Sunday, May 01, 2011

Art Journal Semantics

In the previous post you'll see that I called an art journal a "glorified scrapbook". This pissed off quite a few people. I did not mean to do so in any way and several people are misunderstanding what I meant.

Before I make my case, let me list the definitions of art journal and scrapbook as found via a google search:

art journal- a notebook kept by an artist as a personal record of images and sometimes words; also called artist's journal

scrapbook-A book of blank pages for sticking clippings, drawings, or pictures in

You should know that I am not a fan of labels in any form. I have had people call my work art journaling, altered books, scrapbooking, art, craft, etc... The only one that gets my goat is craft as in crafting as in hobby. I do not craft as a hobby. (I am not talking about artisans and craftsman. I am talking about craft as in hobby as in finding something to do to occupy your time). I make stuff because I have to. To me, working in my art journal and expressing myself is as necessary as oxygen, food and shelter. It keeps me happy, healthy and (hopefully) sane.

All that being said, I do not like labels. Labels keep us in boxes. Labels do not allow us to grow. Labels do not allow us to become anything that we want to be.

So what the hell do I mean when I say that an art journal is a glorified scrapbook?

There are many different kinds of art journal keepers, just as many as there are different kinds of scrapbook keepers. I can only speak from my own experiences and the reasons why I keep an art journal.

I started with diary keeping. I would write, draw, stamp and put stickers on lined notebook paper kept in a binder. I did that for a very long time. I called it a diary.

When my son was born, I very proudly made him two full albums (they're quite fat!) documenting his life from birth to about 6 months of age. I called them scrapbooks.

I was still keeping a diary in some form or another.

I also made my husband a big, fat scrapbook with bits and pieces stuck in of how we met, married, etc...

It was at this time that I began selling and making greeting cards. I began teaching classes on card making. I quickly grew bored with it (again, this is ME talking) especially with having to work assembly line style so often and being limited to bunnies and bears in what the shops wanted from me to sell. I taught myself bookbinding.

The lightbulb went on. The diary, the scrapbook, the bookbinding all became one.

I poured my heart and soul into these books. I wrote. I drew. I stuck things in them. I painted in them. I talked about my daily life. I bitched. I talked about anything and everything on my mind.

I called them journals.

Somerset Studio publishes an article on Janet Hofacker and her journals (I think it was this issue, but am not 100% sure).

I realize that I'm not alone.

Rubber stamp stores and scrapbook stores start to crossbreed. Altered art becomes very popular.

Scrapbooking vs. art journaling discussions become very heated and they start to pop up. Flame wars begin. People got incensed over absolute rubbish.

Yes, I will admit that I do not call what I do scrapbooking, but I don't grow horns and a tail if others do. I used to (grow horns and a tail that is), but not anymore. Why? Because, like my journals that have grown and changed so much over the years, I have also grown and changed in my thinking.

Someone picks up a book-any book-a blank book, a photo album, an old book, a book made by their own hands and starts to cut and paste things into it. Maybe they pick up some paint and paint the pages. Maybe they draw in it or stick stickers into it. Then they pick up their pen and they write. They pour their heart out onto the page. They've created a page where they've expressed themselves completely and fully in the moment. That to me is the most important aspect to creating a "whatever you want to call it."

I've often said that there are cookie cutter scrapbookers (this is not an insult, only a statement-hang on for a minute while I explain) but there are also cookie cutter art journal artists. Now don't go getting all indignant and your panties in a bunch on me. There are folks who want to cut and paste and paint and stamp and stick things onto pages. They're happy documenting daily lives or whatever. They're happy trying out techniques that they saw in a book or a magazine. They're happy imitating Teesha Moore or Ali Edwards. They often don't write their own words in their books. They use quotes, song lyrics, book passages, etc... They're happy with what they do. If they're happy with what they are doing, then I'm happy for them.

Yet, if that were me, I would want something more. I do not think that there is anything wrong in learning from another artist and imitating their style. Yet, there comes a point when you should want something more. You should want to take what you've learned and make it your own.

There comes a point when you move beyond the simple act of just painting pages or just cutting and pasting into the realm of asking yourself, why are you doing what you are doing? Why are you going from just a simple scrapbook (cut and pasting every day life) into something more, glorified? Why is there something inside you that is nagging you into moving into a new, uncharted territory (yes, even if others have gone there, it is always new for YOU and don't you forget that!)??

