Sunday, March 16, 2014

Lessons From an Art Journal...Chapter One

Chapter One

Letting Go


In case you haven't noticed, mixed media art journals are all the rage.  Everyone seems to be getting out all their ink sprays, stains, paints and stencils and creating layer upon layer that somehow comes together as a whole.

I bought a new mixed media journal at the beginning of the year.  The original plan was that I'd try jumping on this creative band wagon and see what all the hoopla was about. I had the over zealous idea that I would let my creativity flow at least once a week and let it meander where ever it decided it needed to go.

But what I am finding is that I am struggling with the question as to whether or not this type of journal art fits me.  Or, if the struggle I'm having is a result of not having done this type of creating previously and I am lost in how to make it happen.

When I look at journal pages I have one of two reactions.  First reaction is "Whoa.  Waaaayyyy too much happening on this page".  My mind/eyes don't know where to focus as there are too many layers, colors, dots, dashes, words, zig zags.

The second reaction is "Whoa!  I like this! How does this person put together all these different elements that draws my eye to seek out the details in all the layers?"

My first attempts at an art journal page enlightened me to a few personality traits that I'm not sure fit this type of art form.  For one, I apparently have the compulsive need to control where and how inks, paints and sprays apply to the paper.  I don't like, or perhaps, cannot foresee how the blotches of the above mentioned mediums will look like a cohesive work of art.  This is more than likely due to my lack of skill using stencils and inks in this manner.  I have used stencils for many years to assist in painting of murals.  But, those stencils were to facilitate a more realistic piece of art.  Not a free flowing "let the splatters land where they may" type of art.

The second annoying trait would be that I over think each and every placement of the different elements.  This should come as no surprise to me, as I have over thought each and every element on every card I have every made.  But, when one is trying to have a random, flowing of creativity, this does not work in one's favor!

As a result, my first page looks exactly like what is is:  an over analyzed, stay within the lines, stiff piece of work.



Please don't take me wrong!  In reality, I know that there is nothing really wrong with this page. It is just not the page that I was hoping to create.  This page, unfortunately, just does nothing for me, except bring to mind the feelings of frustrations, disappointment and a major "Eh. Whatever", attitude.  

Instead, this page will be a page of lessons learned from my vast amount of mistakes.


I began my page by applying Gesso over a 9x11" multi media journal page.  I then randomly smooshed (technical term) Distress Inks over the page and moved them around with a watercolor brush that had been dipped in some water. 

Lesson One:  I need to figure out how to use spray inks.  I don't know if it is because I did not adhere the stencils down securely or because I held the inks too close while spraying.  What I do know is, I was left with just a blotches of ink, pooling under the stencil. 

Lesson Two:  It is just paper.  The ink spray splotches were beyond my tolerance.  And before I even thought to try and salvage the piece, I redid the background.




 Which is where my compulsive need to control the inks came in.  I replaced the stencil and used a variety of inks to give the background leaves a definite outline.  The edges were still a bit fuzzy due to the fact that I was too impatient to let the wet paper dry completely before applying the Distress Inks.  Which, if you have never used Distress Ink, react with water and spread out.  

Lesson Three:  When one is applying Wendy Vecchi's black embossing paste through a stencil, one needs to be aware of the smudges of black that are being spread around in the haste to apply more paste instead of properly cleaning the stencil between flipping it from front to back.  


Lesson Four:  Yes, Gesso covers mistakes. But, sometimes, covering the mistake with Gesso makes a larger mistake.  

To my dismay, I discovered that Distress Stains and Inks do not completely cover Gesso.  The resulting color is muted, as if the Gesso absorbs the ink, leaving areas that do not "match" the rest of the background.  No matter how many layers of ink you apply.

Lesson Five: Walk away.  Sometimes you just have to walk away and let the stewing simmer to a less frustrated level.

  At some point, you have to acknowledge the fact that the page is never going to turn out like you had hoped it would.  So, grab another stencil and experiment with using Copics through a stencil.


Lesson Six:  Review Lesson Five and walk away.  Several days (okay, a couple of weeks later) grab some random paints and try to fix the leaves one more time.


The leaves still don't match.  But they aren't as muted as they originally were.  

Lesson Seven: Take to heart the words Kenny Roger's sang so long ago in The Gambler


You got to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em,
Know when to walk away and know when to run.
You never count your money when you're sittin' at the table.
There'll be time enough for countin' when the dealin's done.



I'm walking away.  

'Till next time...................









6 comments:

glendabrooks.blogspot.com said...

Boy can I totally relate to your post. I just recently finished a mixed media canvas that I want to use in my bedroom. My problem seems to be I never know when to quit. I have been looking at the canvas for days and I still don't like it much. I'm going to go back and Gesso some more. Your finished piece is rather nice. I think you are way too critical. I'm also thinking there is not set pattern or rule to these pieces. Just however it turns out is ok but like you I keep fussing with it.

Stef H said...

to me... EVERYTHING you do is creative, above and beyond and beautiful. you do things i wouldn't dream of going near and i get to admire it from afar and have uber respect for you. i'd say you INSPIRE ME but your craft if way above my ability and deep down inside i'm LAZY. i'll stick with my CAS. but it sure is a joy to READ your blog and sit back and STARE at your wonderful ART!

big hugs :)

Gail Dixon said...

Starla, your butterfly piece is beautiful! What do you find wrong with it? To me, simple beauty is best. If there are too many things happening on a page or in a photo, I am not a fan. The colors and composition of your art page remind me of a well-composed photograph. You're using the rule of thirds, drawing the eye to the butterfly, then the eye can rest on the other elements. Don't be so hard on yourself. You are a wonderful artist!

Melody (lacyquilter) said...

Oh, my goodness, Starla! I could have written this post word for word! I do, however, really really love your finished piece. I love how those dark bold plants just pop right off the page.

Sylvia said...

Actually, Starla it is a good start, a great first layer even though you may think you have added several layers! I love it, out it away and look at it again. Then get your thinking cap out and figure out what the second stage will be. That is what art is all about, layer of goodness after layer of goodness! don't be so hard on yourself, my guess is you are as tired as I am! Take care and Happy Tuesday!

Micki said...

Starla, I think it's a gorgeous page, absolutely LOVE your colors and the black plants with the highlighter are perfect.
Don't get frustrated, I felt the same way about wishing I could art journal like certain people but never ends up that way and then I decided to use my journals as an experimental playground. Some days some great pages are the result and some days some really horrible ones. I use it to wipe off excess paints, clean my brushes. I'm horrible at writing my feelings (diary) so some times some of my feelings come out in the end result. But seriously, I ALWAYS - always have to walk away from a project.