What is your art journal page about?

I have been thinking a lot lately about the subject" of my pages, or a central element. I usually begin the week with no idea. It seems I begin with color and background and then let the layers unfold until something finally reveals itself. I realize this approach isn't wrong—and in fact works in surprising ways—but at the same time sometimes I worry that maybe I should begin with an idea. Like maybe I should have some "thing" to say and then set out to express that. This week like always I didn't have a subject in mind. So I turned to an inspiration piece—something else  that would  perhaps suggest a subject to me.  I came across this wonderful image on Kim's blog and I was immediately taken with it:

flower inspiration

I wanted to do something similar—but different. To be inspired does not mean to copy, after all, and besides, drawing on large rocks and then gluing them into a journal page? Maybe not.

But this sculpture is really cool, isn't it? I wish I knew the artist.

One of the elements I like best about it is the different shades of rock. They are the random objects that are then pulled together by the similar shapes and white lines. So I got this crazy idea to collage similarly shaped flower petals out of different shades of newspaper. I pulled out Sunday San Francisco Chronicle (Yes, we still subscribe to the newspaper on paper...once a week, now. The rest of the week my husband and I read the news on our iPads, but it's nice to have the newspaper on paper on Sundays). I knew right away that I needed to tear from the pink section (Entertainment), and the green section (Sports)...and then the the blue that filled the Travel section on the front page.

I had already layered in some blue/grey paint and gesso on the pages beforehand, so it was a quick task to brush on the matte medium and glue down the flower pieces  - and then a few bits  in all three colors  around it. Here's what it looked like from a few different angles.

flower newspaper collage

I really liked the shapes and patterns and how the text and the background played into it. I wondered why I chose a flower as the subject of this page, though. Didn't I need a reason for the subject? A message, maybe?

The next day I could see the dried newspaper looked dull, so I borrowed the technique I learned from my friend Alice and mixed some soft gel medium in with each of those  the same three colors—red, green and blue—which extends the drying time and creates a glaze, and I glazed the respective newspaper colors with similar paint colors. Then it seemed the background needed more green and blue, too, so I also washed those colors across the background.

I used Golden acrylic paint (which has now forever spoiled me, now that I've discovered how rich and smooth good paint is compared to the cheap stuff) and these are all transparent hues so the newspaper text and background shows through.

Flower add color glaze

And then when that dried, I glazed over the whole page with a transparent yellow also mixed with soft gel (This wash of color over other colors is also a technique I learned from Alice). That made all the other colors pop and blend together a bit more. And best of all, when the pages  dried they felt like canvas—much thicker than the original journal paper—and the shine was amazing!

Flower glazed in yellow

So I let that sit. And I pondered. I really, really liked the feel of this spread. Did I mention how it feels like canvas and shines?  I loved the shapes and colors...but I still didn't have an answer to my question.

Why a flower and what is this journal page "about"?

The next day I still didn't have an answer, but I thought about the original inspiration piece with its unifying white lines...and I had this strong urge to doodle in black all over the petals! I dismissed the idea at first, but I wanted to add the ink designs and I am learning to just listen to that little voice.

I found that the Pilot Varsity ink took a long time to dry on top of the glaze, but it did dry, and I loved how that turned out! My flower was really becoming itself.

Flower with doodles

The writing in the bottom right corner is just me jotting down a bit about the process of the page at that point...I was also thinking about the steps so far. How I felt confused over what this was about and why I was making it, but I moved forward pretty directly with adding the next element. That I knew almost without question what I would like to do next.

And I definitely knew what I didn't like. And at this point the background bothered me. It seemed empty. So I went and kind of scribbled lightly around the flower in gold marker.

flower add gold scrawl

Ouch. That looked dumb...I didn't like that at all! There's always a moment of panic when you think you've ruined something, but I'm also learning that you can always layer something else. So I looked hard and saw that what I was really trying to find was a way to fill the space to the right of the flower—that in fact, that was the space that felt empty.

But I still didn't know what this page was about.

And then suddenly these words, which have been bumping around in the back of my brain ever since I stumbled on them, bumped right back up to the forefront. And that's when I understood what my journal page is about.

Quickly I darkened the gold, rubbing to bring up some background, and I stopped for a moment to enjoy my glazed, text-y, doodle-y newspaper flower...

And then I filled in the empty space:

"I tell you we are here on earth to fart around, and don't let anyone tell you any differently."

Not even yourself.



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