Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Artists journals as art

My blog pal Wendy has just written a post about art journals. She's a big fan - as am I. Kinda.

I always feel wierd about other people's art journals/visual diaries/workbooks. They are often great to look at, but if they are made for looking at, it puts them more in the realm of scrapbooking, to me. And I am snobby about scrapbooking (in the sense of using stuff from a Scrapbooking Shop) - that is NOT art.

If an artist is working in their journal and thinking "how will this look in my blog?" or "how will this look in an exhibition of artists journals?" then it just doesn't seem like my idea of art practice. There should be hard graft, invisible and unrewarded. There should be other opportunities spurned, dogs unwalked, phones unanswered, stretching not done, TV shows missed and lost forever, while you work, and work and work. Eventually you have The Piece, which you present to the world, (the phrase 'begotten not made' has sprung to mind).

I always look enviously at other people's journals, and I guess maybe this is the voice of jealousy. Why isn't my journal so funky and scrappy and cool? Why don't I do little watercolour portraits of the people on the train on the way to work? Oh, I walk to work, that would be why. And I can't stand having anyone watch me draw.

There are two artists I can think of just in my own family who will probably scoff at my preciousness.


Wendy said...

Okay, NOW I understand why you haven't been putting more of your drawings up! :)

It's an interesting point you make that I hadn't thought of... RESULT vs. PROCESS/INTENT. Huh. Okay, that's not even one I was prepared for when I came over here. I was thinking, "Oh no, here comes the thats-not-real-art debate" but you surprised me.

I will agree with you about the scrapbooking thing. While I think it is often beautiful and clever (and my own sister-in-law is a scrapbooking genius and I am not worthy to kiss the hem of her garment) it just doesn't say "art" to me. I don't see the meaning, the meat to it.

Back to result vs process/intent (for lack of a better term)...

Setting aside the level of talent for a moment... what is the difference between a very nice painting by Monet (a result of work) and a very nice collection of journal pages that ends up being in a gallery showing for altered books or visual journals? (Let's pretend Monet is "just some guy".) If we can pretend they are equal in quality why is one more artistic than the other?

As far as opportunities spurned, you imply art can only be born from suffering. Well, that's one theory. :) I would guess Thomas Kinkade and the artist who paints hobbits would argue with that. Or maybe that's not art. I'm not even really sure what art is anyway. I have a degree in art and a minor in art history and I'm more confused about what art is now than I was before I got my (worthless) degree.

And then there is the matter of Leonardo da Vinci's journals. Despite "intent" these are art, right? Or not art?

But really the IMPORTANT thing is that I'm worried about is the possibility that an angry mob of scrapbookers might be heading our way after this. :) I'm gonna say you started it.

P.S. I bet your journal is cool and you just can't see it for yourself. If you were a hack like me you probably wouldn't worry about it so much. Heh.

chris rees said...

The old "what is art" debate eh?

If you say "my art is making a visual journal, this is my art practise" then that is art.

But if you say "see how my mind is humming, see what marvellous things I am cooking up", and you never actually roll up your sleeves and MAKE A THING - well that is irksome. Can be pretty at the same time.

Claes Oldenburg planned a lot of major sculptures that never got made, and his sketches of these are marvellous, and the little notes he presumably wrote on them (haven't got anything to refer to here, just winging it) would be interesting. But he actually did get to build a lot of his ideas. He (and Leo) would I think pour scorn on someone who thought the visual journal was IT.

Leo's journals are totally more valuable to humans than most art, but they aren't art.

Re suffering - I was kind of poking fun at that concept but I do find it endearing. Hard work is out of fashion.

My journal has some nice drawings in it, and I sometimes put them up. But its not ehat most people would call an artists journal. I'm not even trading under then name "artist" any more. I'm just some guy. And happier for it!

Sally said...

FFOCS! (that is the opposite of a scoff)

I agree with you. I think there is a difference between an artists working book and a book made by an artist.

My own sketchbook has storyboards, matt's head, 3 pages of stalled attempts at a Ford Mustang and a similar 5 attempts at a blue ringed octopus among other 'working out'.

It's because I need somewhere to get it right.

And then when I self publish my artists book based on the film I will make where the hero is an octopus who looks uncannily like Matt and drives a Ford Mustang I will be able to use it again to work out the page layout.

Wendy said...

Well, that definition of art is as good as any. Although using Claes Oldenburg as an example is a little controversial, but I get your point. As to his scorn... that would be the pot calling the kettle black probably.

Really, my goof is lumping visual journals and art journals into the same category. Teesha Moore is a good example of someone who uses the journal AS the art. (whether one agrees it is art or not. As one could also argue, and has, about Oldenburg's art.)

In my opinion, these days the word "art" is so watered down as to be meaningless. But really it comes down to what a person can convince someone into calling art and that's just really good marketing.

chris rees said...

Oh no. I have stirred up the Arkansas Oldenburg Expert. Why did I choose him, WHY???

Yes, the word =art= reeks. I was talking to a group of art teacher friends a few months back, and after a bit I couldn't help myself blurting "I am SO SICK OF ART!!!". Felt so good.

I hadn't heard of Kinkade, but I checked him out. Cosy. Teesha Moore's home page looks great but I her site is killing our dial-up connection.

Oh, by the way Wendy, meet Sally, she's my sister! And a fine artist. She's not sick of art.

chris rees said...

Sally, you must not have seen Australia yet. Hugh Jackman goes octopus while driving a Mustang and he does look strangely like Matt.

Wendy said...

Chris... "expert" NOT! Back in college I just learned to make it sound like I know something. It's a trick you learn in some of those art criticism classes. :)

Re: your sister Sally. She and I aren't speaking right now because I'm mad at her. I went to her blog and there's nothing there. Tell her to come out and play.

chris rees said...

Sally hasn't moved to Blogger yet, although she's planning to. Her current LiveJournal blog is linked at the bottom of mine.

I like to think I escaped art theory classes unscathed but it is unlikely. I found them occasionally interesting, but no more relevant to me and my work than a talk on, say, bats.