one word journaling for art journalers

by The Artist on January 12, 2011

one word art journal?

photo credit: o5com @ flickr

There’s a trend that’s been zipping around the electronic frontier lately:  picking a word for your year.  It’s got several variations here and there — Chris Brogan’s three words (overachiever that he is), for instance, or Christine Kane’s one power word, complete with a downloadable discovery tool worksheet and such.  We first heard of the concept last year, on Ali Edwards’ blog, where she challenged readers to come up with “one little word” for the year and create around it, which was insanely popular and spawned everything from scrapbook kits to handcrafted jewelry with your “one little word” for the year.  (She’s doing it again this year, too.)

Seeing the number of people for whom this concept has really resonated made us start thinking:  how can this be translated into our art journalling practices?

Something the artist has always done, when starting a new physical book, is to give that book a NAME.  Not like “The Journal of Fantastic Journeys” or “Most Splendid CarryAll” or even “Bob”, even though, at times, these names would have been fairly appropriate.  (As would “The journal of laying very still and eating popcorn.”)

Most of the time, these journals were named with a one or two word concept.  Rebuild was one volume, handmade with painted covers.  Rise was one, store-bought from the now-online-only Turtle Press, with environmentally-friendly recycled pages.  Let Go was a gorgeous hand-bound book by Amano bookbindery that was a gift from a friend during a particularly rough move away from home.  The current volume, a Moleskine with watercolor paper pages and a sticker from a friend’s band on the inside cover, is called, simply “DO”.

The artist writes the word inside the front cover, sometimes conspicuously as part of the design, and sometimes painted over or collaged on, or very very tiny.  It’s like an intention for the time it takes to fill the volume, which is usually less than a year since we’re fairly prolific and, to be completely honest, to go longer than about six months with the same focus word would bore her to tears and she’d be writing “ALL WORK AND NO PLAY MAKES THE ARTIST A DULL GIRL” over and over on the last ten pages.  (And while that would be striking, visually, it might make her take up an axe habit.)

The whole journal does not, by the way, revolve around that word.  Unlike some of the Focus Word information and “rules” out there (which aren’t really rules, but explanations of how someone else is doing a  project), we generally find that the word is more of a general thing.  It reflects the transitions of the artist’s life more than guides it.  Like an observation from an airplane that all those knocked over crops are in a circle or something, more than a blueprint for crop circles by itself.

Making this Focus Word a…well…focus, however, wouldn’t be a hard thing to do.  It’s a tiny shift in thinking from the passive (observing a trend) and the active creation process (making your own trend).  Instead of just letting your word happen, pick one  (and there are tons of resources out there right now for helping to pick your word or words), and consciously set out to MAKE IT SO.

(How many of you just read those last three words with a regal british Federation captain’s voice?  Hope it wasn’t just us.  Ahem.  Live long and prosper.)

A big benefit of picking a word is FOCUS.  (We know, we’ve been calling it a Focus Word, and it’s a bit redundant to say a Focus Word gives you Focus.  But it’s true.)

The artist read a book once where the main character was being taught by a spiritual master.  He told her to stand on a busy road and count all the cars with license plates from a particular state.  After twenty minutes, he told her she could stop, and then asked her how many cars went by with license plates from a DIFFERENT state?  She couldn’t answer.  She had been so focused on counting New Jersey plates that she hadn’t paid attention to the blue Pennsylvania plates at all.

Life’s kind of like that, too.  What you focus on, you notice.  And what you notice, you get interested in.  It reinforces your idea that the Focus Word is manifesting in your life when you see evidence of it.  And the more you notice the evidence of your word, the more you’ll pay attention, which means you’ll notice even more, which means… get the drift.  It’s an attention spiral that totally benefits your aims and goals that way.

In short, your named Focus Word art journal helps you pay attention.

Another benefit of naming this journal volume?  You’ll never be at a loss of what to put in it.  Have a day that’s uninspired, or you don’t have much going on, or you don’t feel like going out to draw or take pictures or whatever?  Make an inspiration spread — do something collagey or illustrative around your Focus Word, in all its variations.  What do you want to manifest during this volume of your life?  Give yourself a visual representation.  Record a soundtrack that inspires you to feel like your word is already yours, and stick a CD envelope on a page.  Write a “the story thusfar” entry all about your life’s experience with the word.

Picking a Focus Word for your journal’s volume is just an easy, simple thing you can do to add some more clarity to your artmaking process…not to mention a way to improve your life with a little extra attention and maybe even a little inspiration.

So, what’s your journal named?  Do you go with a word or two, or do you give it some other kind of name? And what’s your word for this volume?

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