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Starting an Art Journal

It’s been on my list to do for a while and piqued my interest even more after one of the monthly meetings I attended last year with the Artists of Northwest Arkansas. In particular it was the ones Ruth Lawlor shared that made me really want to get busy starting an art journal. Obviously, the ‘getting busy’ part of that took place mostly in my mind since then. I’ve thought about it a lot since I saw her many year’s worth of artistic tomes.

Today I created the first entry. I took the actual, physical, real-life, steps toward starting an art journal! And I enjoyed doing it just as much as I thought I might.

But it was a lot more time-consuming than I thought it would be. I found that I couldn’t do it very quickly. Unless I can force myself to take less time on my entries, it’s not likely to be something I do even weekly, let alone daily. And my first entry wasn’t even very detailed. Here’s the finished entry. As you can see, it’s not even very complicated, so there’s no good reason it took as long as it did. I’ll have to figure out why that happened.

Starting an art journal was on my list of things to do today. I think I'll keep this up!
Starting an art journal was on my list of things to do today. I think I’ll keep this up!

Starting an art journal

There’s really no right or wrong way to do this. But I really envied Ruth’s journals and wanted to try to emulate some of what she did. I liked her scrapbook imagery, but my first one is much simpler in style. Incidentally, scrapbooking is also something I’ve always wanted to do but never got around to it. Maybe with this I can combine what I loved about that concept and put it into my art journaling.

I didn’t start out with an idea for a topic, I just thought I’d start an art journal by focusing on a thing that represents my trip to Qatar. As it turns out, this thing represents a larger thing I enjoy most about traveling in general. I love to sample the regional foods of the places I visit.

A surprising focus

In Qatar, as in other places I’ve visited in the Middle East (Abu Dhabi, and Dubai), date palms are abundant. And the fruits of that tree, dates, are a major food item. They’re incredibly rich in calories and sweet flavor. I’d imagine a person could live on water and dates alone for a long time if they had to. With honey, flat-bread, and dates I think I could live quite a while. All of those things are readily available in the places I’ve been in this part of the world.

When I was here in Qatar in July 2018, the workers were busy on ladders harvesting the dates. This time I’m here during the month of February and there are date kiosks in the malls and grocery stores. They’re filled with dates prepared in all sorts of delicious ways, from dried dates to dipped in chocolate, to decorated with icing trim. I like the plain old dried ones.

But even plain old dried dates are available in mind-boggling variety. There are Jordanian dates, dates from Qatar, and dates from all of the other regions. They all have different looks and tastes. Some are much larger than others, some are smaller. Some have chewier textures and more sugary flavors. All of them are good. I imagine I could start an entire art journal series focusing solely on dates if I wanted to.

Dates are available in a smorgasbord  of varieties and styles.
Dates, Dates, and MORE Dates!

Travel journal meets Art journal

So for starting an art journal, I picked a subject that subconsciously represented the very thing I love most about traveling in general. While I absolutely love the sights and sounds of cultures I experience when traveling (no matter how near or far), there’s one thing I really really enjoy experiencing. The foods. But specifically, my first entry in my new art journal is about the date palm. Probably because it’s the only tree in the little apartment complex where my husband lives while he works here in Qatar.

A date palm featured in my first ever painting with my first set of paints made from our Ozark pigments, too. It was a feature in the first painting I made on this trip, as I wanted to try that same scene again with a little more experience under my belt.

Same painting then and now. The very first scene.
You can see I simplified the real life image a lot. I didn’t even want to try to put the cars in there, or the parking lot bumpers.

Starting an art journal and going forward

I’m glad I got around to starting the art journal. But I’m not sure how often I’ll do it. I’m going to try to at least make a monthly entry for now, or find a way to make myself do a quick daily painting to represent my focus for the day. Ideally I’ll do that in the mornings before I get too busy. We’ll see how it goes. Let me know if this is something you think is an interesting thing to do. I’m making an art journaling category here at the blog for it. I tried this a while back with colored pencils and did manage to do daily entries for a while.

If you’re an art journalist and have tips for someone just getting busy starting an art journal, please drop them in the comments. If you have a website, I’ll be happy to add you up here in the body as a reference, too.

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sustainabilitea
7 February 2020 7:46 pm

I started an art journal once, actually a nature journal ala Charlotte Mason. Didn’t keep at it long unfortunately, although I found it recently. As for date…yum!! Years ago, my husband worked with someone from Morocco who brought back dates still on the stem once. Oh, my, they were amazing!!… Read more »

Judiann Edwards-Burrus
Judiann Edwards-Burrus
7 February 2020 7:33 am

Thank you for sharing Madison.

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