One of my favorite things to do is to create journals. Putting together different papers and media to craft a special one-of-a-kind book that someone else can use and enjoy. Each one that I make is different due to the variety of papers and how I feel when I start adding paint, ink, marker, and pen to the page.
This particular journal is the biggest one I've ever made. It's a gift for a friend and I'm so excited to be able to deliver it in person (she lives in Australia, I'm in the US). As you can see from the cover below, I'm calling it the Blue Butterfly Journal. It started life as a composition book which I gutted, decorated the cover, and then added two signatures of a variety of papers. Some of the papers are the original composition book pages which I altered by using homemade alcohol inks to spray them. I also included map pages and a couple of pages from a travel book. I put the travel book pages upside down because I wanted her to use them as a glue spot or to journal over. In my experience if it's upside-down people will "deface" it because it becomes background material. If it's right side up they somehow feel they shouldn't use it. I think all of the pages are there to be used.
And, of course, I'm a fan of teabags and tags. There are just a couple of tea-bags in this one but there are LOTS of tags. I had so much fun using a number of different things for the tags and tucking them in everywhere. I also created some big tuck-in spots by folding pages over so that it would hold ephemera, postcards, tickets, etc.
It took a very long time to make this journal but I'm really thrilled with the way that it came out. It was so much fun to make something this size that I know I'm going to be doing it again. I've already gone to the store and bought a couple of composition books that are just waiting to be pulled apart and "arted" up.
Not too long ago I was trying to explain to some what kind of art I do. I don't really know what to call it. It's sort of a collage-mixed-media-scrungy-scrappy-doodley-scruffy sort of art. I haven't yet figured out what to call it, but it's what I do and I love it.
Because I was having a hard time explaining it I decided to make them something so they could see it for themselves. Truthfully when I make something I don't usually set out to with the finished product in mind. In other words I don't know what it's going to look like, or what I want it to be, until it's done. I begin by deciding what sort of item I'm going to make (postcard, journal, ATC, or whatever) and then just begin to play. As I add elements and play, through the layers a theme often develops all on it's own. While I have created some items with a theme in mind (usually for a swap), that's not typical for me.
My favorite art supplies are almost-dead paint brush markers and bits of paper. Not any paper mind you, what I like the most are the bits that would otherwise go in the recycle bin. Parts of boxes, envelopes, magazines, food wrappers, newspaper, ads, that sort of thing. I've learned from my art teacher, Kate, how to be much more organized. It used to be an explosion of stuff in a box and not always easy to find. Now I have a shoebox filled with zip lock baggies, all organized by color. When I'm looking for a 'something-to-go-here' I can think about what color I want and go to the proper baggie and find it. Kate's also taught me to add dimension to my pieces by including 3D elements.
And then there's the signature part of my style. I try to always (except on ATCs because it would take up too much room) add teabags and tags to my pieces. And postage stamps. I love postage stamps. But I'm mostly known for teabags and tags. I don't know why but I adore that little surprise of pulling out a tag. It's a lagniappe, a something extra, that makes the piece as far as I'm concerned. And as you may have guessed, I have an envelope of teabag envelopes (and I'm always looking for more, especially unusual ones) and another envelope full of tags of all sorts.
I wanted to share my thoughts about crafting vs art. This came out of a discussion on a forum I follow. The discussion covered several topics. (1) Was there a difference between "just crafting" and "feeling like a 'real' artist" (2) how to handle lack of creative impulse or wanting to do art but not knowing what to do (3) when stuck for ideas having the temptation to go to the art supply store and buy stuff in the hopes that it would result in creative ideas springing forth
These are my thoughts about the matter.
I think just the act of creating makes you an artist. There no such thing as "just a crafter". Art is, after all, very subjective. I believe that all forms of creation are art. But if the voice in your head is getting in the way of your art have some mindless art tasks that you can do like doodling or creating background pages. Making supplies like your own alcohol inks, transfers, or prepping paper for later use. These are things that need to be done so you'll have supplies on hand but they don't require you to feel that creative, must do art, impulse. Just play.
To overcome the want/need/buy impulse (in the hopes that it will spark creativity) see what you can salvage or recycle from everyday objects. I recently went through my mail and salvaged the following to file away for art projects: 3 stamps, 2 envelopes, 2 images from a furnitures store sales piece, a few words from the grocery store flyer, and a picture from an advertising postcard. Seeing and filing these things sometimes gives me ideas and helps me realize I don't need to spend money to make art. I can be creative with what is already around me. Of course shredding magazines is another great way to get some ideas, there are so many pictures and words to be cut out and tucked away.
And to address the final point, I believe that process of trying something new/different is part of the process of art. This past summer I was fortunate enough to see a museum exhibit on Degas, one of my favorite artists. In the exhibit were a number of his "studies," attempts to do something over and over in different ways. Playing with line, light, color and shape. I've shred two images above. These studies were beautiful and inspiring, but they were not necessarily the finished product.
What we see in the art history books or the museums is often just the last in a series of works. It does not accurately represent the creative process that resulted in it. Yet in my humble opinion those "studies" are still very much considered to be art. So again, just play, create, and allow the artist within you to shine through.
I recently participated in an ATC swap with a Valentine's theme. I love making ATCs because it's a small piece of art (2.5" x 3.5") and yet in that small amount of space you can create some wonderful details.
I've discovered that rather than paying a lot of money for blank ATC's (they sell them at the art supply store near the art paper and canvases) playing cards are exactly the right size. Buying decks of playing cards at the dollar store for two packs for a dollar gives you a LOT of ATCs to play with. In the past I would painstakingly sand them down to give some "tooth" to my art. It was a pain in the tush and I didn't really like doing it (plus it created a lot of dust that got everywhere). I discovered from my art teacher that if I just used a better quality glue I didn't have to do the sandpaper thing, so no more of that.
I forgot to take pictures before I sent these off to my swap partner. Luckily she took a picture and share it with me (thanks Cat!).
When working with the small space of an ATC it's really wonderful to see how many layers and how much detail you can get. I love watching the richness of detail develop as I'm working on the page. And with these, because I needed to make three for the swap, I wanted them to coordinate but each be different.
Here's how I made the layers:
I'm really happy with how these ATCs came out; I'm having a hard time deciding which one I like the best. But I love this as a Valentine and will probably make some for loved ones.