Art Journal Workshop: Layers

I’ve been having so much fun recording and editing that I’ve decided to do a series of video “workshops,” each highlighting a lesson I teach or plan to teach in the future. My hope is that one can view the videos and learn from them as they would were we face to face – the internet’s a great invention, isn’t it?

This week’s lesson is about layers, and is in two parts – a video essay as well as a written essay.

I wholeheartedly believe that experimentation is the heart of discovery when it comes to matters of art and creativity. Think of all those neat, odd techniques you’ve read about and now readily use; at some point, someone had to look at things, cock their head to the side, and wonder, if I did that, what would happen?

An undercurrent of creative electricity buzzes through you at the moment you discover something new, something different that gives you that sought-after effect or fun process – process, instead of product. As a long-time participant of National Novel Writing Month, I’ve learned the excitement of simply writing instead of fussing over if it’s good writing. You have to make lots of bad in order to make good – you simply cannot sit down and make something perfect every time because stressing yourself to do so will only limit your creative output and make you cranky.

Case in point; yesterday, I pulled out some foam stamps and used them to put “flowers” on a “tree.” I use quotes as both were not readily identifiable; the tree was a series of the letter S stenciled over itself in several variations of rotations and the flowers were repetitions of a * symbol. To me, it was a tree buzzing with midnight fireflies, flowers blooming in the color of the nighttime sky. Open to interpretation, yes, but to me, seeing meaning for myself overrules easily identifiable messages – my journal is mine, not the worlds, thought I invite the world to peek over my shoulder.

In tempo with the music I was listening to (music is very important – it allows your soul to dance as your hands keep time on the page), I randomly brushed the stamp across the page, effectively using it as a paintbrush. The effect was so wonderful, I giggled, and kept the stamp out so as to use it again and again!

But I digress – this is a post about layers, as the video suggests. So many have reservations about layering, afraid of covering things up. Why paint the background red if it’s going to be covered up? Colors are additive; your overall page will look different if you start with a layer of gesso over red instead of gesso over naked white paper. Yes, most of the page will look the same, but stripes and shadows of red will show through, and that effects the page overall. Texture left over from one layer will add to another. And, in the unfortunate (or fortunate, as there are no mistakes in your journal) event that a piece of collaged paper rips up from the page, you’ll have something fun underneath. The crust of the Earth is made of several layers, though we only see the shallowest – each serves a purpose and without them, our planet would be drastically different.

I used to feel if I didn’t have a “prepped page” when out, I couldn’t journal. It wouldn’t “look” right. If you actively employ layers, you can journal at any point, knowing it is there and allowing it to add to the finished product even if no one else can read the words. You know they are there, you see and feel the effect, and that, in the end, is all that matters.

Take some time this week to play with layers. Follow those I employ in the video (indicated by the subtitles) or create your own. Write secret messages. Allow yourself to cover something up. Learn, expand, and grow through experimentation and discovery.