Art Journals and Self-discovery
I love many of the creative ideas that artists share on YouTube and elsewhere, and they can be great for exploring techniques. And, I have volumes of inspiring art books that offer inspiration and help on “how to.” But when I teach classes or work in my own journals, what is most important to me are acts of self-discovery. That means, letting the simple materials at hand, along with my inner guidance, direct the flow of the creative process.
Every artist, and that means YOU, who is willing to open a journal to an empty page, enters the abyss. If we are willing to put marks on paper, we are courageous, curious, and equipped to tap into the inexhaustible well of creative intelligence. So, while the prompts of videos and kits may be a great jump start, beware of becoming too reliant on them. Instead, drag out your collection of ephemera, humble paints, and papers, and draw from that well. Let your materials inspire you to experiment.
Yesterday, one my students came up with an awesome inner prompt for her journal:
Start Journaling from Your Places of Resistance
A women in my class decided to choose materials she found kitsch and judged as gaudy. She grabbed some shiny red paper backed with silver, red netting, and flowered tissue paper. For various reasons she considered these elements “lesser than” other materials, such as handmade papers and expensive looking ephemera. She considers herself an elegant woman and prefers more subdued colors and materials, so she actually chose to select materials that she found unappealing in order to confront her resistance. She then found some magazine elements for collage. So, she was surprised to discover that her finished pages emerged as both beautifully designed and elegant. She had managed to create simple and lovely images out of the materials she initially found garish.
She inspired us all to reflect on the importance of being able to go to our places of resistance and work from those places as well as our comfort zones. Instead of accepting that our thoughts about what is good or bad, beautiful or ugly are accurate, we can question them and move forward and through the resistance. Sometimes we may love the results and other times be displeased. There are no guarantees, but the journey is both interesting and surprising.
Alchemy often occurs as we surrender our judgements and simply face the unknown, working with resistance instead of fighting it. Often the result becomes a thing of beauty.
I believe when we engage intimately with works of art, who we are and how we view our world, changes. The creation of art and the viewing of it, allow for us to reconfigure our thoughts, and to make ideas and abstractions, concrete. All art germinates from a need to see, understand and communicate. Like alchemists, great artists distill and transform. For me then, art becomes an experience and a lens through which to view the world. The alchemy in art is that it allows us to see stars where once we saw only dust. – William Kentridge