Sunday, 9 January 2011

NOT the Sketchbook Challenge !

visual journal pages created from 'junk'
(page size 11.5" x 8" - 297x210cm)

I began this collage sometime in November and have worked on it in stages on-and-off since then. It is part of a new series of collage journal entries inspired by 'junk'. I have a large jute bag in my office, positioned under my art desk, into which I throw all manner of paper-related things that take my fancy - postcards, flyers, exhibition catalogues, old directories, and so on. My challenge to myself for 2011 (one of many, and before the 'Sketchbook Challenge' was announced) is to create VISUAL journals. I have sketchbooks associated with various projects, and dozens of travel journals, nature diaries and personal journals; but in general, it is the written word - or one of my word-whispers - that stimulate the desire to record what I do or see all around me.

an enlarged section so part of the added journaling can be read - the surface upon which I wrote was too rough

I decided that this year, apart from all my other journals, I would also try to create a book where a visual image came first; and so, to test myself as to wether I can do this, I thought up the 'bag' idea. I select something visual at random (dip my hand into the bag and pull something out without looking). That way, I am forced to THINK of what the image conveys to me, and how I will use it. The title I give it must convey something of the process; the accompanying journaling must reveal a little of what went on in my head. For me, these will be tough self-assignments, for I have no artistic background or training. What you see is very experimental, not just in the treatment of the subject, but in the materials used - I did not 'trial' them first, as I usually to with textile projects. Text was either hand-written or applied through a stencil. I toned down the glossiness of the images by coating them with matte gel medium.

bottom right - so you can read the journaling

I began with a flyer announcing an exhibition at a local privately-owned art gallery. I cut out the images I wanted to use - and words about the artist - and 'deconstructed' the pieces: the flyer was printed on stiff, glossy board and the layers could be peeled apart. I made a practice layout on tracing paper so that I could assess the space available for words. I wanted the main image to appear on both pages and so made a reverse coloured sketch of the jug of flowers. The background is a collage of paper torn from an out-of-date directory (Writers & Artists Yearbook, 2003), stained with watercolours to tone with the main image. I stencilled the borders and coloured them with neocolor II, blended with matte gel medium using a cotton bud. White gel pen was used to highlight the page titles and of the stencilled circles (these were intended to represent the peony flower buds in the original picture and my 'painting').

finally something about the artist, whose work I have borrowed, deconstructed  and re-purposed

Another time, I would create the background collage on spare paper, then photograph and print it on my favourite lightweight but tough 45gsm layout paper, and fix that onto the journaling page. This paper is superb for writing on and will not wreck my pens, as did the rough surface of the collage page.  I know I will learn as I go along; and part of the fun is in not knowing what I will 'pull out of the bag'. Oh, and here's a link to the artist whose work inspired me to save the exhibition flyer that came through my letterbox. And I've just discovered that if you double-click on any of the images you can read them large-scale; though you navigate away from the post when you close the screen.

(I had planned to create a visual 'junk journal' page every week, but other necessary activities intruded, as always seem to happen with me. I'm already working on the January 'Sketchbook Challenge' and have many other challenging activities for this year. Overwhelming, but so exciting to be able to at least find a little time for the creativity which I so crave.)


  1. This involves many more materials than I have or could invest in just now, but the concept seems to me similar to the true "scrap quilt" approach in which one is meant to pull out pieces and use them in the construction of a pattern--no peeking or substituting allowed.
    I've never undertaken that as I know it would frustrate me no end. I've made many "scrap quilts" but the "random look" is thought out.
    From this post I'm most pleased with your thoughts for a collage background--I think one could be assembled on a plain paper foundation, perhaps using a glue stick, then scanned and printed out. More personal than buying the packs of background papers designed for scrapbooking.

  2. Ann I think this journal is fantastic - it is your very own idea, it's original, it's artistic, it's expressive and well thought out wasting nothing and purchasing nothing new to make it - it is simply wonderful! I shall watch it grow. And thanks for leaving a comment on my blog. These parrots are not destructive unlike the white cockatoos we can get here, but we don't encourage them with feeding either as we have just so many other native birds around - in fact with have a nest of fledgling Shrike Thrushes outside our back door at present - we feel so blessed - their song is unbelievable!

  3. beautiful, you inspire me. Thank you for sharing your love of art, journaling and writing. Keep on doing what God has called you to do.
    love amy

  4. I love the big bag and the randomness of just pulling something out and then building your page around it. I have a tendency to organize everything, hence images and postcards, etc. get filed away, and sometimes, forgotten. I should give this system a try. Lovely pages, by the way.

  5. What a great way to journal, I love your idea behind it. I make journals out of junk using the catalogue pages and old envelopes etc., then paint or decorate these, but I haven't used what's on the original page as a jumping off point.

  6. Thank you for your kind comment & your wonderfully supportive offer of lending me the missing QA mags. I'd love to take you up on it if you do come across them, do email me.

    Love your post & will enjoy looking back too. Your Nature journal is fabulous & I'm desperate to make one about my garden - I'll be trying to find time to look at your gardening blog!

    I have a 'bits box' which most of my 2010 squares were made from, 'remains of the day' & the clearings from my desk, precious beyond words but they must be used & not hoarded....too much!

  7. Dear Ann,

    Just wanted to let you know that I am giving you a stylish award. Its a link to your blog from my blog. I love your style and your art. Look forward to your posts.

    amy in Florida