By: Maria E. Luna Issue: Resource Management Section: Business
Creating a Deeper Meaning
Art as a means of communication between artists and viewers is basically about the experience. It serves as a method to grow one’s spirit. Today’s art content and form tends to be glazed over by most viewers. The popular perception of beauty takes art back to the days of painted seashores, Parisian boulevards and umbrellas at outdoor cafes. Or perhaps, one might recall the Pop Art genre of Lichtenstein—fragmented musical instruments or comic-book-like paintings. However, today’s modern artist is likely to bring discarded objects into acknowledgement as a means of social awakening or as a way to comment on social irresponsibility.
The role of art has become a social adventure—more than one of aesthetics. And, the most important resource an artist uses is an art journal to guide their work. The journal becomes a tool to the artist as it records the art process. The process of using a journal in conjunction with creating art can increase the benefits for the artist, as well as give the viewer a more expressive artwork to view. There are reflective exercises an artist can follow to help produce work which fully develops ideas.
In society, artists have many roles and thusly, their work can be considered as a perspective into and of society. They are known as inventors, creators and maintainers of culture, said Kathryn Grushka, Ph.D. and senior art and design lecturer at the University of Newcastle. Artists can create work, and once an audience sees the work, it becomes an expression of the artist’s life. And, it can go beyond creative expression and be a method for healing or growth. If art is used in this way, it can change lives.
Art work often reflects four different areas of an artist’s life—individual, family, society, and world. The art work may represent these areas by metaphor or other modes of expression. What makes the difference is the artist taking note of the process. By taking note, the artist is able to make a record of successes, failures, and ideas. These notes will help the artist grow by giving the artist a basis for later reflection—and later inform understandings of truth.
Often, the artwork becomes a statement of the artist’s life—an example of their social, personal and cultural stances. And, the audience validates the work. Art can be used to express oneself and serves as a language between people. In some circumstances, speaking an expression or opinion can be difficult, painful or too emotional to verbally express. In addition, physical disabilities can also limit verbal expression, and art can become a device for expressing complex thoughts. “Art is a language unto itself helping us say the things we don’t have words for,” said Jeanie Lerche Davis of WebMD. If someone has a limited vocabulary, art can be used as an alternative means of expression. By using artwork to say something, the artist can express ideas with some self-reflection. Self-reflection can be done by taking note of the process in a journal.
The recording cycle process
Participating in any of the arts helps the artist find their voice and way. When done within a journal to track voice and way, meaning is created. The expression then becomes communication between two or more people. The process is the initial thoughts that form an idea of an artwork to the final stage of the audience’s reaction. This can be done through journal techniques geared towards art-making. There are many techniques to use, three of which will be mentioned later. Writings about a possible idea are the beginning thoughts in forming an artwork. The artist should keep in mind the journal is being used as an idea and development journal.
Creating art is receptive. It increases self-awareness and confidence in the creator. In addition, it can help heal physical and mental illnesses. In one case, a depressed patient found creating artwork released emotions and focused thoughts. The depression gradually lifted. In another case, a teenager learned to control impulses when he began to learn how to draw. Creating art was a form of meditation for the patient. The patient also experienced increased focus, quieter impulses and learned control. In other cases, creating art increased self-esteem; it became a way to release anger, gave focus, decreased stress and created happiness. Creating art as a way to heal is about expression and not skill. The work created for the purpose of well-being can be done at any skill level. “Art allows people to express those things for which they have never had words, but which currently affect their lives,” said Davis. If someone is an artist and can use their skill to increase well-being, then their ability has touched their individual, family, society and world areas of life. It touches the individual by physically increasing healing. It touches the family by mentally settling their lives by knowing a person they care for is healing. It touches society by the artist being able to create work for viewing. It touches the world by becoming communication possibly between multitudes of global viewers.
Creating art has benefits for the creator by providing a link to past and present experiences. By exploring past experiences, the artist can introspectively build on strengths. Artwork can serve as life’s review which can create significance in one’s life by honoring the artist’s life experiences.
An artist’s education and skill makes a better artist. Creating a journal can teach an artist to have a deeper connection to their artwork. The journal can be a teacher to the artist. The artist will find the journal will refresh “creative foundations because one is alive to the process, risk taking and the power of choices and mistakes; provoke deeper questions of oneself and art-making; circumvent cynicism because of fostering and witnessing, awe, wonder and the raw power of artistic engagement on a regular basis,” said Eric Booth in the Teaching Artist Journal. Combining the art process and reflection will refine an artist.
Artists are not the only ones to benefit from art-making. In fact, art plays a role in society and the world by being part of “the fields of education, community revitalization, health and healing, urban design and creating sustainable environments,” says Debra Ingram in Why Invest in Creativity.
The following three exercises aid the process. An icebreaker warm-up can be done before each exercise.
The classic method of gaining focus is finding a comfortable place, closing one’s eyes, taking a slow, deep breath and holding it—and releasing it; then the person repeats the process until completely relaxed and focused on the exercise.
Create a time capsule by adding embellishments to a journal. Each embellishment adds to creating a cohesive story. Depending on how many embellishments are added, they can become an entire collection of works. Think of artist Bruce Conner’s piece Looking Glass, 1964—a sculpture piece comprised of mannequin arms, a dried blowfish, magazine photographs, a shoe and other seemingly unrelated objects. It’s important to date the adding of embellishment. To add writing to the embellishment, the writer can note the emotions, people, places, time of life, atmosphere, colors and perspectives associated with the object. Adding embellishments enhances a journal through adding tangible objects, making the journal more factual and more than a one person perspective. Embellishments add a sense of bringing the journal to life and three dimensional.
One technique in journal writing that can help an artist is prompts. This technique can help an artist get past creative blocks and develop ideas. The following exercises can be used in a journal and carry over into an artwork. An artist can ask themselves questions in a journal. These questions can be about any event the artist can remember. Possible questions include: What are my visual memories of the event? What colors are standing out in my particular memory? What shapes are present? What are my overall impressions of the topic?
An artist can also assist another person by asking the questions to someone who will want an event recorded. The event can be recorded by any medium with which the artist is comfortable.
To reveal one’s true nature, the artist must reflect on their values. An exercise using photography is taking four values and writing a reaction to those values. One example of this is taking the value of faith and photographing religious buildings. Start this exercise with the following prompts: My values are…, Values I would like to have are…, I think values are…, I get my values from…, and I use my values by carrying out…
Then, the journalist numbers a paper from one to 100. A list of 100 thoughts related to this list is created. The values can repeat themselves. The writing of thoughts must be done quickly so that the writer does not think too long on any one value. After making the list, the writer reviews the values and picks four that stand out the most. Those four values will become the basis for the next art project. The values can be photographed, drawn, painted of sculpted. The artist may want to select more than four values and representations of those values.
To achieve a balanced life, an artist can use a journal to combine their life and art-making. There are many ways to go about writing in a journal, and there are just as many ways to use a journal to express the self. Journals are often thought of as a tool for a writer, but it can be a tool for developing art work. Art work is the final product. However, the artist has many benefits to using a journal that goes beyond creating artwork. Using the aforementioned process, artists can oftentimes bring their work to a new level. It will do this by giving the artist the opportunity to develop original ideas of the self. Many times artwork is developed from a thought without an awareness of how the artist’s background and values played into the process. The process of using a journal creates the background, thus giving the artwork a deeper meaning.