This, my friends, is art journaling to me.


aimee said...

oh, well said, kelly! i identify so strongly with your philosophy (or question, or however you want to say it) of "why are you doing what you're doing?" i think the answers are just as fascinating (if not more so) than the result of what comes out of the process!

Arika said...

Interesting someone who both scrapbooks and keeps art journals, I'm often surprised by how little they mesh for me. In my scrapbooks, I'm so simple, almost plain. My pages are photo-centric, mostly with primary or bright colors. Meanwhile, my art journal pages are wild and grungy, and I love earthy and dark colors. Very little brights or primaries at all.

It almost looks like 2 different people creating, IMO. When I have free time, I ask myself whether I'm in a journaling or scrapbooking mood. And here's something crazy. When I scrapbook, I love the end result. I tend to want a certain look, and I almost always use sketches designed by someone else to achieve that look. With my journals, I'm not committed to creating something pretty. Letting my emotions onto the page is the point, not the end result.

All signs would point to me being an art journaler at heart, but I honestly enjoy both mediums. I really do. The scrapbooks are more for public consumption, as I share them online, with friends and family, etc. I no longer post my journal pages b/c I got to where I really NEEDED people to tell me they loved my pages and I realize I was no longer doing it just for me. It HAS to be just for me. Every now and then I'll discover something cool and want to share, but I hold myself back. I just don't want to get back that feeling that I'm doing it others instead of myself. (NOT criticizing those who share...I'm so grateful to those who blog and share!)

However, I often tell DH that if something were to happen to me, to be sure that our son gets my journals. Our scrapbooks record what we looked like, where we went, what we did. But my journals are where someone would learn about just me. My private thoughts and fears. Who I really am, underneath it all.

I will say, also, that I often do use just a quote or poem on a page, with my journaling underneath but painted over so much that you can't read enough to make any sense of it. It's not for lack of creativity, but more for privacy. Some things I still can't say aloud, even without an audience! Often times a quote will mean something for me that I don't want anyone else to guess at, but I need that page as a touchstone for what I felt in that moment, who I was on that day.

All interesting thoughts. Thanks for opening up the dialogue and I'm sorry I wrote a book!

Kelly Kilmer said...

Awesome! I love the responses!!

I hope I didn't come off as dissing people who use quotes. I use quotes, too, but I also like to blend them with my own journaling. Arika, you're right! Quotes hide your own journaling perfectly if you want or need to do that!!

I like to combine everything in one book. I'd probably go nuts having to work in more than one book. Multi-tasking with art doesn't work for me but I know plenty of people who love it!

Arika said...

lol, Kelly, I admit that for a split second, I thought, "Oh no! Kelly Kilmer thinks I'm a cookie cutter art journaler!" but then I went back and read what you wrote and found that I agreed with you. There's nothing wrong with making pretty art pages just for the sake of doing it, but art journaling is something different. And then I also realized that, much as I love ya, even if you really DID think I was cookie cutter, it wouldn't matter since I do it for me anyway!

But I get what you're saying, and I know you aren't dissing anyone, be they a scrapper, a journaler, whatever!

Kelly Kilmer said...


laurie said...

i agree with your definitions. i always think an art journal page should have something of yourself on it - your own handwriting or a drawing that you did. that's what makes a page uniquely yours. (in my opinion!)

Paula Phillips said...

Great post Kelly!! As a "scrapbooker" turned "art journaler" I face this question often. It's taken me awhile, but I now call myself a paper artist. Who needs labels? Like you, I love to use scrapbook supplies in my art journal, because I LOVE them. ;) I love what I create, and that's all that matters.
Thank you so much for another inspiring post!
Much Love,
Paula aka JournalArtista

Kelly Kilmer said...

Loving what YOU create is all that matters is exactly right! :) Art for your own sake!

Sandy said...

Well said.

martha brown said...

I am 100% with you!
And it drives me nuts when my coworkers call my art my "hobby" (oh, you have such a nice little hobby to do in the summer")
Or even worse, when they undervalue my work --
Them - "I'll give you $10 if you make me a necklace"
Me - "Um, sorry, I'd have to charge you $100"
Them - "But you're doing it in your spare time!"
Me - "!@#$%"

Evelin said...

