Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal 2

February 19, 2014

I noticed a familiar image at the beginning of Karen Rand Anderson’s blog–Look/see: A Little Book with a Big Punch.

It was the book – seen below – Steal Like an Artist: 10 Things Nobody Told You About Being Creative, by Austin Kleon.

It was an amazing coincidence. I planned to write about Austin Kleon in a follow-up blog to the first Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal.

I took the little book down from the shelf, and began to read.

Austin Kleon book cover

Austin Kleon book cover

What I like best about Austin Kleon is he thinks like a collage artist. He says: next time you’re stuck, think of your work as a collage. Steal two or more ideas from your favorite artists and juxtapose them (collage is about juxtaposition).  He recommends you keep a swipe file – another term for a notebook or journal.

I opened a favorite link (saved in a desktop file) to his blog dated Feb 10, 2010: 25 Quotes to Help You Steal Like an Artist.

Here are 3 quotes I really like:

Louis Armstrong: “my hobbie (one of them anyway)…is using a lot of scotch tape…My  hobbie is to pick out different things during what I read and piece them together and make a little story of my own.”

Dizzy Gillespie: “You can’t steal a gift. Bird (Charlie Parker) gave the world his music, and if you can hear it you can have it.”

William S. Bourroughs: “All writing is in fact cut-ups. A collage of words read heard overheard. What else?”

In case you don’t know about Austin Kleon, he does a fabulous TedTalk.

Keep a Swipe File

Many artists keep a swipe file as a book or in a folder.

Typically, my papers are not pasted into a journal but left in a box. The image below includes swiped papers from recent issues of ARTForum, Art in America, and the March 2014 issue of Harper’s Bazaar that is  filled with page layouts that marry fashion and contemporary art. It’s the hot thing now.

magazine papers for collage projects

magazine papers for collage projects

Carry a Notebook and a Pen Wherever You Go

Listen to Austin Kleon. He recommends we carry a notebook and a pen with us wherever we go. He says: get used to pulling it out and jotting down observations. Add comments on what you observe, copy favorite passages out of books, record overheard conversations., and doodle when you’re on the phone.

I’ve started to play on Pinterest. It’s a way to collect images into a digital journal. On Pinterest you “pin” images to “boards.” I love it because it’s totally visual. I’ve created boards in different categories like art journals, paper collage, Romare Bearden, mostly red, and black and white. See all the images on my art journal board.

journal pages by Olenka

journal pages by Olenka

The image above is a lovely drawing and collage on a two-page open notebook by Olenka that I pinned to my art journal board (pinned from sodalicioushop.blogspot.com). I love how the artist played with geometric shapes and calligraphic lines with black ink. I love how the white journal paper was left pristine, and how the artist embellished the drawing with delicate pastel colors, tiny geometric shapes and letters that float inside triangles and circles.

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

journal pages by Jeffrey DeCosta

The image above is a painting and collage on 2 pages in an open notebook by Jeffrey DeCosta. I love it because it’s not slick. It’s gritty and painterly. The left page has the block numbers and letters. You see 34 in red, and the word SAVE and the number 0 in black. The opposite page is an abstract painting with smudgy black dots covering a background in red, yellow blue and green. Some of the paint migrated to the opposite page. I was drawn to this journal image because I like the way the painted dots and collage letters communicate with each other.

Find more images at my Pinterest art journal board.

untitled, journal pages

untitled, journal pages

The image above is untitled and no artist is given credit (sometimes a problem at PINTEREST). Handwritten words march across two pages in an open notebook. The text creates a negative space (the white paper) that becomes a large letter B on both sides. The journal pages are created with pen and ink in small and large letters. I see the words: “my lack of understanding” and “help” and the tiny hand-written text on the left is not legible. I wonder if it’s all about the letter B.

See all the pinned images on my Pinterest letters board.

A Simple Idea – Observe, Collect and Comment

Keeping a journal is a simple idea: Observe, collect, comment, make art and learn in the process. A journal is a way to keep track of what you’ve swiped from others.

I do the same thing and tell my collage students to collect images and keep notes. If the image is too large for your notebook, scan or photocopy and reduce in size to fit your page. Take pictures with your camera phone so you include your own images. Put everything in folders, or a ring binder, scrapbook, plain notebook or fancy art journal.

Take notes on why you swiped it, what it means, how you think you will use it.

If you like, you can change your mind, reinterpret your images and rewrite comments.

Austin Kleon says: See something worth stealing? Put it in the swipe file. Need a little inspiration? Open up the swipe file.

FINAL THOGHTS

I am troubled because I don’t keep a journal. I have journals that are mostly empty. I collect images, make drawings, write comments, but don’t put them into the journals.

An artist who makes journals suggested I create the journal as loose pages and make the pages into a book. I saw an image that showed a book with pages in all different sizes. It was funky and pages were sticking out in all directions. But it was bound and a book – and it’s a definite possibility.

Another possibility is to collect images on Pinterest boards, and translate (interpret) and draw the images onto journal pages. I like that idea. I can pin and I can draw.

What inspires you? Do you keep a journal? Do you pin images at PINTEREST? Please contact me with your comments and share your pins.

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8 Responses to “Be Inspired: Keep an Art Journal 2”

  1. Robin Brooks Says:

    Hi Nikkal,

    This is me on Pinterest: http://www.pinterest.com/robinellenbird/

    This is my website: http://www.robinbrooksart.com

    I also tweet and post to facebook.

    All of these sharing sites leave a visible trace of my thinking, my preferences, and my creative output. They bear some similarity to a journal but they are excruciatingly public. I say that because a journal, to my way of thinking, is private.

    In my hardbound blank journal I can talk to myself, reflecting on my life journey, day by day. As a life-long artist I have kept a sketchbook since my high school years where it was a requirement for class. I don’t mind if people see my scribbles and experiments in my sketchbook. I also use my blog for journalling and documenting my studio process. I’m going to scan a few of my sketchbook pages and post them to my blog. I hope you’ll have a visit/


  2. Terrific and inspiring post, Nancy… thanks for sharing my post, as well!!

    • nikkal Says:

      We both agree that Austin Kleon is awesome and I was inspired by your excellent post and the timing. Best, Nancy

    • nikkal Says:

      Hi Karen, I enjoy reading your posts, and was amazed to see the Austin Kleon book promoted there. It’s serendipity.

  3. Robin Brooks Says:

    I’ve got a wonderfully similar book that I’ll be using with my G/T artists in grades four, five, and six in my elementary studio art program. It’s called _How to Be An Explorer of the World_. Thanks for the rich conversation, Nancy and Karen!

    • nikkal Says:

      Hi Robin – thanks – how do you use the book How to Be An Explorer of the World? Is it a way for kids to keep a journal?

      • Robin Brooks Says:

        Hi Nancy,
        I teach art to children in a public elementary school in Maine. We’re starting an enrichment class for children who are identified as gifted and talented. I am going to pilot the use of this book with this small group of motivated young artists, grades four through six. The book is filled with wonderful journaling prompts which call on us to use all of our senses to see the world around us with fresh eyes. Each child has received a sketchbook as part of GT art so, yes, we’ll do the exercises in our sketch journals.

        PS Many years ago I worked as a museum educator in the Junior Museum department of the Newark Museum in N.J. I saw that you have offered classes there! :-)

  4. Alice Harrison Says:

    Nancy – thanks – enjoyed your post – you are terrific

    Best,

    Alice


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