The Life Cycle of An Art Journal

traci bunkers art journaling stages
In Pages, Traci Bunkers walks you through
the stages of an art journal spread.

cate pratoWhen I was learning the life cycle of a butterfly at a tender age, I found it fascinating to watch phase one, as the fuzzy (and rather creepy) caterpillar munching away on leaves.

And the emerging butterfly in phase three was a breathtaking sight to behold.

But the cocoon phase? Bo-ring! Lots of time sitting around and waiting, with nothing to see.

What I didn't realize at the time was that the intermediate cocoon phase is where the magic of metamorphosis really happens.

I have a tendency to view my art projects the same way. The beginning phase where I come up with the idea (Hey, I'd like to be a Monarch butterfly!) and pull all my resources together (I'll need black and orange paint and markers, maybe some tissue paper or fabric, gel medium and found objects . . .) is very exciting.

The final phase (Hey, check out this gorgeousness I made by myself!) is full of satisfaction and self-admiration.

The middle part, translating the idea and supplies into the work of art, is where I often get frustrated and lose interest. I suppose it's because although the additions of layers and marks will ultimately lead to my goal, they don't seem like much while I'm working on them.

But, as with the butterfly, this intermediate phase is where the magic happens.

Take art journaling. When we see someone else's art journal, we are immediately attracted to the focal images and text. Then we might wonder what kinds of materials the artist used to get her effects.

When I'm working in my personal art journal, I always want to rush to that butterfly stage, putting down a focal image as soon as possible. But I've discovered that without that intermediate cocoon stage where I lay down layers that you may not even see in the end result, the metamorphosis will usually not be complete.

bunkers art journal
Traci's finished art journal spread.

Artist Traci Bunkers is a wizard at transforming art supplies into art journal pages that take flight.

Most of her "work" is in the cocoon phase, as you can see in these stages from her article "The Life of an Art Journal: The Story of One Artist's Process," in Cloth Paper Scissors' special issue on art journaling and bookmaking, Pages.

Here are some of Traci's tips for a successful metamorphosis.

  • Don't get bogged down in trying to find the right picture or piece of ephemera or art supply to add to a page.
  • It isn't about making a pretty picture or creating a great piece of art.
  • Don't have a preconceived idea of what you're going to do before you start.
  • Use the products, items, and techniques you are drawn to.

Which brings me back to my original point: It may not seem exciting, but the cocoon phase is the most important part of the life cycle. Give your art the time it needs to develop and unfold. When the butterfly eventually emerges, it will be more beautiful than you ever imagined it could be.

You'll find more inspiration and techniques for all phases of your art journaling and bookmaking projects in Pages.

P.S. Are you like me, or do you relish the "cocoon" phase of an art journal or other project? What's your favorite stage in the life cycle of an art project?


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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