Monday, June 25, 2012

Process Paradox

My first attempt at art journaling in the style
found in Diana Trout's book "Journal Spilling".
Journal Spilling, Diana Trout's 2009 art journal technique book, is simply fantastic. I checked this book out from the library just a week or two ago, and it has already inspired me so much! I now present my first effort in art journaling.

The picture at left is the spread I created. I received this wonderful watercolor sketchbook for Christmas last year, and I love it! It is perfectly suited to this style of artwork. It features thick watercolor paper with a deep, rich texture. The edges are ragged and uneven, rustic and fibrous.

Extremely mixed-media, these pages employ collage, pen, pencil, gesso, and watercolors to achieve the messy grunge look. I really like the results of working in layers, starting with a collaged random assortment of papers, "spill writing" on top of that, a coating of gesso, and finally "color spilling" with watercolors.

The base layer of papers includes a Pantone color swatch, a page torn from an old book, and several images from an old encyclopedia and a catalog. I did say it was a random assortment! You really can't see very much of this layer, but you know it's there by the textures the raised edges create. You may just be able to make out a blue tractor, an illustration from an old children's encyclopedia, in the center of the right-hand page, partially hidden by a dribble of red paint. Seeing things like that are rewards for the viewer for looking closely!

On top of the collage I did some spill writing. Spill writing is just writing down, without thinking, what is in your head - those song lyrics, words that occur to you during the process of creating, whatever you want to write. I started writing as fast as I could, talking about the destruction of the blank page and all of the things I would do in this spread. That eventually lead me to writing about "process paradox", where the process of creating art becomes art itself. I'm not sure how much sense that makes, but it's what came out so I decided to go with it.

Process Paradox
Spill writing completed, I turned to gesso. I recently bought my first container of the opaque white medium, and this was one of my first times to use it. I thinned it with a lot of water so my images and writing would show though a little. I won't say I wish I had used more water so more imagery would be visible because I like the results of the whole thing, but I think next time I'll use more water. In any case, before the gesso dried I used a tool to doodle in it, which created some interesting textures.

Finally came the color spilling. Much like spill writing, in color spilling you heedlessly paint color onto the page, allowing the pigments to have their way as they mix and mingle, a river of hues flowing across the wet paper. I really enjoyed this part. I drew the triangular Paradox Zentangle pattern to go along with the Process Paradox theme, and after the average back-and-forth, up-and-down painting with a brush, I began some other techniques. Splattering some red paint. Accidentally dripping the red paint. Grabbing a straw to blow the red paint around. No accidents, no starting over, just go with it. Salt sprinkled on. Additional brushstrokes, painting words. Now add some lines, diagonal, that transition into dots. More color, more intensity. Splatter some more. Draw some gears, add more words. Make a list. There. I'm done.

Glorious texture! I used masking tape on the corner of
this piece of paper. See that corner sticking up? Beautiful.
More tape. The scribbles in the center were scribed into the gesso.
that "P" may be my favorite part of the entire thing. I initially
drew it into the wet gesso with a pencil. Eventually I decided
to also paint it, but the paint sort of disappeared from the
 bottom part, leaving some paint in the gesso indention.
 As my typography teacher last semester is fond of saying,
 "Some of your best work will be formed by accidents."
So, final thoughts: If you are interested in art journaling and want some inspiration, I highly recommend Journal Spilling. The process the book details is really laid back and relaxing, encouraging you to break the technique steps into chunks you can do with the time you have: take five minutes to gather your collage materials, and if you have more time, glue them in. Save the rest for the next time you, well, have the time. Interesting techniques, beautiful examples, and excellent ideas make this book ideal for brand new and experienced art journalers alike.


  1. I've been getting caught up in all of this journaling stuff, too. It's fun, but...I'm trying to figure out how all of this art can be used for God's glory. How does God really want me to use my talents in this area instead of just getting lost in "making marks on paper". I haven't found the answer yet. I think I'm still in the practicing phase, but life is short and I want to find something important to do with the talent He's given me. Just thinking out loud! You have a lot of talent, Zach! May God bless you as you use it! :D

    1. Great thoughts, Lisa.

      Psalms 77:12 says "I will meditate on all Your work and muse on Your deeds." I think that art journaling could be used for this purpose, as a way to personally meditate on God's works, deeds, and attributes. I think there are additional ways to give God glory through mark making as well, but this could be a start. Like you I feel that need to do something important with the talent God has graciously supplied, and I don't think I have found the full answer either. Perhaps this is one of those things we'll have to wait for heaven to truly understand. I cannot wait for that day!