Friday, June 27, 2008

Journaling and Art

Journaling seems to be as popular as ever -- maybe even more so since it's one of the few reasons left for a person to write something by hand. For several years I journaled almost daily, inspired by Julia Cameron's advice to write "morning pages", a process she details in her book, The Artist's Way. I never read my journal entries. Just stacked college ruled notebooks filled with entries in a pile. I stopped journaling when the pile reached 30".

After that phase, I had a stint making "morning drawings". Eventually, I took up running and gave up journaling altogether. Something shifts -- I become completely saturated in an activity (sometimes for years) and then I suddenly stop doing whatever it is I was dedicated to and move to the next interest.

I'm thinking of revisiting my interest in journaling. I had to quit Nordic and Alpine skiing and running this past winter and spring after I sprained my knee on the way into the lift line after a morning of epic powder on the backside of Mt. Bachelor. Thanks to the highly skilled sports medicine/massage/therapists in our town of Bend, Oregon, I'm back on my exercise track.

During my hiatus from my usual activity I had more time to read. I revisited some of the books I read during college. Daybook - The Journal of an Artist by Anne Truitt was a book I scanned quickly and check off the book list my painting professor gave me in the 1980's. Revisiting the book was a real pleasure. Passages Anne Truitt wrote have new shades of meaning to me now that I have 20 years of art experience behind me.

Here's what Truitt had to say about creating. She wrote this in the early 1970's long before computers dominated our culture. Long before the rise of emailing and texting have almost completely eliminated the hand written letter:

"Like earthworms, whose lives are spent making more earth, we human beings also spend ourselves into the physical. A few of us leave behind objects judged, at least temporarily, worthy of preservation by the culture into which we were born. The process is, however, the same for us all. Ordered into the physical, in time we leave the physical and leave behind us what we have made in the physical."

Whether I'm drawing or writing, watching the marks as my hands guide the pen across the page, I see my thoughts made physical in a way they aren't when I'm at my keyboard. Maybe the general fascination with journaling has a little to do with this creation of a physical mark. Like our ancestors leaving marks with charcoal sticks on the sides of rock caves, we have left something material to mark our passing.

I really should re-read those old journals and see if they are going to be next winter's fire starter.

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