Today, I would like to tell you about my art journal practice.
For me, my sketchbook is a travel journal, a sketchbook, a journal, a portative studio, it’s the place where I record my everyday, where I experiment and where I express my feelings. I have kept an art journal for more than 10 years already! My practice has made me discover watercolor, a medium I adore and that I use daily now. At the very beginning, I showed my journal to very few people so it was a private space still (except for my grandmother: I used to tell her to look but not to read and she just read everything haha).
I began my first “official” art journal at the end of high school, when I participated in an exhibition project with my arts teacher and other students. This project changed my life and my perception about arts: we met practicing artists, visited exhibitions, galleries and museums, and we realized artworks around a theme very inspiring to young people (and not so young): it was called À Part Être (it evokes appearances, being, rejection). The title of the project inspired us unique and various artworks and throughout the project, we had to document it using a journal with notes, sketches, and we even had a disposable camera! It was a months long project that really marked me in terms of what it means to be an artist.
In college, I began my second official art journal. I had a teacher that made us all do those sketchbooks/journals during her class (she bought them at the dollar store so there was no stress about ruining good paper). We had to fill 5 pages a week every week, and she told us to put everything in it: our art class notes, projects sketches, grocery list, etc. This is more like how I use my art journal now. I was looking for inspiration and found Danny Gregory. I call him my guru. His philosophy is simple: draw your life, the everyday objects, and draw directly with ink (no sketch!). It really resonated with me and I began to draw everything, things that didn’t seem worth it or interesting before, but that mark moments and times in my life (shoes, a particular handbag, my coffee cup, etc). Those discoveries fed my art practice. I later discovered other artists that all have a very unique and personnal art journal/journal/sketchbook practice, and an universe of possibilities. I’ve had periods when I am not very motivated and my inspiration is low, but I never stopped. So in college I began this magical art journal practice, I kept it mostly for myself or sometimes showed it to my family but it was mostly private.
University: Ha, I miss you. When I was a university student, my art journal became very interesting with all the artists I was taught about, among other things. I asked my friends a few times to draw me something during class, so I would have a trace of that moment and that person. My practice really has developed at that time with everything I was seeing and learning. I was told once by a french exchange student at school that what I was doing was simply nothing, because in France they had to fill a journal like mine every month or week (so, make a lot MORE). At that time, I was filling a journal every 3 months. I didn’t write a lot but I tried to note down important things happening in my life or in life in general. Something my grandmother told me is to keep a diary because we forget everything.
My art journal became much more public during university because my friends wanted to see it, and it made me happy to share my art (can’t be an artist if you don’t like showing your artwork!), so I was censoring myself enough so anyone could look and read through my art journal without problem. And it was fine, it is part of my path and I experienced having a “public” art journal. I used my art journals in quite a few class projects, so I also received reviews from my teachers on what is normally a private and intimate thing.
Since I finished school (almost 7 years now), I show and share my art journal a LOT less (almost not at all!). So my art journal became a space that I have total control over, it doesn’t go around a table or a class in stranger’s hands, I show it to almost no one now. I realize that I regained intimacy. I am rediscovering my personal journal, my private thoughts, and I do whatever I want, I write whatever I want without censorship or thinking about what would other people think. Taking back control. I don’t think about others, only about me. This is a learning, that took me years and is not finished. The realization that this is not a public space but is now a private space came slowly, and it feels like discovering a new language within me. I think it’s magical to discover that I can draw whatever I want, I can try and fail, and nobody has to know because it’s mine, it’s my secret space and I control access.
I would have liked to know what I know today when I was a teenager, having an art journal would have helped me so much when I was bullied at school or when I was depressed and anxious. Maybe I wasn’t ready? It is a time investment, time that I am used to take so I don’t think about it anymore (it’s a habit!) but I am proud of my consistency and to have kept this habit. I feel productive when I fill my art journal with random doodles and ramblings, lists, ugly (and pretty) drawings, paintings, infinite sketches of my watercolor kit. It all makes me happy. When I haven’t worked in my art journal for a few days, I feel incomplete. Even if I don’t make 8 paintings a week, my art journal is also a work of art in its way. A series. Depending on the context, it can be an ordinary diary, but it is also a transformation of the everyday into artwork.
Let’s keep thinking and experimenting.
Life is beautiful. So is art.