Loving what i read in this post too :) Well, I guess to me, scrapbooking and art journalling are 2 different forms of self-expression. I make mini albums but I write a lot in them and someone actually mentioned that to me. I don't see any issue with that. It's my self-expression so it's up to me to write a lot or write a little.

And I would imagine my art journal to be a mesh of both scrapbooking and art journalling... it would be a mixture or melting pot for both of them... and why not?

So I totally agree with you, Kelly. There shouldn't be labels... it's more fun that way!

And I don't craft as a hobby too. I craft because I need to, I want to and it's my full-time now and I'm loving it!


Anonymous said...

OMG people who are this upset about "glorified scrapbooking" need to get a life and and figure out that there are things going on in the world that they really need to get upset about!!! Just look at recent current events, Kelly your explanation was kind and well said. But you should be able to express yourself freely,

Zom said...

I really enjoyed this post. It was great to learn about your journey, and I love reading people's opinions. Thanks.

Anonymous said...

Awe Kelly you hornet starter...

That is a joke!


Joyce said...

Great post Kelly....very well said.

Dawn D. Sokol said...

Thanks for posting all of this, Kelly! Interesting discussion!

Cathy Graves said...

Your blog, your opinions-seems to me you can call it any way you see it!! Your explanation was, however, most excellent!! I agree with everything you said--I don't practice everything b/c I call myself a crafter b/c (a) I lack confidence and (b) I haven't found my own "voice" yet. But I'm working on all that!!!

Barbara said...

Loved this post Kelly. Said so much of what I think, thought, did.....I'm just happy that there are so many ways for all of us to express ourselves and call it whatever we want. I used to teach classes..rubberstamp, mail art, collage, journaling, etc. I never taught scrapbooking, because frankly, it seemed too "neat and tidy, acid free" for me and I didn't know how to do that. When I started to notice all the beautiful scrapbooking papers that were coming out and I started buying them for collage, I realized I became a scrapbooker also, just in a different way. None of the labels even affect my way of thinking anymore. I do still get pissed off when one of my relatives calls it "my little craft hobby"...LOL It's usually a relative though, not my friends!

crimsoncat05 said...

I consider myself to be both a “scrapbooker” AND an “art journaler.” I do both activities separately: I do them for different reasons, with very different results and artistic styles, and I see no problem with either term, however people choose to use them. I had this big explanation written, then decided it’s not really relevant to anyone but me-- it's MY art, after all, so no explanation needed, right?:D

I don’t see any problem with the words themselves; it’s what people “attach” to the words from their own personal experience (or prejudice, sometimes) that can cause problems.

Desert Mermaid said...

have never "scrapbooked" because it scares/impresses the bejezus outta me -- seems to take SUCH skill to be precise and concise. ha! not my strong qualities. Have kept a written journal for 36 years; morphed that into a mixed media art/journal 6 years ago ... heavy on the collage/altered photographs and some background color, definitely heavy on the WRITTEN ... I have uber respect for all forms, whatever they're called, because all of it has taught me so much and opened my own form of journaling ... and no, do NOT call my journaling a 'hobby'. I've done it longer than most people stay in jobs or are married; survey says it takes +/- 14,000 hours of study/focus on/work with a subject to be considered a master. I am a master.

Mary Dean said...

Hi Kelly,

That is so funny! That article by Janet Hofacker what made me decide I wanted to pursue art journaling! I think I may still have that!

Antares Cryptos said...

Exactly, Kelly, exactly!
Just create, that's all that matters.

Anonymous said...

Who cares WHAT you call it... just do it! People are too over the top these days! Love your blog!

Elena said...

AMEN!!! I have no idea why people get so damned tied up with words.

RoseMary King said...

Labels of all kinds are a bad idea just as you said. Crafting is or is not a hobby; Art is or is not a hobby, Journaling is or is not a hobby.
I am a crafter. I craft in clay, oils, paper, journals, and words. I have always loved the word crafting as in "crafting my art".
Words, like art, are in the eyes of the beholder. Maybe if we did away with all types of labels, we could get into crafting our art.

Daniele Valois said...

love this and all the responses! Sometimes I have an issue with the fine line of labels...even with the labels I place on myself!