I admit it.
I love books. (recent purchases are Barbara Kingsolvers’ new fiction and a gorgeous book about writing by Katherine Paterson)
I love to read books. (see a girl with very bad hair emerging from the library, feeling her way down the steps with her feet because she cannot see around the armload of books tucked under her chin obscuring her view)
I love to make books. (I make and keep a daily journal, art journals, collage-a-day art journals, tiny books of quotes, recipe journals, desire journals)
And, I love books about making books.
My pal, Melanie Mowinski is a sister in art making. Mel runs PRESS up in North Adams, alongside being a professor of art at Massachusetts College for Liberal Arts.
Mel was recently featured in Journal It! Perspectives in Creative Journaling by Jenny Doh.
Mel sent it to me so I could read it and share it with you.
But the sharing got delayed because after pouring over the book, I got busy with these.
As close readers of LLD know, I am a collaborator with Karen Arp-Sandel in FeMail. We create one of kind mail art that we send to each other. We produce a line of note cards with our work and we sell postcard collage kits filled with vintage, hand painted and found papers for you to jump start a piece of mail art. You can find these in the gift shop at Kripalu in Lenox, MA or at our website.
Thinking I was preparing papers for our mail art kits, I took the cue from page 101 and used walnut spray, gesso, watercolor inks to create these pages that I have since decided will be part of my next ArtHouse Sketchbook Project for the Brooklyn Art Library. I will keep painting papers for our kits, but this series is calling to be used in my next sketchbook. Here is a visit with one of my sketchbooks at the Brooklyn Art Library.
Journal It! gathers 29 artists who keep a wide variety of visual journals- from gardens to photographs to Tyvek tree journals. If you have any appetite at all to embellish your journals or to keep a visual journal this book offers you just the direction you need to get started. And, if you are, like me, an avid art journal keeper, filling books with doodles, collages and writing, this book will light you on fire.
Melanie’s books are made from dyed Tyvek.
Just take that in for a moment.
She makes books about trees that are just so fine; you will look out at your yard and want to go rub the bark of those tall sentinels who provide you with shade. Now, they will provide you with art!
The techniques highlighted in this book are all attainable without fancy equipment.
There is a great list of definitions and resources in the back. The sidebars give you small bites of information that can change your approach by giving you ready tools.
A journal captures your journey. The transit of one day or a trip or a relationship or a project documented with techniques found in Journal It! will hold your attention for years to come.
Jenny Doh says about making Journal It!,
“I have come to value the process of studying and observing my surroundings. Journaling allows me to be a good observer and it allows me the opportunity to better react, respond, and relate to all that is around me.”
Jenny has assembled a lively inspired group of people who keep journals for all sorts of reasons. I believe that capturing your day, your experience on paper gives you the chance to integrate the learning of each day, the gifts each day delivers in your life and opens the door to a deeper understanding of your self in the world.
These books, artist books, art journals, collage-a-day or visual journals all fall in to a larger group that I call by an ancient reference, ‘commonplace books’. All of these books are visual and intellectual collections of inspirations and experiences, written, illustrated or simply scratched out in list form, as a way to document your time. Commonplace books were used to collect ideas on a theme, to draw out ideas from a collection of sources compiled therein.
It is a human act to collect and order our thoughts. Books have been used as a means to cataloging a time since the earliest centuries. Great thinkers, inventors, scientists and artists have collected their ideas in commonplace books. I love the term ‘commonplace book’ because it draws on our daily life as source material. You can fill a book with lists of what you see on your way to work, with doodles you make while on the phone with your grandma or ideas for your next great novel. Think of your high school diary and the love sodden poems you illustrated in number 2 pencil. Think of the doodles in side margins of all those yellow pads of lined paper you filled in biology class. We are constantly digesting the information we take in. Giving your thoughts and ideas and daily experiences a home in a gorgeously created book elevates the act of keeping a log to making art simply by paying attention and letting yourself play for a while.
If you’d like some company with making a small journal of your own to capture your writing, you could join me at the International Women’s Writing Guild Winter Wonderland conference in February. Information will be out on this gathering soon. I will be leading a workshop about the commonplace book and writing techniques, mixed with some art experiences. We will play with words, paper and color for a weekend retreat with other women writers. The conference will host one of my favorite poets, Myra Shapiro, author of 12 Floors Above Earth, who is a fierce teacher of the art of poetry and an experienced miner of the magic in daily life.
Karen and I will be leading a FeMail workshop in the Berkshires in the fall of 2013 where we will dive deeply in to art and writing techniques and build our own commonplace books over the course of a weekend. But if you are far from here, look at your local art stores or schools for classes to get you started on embellishing your journals. The web is full of people sharing their art journals for inspiration. Many artists are showing their artist books in shows. I would love to see the books in Journal It! in person, but the next best thing is pouring over the beautifully laid out pages of this hefty book and taking plenty of notes!
I don’t know about you, but the information overload I experience every day is better managed when I write and make art. My journals keep me seated in real time where the virtual world melts away. I dare you to take up journal keeping and heck, I double dare you to doodle. Here is a post about some books I made last summer.
Let me know how this journal thing goes for you.
Where do you like to write?
Start with a comment below!