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Journaling as Process Art, a Rant
By Christine Cox
April 2002

Visit the Gallery of Artist Journals
in this issue of The Muse

I would like to thank my personal muse, Kelly T. M. Kilmer, for giving me the I-don't-care bone to write in my first journal.

It seems to me that a journal is an art of the self, a distillation of the artist. While some people produce gorgeous, artistic, perfect Art Journals I was so intimidated by the thought of it that I couldn't put pen to paper. I love artistic journals and honor the work that goes into them and maybe someday I'll even produce one. In the meantime, here is my take on another kind of visual journaling.

I didn't start journaling until about 1999. Like a lot of people I was first introduced to the concept by Tracy and Teesha Moore and sites on the Internet. Like most of my students, friends and customers I would make journals but I just couldn't bring myself to write in them. This seems to be at least partially caused by an often misplaced and unearned reverence for books. Yes, there are some books that should be treated like the treasures that they are. I'm thinking of the handmade, hand-written books illustrated by the monks back in the 13th century or modern hand-made books. But machine made, mass-produced books? Absolutely not. I feel that a blank, store-bought journal isn't inherently special until it holds something worthy of its structure.

OK, so, what got me over the I-can't-write-in-it-it's-too-beautiful problem? Three things:

1. I realized that I don't have to sit down and elegantly write about deep metaphysical issues, or construct beautiful poetry or draw gorgeous pictures tinted exactly the correct color with a mixture of chalk and eye of newt. I can write about the boring and the mundane events of which most lives are made. More importantly, if I want to write about one subject or just everything that flits through my pea brain, that's OK. I gave myself permission to start a journal that is just about my Grandma. She has some hilarious colloquialisms that are priceless and I don't want to forget them, so I write them down. Last time she visited I traced her hand on one of the pages. I've glued a picture of her in it and suddenly it's a JOURNAL!

2. I read that Leonardo da Vinci wrote everything into journals, shopping lists, people's names, drawings, money earned, whatever. EVERYTHING. So, suddenly my journals don't seem so mundane and unworthy. They may be ugly and messy and have things written and then scratched out and things are sticking out the sides but they are written for an audience of one. Besides, life is like that. Things don't happen in the order we'd like, we make mistakes and have to start over, we can't necessarily draw or write great poetry or remember quotes exactly. My journal is a reflection of my disorganized, overly chaotic life.

3. I was told that the mass retail book stores throw away tens of thousands of books a day. I haven't verified it but I heard that they pulp something like 70% of what they buy (can anyone verify this?). It's hard to consider a book sacred when you hear that.

I am disconcerted when people read my journals. I don't mind when they just glance through them but if they stop and look at something, I worry what it might say or, if it's one of my drawings (I draw like an untalented 8 year old), I cringe. My journals are only "art" to one person. They are meant to help me remember things, to accept my rants and raves, to let me practice drawing, to try new techniques, to jot down ideas for classes. Journals bring an artistic sense to the day-to-day ride of life.

I love my I-Zone camera and sticker film. I hope they never stop making those (although a little improvement in quality would be great). I take my journal everywhere and write down things people tell me, make lists, record phone numbers, glue in business cards, stick in I-Zone pictures, record ideas for Volcano Arts (my company), etc. Recently I was looking back at some pages from February, 2001 and was SO glad that I'd been keeping my journal. There was Clarence (our 10 month old kitten who had to be put to sleep) when we first got him, there was a great idea I'd had for Volcano Arts and had forgotten about. How many great ideas do you have and then forget?

Let loose! Journal! Scribble, cross things out, try to draw something you know is going to be awful, record phone numbers, write in the name and phone number of your dry cleaner. Don't call it a journal if that will help. Just take the plunge.

Further Information (click on any title and you will magically be transported to that book on the amazon.com website):

Making & Keeping Creative Journals
The Journey Is the Destination : The Journals of Dan Eldon
Spilling Open : The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison

Christine Cox teaches metalsmithing and bookbinding classes in our Studio in Volcano, CA.