Art Journaling, No Words

Working away from the usual is always interesting for me. Stretches creative muscles and brightens up the studio. Today’s challenge (I made this up) was to create a journal (lots of discretion about what a journal is) using no traditional art supplies. And, just to make it harder, no words.

I’ve always had trouble understanding art journals without words. I’m a word person. A writer. So the challenge was . . . well, tough.

I started by gathering materials at a hardware store. One of these days, I’m going to teach an art class using only materials from a hardware store. Today I used:

  • six paint color samples
  • one feather
  • one piece of glittery wrapping paper
  • one button from a sweater
  • some twine
  • a piece of discarded, painted watercolor paper

I’d been spending time watching Pete’s Pond–a watering hole in Southeast Botswana, Africa.  The site isn’t perfect–the lights go out at night, sometimes the whole site goes down, which, when you remember it’s on a game preserve far from the nearest decent-size town, isn’t that unusual. I was chatting with the other viewers, and heard people discussing how autumn was coming, the weather was turning chillier, and how it made them sad. Birds were beginning migration.

Here, of course, summer’s passing is what we celebrate. Days get bearable, and we enter the season we came here for–from now until the beginning of May, the weather is wonderful. Clear skies, sun, breezes, and warm days followed by crisp nights. The birds that leave other areas come here.

And here’s what I made, called “Migration.” I won’t explain it, because I’m hoping that each person who sees it will have a story about it. While the pages lift up, the have no words. They are ready for your story about the next season–what is that story for you?

Migration, feather, button, twine on paint samples and watercolor paper.

-Quinn McDonald builds art journals and is a creativity coach.

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26 responses to “Art Journaling, No Words

  1. Lisa Brown (Salt & Light)

    …Like most crows, she loved treasures. She took a button, and a piece of twine, and left a feather to say thank you…

  2. I love Pete’s Pond too. I used to watch it at lunch when I was still working. I’ve never seen any of the big cats, but I spent a LOONNG time one day watching elephants playing in the water.

    Meredith in NC

  3. Kristin McNamara Freeman

    What a wondrous way to create – no words – so much in the work with shape, form, natural and man created bits…lovely. Pete’s Pond is a delight; thank you for the link.

  4. What a challenge for a writer! Love it though . . .simple to the point of elegant. I like simple and clean lines but often end up over working the detail.
    As for you looking forward to the September to May weather, me too! Summer is coming to southern climes!

    • I thought of that when I wrote about “autumn” which is, of course, “spring” for many of my readers.. The heat is so debilitating–at the end of summer you need new windshield wipers, and your tires wear out in four years. So, I’m glad for my cooler season.

  5. lovely

  6. I teach a beginner art journaling class where I show them how to use common household items, stuff you might otherwise throw away, and especially stuff from the hardware store. Lots of great tools and fun items to help you get your creative juices flowing.

  7. you could try photoshop elements. less complex than photoshop but it works well. we can despise all the major software companies all we want, but sometimes we have to just suck it up (grin)

    • Oh I don’t despise Adobe itself; I have a number of friends there (and the “cafeteria” in their San Jose towers is really excellent)! I have the CS6 suite myself, along with probably far too many of their typefaces. It’s the inexcusable bugginess of most of their software I despise, particularly the code in the Photoshop and Flash families. The Flash plugin, for example, accounted for a *majority* of the bugs in a web browser I was the lead designer for, and they would not or could not fix them. Their QA and UX design organizations are in need of enormous improvement. Somewhere around the late 1990s Adobe made some decisions in technical architecture and design direction that just haven’t panned out for the best.

      You never have to just suck it up; there is no software function in the world that doesn’t have alternative implementations.

      Seriously, if you like Photoshop Elements take a look at PixelMator.

    • I’m not a fan of MS Word, either, but all my client use it, so I have to have it on my Mac. I still mourn WordPerfect.

  8. Here’s the standard list I give to anyone using Adobe software (I despise Adobe software):
    1. Gimp (more powerful in some areas, free and open source)
    2. GimpShop (customization of Gimp that also mimics the Photoshop UI)
    3. Pixelmator (Mac only, I think)
    4. Acorn (smaller feature set, easier, Mac only)
    5. Image Tools (same comments as Acorn)
    6. FX Photo Studio Pro (targeted specifically at photo effects, more integrated with export/sharing services)

    • Ohhh, thanks for doing this. I thought Gimp was for Wndows only. That’s the impression I got at their site. I also smiled because I had a flash of having to self-teach myself something new and remembering the frustration I had with Photoshop.

  9. I find it a challenge to move beyond words too. But I really like this, and you’ve given me some lovely ideas.

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