Tag Archives: art

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.

Out of the Can Thinking

I've been watching some old episodes of Julia and Jacques Cooking at Home on Hulu. I grew up watching Julia Child on PBS. PBS being one of the few channels that came in and was approved for me to watch. I credit a lot of my enjoyment of cooking to both my Mom and ravenously watching Julia Child's shows.

One of the things I notice as I watch J&J:CaH is that Julia rambles on quite a bit about how Americans are afraid of their food and how the diet industry is winning out over taste. Secretly, I could watch these shows over and over again.

Julia has a good lesson for us, and it applies to art. We can't let the industry win in dictating what we want and how we want it. Child's recipes for successful tasty dishes included fresh and basic ingredients combined in ways to create layers of food, she poo-poo'd using canned foods and already made stuff. She stated over and over, "It's not hard, the recipe is a guideline!" Art and art journaling are no different. We should be demanding the basic ingredients and supplies we need to make our art and not canned supplies. After all it's not hard to customize and create your own stuff if you only

Dede and Eveline are a prime example of taking a recipe and making it their own and taking it to entirely new heights. Dede put out a challenge to Eve that she make Tim Holtz's 12 Tags of Christmas without using his voluminous list of supplies. Eve took up the challenge as did Dede. their results are nothing short of spectacular. Out of the can thinking at it's finest.

The art and craft industry responds to demands, but as it's a big slow and lumbering machine full of people all trying to get the NEXT BIG IDEA and thus the next big paycheck. The lumbering machine hears about art journaling, tries to figure out what it is, there are big IMPORTANT meetings in board rooms to try and figure it out, there are more meetings in board rooms, and hapless cogs in the machine are sent off to investigate ART JOURNALING. They know nothing about it, they watch a few youtube videos, read a few blogs, and maybe a few of the more intrepid cogs join AJNing. They take some notes, maybe even dabble in a little art journaling and finally something like the Smash Book is born.

Now, thousands of people will be introduced to Art Journaling via the SmashBook. It might even be a decent product, but it's not what I consider a true art journal. It's an interesting concept and an interesting way to finally grab hold of a potential market. Hey, it's even got it's own special glue stick, color coordinated tabs, and a hundred other things to buy to go with it. ARGH!!!

Go simple, buy yourself a sketchbook, a cheap one, a few markers, maybe a cheap set of acrylics or watercolors, and start splashing shit around on the page. Try stuff, watch some videos on youtube get a few recipes but for goodness sake don't be afraid to only use it as a guideline.


Weekly Round Up: Videos

This week's videos are late because I had an Art Adventure on a super warm winter day! Cappuccino, breakfast sandwiches, walking around the city of Salem, and of course sketching. (Also planning for a new secret project or two destined to hit awesomeness this coming summer.)

So here you go this week's videos:








Art Adventure: Boston’s MFA

After a brief hiatus the art adventures are back on! This week Jane and I headed to the MFA in Boston to see the (new to me) Art of the Americas wing. It’s pretty darn sweet. It also renewed my interest in some of the more modern American painters.

ONe of my favorites has always been Edward Hopper for his street scenes. It is directly in line with the sort of photography I’ve been doing lately as well as the paintings I’d like to produce.

From our trip Jane and I discussed a lot of things; that we miss having critiques because they push you to do more; we miss some structure of classes and assignments, to that end we’ve given ourselves an assignment (I’ll discuss this later); additionally we miss making art adventures.

We already decided that we’re going to meet again in 2 weeks.

The assignments are going to have a theme but that’s it. We can work any size and any medium as long as we stick to the theme. This week’s theme is pretty easy, “Create a piece inspired by our visit to the MFA.” It couldn’t get much more open than that, given that we looked at work on paper, sculptures, drawings, photography, and stuff from all time periods.

So far I’ve decided I’m going to go with a painting of a local business Hooper inspired, probably China River or Super Chicken and most likely work in acrylic on stretched paper. I haven’t figured out size yet, but that will come with time.

I leave you with this guy drawing in the MFA, I'll scan some of my drawings from our coffee sessions and from the train station.


The Good Advice

I got a camera to help me take shots of the places I take my pochade box, so that I can better finish the piece when I get home. It’s rare that any one piece is 100% finished outside. I find a lot of the advice given for photography is similar to that I’ve received for painting en plein air.

A brief round up fo advice that applies to both:

#1 Don’t be lazy. (This applies to all art.)

#2 Chase the light.

#3 Look at lots of art/photos, good and bad, you can learn a lot just by looking.

#4 Make lots of art/ Take lots of photos. Throw away the bad. (Paint over)

#5 Be authentic. (don't hit me for using the buzz word)

#6 It’s all been done before except for your vision.

(Also Scott Bourne, a bignamephotodude is into the cult of stuff read this post.)

As an aside I added a tripod mount to my pochade making it even more bad ass than before. Now I don't need to rely on rocks to prop my pochade, now I simply need to lug in a tripod…

Art Journal Essentials: How to Books

The following 3 books are what I consider must have’s for people new to art journaling. The techniques are basic but explained well and these books suggest that you experiment.

Danny Gregory’s The Creative License. He includes interviews from a wide range of people and suggests a simple set of tools- pens, watercolor, and journal with a sense of documenting the simple and everyday items around you to appreciate the moment. Danny Gregory has a great blog that he no longer updates as much as he used to but is a great resource.

The Journal Junkies Workshop by Eric Scott and David Modler. This is a comprehensive guide to techniques that you can use with pretty simple materials. Again observation is mentioned here, as well as writing and creating texture and visual interest. This book works much more in the abstract realm than Danny Gregory. These guys run a neat blog too.

Diana Trout’s book Journal Spilling is another favorite of mine to suggest to people just starting out. She gives you a serious list of tools to use in your art journal, all using simple materials that are inexpensive. Additionally she’s got a set of youtube videos that go along with the book as well as a blog. I’ve reviewed her books for the zine and I’ll report that article here at some point.

What you’ll notice about these 3 books is that they suggest simple materials and gathering your own materials to use in your journals. These books avoid pre made materials that you can buy at the craft store. This makes your journals 100% your own. It’s this sense of unique that I think people look for when they create a journal. These books all foster that spirit and not the “cult of stuff.”


Cult of Stuff part 2

The initial anti-cult of stuff response is, of course, that you need less, but the more reasoned response is that you need to find the media that is most suited to you in your expression.

For years I used a fountain pen. I set it aside for a set of Sakura pens and then for a set of Pitt pens until 10 years later I’m back at the fountain pen. Why? It works for me. I like how it works; I love the lines I can get.

I also use acrylic paint, watercolors, as well as various other tools. Why? They work for me and I like the effects I can get.

It took me awhile to figure out what I liked and how I work. Even still a break from my usual pen and ink work to make gelatin prints to liven things up. A workshop or a class at Michael’s, AC Moore, or your local community college can really shake things up and get you out of your creative rut. What about finding an art buddy? Someone you can head to a coffee shop with, or walk the park with, or sketchcrawl that pretty town you’ve never bothered with?

It’s a lot easier to head to the craft store and buy some premade ephemera and slap it in your journal than it is to trek to a coffee shop you’ve never been to isn’t it?

I’ve been there.

My point is that we need to get back to the process part of art journaling. Step away from the scrapping aisle. Head to the “fine art aisle.” Look at all the stuff there. Student Grade. Artist Grade and the more recently introduced “Professional” grade*. Here’s the thing, none of the stuff in that aisle is going to make much sense until you get dirty with it. Sure you understand pencils, colored pencils and pens but what about those tubes of paint? Where do you even start? Head to YouTube, Google, or ArtJournaling.ning.com search through for some technique videos and tutorials. The internet is crawling with great (and shitty) advice.

  • Try to avoid buying supplies on a whim**.
  • Buy student grade if you aren’t sure you’ll like this media***.
  • Don’t start with a full contingent of mediums and additives.

Make a promise to yourself that you will sit down with that one material and experiment with them in every way you think possible and a few ways you didn’t think were possible. Make notes. Get to know that material.

Get curious. Perform mad science in the pages of your art journal.

Ask yourself this question: What would happen if I did this? How would this respond to this?

Now that you know that material inside and out, add to it. Layer your spray inks over watercolor, and acrylic over that, glue down some ephemera from that coffee shop you tested out last weekend.

Now that you’ve read all this, you’re thinking, “I don’t have time, I just want results.” Here’s my answer to that, “You need to make time to experiment. You can’t get results without putting in a lot of time. If you take short cuts the only thing you’re doing is cheating yourself.”

When you decide a media isn't for you get rid of it. Craigslist and eBay are wonderful tools for getting rid of stuff you don't want anymore. Also consider donating unused art supplies to a school for use in their art room.

If you are new here, this is your first visit, please realize this is a (so far) 4 post rant on stuff. Feel free to head here to read the rest of my tirade. Also, please don't assume that I hate pretty pages or would sneer at your art. This rant is about empowerment not judgement.

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Art Journaling Essentials: Books for Beginers

One of the questions I get asked pretty often is what books I would recommend to someone just starting out in art journaling. There are 3 books I think are essential to anyone just starting out in Art Journaling.

First is Keri Smith’s How to be an Explorer of the World. I reviewed this for the zine and I’ll republish the article here at some point. But this book is all about looking at the world around you. It’s inspiring. It’s full of proposed action. Get it.

