Abstract Imagery & Symbolism in Art Journals

"If I choose abstraction over reality,
it is because I consider it the lesser chaos."
Robert Brault

The patterns, materials, images, words, colors & ephemera that you choose to utilize on your pages may convey concepts that you might not be able to put into words. I find that if I allow myself to follow a hunch, an inkling, intuition instead of forcing a particular result, I wind up with pages that I find more intriguing.

I often take a little break and voyage back, through the art journal time travel lens, look at older pages and find stories that I'd missed.

I don't think it's magic or other-worldly or anything like that, but themes often emerge while I am working on a page. Maybe not until the last collage element, when a word from an earlier layer appears adjacent to an image... or when I flip through a journal years later! The individual elements or the composition might make sense on a deeper level.

Langer, an art philosopher, explains that form is comprised of the visual, structural elements of the artwork such as color, line, composition, etc. Artistic form may be used to represent internal feeling in a structural way. Form is the structure of the art, and it is this structure to which we respond when we view, hear, or otherwise experience it. It is the form and structure of art that conveys the feelings of the artist. {Source: Journal of Clinical Art Therapy}


abstract imagery & symbolism in your art journal
acrylics on Amatepaper, mexican folk art

acrylics on Amatepaper, mexican folk art

"I trust the symbol that is arrived at in the making of the painting. Meaningful symbols aren't invented as such, they are made or discovered as symbol later."
Richard Diebenkorn

We can create emotional, evocative, symbolic, mysterious imagery by nurturing a sense of play, a sense of noticing, of mindfulness, while we work. A page doesn't need to have any symbolism or symbolic meaning whatsoever! It's fun to build on the little good things, little mini-compositions within the page. To see it all with a sense of curiosity rather than judgement as to whether it is good/bad. It's a process that unfolds as you go.

Photo Dec 14, 9 54 13 AM.jpg

sym-bol-ism, (smb-lzm), noun

  1. The practice of representing things by means of symbols or of attributing symbolic meanings or significance to objects, events, or relationships.
  2. A system of symbols or representations.
  3. A symbolic meaning or representation.
  4. Revelation or suggestion of intangible conditions or truths by artistic invention.

The American HeritageĀ® Dictionary of the English Language.

"All art is at once surface and symbol."
Oscar Wilde

So what do you think? Do you intentionally build symbolic elements into your pages, or do they appear later? Have you learned or better understood something because of an art journal page? Do you go back and look at your earlier work to see what you can learn? Are there any stories that come to light? Do you look at those stories or themes literally, figuratively, magically, mysteriously, emotionally, melodramatically...?

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