Sunday, February 7, 2016

The SideKick

Another Mask... Acrylic paint, paint pen, collage and water soluble crayon in a recycled children's board book.
A couple months ago I came across a new term in one of the art journaling groups I belong to on Facebook. Someone posted something from their "sidekick" journal. I had never heard this before... but since then it has come up again and again.

I have never taken a class on the "proper" way to make an art journal. I got a book out of the library, I watched a couple videos online, I was lucky enough to win one of Orly Avineri's books in an online contest. I figured hell, it's a journal... how can I do it wrong? The thing with that kind of approach is that you sometimes miss enough you feel like everyone else is in on some secret that has completely eluded you. That's how it was with this whole sidekick thing... though it didn't take me long to figure it out. It's pretty much just what you think it would be: another journal, used as a kind of assistant to the main one.

How I usually work is like this: I have a canvas on my easel. Sometimes two, depending on the size. That is what I am working on at the moment. I usually have another painting or two on the go, so when I get stuck I just move on to something else. My art journal and a few sheets of primed paper are on my work table, along with my drawing tools, my sketchbook, and my brushes. I usually work on something small as a warm-up or if I don't have a lot of time. If I need to work in my journal (to help my mood or state of mind), that usually happens before I get into the bigger stuff. That's something I seem to have been subconsciously avoiding since my father died. I'm trying to make more of an effort because I know it's helpful. I have a shelf full of little books that I work in... one pile has completed books, one pile books I intend to use but haven't, and usually a few that are in progress. I have my "found poetry" book, which has maybe 3 blank spreads, a book made of watercolour paper that has only one spread done but which I had no particular theme in mind, my bird book which is full but needs a cover, and this one that I started and abandoned last year. I have no idea which is my main journal and which is my sidekick.

Maybe my journaling process as a whole is a sidekick. An assistant to my painting in general. That's kind of how I go about it, actually. I go to the journals when I don't know what to paint, or when I don't feel I'm in the right state of mind to work on what I've got going. When I'm in between projects my books get a lot of attention... I work intuitively until I stumble on something I want to pursue. Last year I did an entire book on the theme of grids, just because I wanted to work in a compositional format I didn't really understand. I don't know if that is supposed to be the purpose of an art journal... so maybe what I do isn't really art journaling. I use text, but not the way most people do. I don't write out quotes, or inspirational thoughts... or even leave the text as readable. I scrawl out my thoughts about the subject over my background, then cover it up with my imagery. I don't want to reread it... and I most certainly don't want anyone else reading it. I just put it there so it's clear in my mind what I'm thinking.

Whatever it is I am doing, I intend to keep doing it. It's good for me to have a place to work on stuff that is just for me... work I have no intention of showing or selling. Maybe I will have an open studio at some point, and I'll put my completed books out for people to peruse, just so those interested can have an idea of how I get to my finished paintings. Or maybe not. That's one decision I can avoid making... at least for now.