The second is Dan Price’s How to Make a Journal of Your Life. I haven’t reviewed this but will. It’s about opening up your perception of the world and learning how to look and to be in the moment.

The third is Danny Gregory’s Every Day Matters. I also should review this book. It’s about learning that life, every moment of it, matters and that we should take time to fully savor and enjoy it.

What you’ll notice about all three of these books is that not one of them is about technique. They are about enjoying your life, opening up your mind and looking at life and enjoying every day. None of the books recommend expensive materials; in fact Kerri Smith’s book is made to be used as a journal. Dan Price suggests you start out in a cheap pocket sized spiral notebook and Danny Gregory suggests a cheap watercolor set, black ink pen and a moleskine.

As I see more and more of the “cult of stuff” filtering into my precious art journal scene I am more and more drawn to “old school” art journaling- a black ink pen, a set of travel watercolors and a simple sketchbook. These 3 books are just that good old fashioned basic books on art journal, full of inspirational text that will get your art journal mojo going.


You can also buy Dan Price's book directly from him via his website.

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Review: Golden Coarse Pumice Gel

Golden Coarse Pumice Gel

I purchased a 6 pack of Golden Mediums about a year ago and other than using the gloss gels I haven’t used them. The list price for 8 ounces is $13.49 and it comes in a tub. In the tub it is gray in color and looks much like cement.

I used an old discount card to spread it on my binder’s board. It lays down a very thick and heavy layer. I found it pretty difficult to lay it down thin. As I was laying it down on the board I had moments where I didn’t think it would stick. It’s a very dry gritty material. It does stick. It helps to work slowly. Because it is so gritty I would recommend using an old brush or a metal palette knife to spread it.

When dry it still retains that cement like look which could make a very cool texture in a journal. It retains its flexibility so it could be used on a journal page with no issue. It can be used as a base much like gesso but keep in mind it’s very gritty and its surface is much like 60 grit sandpaper. It’s very rough. When coloring my pages it wore holes in the rags I was using to apply glaze and color.


(On the left is the Golden and the Right Liquitex.)

This is a very intense texture gel that can definitely make a statement when used on canvas or page. It took a full ounce to cover an 8.5×11 inch page completely. The deep crevasses and graininess of it is very neat. With color added it’s even more interesting.

Ink mix0088

 A quick comparison of the Golden Coarse and the Liquitex shows that the golden is muchmore coarse, the liquitex is more like 100 grit sandpaper where the golden is like 60 grit. The difference is noticable and visible.

Wordy Monday Evening: Snake Oil, Sharks, Resonate

Lisa over at LifeUnity put up this post earlier and it resonated with me, in part because I’m going through some of the same balance issues but also because it’s a very real post and that is something I feel like the blog-o-sphere has been lacking.

Today Connie over at DirtyFootPrints posted this, and it also resonated with me. It’s also a place I’ve been in my head lately, thinking of what is “enough.” What is good enough? (more on this later.)

Aggression  and sharks.

Or as my Dad used to say, “There are assholes everywhere and some of ‘em, most of ‘em, are out to get you.” Often times my Dad meant this about boys (ha!) trying to get in my pants and people trying to take my money, but this applies to the wild internets*.

Let me back up here.

A few weeks back I decided I was going to cut back on what I allow into my internet and life. Every time someone put up a post on facebook or twitter that made me feel icky I unfollowed or hid them from my view. After another week went past I’d go back and check and see if their tweets or posts still made me uncomfortable, if they did, I unfollowed, blocked, and or unfriended them. It’s been about 3 or 4 weeks since I've been doing this and frankly the quality of my twitter feed has gone up, I’m genuinely interested in what people I’m following and I’m not burdened by reading stuff that offends me.**

Why do I do this? No one has the right to make me feel bad, When I allowed people to suck up MY time with their drama I was giving them power over my life and allowing them to waste MY time. Additionally I can't worry that I'm going to offend them, clearly they don't care if they offend me, so why am I concerned about offending them? 

It’s as if I gave them permission to crap on my good time.

So I’m done with it. The drama and the snake oil sales, done.

That’s another thing that is getting to me lately, the snake oil sales. If someone is selling you a promise to unlock your deepest inner power, it’s most likely snake oil. The only person who can do that is you. I’m  wary of someone who wants to whisper into my ear and ask me to do stuff that makes me feel icky. I’m not talking legit life coaches, teachers, licensed therapists and social workers who have been to school and trained to make you push your boundaries. I’m talking about the arm chair quarterbacks that want to tell me what to do when they haven’t put in the hard work themselves, the do as I say not as I do crowd.

I have made my way so far by listening to myself, going with what I feel is right. It’s why Art Journaling Ning is free and will always be free to join and enjoy with paid classes for those who are interested. I see this whole thing as living real.     

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