Oops! I went from wanting to play around a bit in photoshop to basically redesigning the entire blog! Oh, well...things usually happen when they're supposed to.
Yesterday, I got the most amazing email. You see, awhile back, I made a video for the Papayariffic Challenge, wrapping up a gift for Sandrine, one of my readers (You readers? Is there grammar for blogs?). I did some fun, quick cuts in editing and even composed my own music with GarageBand.
Then, Kelly emailed me to congratulate me on the video, which I hadn't posted -- just gave the link to the Papaya people. So imagine my surprise when they email me to tell me how much they loved it! You can check it out here on their blog.
I skipped around the store, lost my headseat, and threw out my hip -- but I didn't care. I glowed the rest of the day. To get a compliment is a great thing. And I never thought my little videos were that good....I've seen better. But now I'm thinking my view is skewed by years of schooling in the field.
Okay! If I keep at it, I'll write forever, and I do want to do that, but downstairs, in my NaNoWriMo folder. Here's a bit of a taste of what I've written -- I need to run and get on task before the day's gone!
Here's what I think about imitation: it's rad and all, but only for awhile.
Let's say you find an artist you like. Nay, adore. They're the best thing ever, though I'm sure, if you're like me, you'd write EVAR because that somehow denotes a higher degree of time in internet-speak. Anyway, just starting out on your artistic journey, you decide, “Hey, I really like that, so I'm going to try and make pages/paintings/etc just like that.” Which is fantastic. Hey, how else do you learn? Don't students in those big art schools start by imitating the masters? There's something to be discovered in the strokes and hodgepodge of others; they've come before, and probably are comfortable with where they're at, with what products or mediums they're using, have a still hand when drawing with ink (for example, of course, as not everyone draws with ink; I do need to draw on personal experience, here).
And so, liking what you see, you begin trying to imitate.
Which, I'm going to warn you, probably won't go so well.
It isn't your devotion or passion that lets you down. In fact, it will carry you far in life.
It's probably the fact that you aren't the original artist. Allow me to explain.
You see, whenever someone, anyone, sits down to create art, a little piece of their soul is absorbed by the page or canvas (or whatever, again; when I say page, I am using that for anything, painting, writing, sculpting, etc). It's inevitable. And since our souls are part of the Divine, they are constantly refilled by that source whenever we pour some out. That bit is embedded in the page, and can never, ever be replicated. Even if the same artist sat down and tried to replicate the same page using the exact same materials and colors, it would still come out different.
Add to that their experience. The years it's taken for them to learn what they've learned, all the experimentation and days working at it, the countless journals or canvases they've gone through to get there. Remember, you are not them.
Let's say you keep going. You focus so intently on this work you become as proficient as the original artist. And your work looks just like theirs. Great. If you get to this point and move on, that's the point. But if you become stuck, doing work that only looks like that, never growing into something more, then that's where imitation becomes a problem.
All these tutorials out there are meant to teach, yes. But I believe, and this is coming from the point of view of someone who does such videos, that they're meant to show you something you didn't know, give you a bit of guidance, but are intended as a gateway into larger, more personal work. Learn from the techniques and add yourself into them.
An artist, especially in mixed-media, is a hodgepodge of knowledge and technique.
Teesha Moore was my first exposure to art journaling outside the realm of drawing. I was working at Paper Source in Highland Park at the time, carrying my handmade journal around with me on the floor with the excuse that it was an example of what someone could make, should a customer come in asking about our bookbinding supplies. I'd draw or write during stolen slow moments, still clinging to the notion that I wasn't a “serious” artist and words would still be my future.
We'd just started carrying Anahata Katkin's new line of cards from her company, Papaya!; I remember unpacking the first few and marveling at the amazing collages on these colorful, sparkling cards. I promptly bought a few and tried (and failed miserably) to replicate her work, but had no idea they'd come from her journals. I was just playing around with magazines I had in my house at a low table against the wall in my bedroom (previously used as an alter).
One afternoon, I noticed a blond woman searching our store, looking under counters and at our collection of larger, handmade papers. I asked her what she was looking for.
“Do you have Fabrino watercolor paper?” she asked.
Shaking my head, I replied, “No. We just have what's under there, and I think it's all just handmade papers. Why?” I continued, curious. “What do you need it for?”
“Oh, to make a new journal!”
Ah, the magic word. Filled with glee, I showed her mine, full of pen drawings and random, odd characters colored in with my favorite at the time, Pitt Artist's Pens (as we sold them at the store and I had an ever-growing collection I, now, have no clue where they went).
“You do more like the visual journal, don't you,” she said, paging through my little but thick journal. “Have you heard of Teesha Moore?”
“No! Who's that?”
“She's an amazing art journaler. She has these colorful collages and paints and has really awesome journals. You should check her out online.”
So I did. Like hundreds of others, the work of Teesha Moore completely changed how I looked at journaling. I soon began searching for other artists like her, browsing Flickr and combing the web. And I soon noticed there weren't many blogs out there on art journaling. So I decided, then, that I would blog my adventures, creating the very thing I wished I could find.
Recently, Teesha Moore's released a series of videos chronicling her process. She's a gifted alchemist of the collaging kind, her instructions and methods simple and pleasing to the ear. I've been watching them on and off while writing this morning, having skipped the journal to get my words out before starting the day. Errands come next, opening the afternoon and evening to painting, both in my journal and on a new, blank canvas.
I'm enthralled by her ideas, but not her style. While I love her eye-pleasing creations, they aren't for me. I have already gone through what I call the “Teesha Stage,” one most art journalers pass through during their beginning years when they are still digging through layers of shallowness to find their authentic selves, and no longer feel a need to validate myself by creating pages that look just like hers. It is her style, not mine, not yours.
There are bits I want to try, though. While I may not create a border around my pages, I do want to play with pattern and color found in random magazine ads. I have an urge to run to Office Max while out and make copies of old journal pages and fabric to use in my collages. The way she spreads liquid acrylics on the page is interesting, and I may play with that later. But that's as far as my imitation will go.
I see it like this: I am taking bits from her, processing them through my authentic self, and releasing something entirely my own. I bet you'd never even notice the bits I started with, because they're going to be transformed by my own self. We are each unique beings: no one else has the same experiences, points of view, family, or faith. Two of my closest friends are twins who have lived together for years; up until graduation from college, they even shared a bedroom. And looking at them, they couldn't be more different. While they rely on each other for much, one is a complete tomboy, the other a girlie girl. This only goes to prove that even the closest people are truly unique.
And that is how it should be. Take the bits. Make them your own. Create pages so unique that one day, others browsing the internet or paging through a magazine will want to imitate your work. It will get easier. The more you work at it, the more you explore yourself and experiment in your journal, the better and more authentic your pages will become. And one day, you'll sit down t work in your journal or on the canvas and you'll look back at where you started and see where you've come, and love each and every second of creating.