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5 Artists Who Kept Imaginative Journals

An artist's journal is an important part of showing the journey of an artist. It can serve as a bridge or natural extension of an artist's work. A visual journal can demonstrate the unique creative practice and processes that help develop an idea or project. The scribbles and notes can serve as insight into the mind of the artist studied. Take a look at 5 artists whose journals are inspiring demonstrations of their artistic visions:

1. Frida Kahlo’s Diaries:

Página del diario de Frida Kahlo Página del diario de Frida Kahlo, Frida Kahlo 1944/1954.

A vivid and transformative account of the artist's final years. In her diaries, you can develop a deeper understanding of Kahlo and her relationship with herself. The colorfully illustrated journals recount her painstaking resilience with the agony of her physical injuries as well as her fiery passion for her love, Diego Rivera. The watercolors shine a light on her inner thoughts and process as an artist in an unexpected and non-linear timeline.

2. Leonardo da Vinci’s Sketchbooks:

(Left) Codex Forster I (folio 7 recto) and (Right) Codex Forster I (folio 43 verso), Leonardo da Vinci, late 15th – early 16th century, Italy. Courtesy of Victoria and Albert Museum, London

Around the mid-1480s, Leonardo Da Vinci started to collect his loose sheets of paper to be later bound and folded into booklets for insight into his creative and intellectual mind. Within the 7000 pages, there are sheets filled with random inscribed notes on geometry, hydraulics, sketches to personal documentation. His notebooks have shed new light into the depths of the artist's inventions and understanding that surpassed his time. In 2013, a digitalized copy of the Codex was published under the British Library containing the iconic left-handed mirror-writings.

3. Basquiat's Notebooks:

Jean-Michel Basquiat, untitled notebook page (1980-81). Courtesy of Larry Warsh/Estate of Jean-Michel Basquiat.

Throughout his life, Basquiat filled numerous notebooks with random clippings and scribbled notations that he believed held significance. From poetry fragments, self-composed wordplay, and sketches, to personal observations his journals provide insight into the exciting world of the artist. Within his artwork, Basquiat covered themes of street life to popular culture as he commented on race, class, and even world history. His notebooks contain iconic imagery that were prevalent throughout his career and highlight the importance of writing in the artist's process.

4. Janice Lowry’s Journals:

Janice Lowry journal 101, Archives of American Art, Archives of American Art. Courtesy of Smithsonian Institution Washington, D.C.

Janice Lowry was an American visual artist known for her detailed collage and assemblage works often created from found objects. Her journals have become an important counterpart to he works as they follow her health journey, her family dynamics and her meditations on life all through written and visual documentation. Throughout the journals, the viewer is allowed a glimpse into the practices of Lowry: to-dos, grocery lists, sketches and journal entries illustrate the life of the artist.

5. Keith Haring’s Journals:

Keith Haring, Notebook-16, June 16, 1987. Courtesy of Keith Haring Foundation.

Keith Haring was a prominent graffiti artist in New York who developed a visual language through his animated imagery. Throughout his life, he kept extensive journals filled with clever anecdotes of his relationships and events in his daily life. The journals contain sketches, quotes, lists and diary entries that allow a greater understanding of the popular Pop artist. In the year before the artist's death, The Keith Haring Foundation scanned the pages of his journals from the years 1971-1989 as his final contribution to the art world.



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