Or maybe I should say testing the inks. But for me, my art journal is simply that: a place to test the waters, experiment, sometimes fail, but to try new things until I find something that clicks for me. Folks, this art thing is pretty new for me all things considered. I've played around for most of my life and only recently have I begun to work at it daily and I've realized something. I've realized I really am an artist. Whether it's playing with words or with ink. It's just what I do.
But I need to get exploring, to find my own "voice" with my visual art as I have with my written words. Oh, I'm still exploring that, too, but I've put quite a bit more time into writing over the years. I do believe that being an artist of any kind is a lifelong exploration. It's a frustrating yet enjoyable journey when you're really just beginning, trying to find the tools that you connect with most, that help you to portray the way you see and feel things as art. And then there's the practice practice practice to learn to make those tools do what you want them to do.
I am posting pages from my journal to show that it's pretty much a mess as I believe it SHOULD be. This is not my illustrated journal, or my sketchbook, both very different things (more on those another time). This is just a place to experiment and to keep a record of the hits and misses. I think far too many beginning artists are afraid of the blank page, afraid to mess up or draw something really bad or stupid (or wonky as you can see from my own pages!) and folks, that's just not the point of this kind of journal. Think of it as your chemistry lab...experiment! Fail! Blow something up! (not really!) And now and again you find something really cool that you didn't know before and you can take it even further with yet another experiment until you get it just right enough to try in your art.
Like I said before, I've always made art. I was raised by an artist. My mom is a master calligrapher and fine artist whose work has been in the Smithsonian (we took a family trip to see it!). But funny enough I always somehow went to paints, acrylics and oils, and I just never loved them enough to keep on keeping on, day after day. I never took lessons until my friend Misty Mawn began offering her online classes. It is because of Misty that I picked up a pencil and began to DRAW, not paint, and something just clicked. She taught me how to see things differently, more like an artist, and it affected every kind of art I do. I admire how other artists use paint, but it just isn't my thing. I love the control I feel when I have a pencil or pen in my hand and the way the firm tips feel against paper. Maybe it's because it is so comfortable and familiar to me because I am a writer? I discovered I'm not really a canvas type of girl; I love paper. When I need colour I go to my inks or watercolours. They have the transparency that speaks to me best and they work really nicely by filling in the lines I make with ink and graphite. So see, through experimenting I've narrowed my choices, my mediums, to what works for me.
But I'm still not where I want to be, not even close. I'm experimenting with different kinds of pens from the simple Bic Crystal ballpoint to my fountain pen to a dip pen with a crow quill nib, to ink applied directly with a brush. I'm trying to find my palette, the colours that I choose that portray my own unique voice. This is probably the most difficult part for me because I so love COLOUR! But I feel that by narrowing down my choices I will learn more, coming to a place where I can slowly add to my everyday tools when I need that expansiveness. Too many choices are not constructive for me because I sometimes don't know where to begin. And I guess it's also because many of the artists I admire most have their signature palette and tools and along with their unique or style or "voice"; it's what defines their work from the work of others.
Imitation is also something very important to a beginning artist of any kind. We are inspired by the work of others so much that of course we want to try it ourselves! It's no different with writing. I would say most writers begin to write not only because they have something to say, but because they have such a love for words that has grown out of their love for the words of others. We learn by imitation. We try on different hats and styles and voices until we begin to find our own. I see this in my journals, whether in visual art or writing. Even in my photography. There are so many creative people that inspire me, as many ways of expressing as there are individual souls. I think it must be every artist's dilemma, and quest, at one time or another to try to discover their own unique way of portraying the world around them.
I hope I haven't bored you to tears or to turning on the TV to watch Maury Povitch or something like that. I'm just kind of excited about the time I am carving out for art every day. If you want to try an online class I can't recommend Misty's classes highly enough. You will find information for current classes on her blog that I linked to above. For now I'll leave with my latest "doodle" which I've been doing in bits and pieces when I need to unwind a little. This kind of doodling is inspired by Zentangle, which was first created by calligrapher Maria Thomas. There is a Web site that has lots of tangle patterns to try. I have found it to be lots of fun as well as teaching me different ways to create texture and background in my own drawings, and to gain a little more pen control. Plus they just look cool.
p.s. Please check out the next post below for info on my upcoming online poetry workshop...the perfect way for writers and visual artists to get a new perspective on the words they use for their art. There will plenty of journal exercises, and yes, even some drawing lessons while we learn how to begin seeing like artist, a poet :) You can email me at kateri.ewing at gmail.com for more information.