Sunday, 25 September 2011

Art Journaling For Dancers

Around six months or so ago I tentatively took my first baby steps into the magical world of Art Journaling. Sarah, the other half of Sakura Tribal, was bitten by the bug over a year ago after our America trip - inspired by two amazing ladies, Paulette Rees-Denis and Tracy Carlton. It took a little longer for me to be drawn in; maybe I just wasn't in the right place emotionally, or maybe I had too many bad memories of splodgy messes and disapproving looks in Art lessons at school. But having seen some of the beautiful stuff Sarah was producing and after a buying trip to Art From The Heart in Harrogate I was hooked too!

Now, if you're wondering where on earth to start, and are going to Pauline Qu's Tribal Sleepover in Yorkshire in November then you're in luck. Sarah is going to be doing a whole workshop on Art Journaling for Dancers - and she's MUCH better than me! She'll be able to get you started and can answer any questions, show you how to use different materials and so on. Fabulous!

But of course not all of you will be joining us at the Sleepover - so this is for you!

What is Art Journaling anyway? Dyan (Art From The Heart) says :

'Simply put, an art journal is a journal in which you combine art and words to express yourself. That’s it. It’s not complex, and there really aren’t any rules for art journaling. It’s all about self-expression.'

You really don't have to be good at art to join in - hey, I do it! You can use all sorts of media and techniques - paints, ink sprays. stamping, stickers, pens, pencils, collage - whatever floats your boat and speaks to you at any time. You can use no words or one or two words or lots of words. It's all about the creative process. And it's fun!!!

OK, but what has all that to do with dance, you may all be asking. Well, it isn't necessarily anything to do with dance. It's all about you, your life, your emotions, working things out for yourself. But because for me dance is a hugely important part of my life, and of who I am, it naturally comes into all of my art journals - but in very different ways. And I'm thinking that may well be the case for quite a few of you too!

Now, a lot of what you journal could be very personal. Maybe things you really don't want to share --- and that's ok. That's what it's all about - thoughts, hopes, dreams. fears, disappointments, sorrow, anger. Sarah's journals are a lot prettier and  more artistic than mine (yes, I know I said it's all about the process, but it's true!!), but because it IS such a personal (and sometimes private) thing I've chosen to include pages from my own journals here, simply because it was easier to weed out what I'm prepared to share! I'll tell you a bit about the media I used and about the inspiration for what I wrote or created for each photo. Sometimes the inspiration strikes first, and I start splashing paint or whatever around in response ... but sometimes I start to just design and mess around and then the thoughts come.

Anyway, here goes --- I've tried to pick a selection of pages from different journals so you can see different ways you can use the process in your dance, from abstract to more concrete practical stuff ....

I've picked this journal first because it really is my very favourite (you can see a photo of the cover further up this blog)! I had a little card book I bought from an art shop and held onto for a few months - I loved it but nothing I planned to do felt right somehow. And then one day I started to think about how much I have gained from tribal dance , and 'The Gift Of Tribal' was born! Each page in the book represents something different that this dance gives to me. Not too many words or even images ... this book is more about the colour and light that tribal has brought into my life, reflected by the colour and light of the pages. I painted each page first (acrylic paint applied with a baby wipe!) then used spray inks and stencils with metallic pens and a vast array of collagey bits and 'found' sparklies to liven it all up. I love it. It cheers me up whenever I'm in need of a good old tribal hug!

This is a page from one of my current journals (I do tend to have a couple on the go at once!). I've used a lot of paints in this one, and I just love the colours on this page. I was feeling a bit grumpy when I created this - I felt people were trying to tell me what I ought to be doing in a couple of areas in my life, including dance! That might be where the angry orange came from .. but then again I do love orange! I used acrylic paints for the background then used a henna stamp with paint and glitter. I made the big luggage tag at an Art From The Heart workshop - paints, inks, stencils and stamps all went into it! There's another page from this journal - 'Dance Away The Fear' - further up the blog.

Now, just to show you that your art journals don't just have to be about your feelings, here's a more practical use! This is a page from 'The Sakura Chronicles' - our group's record of moves, music, dances, costumes and so on! It acts as an aide-memoire so we know what we've danced and where, and waht we wore. it also is an invaluable record of the moves in our repertoire. A lot of what we do is Gypsy Caravan but we also incorporate some moves and combos from our teacher, Chris Ogden, as well as stuff from workshops with people like Deirdre McDonald and Steffi Colbert. The chronicles keep all those together for us, and it's a work in progress that is added to as we go along. I 'artified' the pages over a couple of days with spray inks, stamps and found items.

Here's another use - as a travel journal! This was one of the first journals I created and in some ways is more of a scrapbook - a collection of memories and souvenirs - than an art journal. There's not a lot of painting/inking going on (apart from this last page where there's a painted 'tag') but lots and lots of writing, doodling, quotes. pictures/leaflets/tickets and so on. All stuff from our America trip, so it's wonderful to read and remember! The beautiful book actually came from Paulette's shop in Clatskanie. Oregon, so was particularly suited for this journal!

Now, just to show you that you DON'T need to use paint and stuff if it scares you! This page is made purely from pretty paper, stickers and pictures - simples! It isn't from an art journal as such, but is from a book of quotations that I put together as an art journal. I think the paper I used to cover the page is actually wrapping paper; there are some gorgeous art papers out there but you don't necessarily have to fork out for them. Save all your bits and bobs and wrappings and lettering from magazines and so on. Inspiration will strike!

Another page from a non-dance journal .... here I was doing an on-line creativity course and thiswas my response to one of the stimuli. I've included it here because I know I had dance on my mind when I did it ... it was one of those pages that just sort of flowed. There's a spray ink background with stamps, stickers and pictures too ... and a few phrases in response to the theme of the page. Again I love the colours in this one! I did this on loose leaf paper then tied the book together with ribbon .... that way you can add stuff or swap it around as you wish. It's also easier not to splodge inks and stuff onto other pages, which can happen with a bound book (although I have found ways around that now!)

Finally, here's a page from one of my current journals. I bought a fabulous little book from a new agey - meditationy sort of shop in Oxford over the summer. It's gorgeous; the cover is made from dried, varnished leaves and it looks really old and Hogwarty! The pages are made from recycled paper and are very porous, so not suitanle for inks or paints .. plus they're a fabulous antique colour which speaks for itself! I'm doing more writing in this than in other journals because of this. I have decorated all the pages with stamps and pens and am writing dance thoughts in as the fancy takes me! I just love the quote on this page ... it really does 'speak to me' (I added the soul singing at the bottom). It's a very simple page that actually does express a strong feeling - maybe some of you will feel it too!

It may well be that you find all this self expression stuff a little 'Woo Woo' (Paulette, do you remember our Woo Woo conversation last August .. when Sarah claimed to be not at all Woo Woo?!).If so, never fear. You can do the arty bit then use your journals for more practical stuff such as recording your progress and things to work on after dance classes. It's really up to you ... do it once a month, week, day, hour ... whatever works! Above all, have fun with it!

Well, that was a long blog --- I got quite carried away there! I can recommend Art From The Heart as a good starting point for books, materials, links and workshops - check it out at But be warned - it's addictive!

Until next time, happy dancing!

I'm giving 'Video of the Week' a rest for a couple of weeks - lots to do at work and not much time to watch dance videos. Sad but true ..... but I'll catch up in a few weeks!


  1. Some great work here Cayte - I especially like the 'grumpy' page you did, I like the mix of colours and pictures. Fab!

  2. thanks for the ideas - I'm working on a large photo collage now and am rather clueless in making visual art like this... outside of costume making I'm not really crafty!