10 reasons why art journaling is BAD for women

OK – odd title for someone who has recently proclaimed love for this form –  but bear with me here. Let me explain myself a little more, before you run at me with your glitter-tipped calligraphy pens!

I am admittedly a little slow on the uptake here, as art journaling (do check out my Pinterest board, to see the sort of stuff that I love… and that drives me nuts all at the same time) has been hot stuff for the past few years now. I have been a little preoccupied with something called “having babies” to be a fully signed up embossing goddess complete with heat gun and die cutter.

I have just started art journalling, having gotten over my fear of the unknown and taking part in a uber creative women’s course at – wait for it, y’all – the Cosmic Cowgirls University!!!! (Where else but on the interweb!)

There is so much I want to love, even do love about the CONCEPT of art journaling. I’m loving doodling, drawing and adding paint to my journal. I love adding color and images. I love freeing myself up from just writing – the creative mind and subconscious adore to have less linear forms of expression.


and this is a big but (t!!!)…

The more examples of it I see out there, the more I get this sick feeling in my stomach. It suddenly occurred to me that art journaling, whilst an art form that seeks self expression and is propounded by well-meaning women as a form of much needed “therapy” for so many women, is actually NOT a good thing, and here’s why…

1) It’s all so cutesy – we’re women, not girls… yet art journaling fashions seem to be creating a Disnification of our imagery and feelings, endless cute little girls and hearts and butterflies.

2) It’s material intensive – which costs lots of money and gets women into building up stashes, not that different to building up wardrobes or make up collections, it just another way of commodifying women’s desire for beauty.

3) It’s time intensive – art journaling techniques take a long time to create something personal – taking time that could be used for more “productive” creativity, creativity that can make you money, that you can hang on your wall, give to your friend… put your work out there ladies, rather than keeping it all in your journals.

4) They don’t seem about writing – in fact many of the techniques I have seen suggest gessoing over your writing and just using a couple of pithy phrases – as though the words don’t matter.

5)Journals are supposed to be private – art journals seem made for show – and therefore lack real depth.

6) So much of the “wisdom” in them is trite Facebook type quotes, nice aphorisms that don’t hold much personal truth.

7) It’s very “perfectionist” – the lettering, images etc are all “perfect”, not doodles or works in progress.

8) Homogenity – journals are supposed to be individual expressions of our inner journey – most art journaling is not.

9) Self-absorption – spending THAT much time obsessing with your diary aint healthy. There’s a whole world out there.

10) Have I mentioned all the hearts and flowers and cutesy girls? They REALLY get me. We are more than that.

In sum, my problem is this: that much art journaling seems to keep women small, rather than supporting them in their bigness. It seeks to prettify, rather than encourage the messy and the true. It seeks to commodify, and to nicen a woman’s voice. This makes me very uncomfortable. But let me state here, that it may well not be the teachers of this art, but women doing this TO THEMSELVES. They are so used to making things good, happy, nice and right, that nothing else is deemed possible or desirable…

In my view, women’s journals should be… (ouch, I know, “should”, but, in for a penny, in for a pound)…

1) Personal

2) Exploratory

3) Allowed to be messy

4) Places for questions, more than answers

5) Full of real women’s imagery (see my board on feminine symbology)

6) Full of real women’s words, thoughts and feelings…

7) Places for speaking the unspeakable, thinking the unthinkable, drawing the taboo, challenging our own status quo, deep inquiry…

8) They should be places where women get to be women – not little girls.

9) Private – although I’m going to break that rule, as all the images in this post are from my journal!

(Did you spot the vagina? Do you think I got away with it?!!!!)

Rant over.

Your thoughts? Has art journaling saved your life, or is it all a bit twee? Is it keeping women small and girly, rather than helping to empower them?

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  1. Robyn Rimell
    Robyn Rimell08-01-2014

    I too am struggling with having discovered something that seems to welcome the evolution of a personal playfulness and freedom to be creative, that now has me in the grip of constant comparison with other ‘art journallers’ out there. I have a full time and demanding job, but in my down time am feeling a kind of tyranny to journal. Constantly on line searching for prompts and inspiration keep me from actually doing anything meaningful. Everything is devolving into something derivative. I’m loosing myself for the want of finding a way to be more myself

    • lucyhpearce

      🙂 Glad I’m not alone in this, Robyn. Thanks for stopping by.

  2. Tanisha

    Hello! I am an avid art journalist and a teen. 15 years old to be exact.
    My initial reaction to the title was one of pure indignation, owing to the practiced passionate speech i give about my hobby and what it really entails.

    I understand and relate to the fact that the art journal examples out there on the internet don’t actually reflect the artist’s feelings or emotions at all! they’re simply pretty pieces of art contained in a journal. Where are the deep emotions? The unpleasantness that we keep bottled inside us? why doesn’t our work reflect that?

    Recently, i chose to start my own blog that showcases my art journal and found myself being rather judgemental of my work, occasionally thinking thoughts like, ‘no, that isn’t pretty…its too messy’ or ‘the writing isn’t even and the lettering sucks.’

    Well, i have learnt my lesson… don’t refer to someone else’s journal on the internet and take cues from them, because the whole point of keeping an art journal is lost! a woman’s art journal (or any ones for that matter) is to transcend the barriers of aesthetics while proving as a mirror and a record of one’s own personal growth over time!

    Well, i wouldnt want to stop art journaling…but just put more effort to make sure that in the end, it reflects me and not some one else entirely.

    • lucyhpearce

      Absolutely, more power to you Tanisha, that is my point entirely – that an art journal is an expression of YOU – mess and all, not another way to conform prettily.

  3. SusanJane

    I totally get the rant part of this!!! But sigh I KNOW but that does piss me off that art journaling is so often SOLD as being this or that or some poop you have to copy or else. After ranting about this and the other things you cover here I’ve finally boiled this down to there being creative impulse made real by making personal choices. I choose to put my art in book forms. Some put it on canvas or on the wall of the subway. After that I put whatever I want in my book. IF someone else wants to only put X or Y or Z that’s their choice. My choice may not be the same as yours. If I were a painter who used watercolors only working outdoors featuring wildlife, that might be your choice but its not mine. I am not BAD or any other judgement because I don’t do watercolor plein aire. If someone needs art journaling rules there are plenty out there. If you need oil painting rules there are way more. PLEASE do your own work. PLEASE speak your of words. PLEASE use what you have and what you can afford. I am not you. Make your own choices.

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