Why Commit to a Year of Art Journaling?
I’m going to let you in on a little secret: the idea of offering a year long art journal class is wicked scary to me! So I can totally understand why signing up for a year-long class might be scary, too. I mean, a year is a LONG time!
When thinking about this class, I drew inspiration from Marianne Bland’s Art Project 2010, during which she made a new piece of art every single day for a year. Wow! What an accomplishment! I love the idea, but could I commit do making art every day for a year? Realistically? Probably not.
I mean, I make a LOT of art. I go through phases where I’ll make a new canvas every day for a few weeks, but then I don’t do any art for a week or so. Then I’ll work in my art journal every day for a while, and repeat. I’ve always been like this: periods of inactivity in between periods of hyper-creativity. Could I force myself to make art on the days that I really wasn’t feeling it? Probably, sure. I could whip up some backgrounds for future works, sketch out some ideas for future pages, or carve a new stamp. But did I want to? That’s where I’m not sure. Maybe those periods of inactivity are essential for my art-making. Perhaps during the down-time, I am giving my creativity a chance to recharge and store up new bits of inspiration.
So commit to daily art making? Maybe. Fallow periods aside, some days are just so crazy busy that I don’t have a second to make an art. Or I’m so exhausted that I’d rather zone out in front of the television screen than my journal. (Though frequently, I do both at the same time!)
Commit to weekly art making? Sure, now that I can handle! In fact, I think that vowing to make (at least) weekly is good for my mental well-being! If I go do long without letting my creativity express itself, I can fall into a serious funk. Weekly art making will be a preventative measure against creative block.
I think being gentle with yourself is important for any expression of creativity. In my former incarnation as a writer, I found that the slightest bit of criticism would cause me to seize up and be unable to write for a day, week, month before I could convince myself to get over it and just write. I dropped out of a college because my short story was shredded to bits during a full class critique. [I say “a college” because I’ve dropped out of several.] When I established a daily writing routine, I nurtured myself by a) starting the first few minutes of the writing session with “I don’t want to write today because” and following that train of that and b) telling myself that I could write the word pickle over and over again for the full session and still consider it a job well done. Ridiculous, right? Well, it worked. And I never did fill a page with a single word!
How to be gentle with yourself as an artist? Allow yourself to make “bad” art. Who cares if you hate it? The point is that you MADE it. Make lots of “bad” art and you’re bound to have some “good” art sneak in there. Find beauty in the pieces you don’t like, and if you really, really hate, gesso it and start over again. [I use the terms “bad” and “good” very loosely because they are completely subjective. The only opinion that matters is your own, but if you are overly hard on yourself, then nobody’s opinion matters.] When you aim low, you free up your mind to have some fun instead of worrying what the end result will be. It worked for my writing; it works for my art.
Another benefit of a regular practice is that a “bad” page becomes less important. Oh well, you’ll think, I’ll make another next week. So what if you don’t like the end result? Either keep adding to it until you do like it (which is a frequent tactic I use) or bring out the trusty gesso and start over. (I use gesso a lot, too! In fact, last night I made this page:
When I turned the page after it had dried, I realized that this lovely portrait:
Had become this:
Did I cry about it? Nah… though I sure felt a pang, since I feel like this is one of my best portraits to date! I’ll just gesso over the page and start over. (I am happy, though, that I snapped a picture before the mishap!)
My creativity is like a faucet turned on full force. I don’t worry about a messed up piece because I know there are plenty more where that came from. I am certain that in a year of art journaling I will make some Moira masterpieces as well as some real doozies. And that’s just fine with me.