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.)