Visual journaling workshop marries words, mixed media art

Wingmaker Arts Collaborative offers creative outlet

by Dee Grano

Want to learn more about visual journaling? Check out “Mixed Media and Visual Journaling Basics” on Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon on June 7, 14, 21 and 28 at Wingmaker Arts Collaborative gallery and studio located at 207 W. Worthington Ave. Dee Grano/SCW photo

From the beginning of the written word, ­mankind has seen the value of putting thoughts, experiences and observations in pen. The phenomenon of “visual journaling” turns the author into an artist who uses words as well as paints, pastels and photography to express his or her inner-self.

Artist Caroline C. Brown has exhibited from New York to North Carolina, and leads visual journaling workshops at Wingmaker Arts Collaborative. “Visual journaling is not scary for beginners,” she said. “If you don’t like it, paint over it. You can’t mess up.”

Brown will teach “Mixed Media and Visual Journaling Basics” on Thursday mornings from 9:30 a.m. to noon on June 7, 14, 21 and 28 at Wingmaker Arts Collaborative gallery and studio located at 207 W. Worthington Ave. in Charlotte’s SouthEnd. Each 2.5-hour class costs $30 which includes all supplies minus the journal. No experience is necessary but registration is required. More information is available online at www.­wingmakerartscollaborative.com and www.carolinecbrown.com.

“The workshop starts with a creative writing prompt,” Brown explained. “It’s fascinating to see how everyone approaches the same idea working through it in different ways.” Each class focuses on an artistic technique: collage, applying glazes or photo transfers, using stamps and stencils. There is no public exhibition at the conclusion of the workshop, so unencumbered students can feel free to let their art get personal.

“It’s hard to make the time and space for creativity,” she said. “Here, you don’t have to worry about making a mess or buying a bunch of materials.”

“This is a great place to express yourself,” said mixed media artist Rebecca Haworth, who maintains her studio at Wingmaker Arts Collaborative. “You get an opportunity to experiment to see what you love and what you hate.”

Haworth opened Wingmaker Arts Collaborative in September 2011 and refers to it as “an evolving experiment.” The small but comfortable gallery is serene, adorned with artwork developed in the adjacent studio space. Haworth shares the space with artists Sharon Sullivan, Martha Whitfield and Karon Luddy, also a writer. The gallery is open by appointment.

Wingmaker has hosted several classes and workshops including “The Artist’s Way,” a 12-week creativity course based upon the bestselling book by Julia Cameron. Eventually Haworth hopes to offer more exhibition opportunities for students and a salon where likeminded art lovers can gather. Upcoming workshops for the fall will include “Mixed Media Botanicals” and “Mixed Media Pet Portraits,” both taught by Brown.

Haworth has observed that most creative people enjoy writing in addition to making art. Several of the educational offerings at Wingmaker focus on both. “There’s something about getting back to the written word and putting it on a page,” she said. “When the page owns it, the burden is lessened.”

Visual journaling became popular after New York-based mixed media artist Lynne Perrella wrote and released “Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages” in 2004.

She writes: “Art journals are something we create for ourselves alone – not merely a self-indulgent activity, but something worthwhile, important and vastly creative and self-revelatory. There is no pressure to make them ‘come out right,’ and the time we give to creating our personal pages, finding our authentic voice, and letting it sing is time well spent.”

Brown creates her own visual journals on the pages of repurposed books coated in gesso, a kind of primer for art projects that makes each page sturdy and ready to paint. “If you are willing to experiment and compost you can take it anywhere,” Brown said, referring to her style of work and her process of reusing and recycling. Her favorite artistic utensils include expired credit cards, car keys and bubble wrap.

Brown uses her own handmade stencils and stamps to embellish, emphasize or purposefully obscure her words. She views her journals as “visual diaries” that chronicle her life’s events. “Some days are happy,” she said. “Others are not-so-happy.”

Lynne Perrella advises: “Silence your inner critic, and begin to think of your art journal as a companion, a muse, a soul mate” (from “Artists’ Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages”).

The Visual Journal workshop at Wingmaker Arts Collaborative is a great place to begin “an evolving experiment” of your own.

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