AJF: The Artist Interview
Hello! It’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these. And they are SO interesting, I need to get back to posting them more regularly!
Grab a cup of tea or coffee and pull up a chair. Today, we talk with another 1000 Artist Journal Pages contributor....Samantha Kira Harding.
When I first saw Kira’s journal pages, I knew that I was seeing something special. Her work really inspires me, and I knew that I just HAD to include her in 1000 AJP. She has a glorious blog, an Etsy shop and also publishes an insightful ’zine called Page by Page, which focuses on, of course, art journaling. It’s obvious she pours her heart and soul into everything she does...
Without further ado, Samantha Kira Harding:
When I began, it was to learn art. I’ve never taken an art class, and I wanted to learn how to draw and paint. My journal became a no-pressure place to experiment and play. Now, I journal as a form of decompression; throughout my day, images and colors get stuck in my head, and I find being able to put them on the page helps me to figure out what’s going on under the surface.
How did you start journaling?
-laughs- I drove my best friend crazy with all my trips to the library!
On a whim, I bought myself a Moleskine notebook, and promptly let it collect dust for a year. Bored online one night, I looked up Moleskines and found the wonderful moleskinerie.com. It opened up a whole new world for me of visual journaling. I soon found Danny Gregory, Dan Price (and the Moonlight Chronicles), Keri Smith, and many others. I found these journalers through many trips to my college library (thankfully, I went to an art school) and the Chicago Public Library.
I started to draw every single day. I took time out to REALLY see the world around me. After a bit, I pulled out my mom’s watercolors and began illustrating a few of my short stories. My journals morphed over time from a written chronicle of my life with illustrations to pages covered in color, paper scraps, and more.
What artists do you look to for inspiration?
Sabrina Ward Harrison. Defiantly. Whenever I feel empty, I say I need a little Sabrina. I could probably recite Spilling Open from memory. Also, Traci Bautista, Anahata Katkin, Christine Mason Miller, Dan Eldon, Danny Gregory, Randi Watts, Mary Ann Moss, Robert Rauschenberg and Teesha Moore.
Where do you journal?
Anywhere! While I have a studio where I paint and collage, I also have an unhealthy love of messenger bags, and they get filled with pens and crayons for journaling in public. Since I live with Fibromyalgia, I've been known to journal a lot in my recliner while watching good TV. I have also been seen journaling in a parked car, train, coffee shop, workplace, outside in the grass, with friends, on the floor, on airplanes, and the beach.
One of the things that has come with me since the beginning is this need to journal the small moments of my life — to take a look around me, put it down, and remember. One of my favorite spreads is from a sunny day at Venice Beach. Not only can I remember the feel of the rocks under my feet and the things crawling around, but when I run my hands over the pages, I can be brought back by the rubbing.
Just yesterday, I journaled in a doctor’s waiting room. I’ve even painted with my fingers in such places.
What are your favorite mediums to journal with?
There are a few things I couldn’t live without. Caran d’Ache watercolor crayons. Spray paint. Acrylic glazes. A pen and pencil. Fun, found papers. And Sharpie Poster Paint pens. You don’t really need much to journal — I regularly limit the supplies I can use so as to stretch myself.
Describe your journaling process. Do you jump around in your journal, or journal each consecutive page? Do you have to complete a journal page before starting on others, or do you have several in different stages?
Hmmm. Okay. First, I jump around. It just depends on my mood — sometimes, I want to paint the layers of a background. Other times, I want to doodle details and collage. I love having several pages in progress at the same time — however, I try to stay focused on those for a bit. I’ve found that by working on the same three or four pages for a week, small doodles, details, and bits appear because I can’t “empty” them out onto a new page. It creates this hodgepodge of images, words, and bits.
Another thing that gets pages started is if I’m working on a painting at the same time. I have this pet peeve that I can’t waste any paint, so if a mixture or glob remains after I’m finished with it on the painting, I HAVE to use it somewhere else. I’ll slap it on an un-prepped page or create a shape or something in my journal — sometimes on a page I already started or somewhere new. I just can’t let the paint go to waste!
A lot of people say they sit down with an idea already. I don’t. I journal to figure out what’s going on under the surface, so I put on music with a beat and give in to the process. It’s taken some practice, but I can now just grab at paints that spark something, throw them down. Do the same with papers and my drawings/doodles. And I might not write on the page for days...somehow, it all works out.
There’s a page in my current journal that’s all “finished” — what I mean when it's ready for writing — and all it says is, “What does this mean? What am I trying to tell myself?” Despite not being as cluttered as most of my pages, it’s one of my favorites because of what it says — and what it doesn’t.
