Art Journal: Despite the dark

I’m a subscriber to Art Journaling magazine from Stampington, and every now and then a featured article catches my eye. Reading the fine print revealed that this particular journal was based on a mixed media class available online from Donna Downey.

Between TV shows I can normally fit in a couple of weeks for my own projects, subject to other calls on my time. This time round I managed to take some quality art time for myself, signed up for the class and completed my journal.

the theme

Donna Downey’s teaching piece was black and white with a grungy texture and style. It is quite dark, unfinished, imperfect. Frankly, a mangled and smudged mess. Between me signing up and actually making my own version, I was struck by the style of the journal. It reminded me of my own dark messes – my recurrent episodes of depression. Now, I don’t often bring that up in my work, or indeed my blog. It’s not through embarrassment or stigma-avoidance, but because who wants to hear about that? On this occasion, though, it became the main theme for the project. A prompt one Sunday morning at church for our favourite verse from the Bible set off another train of thought. Psalm 130 isn’t that verse, but it is a meaningful (and personal) expression of despair, and I felt perfect for this journal.

the technique

Well, I’m not about to tell you how I did it. That’s for you to learn by signing up for the class. I learnt that mixed media can start with the journal itself, not just layering up onto a pre-bought substrate. Water does many splendid things with media, not least adding movement to a page. Ragged edges, uneven page size and unique feel to the page all add to the theme.

the outcome

I think the finished article does what I wanted – a backdrop to my dark times. And the title? That’s the hope and the knowledge. The always-hope when I’m in the midst of a depressive episode that I will get through it, and that it won’t be back soon. And the knowledge that despite the dark, God is there with love and forgiveness, along with friends and family who care and understand. I think it’s only the second piece I have made making reference to my illness – and I think it shouldn’t be the last. The first is here.

notes on materials

Those of you that sign up for the course will perhaps benefit from the following notes… I tried two types of compound for making the pages with the muslin. One just didn’t spread or work into the muslin at all well (B&Q Ready to use filler) – I think it would need working with water to make it more spreadable. What spread well was their pre-mix tube flexible filler. The downside of this was that the pages didn’t crack when tugged. This may be perfect for decorating purposes, but perhaps not in this project. And the final layer? Search for ‘cold wax’ medium – the product Donna uses isn’t widely available in the UK. I got some from Jackson’s Art Supplies.