One day I received an envelope from the Art House Co-op, which owns and manages The Brooklyn Art Library gallery in New York. I had applied to participate in their annual Sketchbook Project, which allows people from all over the world to create their writing and art in “sketchbooks.” Expecting an artist’s book with thick pages, I was surprised to find a small blank Moleskine journal in the envelope.
Since I had never completed a full artist’s book before, I needed inspiration—some creative spark—to get started. Created in the 1990s, Moleskine was based on the iconic black hardcover journals used by famous artists and writers, such as van Gogh, Picasso, and Hemingway, in their travels. Like these artists, I could showcase my work in a journal, but unlike them, my travels would take place in my imagination.
I stared at the journal and thought about how I was going to create my art in about half the size I was used to working with (this Moleskine was 5 x 8.25 inches). I could use any medium as long as the journal maintained the same dimensions when closed. (Some people in the past got around this restriction by creating poster-size pages that worked like fold-out maps.) I was determined to honor the tradition of using the Moleskine as a journal and not as an altered book.
The journal itself—a large plain Cahier—was simply a cardboard cover with stitching down the spine, and 40 blank sheets (80 pages) inside. On the front inside cover was an “Art House Library” pocket, with an inserted card. The card said “Shh… this is a library.” My name, location, a theme that I selected from a list (“Outside of myself”), barcode, and online location for my journal were printed on the inside back cover.
I named the journal “Beside Myself” with the subtitle “modern life, nature, and everything else in between.” I wanted to review and provide commentary on what I had learned so far about art and life. I would pretend to be my doppelgänger looking over my shoulder while I worked.
I created a series of drawings and gave them playful names such as: my brain on art; unisex head and Warhol sketch; my favorite soap and emoto phone; one continuous puzzle and protection against the evil eye; heart is where the home is and heart coral; life is a maze and play the game of life; and odd couple Norma Desmond and Bozo the Clown.
In this journal, I included a range of media: prints, etchings, screenprints, and mixed-media art, using ink, colored pencils, paint, digital media, glue, tape, and acrylic medium. I then applied a fixative spray to each page so that the pages would not stick together. The pages remained intact and sturdy no matter what I did with them.
As I worked with my journal, I noticed that it was developing into a living thing – a personification of my creativity and an expression of my inner spirit. It was a sad day when I had to mail back my Moleskine journal, but I knew that it would continue to live on in my heart and in the “cloud.”
Meet the Writer: Amy A. Rudberg is a freelance writer/blogger and artist who lives and works in Chicago. Her interests include papermaking, printmaking, mixed media, and digital art.