Friday, 6 April 2012

What is an Artist?

I need to get a few things off my chest.

Last weekend I was at a health retreat, and while I was there I built and filled up an art journal. I showed a lot of it to you yesterday.

While I was working away and listening to the presentation that were going on around me, I felt others watching my work and looking at what I was creating. This happens often when I create in public and I like it.

Over the course of the weekend, a couple of people came up to me and complimented me on my work.

I was of course thrilled to receive compliments, and endeared by their thoughts, but some of their words upset me greatly.

One woman said "oh, I'm a scrapbooker too!"

A scrapbooker.

The word itself makes me shudder.

When I think of scrapbooking, this is what I envision:
a carefully planned, neatly displayed collection of precisely cut items that are highlighted with precut lettering and adorned with stick-on embellishments.

I don't mean to offend the scrapbookers of the world. I can definitely respect the ability to choose like elements and place them carefully together to create a cohesive presentation.

I, however, despise the craft of scrapbooking. I don't believe that it is art. I can concede that it is a type of craft, but I see it as being far from the realm of art.  

To be called a scrapbooker is like reading the latest novel almost to the end and then realising that the last chapter has been torn out. Or like spending all day cooking an elaborate meal for your spouse and having them arrive home after stopping at a drive-thru for dinner.

It's not ME. It's anticlimactic and maddening. What I create is so different. I got my back up right away and
became defensive and borderline snotty.

I love my art. Mixed media can include scrapbooking supplies, but includes so much more. paint, gesso, inks, fabrics, threads, ephemera and pretty much any other medium that I can get my hands on at a given moment.

The complete lack of consciousness and depth of self that I achieve when I am in my work - This is what I love about mixed media.

I would LOVE to hear your reaction to this post, and your thoughts on the two different types of creation.

Also, if you care to have a friendly "discussion," about the "art" of scrapbooking, please feel free to email me! I love to engage in banter and I may be ignorant to something that you know very thoroughly!


  1. Hi Shannon, it can be discouraging when someone calls it scrapbooking and I use to feel the same way you do. Then something happened and I started looking at it a different way.

    Now when this happens to me I've chosen to use the opportunity to educate the person who is calling it scrapbooking. They may just not have the vocabulary or be aware that there are other words to describe more specifically this type of art we create. I don't believe it is a personal attack (attack seems to strong of a word but hopefully you get the intent). I think they simply want to "belong" too, hence the saying "I scrapbook too", they want to encourage you and compliment and find common ground with you. Maybe they haven't stepped into this world of mixed media, altered art and don't realize there is more to it. I encourage you to smile and open the door a little wider to let them into your world and explain it in a way that inspires them to try it out too. You know what I mean? Enlightenment is a powerful thing. ♥

  2. "scrapbooking" as you have pictured it, is too precise, formalized stylized, the emotional content is exclusive to the memory-generator. And one step up from the unadorned photo album To me it is clinical, or twee and I'm not into "cute" But I rarely collage faces or people into my artwork so who am I to denigrate their memory-prompts. To me those "formats" for aligning pics and embellishments are for people to get started with - beginner exercises, paint-by-numbers. HOWEVER, it can take off into what i think of as more arty realms... just don't see it too often. After all scrapbookers tend to work on a 12x12 page - heaps of scope - or else overwhelming to someone who is used to, say, ATCs. It satisfies some people, and maybe to those people, what you or I do is an alien mishmash devoid of obvious meaning. (Or something that baffles them yet they wish they could do). A bit like jazz - I can't play music by ear, or improv, I've got to have the score in front of me. Horses for courses. Now give, say, Michael deMeng a couple of photos and a piece of 12x12 paper, and see what he comes up with - still scrapbooking... but I guess I for one would be wowed at the expression of his imagination!

  3. I see your point Shannon, and can understand why the comment would make the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. I started my teaching career as a preschool teacher, parents and others often used to refer to my job title as a babysitter. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand on end. I used to tell them, my job was not to supervise the children, but to love, care for, and teach them. It was so much more than babysitting. I totally agree with Tejae's post. They are trying to fit in and relate.

  4. HI Shannon....I can totally feel your pain......since I do more 3D art, the comment I get from people is that I'm a "crafter". I cringe and get hives when someone says that to me. It evokes liter bottles covered with granny's crocheted, orange acrylic yarn covers---ick!!! double-ick! If I'm feeling generous and somewhat grounded when a person makes such an ill-informed remark to me, I might try to explain that I see my one-of-a-kind, completely original pieces as "fine art" and not craft and try to describe the difference. If I'm not feeling great, I just bit my tongue till it hurts!!! Your kindred spirit, Deborah

  5. Last week I attended a large craft show. A demonstration using distress ink and stamping interested me as I am striving to find my niche in mixed media. The first question the group was asked was were we scrap bookers or card makers. And this from a woman who is expert in her field.
    Cheers PamP

  6. I have the same reaction to 'scrapbooker'. While I pull supplies from those aisles at the craft is definitely not me. I feel like it is a cookie cutter way of expressing myself. It is, to me, a photo album taken up a notch. Art journaling, mixed media journaling is much, much more personal to me. Much of what I do is not meant for public consumption, which scrapbooking is all about.

  7. It is clear to me that you truly have no idea what the term "scrapbooker" means if you think it is all so simple as you've described here. Perhaps what you, personally, have seen has been a limited view of all that scrapbooking truly entails, as is evidenced by your rudementary explanation of what a scrapbooker is. More entertaining to me, though, is your offense at the term "scrapbooker" and how someone could belittle your art as such. Really? Why is this so offensive to you? Scrapbooking IS an art form, whether you- the high and mighty- choose to label it as such or not. Granted, perhaps not the same "art" as your create, but as many "scrapbookers" do it, yes- an art form, none the less. Mixed media of all sorts, inks, chalks, everyday common items, fibers, etc., etc. are all used very often in scrapbooking today. Have you been to your local scrapbook store recently? I would dare to say they have many of the same items that you use in YOUR "art". Huh, wonder why that is?

    In closing, you mentioned that it was not your intent to offend scrapbookers... too late. Your post comes off as very pretentious and full of yourself AND your "art". Maybe you need to prove something to yourself and the world in your eyes that your "art" is much more significant than that of a scrapbookers, but to us- scrapbooking is as much about life and the people we love, AS WELL AS, a creative extension of ourself and passionate outlet. I would be happy to compare "art" with you any day... just me and my scrapbooks. ;)

  8. Wow, Melanie - Thank you for your thoughtful response to my blog post and thoughts. So glad you stopped by!


  9. This post made me a little sad. For people like me who were convinced they had no artistic talent whatsoever, "scrapbooking" allowed me to start to explore a creative side that was buried pretty deep. Yes, my first pages looked like your picture above, but they are now vastly more complex and, I think, quite artistic. Consider scrapbooking to be a 'gateway drug' ... once you're surrounded by all the materials, papers, and supplies, it can be pretty amazing what you end up with ...


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