25 January 2013

The Artful Readers Club for January


Artist's Journal Workshop: Creating Your Life in Words and Pictures 

by Cathy Johnson

Sat in front of a local church on a
sunny Saturday, then picked some flowers to examine.
I only had a pencil so I added the watercolor later.
Armed with few supplies,
I went to one of my favorite spots and doodled.
Lines added in Photoshop before posting...timid me.

Please note: I recommend this book for any artist at any stage...my reference to 12-13 year olds in this review, is remarked due to the value of journaling. It's actually a very sophisticated book on many levels.
In a brief shuffle through the pages of Artist's Journal Workshop, I found myself conflicted. The book contains numerous examples of a style of art making that toggles between the hugely personal and a publishable 'look'. So, with that...the book set up on my shelf for nearly a year.

Now, after an honest read, I still feel a bit conflicted...but in a way that offers some inspiration. Plenty of 'if's' came to surface while reading Cathy Johnson's book. Like, 'if' I were to teach art, I'd require every student to read this book in the first weeks of class. But only 'if', the students were 12 or 13 years old. And in such a scenario, the book would probably be too advanced for such young artists because of its sophisticated simplicity. In essence, it's a book about gesture drawing.  A very simple concept, yet one that takes years of drawing in order understand why it is so important for an artist to practice. So I feel this nudge to encourage artists to take up some form of art journaling as I romanticize about how my work would look had I been introduced to this practice, in this manner, when I was a teen.

Artist's Journal Workshop is a book full of creative ideas and explains varied materials showing work by trained artists doing highly stylized musings. I began to art journal 'Johnson' style from the very start of this book and have passionately continued to do so, which is great. I do like her style, yet it's really not 'me'. 

I have always art journaled a.k.a.kept a sketchbook. And reading this book has caused me to look at the two as very different ways of expression. Johnson clearly has thought a lot about art journaling because she's been doing it for over 30 years. I wonder if this is the only type of art she creates. If so, then she is an art journalist, rather than a painter or illustrator. Perhaps these distinctions are not necessary for artists but they would be for the art historians. Johnson's references to other art journalists are interesting and support the distinction that art journaling is in and of itself an art form.

In her inspired manner, I found myself focusing way too much on the 'look' of the page and less about what the page was about for me. I am certain this anxiety stems from years of creating sketchbooks knowing they were for my eyes only. But Johnson's way of organizing a page provokes a temptation to make my personal stories more public. Yet maybe this is one of the distinctions between the artist journal and the artist sketchbook...one is meant to 'share' the other is meant to 'explore ideas'. Johnson does mention it is up to the artist whether or not the journal will be private or shared and that the subject content is unlimited. The examples from other artists are varied and represent for the most part the everyday genre, seldom addressing deep philosophical musings. I am surprised by the absence of poetry as I assume most artists are also poets. 

So, Johnson's Artist's Journal Workshop overall seems like scrapbooking, but with a focus on drawing and painting. Which is partly another snag for me...because the practice of journaling like scrapbooking is unique, varied and meant for all creative types, not just those who've been trained to express realism. The Artist's Journal Workshop is for perhaps 'all' artists, but is showcasing a certain type and style of artists. Its scope is very narrow in this way, yet if one can see that Johnson is simply showing what she likes, promoting the celebration of daily life and encouraging self-expression, then it's well worth the read and the practice. 

20 January 2013

Valentine Mandala with Typical VDay Icons

Original Valentine Mandalas created in Abobe Illustrator available at Fat Q...for all lovers.