Thursday, January 8, 2009

Images and Words, Words and Images

On evenings like the one in the photograph the winter sunset over the houses across the street knocks me senseless.  Deep reds and oranges, densely brilliant hues and tones contrasting with black silhouetted branches and snow on the rooftops.  This image is one of many midwestern images that kept showing up in words on paper and then later as pictures pulled from magazines and pasted down on journal pages during many years when the only snow I ever saw was a brief dusting in the foothills above the San Fernando Valley or on TV (and then this kind of orange sunset usually meant something was on fire).  My longing for four distinct seasons was what started my first notebooks devoted almost entirely to images (no way was I ready to call them art journals at that point -- they were my Dream Books, a place to turn my longings into visual affirmations).

These notebooks were in addition to the morning journaling practice I've had for over 30 years of madly scribbling, dumping anything and everything onto the page, usually while drinking two cups of coffee and often before speaking one word OUT LOUD. (Along the lines of Julia Cameron's "morning pages" from her wonderful book, THE ARTIST'S WAY, or Natalie Goldberg's freewrites from WRITING DOWN THE BONES, this is writing that clears my head and allows me to go on with my day. The writing serves primarily a meditative, prayerful, therapeutic purpose with an end-of-the-year "payoff" -- poems, story and art ideas, character sketches, and other creative jottings ready for me to develop or ignore.)

Once my Dream Book affirmations worked and we moved back to Minnesota, I let myself begin to explore the amazing world of art journaling.  I love the way the form marries words and images, how it obscures at the same time it illuminates.  It's a great way to play with different mediums and can take pretty much any shape, size or form.  I like to keep several going at once (because I'm impatient and hate to wait for paint and glue to dry) which allows me to work on different surfaces and with different materials.  Right now, for instance, I've got two altered book journals going, one index card -- using heavy watercolor paper and a vintage card file, and several fabric (art quilt) pages like the one on the right.   

For me this work/play is like making the poem or story visual, while keeping meaning veiled in mystery -- left to the observer to discover through their own response.


Sarah Laurenson said...

What a gorgeous picture. I love the colors of nature and how inspiring such things can be.

Fran said...

Hi Julie,

I've nominated you for a Lemonade Stand Award which is all nonsense but a bit of fun. It honors blogs which have great attitude and/or gratitude.

Pick it up at my Blog, if you'd like it.

It's time-consuming to adhere to the little requirements attached to it, so only do as much as you feel you can. It took me over two hours this morning, and I'm still commenting!