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Friday, June 6, 2014

Is the Artist's Journal the Artist's Art?

When Cathy asked the question "How do you use YOUR Journal?" in her last post, I was right in the middle of asking myself that very questions because I had been witnessing changes in the answer - for me - and for so many other art journalers.

I first came to art journaling in 2005.

It had been three years since we closed our first series of art galleries in Santa Fe due to 9/11 and other wounds to our tourism at that time.

I kept painting for awhile and then one day, I just stalled.

I read the wonderful book, Art and Fear, and figured out that I lacked a destination for my art. I did not want to paint for other galleries, online was not a good option at that time, and I surely did not want to fill my home closets with watercolors no one would share.

I had been keeping written journals sporadically for several years, but I never liked revisiting them. They just reminded me that I had never found answers to the things I would whine about in those journals. Blah!

I had sketchbooks, of course, like any practicing artist does, but they were very haphazard and I didn't like revisiting them because they just reminded me of all the painting ideas that I had not acted upon. Blah!

I had also been collecting a stack of blank books and mulling over the idea of visual journaling, and one day, that whole thing hit.

I could make my art in my journals - THEY would be my destination.

A lot of water has flowed under the bridge since then and my love of art journaling is legend. I have not only continued with illustrated journaling, I have taught a few thousand other folks to love it too.

When I discovered the Stillman & Birn Beta Sketchbooks, I found my perfect journal - paper second only to my true love, Arches 300lb coldpress.

Then, while hosting an art jourrnaling retreat in Tubac, Arizona in March of this year, another love affair hit.

There is only one small art supply store in the village of Tubac, and they carry only one brand of paints - M. Graham.

After 40+ years as a watercolorist, I had never encountered this brand. Strange, but true.

Having forgotten my yellow ochre tube - critical for painting adobe things, I bought a tube of the M. Graham.

I could not have imagined that any watercolor could be so different! Smooth and creamy and so pigment-loaded, I was surprised my brush could move!

That tube has grown to 33 tubes and I am more in love every day with this duo - S&B Beta and M. Graham.

One day, I found myself looking at a finished "painting" right there in my Beta book . .

and another

These are from a series called "Strange Neighborhoods". The first is titled "Gatherings" and the second "Mending Fences".

I showed my husband because I am supposed to be creating paintings for our current gallery in Santa Fe (we can't quit, it seems).

"How are we going to frame those?" he asked? "Tear the pages out?"

"Over my dead body," I said. "We would have to tear my arm off to get them."

So, we sell signed giclées.

The surprise to me was that the art in my journals can be the "serious" stuff if I want it to be. Well . . . ok, as a whimsical Surrealist, my work is seldom serious, but it can be considered "finished" anyway.

I recently took the first session of "Sketchbook Skool" to see what it would be like and to see LOTS of other people's journal and sketchbook pages.

I really enjoyed it, and it reinforced the fact that sketchbooks and journals are now being considered an art form in their own right. I hope this is an idea that continues to grow!



  1. I love this article, Jessica! And I'm so glad to find you again! When I lived in HI, I used to follow you on Cre8it! Then I moved to NM & hooked up with the Artist' Journal FB group after reading Cathy's book! Love it! Signed up for the newsletter & there you were! Now I'm signed up to your newsletter too! Glad you are still out there creating art! ♥

  2. Wonderful post! I love your style too!

  3. Great post. You're right that, for a lot of us, our journals are the art we do..that's it, fini...no mas. I have no studio and no interest in having one. My drawing site is a tripod stool.

    You suggest that you're able to have have giclees done without removing the original from the sketchbook. Does the printer use your sketchbook or do you do high-res scans for their use?

    Cheers --- Larry

    1. I do the scans myself and practically sit on the scanner to get the page to lie flat (grin). I then retouch in Photoshop and print them myself with archival inks.

      Although some gallery's try to pull off the fact that "giclées" are some kind of special beast that should cost lots of money, by definition, they are an archival inkjet print, and if it looks just like the original, you're all set.

    2. I chuckled as I read about you sitting on the scanner. I sometimes think I'm going to break the glass, given how hard I press the sketchbooks flat.

      I know that some people do their own giclees but when I looked casually, it looked as though the printers were very expensive. Which one do you have/use?

      Cheers --- Larry

    3. This comment has been removed by the author.

    4. Again, the "buzz" is that you need an expensive printer. What you actually need is archival, pigment based ink. I have used Kodak printers for years because the color is so true and the inks archival. They have discontinued their printers, but I hoarded a few.

      Epson lower end printers can do a great job but you have to tweak and test the color. The magenta runs a little dull, but once you find corrections that work for your particular artwork, you can just use those and be fine.

      I am talking about small reproductions here, of course. I don't do prints larger than 8x10 because of the journal size of the original.

  4. Wonderful post, Jessica! Thank you for sharing...and yes, I mostly consider my journals my art, now. Just left my most recent gallery, and back to doing art exclusively in these books, which just feels right to me.

  5. I am just a beginner but the idea of journaling is very appealing. As I progress, I have no desire to fill a closet with work either. So glad to have found these sites that will help me on my path. Journaling appeals very much. Thanks for the insight and the tip on m.Graham paint!


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