Honesty, Authenticity, Truthiness and Resonance

When I was in school everyone talked about wanting to make "honest work." The new buzzword for honest work is "authentic." We could spend days over glasses of red wine and mugs of coffee (as we did in college) talking about what this means. In the end it all boils down to, "I want to make work that resonates deeply withing myself and has deep personal meaning." End of story.

Or is it?

I think the truth of all the discussion and thinking on these topics is that essentially we're afraid of what we put on the paper/canvas/board/ or in the journal. Many of us make work and hide it away. It's why the art journal is so perfect, at the end of your art session you close the covers and never ever have to confront what you made again. Simple right? Except you're missing out on a  prime piece of the art journal process- learning from what you've put down and thus from yourself.

I think that fear is why we also buy into what the industry pumps out for us. It's far easier to follow the industry's recipe for success than to forge our own path and style.

Maybe the real question we need to ask ourselves is, "How do we move past the fear and into creating our work? How do we learn from ourselves to create work that resonates deeply?"

It's this hard work that an art journal is intended and supposed to help us explore. If you never look back at your pages and be critical of them (without gessoing over them) and learning from those pages what are you missing out on. If you focus on nothing but making pretty pretty pages I think you're missing out on a very important part of art journaling.

Here's a challenge: Go through your art journal, either the current journal you're working in or a recent one. Use a sharpie, write on the margins of a page what you'd change on that page. If you are too chicken you can use a post it note. If you get bold, draw right on top of the page with your sharpie.

  • Leslie, my (art)journal is a JOURNAL and to me that means that what I put in it is what’s on my mind. So, the quality of the “art-part” is not important to me. It’s about my heart, my feelings.
    Of course I learn from what I do in my art journal, but my main reason to keep one is not the art.
    greetings from the Netherlands, Annie

  • @Annie I regularly review my written journal just like I regularly look at the art in my journal. I think looking at the stuff that is on my mind is as important as looking at my drawings and sketches, if anything more so. For me my art journal is about pushing myself deeper into myself and into my art. Neither comes without discomfort on some level, including being critical of both the art and the writing.

  • PJ

    I review my art journals regularly because it delights me and instructs me. It reminds me of pages I did that made me feel good either because I loved the way they look or because it delights and amuses me to see how much I have learned since then. Some of them are pretty primitive!
    It lets me remember techniques I forgot I knew. It reminds me of palettes I experimented with, loved or hated, and forgot about. I’d think I’d remember those things but I don’t.
    They are instructive emotionally and technique-wise.
    Years ago I began meeting weekly with another total beginner. We decided right away that we would bring something we did that week, not to be admired nor complimented. We would bring something we learned from. Learned we like this, or don’t like that, or this worked or that didn’t. That is the way I look back at my work.
    Sometimes I do take a sharpie and redraw something–a face, eyes, something I have become more skilled at, just to delight myself. Sometimes I make a note on the page of something I want to remember. But mostly I just marvel at the delight of creating and how learning never ever ends.