I think the most important ingredient to make your art journal page bloom, is to use yourself as fodder in them. Without you (even if you don’t think you’re in bloom yourself yet), they will be lifeless copies of what someone else have done before you.
To truly make your Art Journal pages stand out and be personal works of art, you’ve got to look inside, and use what you find in there. It’s the same advice that are given to people who wants to become writers, perhaps quoting the good Mr Mark Twain: Write what you know. To me that translates to: Use what you love, not what someone else is loving at the moment. Use what you’ve got inside of you, may it be good or bad, beauty or pure darkness…
Inside of me I find happy, bright colors, polka dots, messy paint and pink roses, row after row of them (well, I find darkness and tears too, but that’s a subject for another time). Here I’m focusing on blooms. Wide open, summer inside blooms.
What are you drawn to? What makes your heart sing? Use those images, colors and techniques in your journal. Learn techniques from others, but translate them into your own art.
Use what you love
Recently, as I was playing with cut out flowers, I decided to use a whole bunch of left over magazine images in a spread in my altered book, formally a book about Ancient Egypt. The page had a love poem from the 18th Dynasty of Egypt (about 1549/1550 BC to 1292 BC), that I mostly covered during my cut and paste time, but a few words (translated to Swedish) is still peaking through when I stop, and I love that.
Red roses and romantic love are tightly linked in my visual language, so the word belowed was meant to stay.
Cut and paste is one of my favorite ways to work, but it is just one way that you can make a page bloom. In an Art Journal, altered book or not, anything is permitted. The freedom is wonderful. Absolute. And scary. It asks: Who are you to sully my pages? But you can be strong and brave, and say: Hello, we meat again my friend. Time to art journal (as a verb).
I’ve dedicated this one to “just collage” because I’m also working in two other books at the moment, that I’m filling with abstract acrylic paintings. And I’ve also still got my Catch All Art Journal, my chronological art journal that I bound myself before summer started. In that one I’ve only got watercolor paper.
Another tip for making your art journal bloom into something beautiful, is to use good paper that you love working with. For me it’s yummy, thick, wonderful paper. It does not have to be expensive, and the altered book, that starts with you finding a vintage book in a thrift shop, is an example of that. Their pages are the perfect surface for collage, acrylic paint and mixed media (the messy stuff), but not so much for watercolor or more delicate drawings perhaps. Chose what makes your heart sing.
As I made this page, I documented the process of the collage growing from a blank canvas (book page with a poem) to a full on crazy flower field. And as I saw it grow before my eyes, I was contemplating how much art journaling still means to me. I need to do it more, and get back to sharing more of this kind of stuff on my blog. Making a page bloom is not about adding flowers to it, it’s about adding in you. This is my page, and it’s a portrait of me. This is what I look like today:
This spread did not turn out as I had envisioned when I started (it never does). I could probably go in and add more to it to make it more artsy (handwriting, words, paint marks, and so on). But for now I’m finished, and if I look closely, I discover hidden parts of myself in it. This is the page, and it’s enough. Plus, since it came out of a muddy pond, I think it turned out pretty beautiful…
This is my favorite detail of the spread:
I used to always just work in the one book, but now I’ve got lots of books that could be called Art Journals. How about you, do you have one, two or several art journals going at the same time? And are they blooming yet?
If you feel lost, disappointed, hesitant, or weak, return to yourself, to who you are, here and now and when you get there, you will discover yourself, like a lotus flower in full bloom, even in a muddy pond, beautiful and strong.
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