Sunday, October 7, 2007

Art Journals

A page from my personal art journal.

As an artist and a dreamworker, I keep a journal. In it, I record my dreams, write down ideas, draw and other make other creative expressions.

As an artist I am very inspired by looking at other people's journals. It's almost as inspiring as looking at artist's work spaces - there's a great blog for that by the way: On My Desk: Creative Folk Share What's On Their Desk.

When I look at someone's personal journal, I can see their frame of mind and how they process the world.  It's fascinating.  The following are some of my favorite artist journals to look through:

The Diary of Frida Kahlo: An Intimate Self-Portrait
This book reproduces the diary pages of Mexican painter Frida Kahlo. It's so powerful to look at, as each page has been reproduced as it appeared in her actual diary, including the bleeding through of ink from previous pages. It also translates each page into English, so you can understand her words. There are powerful self-portraits and sketches that echo future paintings. When I look through this journal, I am reminded by how important it is to process the painful aspects of life and use them as fuel for creative expression.

Henry Miller's Insomnia Series
This book reproduces the journal entries and watercolor paintings that Henry Miller created in the 1965 & 1966 when he had a terrible bout of insomnia, worrying about his marriage to Japanese cabaret singer Hoki Tokuda. Henry Miller describes the series:  

They reflect the varying moods of three in the morning. Some were sprinkled with bird seed, some with songes [French for dreams], and some with mensonges [French for lies]. Some dripped from the brush like pink arsenic; others clogged up on me and came out as welts and bruises. Some wereorganic, some inorganic, but they were all intended to lead their own life in the garden of Abracadabra.

The following is a page from this series:

The Acme Novelty Date Book: Volume One
Journal pages from the incomparable, comic artist Chris Ware. We get a window into Ware's strange mind, including seeing various sketches with little notes as to what he liked and didn't like in his drawing skills that day. His graphic novels are so meticulous and perfect, it was fascinating to see a more "sloppy" side of his artwork.  It helped me a great deal to see that even this rigid perfectionist lets himself explore and be messy in his journal. Looking through Chris Ware's journal pages also reminded me that it is helpful and good practice to trace and copy other people's work for learning purposes.  This journal is a fascinating documentation of the creative process.

A page from Sabrina Ward Harrison's book
"Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself"

Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself
In Sabrina Ward Harrison's first published journal (she has since published many more) there is an explosion of colorful pages of collages, photographs, and beautiful handwriting. In this journal, the window opens into the transition of a young woman finding her way into adulthood and going through all the questions and emotions of that time. She has also filled her journal with wonderful quotes and great books to read.  Anyone who enjoys the work of SARK will enjoy this journal reproduction. The following is a page from one of her many published journals:

The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon
In this wonderful collection, the name says it all - the journey IS the destination and our journals are the road map. Dan Eldon was only 22 when he was chased down and killed by an angry mob in Somalia, while taking photographs for the international news service. His journal pages are overflowing with incredible collages, which combined his photographs of Africa with paint, found objects, and other ephemera. The journal starts when Dan is 14 and chronicles his life all the way up until his far too-early death. Looking through Dan Eldon's journals remind me to be creative every day and to pay close attention to my surroundings and how they make me feel.

Drawing from Life: The Journal as Art
This is a great compilation of some incredible journals. It includes the journals of not just artists but an architect, a volcanologist, a quilt-maker and other creative people.

And be sure to check out the 1000 Journals Project, in which 1000 journals were released out in the world with the encouragement that they be worked in and shared.  The website tracks those journals on their journey.

What are you processing in your journal right now?

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