Two phrases are often used interchangeably: ‘Art journals’ and ‘artists journals.’
As an artist and as someone who keeps a visual journal, I think they’re two different things.
For me, an artist’s journal is an illustrated diary or journal representing the artist. It’s about the person’s life, or some aspect of it, such as a travel journal, a diet & fitness journal, or something like my ‘decluttering journal’.
It usually includes art and the journal is also a work of art, in itself.
Sample Artist’s Journal Page
Below, you can see a page from one of my 2002 artist’s journals. It’s a collage I created when I was coping with an impending divorce. The original is about 6″ x 9″.
By contrast, an art journal is where I keep notes about art I’m working on or might want to create later. It includes visual inspiration — photos, articles, etc. — as well as my own thumbnail sketches, etc.
It’s sort of my pre-art brainstorming, in a journal format.
Sample art journal page
At left is a page from one of my 2011 art journals. The page included photos from a magazine.
On that page, my pencil sketch shows my initial thumbnail concept for a later painting.
Those photos & notes inspired the oil sketch shown below. The original is an oil painting on 16″ x 20″ canvas. (It’s a scene related to an Anasazi settlement.)
But… Not Just Paintings
I use an art journal as my on-paper memory of inspiration and original ideas. It’s sort of like a visual thumb drive of art ideas, for later use.
If I don’t jot down my ideas in a journal, they’ll vanish from my thoughts in a matter of days, if not hours. I tend to have a steady stream of creative ideas, and one soon replaces another in my consciousness.
For me, it’s part of the creative process.
People often ask me where I get my original art ideas. Well, I’m not sure that they’re entirely “original,” but they are fresh and new, if only to me.
Here’s a typical sequence: I started by surfing the Internet to see what other artists are currently working on.
Yesterday, I viewed a website called The Starving Artist’s Way, which included a project using second-hand woolen sweaters that had been washed and dried to shrink them in a “felted” style.
I didn’t think much more about that — not on a conscious level, anyway — but later in the day, after a nap, I woke up thinking about what else I could do with that kind of wool.
Another art journal page
While the thoughts were still fresh in my mind–and evolving–I jotted them down in my art journal. These are my two pages of notes:
(click image to see full size 118kb)
In a nutshell, I was thinking about the kinds of wearable art that I could make with felted-style wool.
(Geek note: It’s not actually “felted” wool when you wash & dry woven/knitted/etc. wool to shrink it. It’s called “fulled” wool. Felting is when you use the raw fibers and a tool to tangle and/or compact them.)
This merged with the Mondrian art that I was reminded of when I was playing an online game, Kingdom of Loathing, yesterday.
And, once I started jotting down these ideas, I remembered when I used to make stained glass windows. Those patterns would adapt nicely to this kind of wool treatment, too.
I’m not sure that I’ll ever actually do anything with this idea. I get a bazillion of these ideas, steadily.
So, I’m scanning the pages from my idea journal, and putting them into an art zine for two reasons.
First, it documents that it was my idea. It drives me crazy when I decide to run with an idea and it turns out that another artist has been working on a similar concept… and people think that one of us is “copying” the other, when we’re not.
Second–and more importantly–I am sharing this idea so that someone else might be inspired by it and adapt the concepts (or copy it line-for-line, for all I know/care) to his or her own art.
Note: When my grandfather’s original ideas were copied, he used to chuckle and say, “Plenty more where that came from.” In other words, he didn’t feel any need to complain about those who copied him. I’ve always liked that, and he was the richest man I knew, when I was growing up. He literally made millions (when that was a lot of money) from his creative ideas; he was a good role model.
But, I’m also sharing my art journal pages so that people see what one can look like.
However, these may be my own definitions.
How you use the terms ‘art journals’ and ‘artists journals’ may be different… and that’s fine with me.
The creativity that matters more than the words!