Artist Spotlight

How embracing the mess of art journaling makes Lauren Caterson feel grounded

Why do you love art journaling?

I love it because it feels good to have something that’s just about the process – the results really don’t matter at all. It’s very grounding for me. Since joining Get Messy I’ve been using my art journals to work through problems or explore issues that have been on my mind, which has been very helpful. Although really, I love art journaling because I love playing with paper & glue – just the physical act of cutting and pasting.

Describe your art journaling process?

I usually start rummaging through my box of scrap paper & magazines, piling things up and then laying them out on the page to see what works. Sometimes it ends up going in a completely different direction than what I had in mind at the beginning. Once I like it, I start cutting things & gluing them down. I’m kind of messy & a bit impatient when I work, so not everything ends up laying down exactly where I had planned, but I like having a space for that kind of mess in my life.

What tips do you have for beginners?

Don’t be scared, just do it. I know this is such a common answer, but that’s because it’s true! And keep at it, don’t get discouraged – it takes a while to find out what you like, to find your own style. Just try everything out. In the beginning, I made a lot of pages I really didn’t like (& I still make pages I’m not very fond of), but it doesn’t matter – that’s how you learn. You keep trying new things, seeing what you like or don’t like, and then eventually you come around to your own style.

What do you do when you don’t know what to make?

Sometimes it’s best if I just force myself to go work on a page. It doesn’t matter if I make something quite crappy, just as long as I make something. And if I can’t think of how to start, then I make myself pick a prompt from somewhere (any prompt, it doesn’t even matter if I like it or not) & just follow it. Or pick a page of an artist that I admire and try to replicate that – just something to get myself moving on a page again.

What are your must-have supplies? What is your journal of choice?

Well, I think if it were necessary, I could survive with nothing but paper and scissors and glue! But I also like to have washi tape, alphabet stencils, embossing labeler, various bits of ephemera, lots of magazines & catalogs, graph paper, security envelopes, pages from books, and my long-reach stapler. I really, really love my long-reach stapler.
I don’t actually use anything fancy for the journals themselves. Most of the original paper gets covered anyway, and I don’t use paint very often – so almost any notebook will do. And I don’t mind if the paper crinkles up, or buckles, because I like my art journals to be a bit untidy. For my Get Messy art journal, I cut up some cheap card stock (just because that’s what I had on hand) and used Arc discs from Staples to bind it because I wanted to be able to take these pages out of the book to work on.

How do you choose the ephemera that goes into your pages?

It depends. Somedays I go in with no plan – I just start pulling out what appeals to me, laying things down on paper & see what comes of it. Other times I already have an idea of what I want to do, or a color or design idea I want to try, and so I go looking for bits & bobs that go along with what I have in mind.

How do you use the GM prompts versus coming up with your own ideas?

I really like using the Get Messy prompts. In the past I’ve used a writing journal to get things off my mind – I’m finding it so interesting to see what happens when I work them out through art instead. And sometimes the prompts bring up things I’d like to examine further, so I’ll go off on that path for a while. Sometimes I’ve seen some new technique I want to mess about with, or I just want to play with paper and glue without any thoughts at all.

How do you know when a page is ‘done’?

I’m not sure how to answer that one – it’s sort of a gut feeling, which isn’t very explanatory. Although actually, sometimes I stop when I’ve run out of steam – it’s not necessarily that the page couldn’t use something more, but I’m just kind of done with it. I always tell myself that I can come back and add more later if I want, though I’ve never actually done that.

How would you describe your signature style? What are the things that each page MUST have in it?

Hmmm. I think sometimes it’s hard to describe your own signature style. I mostly work in collage – nearly all my pages have some sort of words or text on them. I like to catalogue things, and I feel like my art journals, though random, are sort of an archive of all the bits & pieces & pictures that catch my eye – like a catalogue of my brain.

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Lauren Caterson

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