What is an Extreme Visual Journal?
What is the difference between diaries, art journals, travel journals, scrapbooking
and memory making, sketchbooks, altered books, artist books, and Extreme Visual Journals? Some of these terms are very
specific and have their own definitions, while others can be used interchangeably. I have a unique definition for the
process I have developed and teach, and use the term Extreme Visual Journals as the container for that process.
An Extreme Visual Journal is a blank book, sketchbook, altered book, scroll, used scrapbook, antique photo album, classical
record set, a well traveled atlas, a worn wallet with pages stapled in, antique handkerchiefs sewn together, or any other
form that might be considered or used as a book. These Extreme Visual Journals come in all shapes and sizes with rice
paper, Bristol paper, watercolor paper, old ledger paper, graph paper, notebook paper, glittery paper, painted paper, whatever
anyone can imagine.
What makes these books Extreme Visual Journals is the act
of combining journal writing assignments such as non-dominant handwriting, letter writing, Declarations of Independence, lists,
dreams, word associations, etc. with art making assignments such as collage, drawing and painting, old photos, rubber stamping,
totem/fetish creating, and various mixed media techniques to create a unique book of self expression. In an Extreme
Visual Journal, we are after the rich interior. We are concerned with our own and unique inner, ancient wisdom.
We want to find our voice, our style, and our flair for life by documenting our past, present and future in a book.
We are NOT concerned with making art. We are NOT concerned with a product or pretty picture. We want to know how
to unfold and in that moment, there is remarkable beauty on the page we did not know we possessed.
For Your Eyes Only
An Extreme Visual Journal is, in fact, a journal.
So if your book is something you show to all your friends to prove what a great artist you are, it’s probably not an
Extreme Visual Journal. Your book houses your vulnerability and it is not safe with everyone. You should feel
a tinge of uncertainty like, “yes you can look at that but don’t read this part or no, wait a minute, maybe not
that page...“ You should feel protective of your book’s incomplete images, meanderings, ramblings, highs,
lows, angry scribbles, elated paintings and just plain ugly pages like it is your own child. It is. We are talking
about the awakening or birth of your authentic self. Our Extreme Visual Journal is her safe house. You don’t have
to wear make up, the right outfit, or impress your imaginary audience. Your book is your witness protection program where
you can go and truly be yourself. This is the book that doesn’t need no damn embellishment or perfection. It is
perfect in its natural state. It is the one place we can go that no one else needs to know about, see or get. This is
our private place. A soul filling place.
I read recently that the artist Jean Debuffet said never to speak unkindly in front
of your paintings. They are little children, and your harsh words hurt them deeply. This is the same attitude
we must have for our journals. They ask for our compassion as we reach into our internal primordial ooze and pull out
signs of life so that we may tell our stories through words and images.
Rites of Passage: A Personal Mythology
The book as container is an integral part of the Extreme Visual Journaling process.
It is important to develop this series of self in order to tell the tale of our existence: our own personal mythology.
And contrary to any beliefs you may hold about yourself, what is dormant or hiding inside you is as meaningful as the stories
the ancients told, as powerful as Homer’s Odyssey or the abduction of Persephone. The heroine’s journey,
the journey to the underworld and back, are all paths of initiation. The Extreme Visual Journal allows us to document these
initiatory rites of passage and growth and give name and meaning to them by deciphering their clues and symbols, just like
learning to understand ancient myths, fairytales, or fables.
Choosing A Book
To get started, you’ll need
to find a book...Think of some things that could be used to house your art and words in a book format…Don’t worry,
you can always start another, and another ...
*Michelle loves old scrapbooks, photo albums and baby books from thrift
stores and garage sales. The paper is
so old and brittle and just disintegrates while she’s working on it.
She loves the painstaking process of taping all
the black pages back together with black electrical tape- it reclaims
the book as her own. It’s her way of
developing an intimate relationship with her book.
an issue of her favorite magazine and redecorated it with her favorite things, complete
with a table of contents
to make her own magazine about all the things she loves.
*One student has volumes and volumes of those black speckled
notebooks with lined paper. She has them a
ll on a shelf: volume 3, volume 15, on and on. The consistency
of book form en masse is quite a sight.
*Mary keeps a dream journal, Carol works in two books: her night book-
with black pages and
those images more suitable for the dark, and her day book- those images and ideas more easily shown
in the light.
*Kim keeps a Punk Rock journal of the posters of all the concerts she goes to and then covers everything
in packing tape
*Amy used a large Atlas to house her visions- the title was All Roads Lead to the Center.
found a very large art table book on Buddhism at a local library sale to tell her story
by going boldly into a book
that others might hesitate to work in.
*What about CD plastic covers glued together, a scroll, all your junk mail
sewn together, wow!
it’s really endless how many book forms we can come up with...
Your book is an extension of YOU.
Pick it up. How does it feel? Put your hands around it, touch the pages- it must feel right - like an old friend,
or a new one you instantly fall in love with. Will it be leather bound-do you imagine your story to be an Out of Africa
or an Indiana Jones Discovery Book? Should you alter Grandma’s old cookbook, or even your own baby book?
Should it be brand new, pristine, a clean slate to begin your journey fresh? Only you can decide.
Developing a Relationship with the Self
The Extreme Visual Journal allows us to develop a relationship with the self through the
development of the relationship with our books. So it really doesn’t matter what form the book takes or what
kind of paper it is made with or how thick or how thin. It is important that you choose the book that seems to choose
you, for whatever reason. And then learn to work within that divine framework, and persevere in solving the problems
that arise. Your book is asking something
of you. And the problems it sets up for you, or the problems you have
while working in it, are actually important
steps you need to take to get to know yourself better.
The Extreme Visual
Journal is a metaphor for self. By combining journal writing with artwork, we are simultaneously accessing both the
left and right hemispheres of our brain for deeper introspection. By encouraging discourse between
self and our ancient, animal or visual self, we are creating a dialogue between our conscious self and the unconscious, shadow, psyche,
or soul, whatever term or label you relate to. When they meet on the page, and begin to talk about their worlds, a unique
thing occurs: the medicine or salve for transformation presents itself. Working in this compassionate way is where we
find the healing. In the safety of our pages, nothing is to be rejected. The Extreme Visual Journal makes space for
all our beauty and beast. And there, shining up at us from the light of the page, we welcome and forgive all aspects of the
self to encourage harmony.
Books, historically, have been sacred. So it is by working in an intimate manner
with a book that we develop a preciousness of self. There is a ritualistic aspect to opening and closing a book:
opening a book says I am here, I am ready to receive, and takes us into the world of unknowns where all sense of time
disappears. Closing the book says I am ready to return to the known world.
Visual Journaling is active meditation: A Spiritual Quest
Protect your journals from those who would harm its vision.
Jule’s Journal Rules:
1. Date everything including year.
tear anything out -otherwise you are responding to your critic- bad art- not good enough and that kind
of attitude does
not create safety for the self we are trying to welcome. Our journal is like a dream- it has symbols
for us to
decode. Give your image some time and then have a dialogue with it- such as why are you so uncomfortable
you can even ask it why it’s ugly. And then you can always paint over it. An Extreme Visual Journal is
more concerned with gathering information- not creating great art or writing something profound- save that for your
books. And you will be surprised at what happens when you aren’t even trying.
3. I like to sign everything
and give it a title- that kind of sums it all up for me and creates closure.
Welcome, to the