Journal Friday #47: Meager Beginnings

The Daily Challenge might be over, but Journal Friday continues. When I taught high school art, every Friday was Journal Friday, and all of my students worked exclusively in their journals those days. I would give them an idea, show them a technique or a new material, or share a prompt, and they would get the entire class to work and explore in their journals. So, I am continuing the notion, and every Friday, I’ll share what I’ve been up to in the journal. Along with photos of the work, I’ll share ideas, tips, and techniques. I’m thrilled to start off the New Year with a new journal.

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A new journal brings with it endless promises, and there’s an excitement to looking through the blank pages and pondering the possibilities.

For many people the journal is a place to make art daily or a place to document what’s around them through drawings and paintings, and often they work one page at a time from the front to the back. And there’s nothing wrong with that, but it’s never quite worked for me. For me the journal is an Everything Book where I dump everything. It’s not a place to make completed works of art, though many pages have that resolved work of art feel after enough time. It’s not just a place to document where I am and what’s around me, through observational drawing and painting, though there’s a little bit of that. It’s a place where art, ideas, images, and words all meet and create something new.

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As an Everything Book, my journal is a place to play and experiment with art materials — a place to develop my art and my ideas. But it’s also a place to document and record the happenings of my life, the places that I travel, and the things that I do. It’s a place to process thoughts and ideas — to deal with turmoil, disappointment, and doubt. It’s a place to confront my fears and dream those big, wild and crazy dreams. Everything goes in there from inspirational quotes to random thoughts, from doodles to profound mark making, from the ordinary flotsam and jetsam of everyday life to grand visions of growth and change. These things mix and mingle, merge and diverge. It’s a simple process of accumulation that has significant consequences.

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But the journal has meager beginnings. It’s just a blank book at the start, full of blank pages, but filled with so much possibility, and I don’t lock myself in to one way of working. It’s the slow accumulation of small actions that transforms the blank sketchbook into a vessel of self discovery and artistic meanderings. And it all begins with a little color, a few shapes, or some random lines, but it’s not confined to a single space or page. The color, the shapes, and the lines meander and merge on multiple pages laying a foundation and engaging the blank space. Slowly over time, sometimes weeks or months, other marks, ideas, materials, and images accumulate, and that’s where the discovery happens. There’s no preconceived notion of what a page should be or look like. It develops slowly and organically. New ideas grow. New modes of working emerge, and random juxtapositions create new meaning.

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That’s what is so exciting about a new journal — the discovery, the possibilities, and the unpredictability. But it all begins with little steps.