don't be afraid to make something "ugly" - it can always be reworked or covered entirely. You have to let go of the fear to really get where you want to be. It sounds like a platitude, but it really is true. Fear will hold you back, in so many ways. It's your journal; claim it as such.


  1. Thank you for having the courage to post pages you don't like! It definitely helps.

    I think you have some sound advice. Mixed media is not my main medium, but I want to play with it. I plan to use art journaling as an excuse to explore and experiment with different techniques I might not be accustomed to, and I do fear that I may mimic another artist's style, since I'm sort of out of my comfort zone.

  2. I totally agree with your point about the importance of making your journal pages and your art your own. And thank you for these links -- some of them are new to me and I look forward to exploring them.

  3. I'm a wanabee...I keep trying and one day I will have some beautiful art journals. I get stuck on the "I will mess up my page" kind of thing. :)

    Great blog!


  4. Thanks for stopping by, Kim! I totally understand the fear of messing up a page, but don't forget that it can be covered completely with new work, or hidden away where no one need see. Don't let the fear hold you back, is what I'm saying.