Archive for the ‘J Willenbecher’ Category

Journal Collage  |  First Page

Thursday, February 21st, 2013

“At first I put anything and everything in — phone numbers, appointments, grocery lists, in addition to things related to what I was thinking about for my work. Over the years the contents have become a shade more formal, and much more visual. There’s less of my hand (in the sense of sketches and drawings), more reliance on found material. But I’ve tried to keep the whole thing as loose and freewheeling as possible.”
— John Willenbecher

When I was 21, I had a single conversation with a man named Henry who boarded at the Cincinnati house where I lived. He seemed much older at the time, but I would guess now that he was barely 25. What I took away from that one exchange was Henry’s strong conviction that I should start a journal, as he had done several years before. Heeding his invaluable advice, I kept an active journal close at hand from that point forward. At first, it was just words, because I already had various sketchbooks as a student. Eventually, it became a comprehensive repository for personal notes, musings, doodles, and thumbnail ideas. As time passed, the content took on more of the character of visual exploration, with whole pages devoted to spontaneous collage experiments and studies for what might or might not lead to a finished artwork. I discovered that John Wllenbecher and others were calling their volumes “commonplace books,” a term more strictly applied to a “verbal scrapbook.” For some reason, mine also seemed a bit large for that particular name (sometimes 11 x 14, but most often 8.5 x 11), and so I’ve always continued to think of them as my journals. In combination with the many hundreds of handmade greeting cards I’ve created over the same period of time (nearly 40 years now), these private “chronicles” have served as the primary incubator for my work as a collage artist.

Untitled (Library Use Only)
journal collage by J A Dixon
8.5 x 11 inches, not for sale

Safe from importance and finality

Wednesday, October 17th, 2012

“Success is the sum of small efforts, repeated day in and day out.”
— Robert Collier

“Sometimes when I consider what tremendous consequences come from little things … I am tempted to think … there are no little things.”
— Ralph Waldo Emerson

As much as I realize how vital it is to study and experiment without preconceived visual notions or tangential aims, it is a rare thing for me to produce a collage without some underlying motivation, whether it be an eventual offer to sell or a simple desire to display the work through social networks or a site such as this. It is, however, important to devise, apart from distracting intentions, some ongoing method of keeping one’s rhythm of composing material for its own sake, in order to reveal and sustain a process of pure discovery. It is not as though some artists are better at this than others. I see it more as a matter of momentum.

Perhaps musicians are more attuned to this, although it is always foolhardy to generalize. They seem to possess an innate understanding of and appreciation for distinct activities— creating, practicing, jamming, performing —that derive from a more collaborative tradition than the visual arts. I admire artists who don’t have to trick themselves into engaging in strictly private, personally unique investigations. To develop and internalize this kind of work ethic— to be able to honestly tell oneself that nobody ever needs to see the product, that it never needs to be held up to evaluation or approval —is one of the most valuable qualities an artist can achieve. This involves resisting the desire to immediately display our incremental output. It means creating a framework we can use for real exploration, and, in the words of John Willenbecher, “try things out, put things down safe from importance and finality.” There is often a fine line between true worth and mere preciousness. Artists who have refined their creative process know the difference.

Blog Jam by J A Dixon

Blog Jam
collage miniature by J A Dixon
3 x 3 inches, not for sale