Thursday, April 19, 2012

Artists' Journals

Artists’ Journals. It’s a concept that confused me at first. I mean … I barely have enough time to work on the projects I’ve started (or want to start), why would I add another to-do to the list? Why not just sketch in a sketchbook and write in a notebook? It didn’t make sense to me.

But … they were so pretty, the examples I saw. And so, mysterious, somehow. Like they were special books of poetry or arcane spells. So I tried it.

I had already started a garden journal after finding a watercolor field notebook on deep discount. I’d been planning to paint more from life, especially plein air, and had been neglecting all media except acrylic. So … a watercolor garden journal.  One night, while trying to make a color chart of my portable watercolor palette, my youngest was driving me nuts wanting whatever materials I touched. I vented my frustration on one of the plain paper pages. The jump to artist’s journal was not too far.

So the gist of an artist’s journal, as I understand it, is that you basically illustrate your topic. Or decorate your writing pages. Or collage your subject. Or something, anything, whatever you want. Actually, this kind of exercise is a good one for someone like me who tends to take it All Too Seriously. It encourages play. Something I could use more of.  It gives me the opportunity to try out ideas in a small format and provides a serendipitous prompt for new ideas. In the past two days, I’ve sketched out background pages of a celtic knot garden and what can only be described as “Mondrian meets Monet.” Two ideas that were nowhere on my radar before this experiment.

In short, it’s kinda fun. I think I will look for more opportunities to journal. And rather than keeping me from my ongoing “real” projects, I find I’m thinking about them even more and making even more time to work on them. Who knew?

(A quick Google search turned up lots of information on Artists’ Journals, but this site is one I found helpful.)


  1. Loveliness! I, too, struggle to keep keeping a journal (starting is no problem--I've done it hundreds of times)because it feels like not-work, which is kind of the point. But I hope you keep it up. I do so love those journals that combine visual art with writing, and you write so well. It's really striking.

  2. "(starting is no problem--I've done it hundreds of times)" Yes! The beginnings of things are always so much fun ...