What other art forms do you partake in and how do they influence your journaling and vice versa?
I do mixed-media paintings, journal bags, and collage jewelry. A lot of my designs start as journal pages that I refine outside the journal. I love that I don’t have to sit and think about something to paint — I have volumes of collages, drawings, and color combinations to choose from!
For example, I learned about glazes from Roben-Marie Smith while interviewing her. Unsure on how they worked, I turned to my journal and played, experimented. I used it to figure out what colors looked great layered atop one another (and which ones just don’t work!). I can then go to the canvas or bag with more confidence.
This is a new development, as I’ve become more comfortable with journaling in general. I’ve found my voice. So there are lots of things inside I want to have some more time with.
What do you recommend to those who want to start journaling but aren’t sure how?
Ease into it. While you can look to others for inspiration, don’t hold yourself up to the same level. Have more fun discovering, experimenting, and learning than in making something “pretty.” Set yourself realistic goals — this month, I’m going to play with acrylics. Or collage papers. By exploring things for set time limits, you can really stretch yourself and figure things out.
Also, whenever you are feeling down, create the worst journal page ever. EVER. Hang it on the wall. You can’t make anything worse than that, right?
Most importantly, do what works for YOU. I can’t accent with paint after backgrounds because my back can’t take more time in a chair, so I began using the watercolor crayons. This helped create an authentic voice and brought something new to the table. It works for me, and I didn’t see others doing it. Sometimes, that’s all it takes. If you’re on the road a lot, maybe tools that are easily portable will help make your pages more you. Journaling should be easy to fit into your everyday life.
It’s like learning to dive — you start at the edge of the pool, then move higher and higher. It wouldn’t make sense to start from the highest; you could get hurt or discouraged. Do your own thing.
Start with maybe a Moleskine or cheap sketchbook so you’re not intimidated by your surface. A lot of people go on and on about that nice hot press watercolor paper, but whenever I used it, I felt like I had to make a journal page “worthy” of such expensive paper; I lost the free feeling of play and being able to make mistakes. Get the cheap acrylics, crayons, etc. My mother, an artist for years, swears by Crayola colored pencils. Expensive supplies do not mean better art.
What has journaling done for you personally?
Completely changed my life!
I was working on creating some new collage sheets from my journal pages this afternoon in the local Starbucks. One of the baristas was walking around to open the sun shades and caught sight of my cut-outs. She complimented my work; I explained what I was doing.
“I’m not creative at all. All I can draw are stick figures,” she said.
I smiled. “That was me three years ago. I couldn’t draw a thing. I had to teach myself how to paint.”
She remarked that a friend of hers said it was all about practice, and I agreed. “I’m living proof!”
“Now I’ve met someone who is!” she said before walking away.
Three years ago, I was a writer who never believed she could draw anything. Who’d never touched acrylic paints or collaged a thing in her life. Practice and a love of a full journal — with paint on the edges and covers that don’t stay closed — has me now living as a full-time artist, publishing a ’zine, and teaching others.
I take life slower. Appreciate the little things. I lead a more soulful and full life than when I worked in an office and dreamed small. Anything is possible!
Journaling seems to be trendy right now—do you see yourself journaling long after the fad is gone? Why or why not?
Hell, yeah!!! I love it too much. I’ve discovered so many things about myself, have become more happy and spiritual, and met so many people, I could never give it up. Journaling is much more than a popular art form to me — it is a daily practice I need in order to clear my head and figure things out. Plus, I’ve always been an office supply/art supply junkie...now I just have a reason to go drool over more stuff! -grin-
What do you see for the future of art journaling?
I hope to see it expand into mainstream life. While my physical heath has not gotten drastically better since taking up journaling, my mental, emotional, and spiritual health have improved leaps and bounds. Dealing with a disability has become so much easier, and I’m usually the one who sees the silver lining in every situation.
I want to spread this joy and love of life, this improvement of areas so many suffer in, to everyone. To troubled teens and stressed managers. To stay-at-home moms and dads. There is so much to gain from journaling, from getting in touch with your subconscious, from playing with paints, that I hope and pray others discover it and make it daily practices.
As more and more people discover it and it gets more attention as an art form, I can only see things growing from here. When I started, there were a handful of books and blogs on the topic — now there are hundreds. Soon, journals will be in glass cases next to the masterpieces of our time in the museums. A soul laid bare.
We can all dream, wish, pray, and hope. And from personal experience, that’s all it takes.
Thank you so much, Kira, for sharing your process and thoughts about art journaling! I’m sure we’ll be seing A LOT more of Kira’s pages in the future.
Have a GREAT Friday!