Many people have asked me what Art Journaling is and have wondered if it’s a form of scrapbooking? Well, yes and no. It is a way of collecting thoughts, ideas, visions and memories and putting them all together in a book, similar to what is done in scrapbooking, but art journaling is less commercial and is a more intuitive, individual and creative approach to visually documenting ones thoughts in a freestyle form, using images, paint, textures and words that when combined tell a fuller story.
I have been journaling for many years and have explored a wide array of themes and subject matter. Before I start any new artwork, I make notes and sketch, writing my thoughts and ideas into my art journal, which is kept for this specific purpose. Whenever I have a moment of inspiration, I make a note of it in this book for future reference. It helps to remind me of my initial enthusiasm when my Muse takes leave and I am scratching around for ideas.
I also keep journals when I travel, big fat documents that record the details of my journey.They are filled with photos, drawings and writing and are a fabulous way to honour my journey, record inspiration and remind me of my reactions to things and all the fun I had.
I’m also in the process of making a visual document of our family history, something that can be passed down through the generations, that will give family members an illustrated understanding of where they have come from. It’s a major undertaking, but so worth the time and effort.
In my reflective moments, I make pages that illustrate my thoughts about deeper emotional issues, and these often progress into fiber artworks, which are a tactile form of journaling. “Surrender”, “Towards Infinity”, “Bongwefela”, “Zimbabwe Ruins #2” and “Desert Beauty” are all examples of this. “Zimbabwe Ruins” (below), is another good example of 3 dimensional journaling…
It can also be fun to use story telling as means of exploring issues relating to human behaviour. I recently completed a page that was inspired by Aesop’s fable of Androcles and the Lion, where a slave who has escaped his master and is hiding out in a forest, comes face to face with a lion. Expecting the lion to attack, the man is surprised when the beast limps towards him, holding out his paw. On closer inspection Androcles discovers a thorn embedded in the lion’s foot, and without hesitation, carefully extracts the thorn. Through this simple action a deep, mutual trust is formed and they continue to help each other survive in the forest. Later they are both recaptured, and with the emperor in attendance, Androcles is thrown into the lion pit. As luck would have it, the hungry lion is none other than the one he had befriended in the forest and, recognizing a friend, the lion rubbed up against him like an affectionate, purring cat. The emperor, on hearing the story, pardoned Androcles and let the lion free into his native forest. The moral of the story is that gratitude is the sign of noble souls or the kindness and caring of one being to another will always be remembered.
On my journal page, I illustrated the story, but added another dimension to the meaning. Sometimes it happens that in an effort to protect our vulnerability, we create defensive armour (thorns) that can unwittingly inflict wounds on another’s vulnerability, causing the victim to strike out and inflict a wound of their own. If one can step back in love and compassion and recognize where the pain is coming from, one can remove the thorn, and trust and vulnerability can return. In this story both parties were vulnerable, but it was their recognition of this that allowed them to trust each other, thus doing away with their need to protect themselves and enabling them to form a bond which ultimately was the strength that broke the chains of their captivity. It was their trust of each other that allowed them to be free. So, vulnerability is crucial, for without it we cannot trust and without Trust one cannot have freedom.
As you can see Art Journaling can appear in numerous forms and be a great source of enjoyment and therapy. If you are interested to learn more or to try your hand at it, please contact me, as I will have a new series of workshops available in 2018, in addition to my regular monthly journaling sessions that I hold in my Grahamstown studio. My final session for 2017 will be this Saturday 25th November. Call me if you would like to come.