When Words are Abandoned

Abandoned Words

A few days ago, I was checking out some cool art journaling videos by Leslie over at Comfortable Shoes Studio. I was fascinated, in particular, by one called Art Journal Technique: Sharpie Ghost, in which she demonstrates “how to hide your writing but have it be part of the final image.”

Now, I like Leslie—her pull-no-punches attitude reminds me a lot of my friend Jill—but HIDE YOUR WRITING?!?

“It’s a way to journal in your art journal and no one can see what you’ve written,” she explained about the technique.

I had the same knee-jerk reaction I have when someone tells me I don’t need a landline!

Not SEE what I’ve WRITTEN?

“So if you’ve got something particularly painful going on,” she continued, “you can write it down like this, obscure it and then do more art on top of it.”

I watched the whole video, and the technique is pretty cool. The layers of writing and art make for a very interesting page, but the thought of covering over what I’ve written feels somehow sacrilegious.

Of course, I’m a writer first, and then an artist. For me, the words ARE the art.

– – – – –

In an effort to curb my nasty cable T.V. habit, I’ve been watching art journaling videos, like Leslie’s. And documentaries.

Last night, I enjoyed the PBS presentation of Jane Goodall: Reason for Hope, A Spiritual Journey. Based on her 2000 book of the same name, Reason for Hope chronicles Jane’s lifetime of experience in nature and with the chimpanzees of Gombe, Africa.

There were so many pieces of wisdom in the program, I wanted to bring some of it here for you to read. In researching Reason for Hope, I stumbled on this quote from the book:

“I lay there, part of the forest, and experienced again that magical enhancement of sound, that added richness of perception. I was keenly aware of secret movements in the trees. A small striped squirrel climbed, spiral fashion in the way of squirrels, poking into crevices in the bark, bright eyes and rounded ears alert. A great velvet black bumblebee visited tiny purple flowers, the end section of his abdomen glowing rich orange red each time he flew through one of the patches of sunlight that dappled the forest. It is all but impossible to describe the new awareness that comes when words are abandoned. One is transported back, perhaps, to the world of early childhood when everything is fresh and so much of it is wonderful. Words can enhance experience, but they can also take so much away. We see an insect and at once we abstract certain characteristics and classify it—a fly. And in that very cognitive exercise, part of the wonder if gone. Once we have labeled the things around us we do not bother to look at them so carefully. Words are part of our rational selves, and to abandon them for a while is to give freer reign to our intuitive selves.”

So, maybe Leslie has a point after all…

• • •


Comfortable Shoes Studio

• Video: Art Journal Technique: Sharpie Ghost

Click here to purchase a copy of Jane Goodall’s book Reason for Hope.

Photo: The three wise monkeys over the Tōshō-gū shrine in Nikkō, Japan

4 thoughts on “When Words are Abandoned

Add yours

  1. completely fascinating – visually provocative – you’ve done it again! jane goodall makes such a good point about labeling and abandonment – these are concepts that people like buddha tried to tell us about after a round of deep meditation – and i, too, shudder at the thought of “stealth writing” but of course when i cross out a word or cover it with “correct-o” i often wonder if i’ll remember what’s underneath and if i was right to cover it up… thanks, jen – TJ

    1. For me, it’s the ongoing battle: work with the words or quiet the words? I do like the idea of “stealth writing”- as you say – but I also like share the writing to open up a conversation, like this one.

  2. I have an artist friend, Eileen Downes, who “paints” with collage. She often uses words from newspaper or magazine articles as part of her visuals. I think of the not so hidden words as subliminal.

    1. Interesting. I have seen folks who incorporate pieces of words in their collage, but I’m the one who always tried to read them – thinking they must have some relevance to the art. Sometimes, though, I think they are just visual accents.

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