Chuck close is on my top 5 list of inspirational artists. I love his giant photo-realist portraits, as well as his deconstructive technique, and the way that you can see the progression of his styles through the years.
"Big Self-Portrait', [the middle image above] a massive 9ft high painting of a head around fifty times life-size, characterizes Chuck Close's early work. It is painted 'with about half a teaspoon of black paint' which is thinned down to the consistency of dirty water and applied with brushes and an airbrush. The mesmerizing details are created by scraping with razor blades to depict the sharper areas of definition and rubbing with an eraser attached to an electric drill for the softer blends of tone."
I was fortunate to be able to see some of his giant portraits at the MoMA in New York City years ago. Of course, it was indescribably amazing.
I see his work as a form of pointilism, although it’s not dots. (Maybe there is a name for it). I used the same technique with layered rods of glass when I made beads, and later when I made glass micro-mosaics and murrini.
I love the process of letting the brain puzzle out images made up of colors laid next to each other, which I guess is what most of painting is about, right?
Natalie Featherston’s art has been an inspiration since the day I laid eyes on her work in the Meyer Gallery, in Santa Fe, New Mexico. I’d surprised my husband with a trip for his birthday… he got a great trip, and I got a great piece of art by Natalie.
The “Nesting Instinct“ image above is from Natalie’s web site, and y’all… that cardboard box? It’s painted. As in, it’s a wood panel that she painted to look like a cardboard box.
The amount of detail with which she paints is mind boggling, and the content that she has chosen over the years to paint in such detail is brilliant. One series she does is of crayon drawings, but painted.
She takes the time to PAINT a painting that looks like a crayon drawing taped inside the frame. I love the fact that you forget that you are looking at a painting, and think you are actually looking at a kid’s drawing.
Who does that? Who would spend so much of their time, and so much of their skill, to make something look so simple? So simple that viewer automatically thinks, what the big deal? A kid drew a picture and someone taped it into a frame? I’ll tell you who:
If you click over to her web site you’ll see what I mean. You may think, yeah, whatever. And if you do, remember, you’re looking at oil paintings. You’re not looking at actual crumpled and torn pieces of paper or tape. It’s not actual yarn, or real cardboard boxes. They’re paintings!
I could go on for days about what art journaling is, and the benefits of using an art journal. I always come back to the analogy that art journals are:
Sketchbooks on Steroids
Before I explain that, let me give you a little background on me, and my tumultuous relationship with sketchbooks:
Basically, I’m intimidated by the idea of sketching.
I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried and have given up because of the fear of “getting it wrong,” and not being able to draw what I want. It gives me big time anxiety and I always end up feeling like a total failure.
Does that sound silly? Because it feels really really silly. I mean, it goes against everything I teach about art being a process, and a journey, and enjoy every minute along the way!
Sketchbooks, in my opinion, are supposed to be a place where one can work out ideas for projects, or work out feelings, or a place to just relax and draw ideas for later reference.
The thing is, I’ve never been able to draw realistically, and haven’t taken the time to learn. I’ve never figured out how to get what is in my head onto a blank sketchbook page, and comparing my attempts to some of the cool-looking sketchbook pages I see on the internet sure doesn’t help.
Because I’ve not succeeded at being a good sketcher I get paralyzed every time I look at the blank page. All I can see is the future of another messed up page. And another thing… I don’t like to waste paper/pages and materials.
I can feel the anxiety starting in my chest just thinking about it.
So silly! I feel like such a hypocrite because I pride myself on telling people they can do anything, and that creativity can be learned! Right? Well, sometimes the whole “you can do anything” truth comes in the form of working around your blocks, and finding new ways to fulfill your desires without actually being able to do the actual thing you want to do. In my instance, that would be working around actual sketching.
Does that make any sense?
That’s where art journals come in.
And they're freaking MAGIC!
So, what exactly is an art journal and art journaling?
It is similar to a sketchbook in that you create, on pages, inside a cover. But one of the things that makes it an art journal instead of just a sketchbook is that you use whatever media you want. Pens, pencils, acrylic paint, watercolors, collage, pastels, colored pencils, oil pastels, stickers, fabric and fiber, decorative tapes, crayons, and on and on.
Beyond the art you can make ON the pages of an art journal, it is also common to build and bind your own art journals, from scratch, then create pockets, fold-outs, inserts, cut-outs, and various other methods of altering pages. (It’s easier than it sounds).
Art journals end up being pieces of art in themselves.
I consider the building of the journal–it’s pages and components–as two dimensional sculpting, and it satisfies a totally different part of my creative hankerings that a plain ‘ole sketchbook just can’t.
Remember that phobia of wasting and messing up that I mentioned?
One of the beautiful parts of building your own art journals is that you can make them from all recycled material!So, not only can you satisfy any fear of wasting materials, but you can feel good that you are using items that would otherwise end up in the landfill.
And, if you’re using recycled, repurposed, and reclaimed materials for your pages, you might be less worried about messing up because, what are you “messing up?” Stuff that would normally be trash!
I know that it totally frees me to do things that normally I wouldn’t because I can always get more recycled paper, and quickly build another journal!
Art journals are the perfect place to:
Work out ideas
Keep your lists and calendar
You name it! Just for fun!
NOTE: I’m showing some of my more completed journal spreads here. DO NOT DO WHAT I DO in comparing my idea of sketching to others! Anyone can art journal, and it’s really easy!
I have multiple art journals started with different themes and purposes. I even have one that is my Warm-up Journal where I doodle and scribble, and try out colors, techniques, or other little things before I jump into a more focused journal. You know…just in case I mess up. 😆