The Journey of Journalling

Yesterday I went to a panel discussion at Metro Arts with New York artist Barbara Rosenthal and two Brisbane artists Bonnie Hart and Dhana Merrit. Barbara is an avant-garde, mixed media artist with over 70 volumes of art diaries. Extracts from her journals have been collated and published as artists’ books.

Barbara Rosenthal at Metro Arts

The discussion was about how artists use diaries from observations to inspirations. The talk resonated with me because I’m exploring critical reflection as a way of documenting my studio process. It occurred to me that although my blog is meant to be reflective, I am writing for a public space. My voice is completely different and the content has been edited and censored compare to how I write in my art diary knowing that I’m in a private space.

Barbara talked about the spontaneity and that instant moment of inspiration that happens when you connect pen to paper. What I scribble in my art diary are disjointed kernels of truth. It takes time to connect the dots and make sense of my ideas. This is the stage where I try to create a blog piece to try and articulate these connections.

Before the talk, I’ve never thought of journaling as a meaningful journey in itself. It was always just a process of reaching an artistic artefact. Barbara showed photos of her chests of journals over a fifty year period starting from when she was in junior high. They weren’t all drawings based on art projects. Some were dream journals and others were bits of poems she’d heard or  observations about life. She spoke reverently about her love of buying a new journal and the sadness she felt when she lost a particular volume on an art tour. You could totally tell that in a house fire, she’d be rescuing that chest of art journals before family member (which is very cool in a way, if solipsistic).

I don’t actually like avant-garde art but Barbara’s so inspirational and she has wonderful frizzy hair. Here is a link to her website:

I’m now really excited about regular diary writing. Here’s a few extracts from my own unedited art diary (as I rifle through the pages, I’m aware that already I’m selective about what parts to put into the public space).




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