Art Journals (a long illustrated read)

I never have paid any attention to the phenomenon ‘art journaling’. I thought it was a kind of excessive decoration of a photo-album, made with a lot of ready bought craft supplies. A fun way of pastime, but not really something for me.
But … since a few weeks ‘I get it’!
I discovered the difference between scrap booking (like I described above) and art journalling. Art journaling is expressing feelings, thoughts, opinions and experiences, but not especially by using words. It can be done by drawings alone, but often it’s done by using a collage technique too, because that’s an easy tool to wake up inspiration and to get an interesting result in a short time.
Yes … a visual journal. How simple?

So, a couple of weeks ago I bumped on a ’30-days-art-journaling-challenge’ on the internet. Every day I get emailed a prompt and I have to create a page about it. I found out that pondering about the prompt is not less interesting as creating the actual page. And the most liberating thing is; Art-wise it doesn’t need to be sellable.
For a couple of days I asked myself: “Is it really necessary to show the world every crafty fart I make? Aren’t those clumsy and somewhat childish drawings devaluing my real artworks?”
Of course not! Tonight I decided that my art journals belongs on my website just like my written words. My art journal pages as well as my blogs are both no artworks but simply expressions, so what could be my real hesitation?
And seen from the opposite way: When I’m touched by an artwork of another artist, I’m instantly interested in the person behind. No matter in what way he expresses him- or herself.
As long as you and I are not able to meet in real, here is another kind of peek into my head, in my life and my history.
Okay, I’m not ready to completely leave out the written words. I feel the need to explain how I have interpreted the prompts, so for now they are appearing as a kind of illustration of my explanation about the prompt.

How did I miss this for so long? I wish I had started them 40 years ago!

So, I started with the front of my brand new journal …

One of the first prompt was:
Most of us have answered to more than 1 name in our lifetime – be it a nickname, a pet name from a spouse/partner, or a name defining an important role in your life, such as Mom or Grandma. Create a page about one of these alternate names.

Frank and I are a couple since 1989, but only in May 2015 we have married. We are Dutchies, living in New Zealand, but a few years ago we got hopelessly spellbound by Taiwan.
So … one day we decided to do our very low-key private wedding in Taiwan. To get the documents officially registered, we both needed Chinese names.
For Chinese people a name is hugely important and not only given because it sounds good. In most cases a name includes a particular meaning and a special wish for the person’s future. We consulted a translator to help us choosing a name that was not too awkward, not offending, not silly or too weird sounding.
My name means something like ‘cute trees’ and it’s pronounced as: Ling Won Won
I can write down another 1000 words about this subject and the reason for being named Cute Trees, but hey … the prompt was for art journalling and not for story telling.

Another prompt was:
Whether we are cat people, dog people, fish people, or “animals should not live in my house” people, all of us have had interactions with animals. Create a page about one of these animals or experiences – it can be anything from beloved household pets to the story of a rabbit that won’t leave your garden alone.

Most of our cats were second hands, adopted ones or strays. That’s why our reservated part of the cat heaven is already so crowded. I think it is quite clear we are cat people.
Although at my left side you see a dog. She was a refused one too (the human baby of her previous humans took her place). Now we are a part of her research project if cat people can be transformed into dog people. She needs a couple of years more to study on it.

Then this prompt came in:
If you came with a warning label, what would it be? Proceed with caution? Do not cross? Something more elaborate? Think of your warning label, and create a page to match.

I think I’m a forgiving and patient person, but what really XL turns me off is if people make promises but never return to them. Do they think I have no memory?
If I have made a promise it’s like holding a precious egg for someone else. I’m aware of it every day and I want to get rid of it asap.
Over time I have noticed that other people don’t make such a big deal of it as I do. Maybe I give it a too excessive importance, but … that’s my personal manual and reply to the prompt; Never fob me off with empty promises. It will irretrievably devalue our friendship.

The next prompt was:
What do you think of when you hear the word “monster?” A furry blue guy who wants cookies? Lord Voldemort? It might even be your own inner critic. Create a page surrounding one of the monsters in your life.

