Thursday, January 24, 2013

Art Journal Tip Redux: Start With a Letter

For today's blog post I'm starting out with a Thank You, as well as the beginning of a series of posts that I'll be continuing for the next few weeks. The "thank you" is to all of my great readers who have read, and re-read, a post I wrote several years ago titled, Art Journal Class, My Favorite Tips.

The series I have in mind is to expand on each of these tips, starting with the first: Write an Illustrated Letter.

Before I begin however, I thought it might be a good idea to clarify how art journaling relates to  my writing. For me, art journaling is simply a way to enhance my journals with color, surprise, and a deeper expression beyond words. As a professional writer, I gravitate toward the written word, but I also love art: drawing and painting have become essential to my creative process. So if I can somehow combine words and pictures all in the same space, I feel like I've hit pay dirt. It's a real win/win for me.

Writing an illustrated letter in my art journal is a basic technique that can be both attractive and cathartic--in fact, the added pictures can sometimes say much more than I could ever say with words alone. And that's what I'd like to share with you today.
Ideas for letter "recipients" can include:
  • Yourself as a child.
  • Your current self.
  • Someone who has hurt your feelings at any time in the past or present.
  • Your current manuscript or WIP.
  • A project you are trying to complete but that keeps eluding you.
  • Your muse.
  • A favorite or influential teacher.
  • Someone who told you that you "can't" do something.
  • A pet.
  • Your inner critic or editor.
  • An actual editor (who rejected your work?)
  • A thank you--to yourself, the world, anyone to whom you feel grateful.
  • Your readers.
  • Your favorite author.

You can write your letter using any method you choose: by hand in ink, crayon, pencil, or special calligraphy pen; or you might like to type it up in a decorative font and then glue it into your journal. The fun part begins with illustrating your letter. Some ideas here include:
  • Before you begin, decide on the color of your paper and/or ink. If you're writing a letter to paste into your journal, you can write on good quality stationery, newsprint, a recycled drawing , or even a greeting card you love. Have fun choosing.
  • What are your feelings as you write the letter? Are you feeling sad, joyous, or confused? What colors reflect those feelings? What images?
  • Sometimes underlining or circling key nouns or phrases will give you ideas for objects or emotions to draw into the body of your letter.
  • Collage is a great (and easy) way to get started illustrating. Whether you want to collage the borders of your letter, or insert tiny pics mid-sentence, or between paragraphs, you can't go wrong.
  • Doodles: hearts, zigzags, squiggles. . . any and everywhere!
  • Try tracing small pictures you can then copy or just cut out and glue into the body of your letter. Tracing isn't "cheating" and can help to boost your confidence if you feel nervous about drawing.
  • Choose a theme to follow throughout the letter, e.g., flowers, sea shells, food, shoes, cats. . . .whatever takes your fancy.
  • If a blank page is intimidating, first paint a watercolor wash in your favorite color(s) onto the paper. Many times you'll end up with interesting cloud-like formations and subtle designs you weren't expecting. Let the paper dry and then write and draw following the trail of new-found designs.
  • The Verithin(R) brand of colored pencils works nicely for drawing small, colorful pictures with plenty of detail.
  • Try using metallic colored pencils. Besides gold and silver, there are many glittery choices available in shades of blue, pink, green, etc. (Metallic gel pens work good too, but can be smear if you're not super-careful. I personally prefer the pencils.)
  • Stickers! They're not just for kids anymore. I love the vintage-inspired ones you can easily purchase from any craft and hobby store. You don't even need glue and scissors for these!

Tip of the Day: Before you write your letter, think about the theme. What's your topic? What do you want the reader (even if this letter is unsent, which it probably will be) to feel or acknowledge after reading? A good starting point can be a line such as: "Do you remember when--?" Another is to write an announcement of some sort: a new home, pet, baby, or WIP. A letter written as a review of past events, such as a family holiday letter, or one covering something like a vacation or workshop can be a helpful starting point, too.

    No comments: