Monday, November 26, 2012

Book Review: Raw Art Journaling

Quinn McDonald is the author of a great blog on creativity and journaling called QuinnCreative.  She is also the author of a book called Raw Art Journaling: Making Meaning, Making Art.  Frankly, I love this book.  A lot of the books out there on art journaling seem to showcase pages that look a lot alike (and I feel the same way about a lot of the art journal blogs out there).  Quinn's book is different.  It's original and fun and very approachable.  As Quinn states repeatedly in the book, you don't need to know how to draw, you don't need to know how to write well, all you need is the willingness to create meaning from your art and to embrace imperfection.

If this sound a bit new age-y, don't worry.  Raw Art Journaling is filled with practical exercises to get you creating art.  Most of the exercises are very simple (in method, if not in the results you might get from them), and require little more than a pen, paper, and perhaps something to add colour with, such as watercolour pencils or markers (my personal favourites).  But the techniques Quinn shares are not just for beginners.  Rather, I see them as exercises that even experienced journal keepers could return to when they feel the need for some fresh energy or when they are feeling bogged down in their work.  Raw Art Journaling is the book that you will want to have on hand for days when you are tired, stressed out, worried, and feel daunted by doing anything more than doodling squiggles on the page.  In Raw Art Journaling, Quinn shows how even those squiggles can be a way to express meaning through art.

Raw Art Journaling is also the book that you will want if you are a beginner, and especially if the complex, multi-layered art journal pages that are so popular in so many blogs and books intimidate you or don't appeal to you.  Quinn's techniques do not require you to buy any fancy art supplies (although you certainly have the option to do so if you want to).  Many of them are based around the creation of abstract patterns and designs that you can use to express yourself without the need to be able to draw.

I love diversity of the exercises in Raw Art Journaling.  I borrowed this book from the library so, sadly, I did not have it long enough to try out all the exercises, but I will definitely be buying a copy of my own in the near future.  Quinn includes exercises for found poetry (great if you don't know what to write), adding words to your journal pages (less is more, and often just one word will do), one-sentence journaling, haiku (not a typical topic for a book on art journals), hiding your words (not something I really have a use for, but I can see its value for those who feel nervous committing some of their thoughts and feelings to paper, where other people may be able to read them), repeating designs, abstract landscapes, altered photography (I didn't have time to try this, but it looks fun), and bookbinding (including one book made from a cookie box).  All of Quinn's instructions are very clearly written and easy to follow.  For more experienced journal keepers or for those who want to expand their skills, she also offers additional tips that allow you to modify her original instructions.

I love this book so much that I really don't have any complaints about it.  The only thing I can say is that I would have liked to see more examples of other art journal pages.  For a few of the techniques, Quinn shares examples of journal pages from other artists.  I would have liked to have seen more of those, but that is not really a complaint, just something I would have liked more of.

I'll finish off this review by sharing with you a couple page spreads I recently created based on exercises in Raw Art Journaling:




I have created pages that are more elaborate than these pages, but I haven't often created pages that are as full of meaning as these pages are for me.  Although they are a bit rough and, yes, raw, around the edges, I really love how these pages turned out and I look forward to experimenting with these techniques and ideas again.  Thank you very much, Quinn, for a great book.  I highly recommend Raw Art Journaling to anyone who is even remotely interested in journaling or in creating meaning through their art.

6 comments:

  1. What a wonderful review to read, thank you. You completely understood why I wrote it--to get people to open up their own creativity. And I love the imagined landscape you drew! It's wonderful. I promise in my next book (I"m writing it now) there will be a lot more inspiration from other people--so people will see that they can take the instructions and run with them. Thanks again!

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    1. I'm looking forward very much to your next book, Quinn! And I totally did think that Raw Art Journaling was one of the best books on art journaling I have ever read, if not the best. I hope that my review has encouraged more people to check it out.

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  2. Indeed, a nice review. I've always felt art journaling was a bit beyond me but I just bought this book based on your review and will give it a try. BTW, ever thought of starting an Amazon wishlist as a way for your fans to return the love?

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    1. Thanks, Duncan! I hope you like the book. I do think this is one of best books for beginning art journalers. It is very approachable and simple to follow, and I think would allow many different personal styles to develop from it. Let me know how it goes for you!

      As for an Amazon wishlist, I must admit that I don't buy very many books online and I've hardly ever used Amazon. Frankly, I would rather encourage my readers to support their local bookstores rather than buying from a huge company like Amazon - although often that may be the only place where people can find the books they want.

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  3. I've just been given a lovely journal that I intend to use as an art journal. Though I'm not an artist, I love art in its many forms. I think this book would provide just the right inspiration to help me along. Thanks for the review.

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    1. Thanks, Anna! You sound like the kind of person that Quinn wrote this book for: someone who likes art and wants to try their hand at it, but doesn't actually consider herself an artist. I do highly recommend it and I hope that you will check it out.

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