Old Masters’ Journals vs. Art Journaling (Phenomonon) Gap

Reclaiming art journaling, hmmmmm. Is that taking it too far?

There seems to be a huge gap between the type of art journals Leonardo da Vinci kept and what mixed media art journaling “is” if you believe all the books, workshops, downloadables, DVDs, and Youtube videos. What an Atelier’s art journal might look like, full of studies and playful sketches put to paper before final works are done, and what most of art journaling “is” (dogmatic thinking alert), as the current overwhelming phenomenon, seem to be worlds apart.

Let me explain. Art journaling, as a thing, as the peculiar way nouns can get turned into verbs in the English language, as what it’s considered to be by most, is about creating glorified coloring books, essentially a form of art that nearly anyone can do. Instead of the lines already being printed on the page, one uses stamps and stencils. A person can gesso, slap down a background, spritz, spray, drip, splatter, speckle, stencil, and pull out such a clutter/hoarding-friendly array of art mediums that cost more per ounce than many fine art mediums (unless they’re using the actual fine art mediums, and many do), if they really get into it.

That kind of journaling seems to be like a double-edged sword — it’s at once freeing and stiffling. You get to do “it” but you might not push yourself to other levels or into another world. Art journaling as a phenomenon has a comfort zone.

It seems that water color art journaling escapes that phenomenon, as might pen and ink journaling, but as soon as you wander into mixed media art journaling, oh boy! It starts.

As you watch many of the popular (usually understood to be mixed media) art journaling videos, they talk about product, product, product. Don’t get me wrong, having decent to excellent art product can be a fine or even necessary thing to many techniques. I’m interested in product too. They’re not all equal. I know that.

A niche, that of contemporary (often understood to be mixed media) art journaling, has become all about branding, branding, branding.  In the case of mixed media art journaling mediums, of course they deal with the psychology and methods of branding. However, many of the workshop and other authors in the market brand themselves. They strongly brand themselves, AKA develop their style, and/or they use lots of brands, making sure that you know exactly which ones. So many (not all, I know) have to have whole rooms/areas, many of them devoted art journaling product alone. Some even start their own lines of art journaling products.

If you go in the art journaling/scrapbooking isles of craft stores and price the specialized paints, inks, daubers, and many mediums, you’ll realize that many of them cost more per ounce than if you bought the more notoriously expensive paints and such from high quality lines.  In many cases, what was done to ink for ink jet printers (one of the more expensive liquids in the world per ounce), has been done to some degree, to varying degress, to many art journaling products from scrapbooking and art journaling lines. Many of these products are not nearly as lightfast as fine art products either. Some have pretty amazing quality. It varies and it’s all thrown into the drink, as it were.

Me? As I get into art journaling, at times such a a focus on an amazing array of product will be markedly absent. I suspect one could keep an art journal fabulously with just a pen and journal, a pencil and journal, or a short list of stuff that’d fit into on one bag. The old masters often sufficed with one or only a few mediums the journals they kep.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not going to be a purist. I have some happy, fun, fun mixed media products and a few stencils.

…But at times I’ll want to inject what I find missing in a lot of art journaling, as it’s come to be more widely known — perspective (as in one, two, and three point perspective) and all the other elements of design and what elevates work into the realms of fine art.

I expect to bounce back and forth between playful, slap it down pages and fine art technique explorations. I want to fill in that gap. I want to constantly push myself out of old comfort zones to new levels or tangents.

I don’t trust that an artist must develop their personal style should be a good mantra up front, from the start, in particular. What a killjoy! I’m going to explore. A lot. There’s going to be some wild exploration and synthesis of like and unlike things going on across my art journal pages.  If I develop any recognizable style, it’ll be incidental to the journey and it won’t be the case 100% of the time because I’ll always allow myself room to explore and grow.

I won’t be “the” art market’s monkey, as it were, when it comes to putting my personal, recognizable style out there and sticking to it like a mouse in a maze. The art market, as it’s known today, is ruled by the 2 percent in that they define it as a financialized thing. What financialization does to artists and art is a deep topic.