UrsulaV (ursulav) wrote,

In my day, we had sketchbooks. And they were uphill, both ways…

Random smart ass remark on yesterday’s blog post led to doodling and made me to want to talk about “journal” used as a verb.


The whole “art journaling” thing–my spellchecker doesn’t believe journaling is a real word, and I feel its pain, nouns should stay nouns, goddamnit–seems to have exploded at some point in the last year or so. At least, that’s the point where I found myself in a bookstore, standing in the art section, which usually bleeds into craft on one side and photography on the other, and instead of the usual knitting-and-polymer clay, it was suddenly full of spines with the word “Journal” and “Journaling” and lots of subheaders about creative journeys and getting in touch with your inner artist.*

Never loathe to pick up a new art form–I’ve had a lot of fun with assemblage, after all, which mentions journaling occaisionally–I have flipped through some of these books.

Understanding continues to elude me.

I think it’s somewhere between a sketchbook and a scrapbook and an assemblage art piece. Or something. The books (and they have magazines! There are whole magazines devoted to this! With articles with titles like “Journals That Heal” and “101 Secrets to Beautiful Backgrounds”) tell you to be bold and experiment, and don’t worry, there’s no way to screw up, this is your personal journey, there’s no wrong way to do it!

Then they show you dozens of carefully composed collages, heavy on the cut-out Audubon birds and art papers, laden with inspirational quotes, generally rendered by people with magnificent handwriting.

There may not be a wrong way to do it, but clearly some ways are more right than others.

If I was producing stuff that looked like that, they would not be “journal pages.” They would be “mixed media” and they would be “for sale” and I would be somewhat closer to paying “the rent.”

It is entirely possible that every person who does this is actually producing those, I don’t know, but I suspect sampling bias may be involved. (On the other hand, there are artists who’s sketchbooks are unbelievably elegant tightly packed miracles of drawing. My mother is guilty of this. My sketchbooks have large blank swatches and frequent obscenities, and it becomes obvious after awhile that I don’t really enjoy drawing. (Painting, I like. Drawing is more of a necessary evil.))

So I am skeptical. I am also skeptical of the themes of most of these proffered journal pages…it’s always hopes, dreams, the courage to create, soaring with your own wings, imagination, and Harriet Beecher Stowe.

Seriously, do cicadas never fly down these people’s pants?

I don’t know. I don’t want to slam anybody who gets a real, meaningful thrill out of dream-hope-believe etc. I draw hamsters with bras on their heads, I seriously do not get to judge anybody else’s creative outlet.  But I do find myself gazing at all these visually different but very much similar samples, and wondering if the editor just left out the pages with the incontinent beagle.

At some point, as I wandered the internet, attempting to fathom this mystery–was there something here I could use? I like writing! I like art! I can buy cool paper! This is just an autobiographical comic with an off-screen narrator, right?–Kevin came into the room and asked what I was up to, and I attempted to explain.

“But you have a blog,” he said.

“It’s different. I think.” I stared at the monitor, where some very nice woman rhapsodized about her journaling and how it was so freeing and inspiring and how she grabbed a few minutes a day to paint backgrounds, which, I have gathered, is not like what I do when I paint backgrounds, which is generally just tedious and involves atmospheric perspective.  “It’s…uh…artistic advice. Or growth. Or something.”

He gave me that one look. (Yes, the one some of you are giving the screen right now. Don’t think I can’t feel that!)

“I have no idea,” I admitted.

Never let it be said, however, that ignorance–or profound skepticism–stops me.  If I had an inspirational quote that I was going to stencil on the wall, my forehead, and the pages of my hypothetical journaling journal of journalness, it’d be the one from Twain that goes “All you need in this life is ignorance and confidence, and then success is sure.”

I located a watercolor moleskine, and attempted to prepare a background on two of the pages, in accordance with prophecy and Somerset Studio.

It didn’t go well.

I then proceeded to write small amusing blurbs and draw bad cartoons of myself on the backs of the prepared pages, because it turns out having a small portable sketchbook is actually pretty good for writing down such immortal sentiments as “There are never enough opportunities to use Thieves Cant!” and “Why do we even have to have a conversation that begins with “Are those dirty socks on the windowsill?”**

Two days of this later, I decided that I was by god going to do a mixed media piece that reflected one of the sentiments in my journal, goddamnit. I shall not be defeated!  So I picked the one on the very first page, the one that I felt really said something significant and worthwhile and relevant to my life.

6 x 9, mixed media.

Apparently there is no way to do it wrong. So there.

As traumatic as it would undoubtedly be to part with this deeply personal work, torn from the darkest pages of my journaling, I’m willing to make this sacrifice. For…um….personal growth. Or something.

Prints available.


*I am not sure if I have an inner artist. I’ve been making do with the outer one for awhile now. Probably other people do have inner artists, for ease of storage purposes. I sometimes think I may have an inner accountant, since somebody in there worries about money, but that’s not quite the same thing.

**True Story.  An eight-year-old was involved.

Originally published at Tea with the Squash God. You can comment here or there.


Tags: art
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