An Art Journal Q&A by Dawn DeVries Sokol
This month, Dawn interviews Brian Kasstle, an artist from Long Beach, California.
I first had the pleasure of becoming acquainted with Brian and his art journal pages when he took one of my online workshops. Since then, I have watched his style evolve greatly. You can see his influences in his journal pages, but he definitely maintains his own voice. His pages are raw, edgy, and vividly colorful. He recently taught a workshop at Journalfest and is looking forward to teaching at other venues. Without further ado, Brian Kasstle…
Why art journaling?
I love that art journals are, by their nature, very personal. When you hold the journal, it creates an intimate experience between the artist and the viewer. I love the experience of touching pages, exploring little folders, tabs, touching the pages and textures. You can close the book, and unless you change the outward appearance of the journal it looks like any other book. I also love the ease in transporting your journal and your journal materials—you can journal just about anywhere at any time.
What inspired you to start art journaling?
I started about three years ago. I was yearning for a creative outlet. I started out doing scrapbooking and I realized what I really enjoyed was the paper. (It is really about the paper for me.) I love all kinds of paper: vintage paper, new paper scrapbook paper, ledgers, books. I love to look at blogs. I found a few blogs about art journaling and some online classes from Mary Ann Moss and I was hooked. I did an online search for local art journaling classes here in Los Angeles and happened upon Orly Avineri. I have since taken classes from her and we have become good friends. She has encouraged and challenged me a lot. It is because of her prodding that I am now teaching. I met Teesha and Tracy Moore through Orly, and I recently taught at their wonderful Journalfest. Teesha and Tracy are so supportive and wonderful. I think art journaling is still very small in it’s infancy; it has a long way to go. We are a small group of wonderful people. I have met the most supportive, passionate, talented group of people through art journaling. Talk to any art journaler and they are very passionate and connected to their journals. I worked for a year to complete my 11.5 in. x 16.5 in. Moleskine journal and it is finished. Believe me, if there was a fire in my home I would be taking that with me. It means so very much to me. I started out in small Moleskines and at Orly’s prodding—she said, “You’re a guy, you work BIG, you need a bigger journal.”—I’ve learned over time I work in my large Moleskine when I have more time to develop a spread at home, more time to work on a larger piece. I also work in a smaller 7 in. x 9 in. journal for classes and at events. Currently, I have about five journals of various sizes going, including my Rolodex journal, several handmade journals and also a journal I made with Tracy Moore at their PLAY retreat that is very special and personal to me; that is my everyday journal.
One of the things I am most passionate about is that art journaling is NOT a craft, it is an art, we are artists. It pains me that art journaling is found in the crafts department in bookstores. We deserve respect as artists.
What art journalers are your faves?
Gil Avineri (Orly’s nephew)
Tracy Moore (His big chunky journals are amazing)
Other artists you look to for inspiration?
Also, I live where I see a lot of graffiti art. Graffiti inspires me.
I also have a tumblr account. I think of my tumblr account like a giant inspiration board. There are literally hundreds of artists I find inspiring and I keep them all there.
My Tumblr account: http://artistjournals.tumblr.com/
What important bit of advice can you give to those wanting to start art journaling? START!!! Journal and art journal often. What separates you and X, Y or Z artist is they have done it a while. Give yourself time, be patient. Explore, take a class be it online or in person. Yes, they are expensive; pick and choose, do a bit of research. They are worth it. Start your own art-journaling group. Everyone makes choices about how they spend their time. I do my art journaling a bit at a time. In a week’s time it is amazing what you can do a little at a time. Also don’t compare you work to X, Y, or Z artist. Find your own style, listen to your inner voice. It is there; be patient and kind to yourself. Don’t tear out pages you don’t like. I find that when I go back and look at the pages I did at the beginning of my journey, they have deep meaning for me. I love them later on. I may not remember what they meant when I did them but looking back I have “WOW” moments. Try out different mediums—play. It’s your journal. Make mistakes, take notes, but the main thing I would say is art journal and do it often. Inspiration is everywhere. Use your own life—use those frustrations, and events of your life.
Tell us a little about your process. What mediums do you like to use?
I think of my journals as my story, and my spreads are very autobiographical. My pages are about me. I get ideas all the time: in the shower, driving, gardening. I email myself ideas, thoughts, phrases that come to me throughout the day, and I use these in my work. You might not even see them but they are there and I know they are there, hidden, or in a corner. It might be a song verse or title or a quote I hear. I love vintage images. I tend to start there. I am one of those “more is better” artists. I love layers of paint, paper and images. I’ll start out with some vintage images, paint, gesso, and crackle paste and layer it on. I also like sandpaper. I love the way the page feels after it has been sanded down and other layers show through.
Do you also have other ways you like to create, and if so, what are they?
We have an old house. I love to work on my house. I love to garden. I love to cook. I love to do a lot at once. I think it all contributes to me as a creative person. I tend to get bored easily. I enjoy having a lot going on at once. I’ll work in my garden, do some art journaling, and also make dinner all in the same afternoon.
Do you think art journaling is a primarily female art form? Why or why not?
Not at all. I just think that many men have not caught on to art journaling. At Journalfest this year, there were about four to five other men there as well. I was teaching along with Dan Essig, another amazing artist. Men don’t come to these retreats because much of the classes are geared toward women, much of the subject matter tends to be more feminine. Guys like techniques, grungy stuff, making journals. Many women also enjoy techniques and the grungy aspect as well. The men I’ve met that art journal are very enthusiastic for it. I’ve taken a journal-making class from Tracy Moore that was so amazing and still inspires me. I really wish he would teach at more events.
The people I have encountered at classes and retreats are so supportive and interested in learning and viewing each other’s work. It’s been such a rewarding experience meeting so many creative, supportive artists. I have made so many wonderful friends.
How do you explain art journaling to someone who isn’t familiar with it?
I think of art journaling as a visual diary. Each spread for me is an expression of my vision of life or a subject I am dealing with. I prefer to leave the interpretation up to the viewer. I know what I am trying to express, but what does this say to you, the viewer?
Where do you see art journaling taking you?
Art journaling has already taken me many places. I am now teaching art journaling up here in Washington. I have plans to teach in other places and venues. I also have some other projects that I am working on that I can’t yet publicize. Check my blog for further updates.
MORE RESOURCES FOR MIXED MEDIA ARTISTS