My monster is called Tinnitus.
Tinnitus is a disorder that causes a 24/7 beeping, hissing or ringing in the ears. It never stops and it’s not curable.
Mine is a humming sound and it’s present day and night. It has slowly creeped into my life and continuously disturbs my concentration.
Until now I can mask it with other sounds like radio, running water, a ventilator or wearing a loudly purring cat on top of my head 😉 But at night I’m worried if the volume will increase in the future.
My only available weapon is my mantra: Don’t feed the troll, because it grows on attention.

(update after 5 years) When creating this drawing I was very absorbed and stressed by it, but after a while (I think 1 year) I got used to this little 'monster'. It is still there, but if it gets my attention once a week, it's a lot. Nowadays I absolutely don't feel bothered anymore.

The prompt was:
What is your FIRST memory? It’s so interesting to think about the things that stick around from our childhood – and why those memories were important enough for us to remember. Think about your first memory (or another very early one) and create a page about it.

I grew up in a small apartment in the old centre of Amsterdam. The rooms in the building opposite of our home were rented by students. On late summer nights the students used to have a drink and a smoke on the sill of their open windows. At some point they all had thrown dozens of rolls of toilet paper from the top storey into the street.
The next morning I saw long strips of white paper waving in the wind in front of our window. They were tied on the street lights and on parked bicycles and stuck on the antennas of cars.
It was the 6th of July and I was delighted … because I thought this abundant decoration was done for my birthday!

The prompt was:
We all know – often from experience – that lying about things never really turns out well. Many of us learned this lesson hard way. Create a page about a lie that you once told. You can focus on the why, the how, the result, or any combination of those.

My lie is more a secret than a lie. The kind of ‘everything-is-okay-lie’.
When I was 10 years old my Mum got a severe stroke. She didn’t recover very well. Her memory, her speech and half of her body was affected and she was not able to take care for the household, or for me, the only child. Unfortunately my Dad’s primary interest was alcohol, so it’s not difficult to imagine the ‘somewhat messy situation’ I had to cope with.
When I started high school -luckily located in another town- I lied about my family. I was too afraid to get bullied because of a ‘mental’ mum and an ‘unreliable’ dad. The other kids could think I was a lunatic too. I had seen lesser reasons to become a target and my self-confidence wasn’t particularly developed. I didn’t make true friends and kept a safe distance between me and my class mates to prevent the risk I needed to invite them home.
My parents were not waiting after the school trips, they didn’t come to the schoolbook-market and I lied to the teacher why they couldn’t come to the parent’s evening.
I made it to the end, but in the meantime the secret had made a huge negative imprint. It took me years before I freely could talk about it.

The prompt was:
Sports are a huge part of today’s culture. Chances are your life has involved sports in some way. Create a page about a sport you love to watch, love to play or a sport your family members participate in, a fictional sport or about what you’d rather be doing while everyone else tunes in.

I’m a very non-sport type of person and I prefer to save my ability to run, jump, climb and swim for when I’m in danger. Although I walk the dog for 90 minutes a day, the thing that comes most close by a form of serious exercise is the purchase of a yoga mat. I have rolled it out once to admire the color.
And that … well … yeah … that’s it.

The prompt was:
Create a page about hope or what you hope for.

I never have been attracted to the word ‘hope’. Hope can do you a favor, but not because of your devotion. In best case you get a favor because ‘Dame Hope’ accidentally spills some of her eternal stockpile.

Lately I read about an interesting view on ‘hope’ of somebody with a certain challenge in life. He wrote: “As long as I was hoping for a cure, every morning I was disappointed my illness and misery was still there. One day I said farewell to hope and right away acceptance showed up. And that … was a way more empathetic candidate to deal with”.
He’s right. I would choose for the sometimes inelegant and clumsy, but warm padded and supportive coat of acceptance. Also because acceptance is hanging around right now, while hope is only living in the future. And the future is too broad to hang on to just one unreliable and uninterested ice-queen.