Tuesday, May 7, 2013

Meditations of a Shaman -- Fake Journal 2013

The cover of my 2013 Fake Journal is made from burlap lined with white cotton fabric, and the pages were bound in pamphlet stitch.  The images on the cover were painted with craft acrylics and details added with Sharpie pen and white gel pen. Shells, stems of greenery, and dried lavender were glued and stitched onto the cover.

The petroglyph on the lower right  of the cover is an image of an actual petroglyph in Jackson County, near Leo, Ohio. It is not known what it represents. Some theories include a humanized owl? a horned mask? an 'Iroquois flying head'?


WHO: My character in the 2013 Fake Journal is an artist who loves nature, and turns to the Native American culture and wisdom of the shaman.  I considered making this a historical journal, as though I were the shaman making the petroglyphs, but rejected that idea. In the time these carvings are estimated to have been done (A.D. 1200-1750) there would have been no writing as we know it, and the dating of the entries would have been difficult. I did think about using a 'sun design' for the time of day, and some type of hash marks for dates, but decided not to pursue that.

WHERE: Ohio, USA. There are a lot of petroglyphs in the world, many in the western U.S.  I chose to limit the designs I used to those found in the Ohio area, which seem to have different motifs than in the west.  Definition: Petroglyph is a carving or inscription on a rock.

MEDIA: Brown craft paper, gesso, gouache, watercolor, Sharpie pen, white gel pen, red gel pen, and pencil.

GOALS:  Write and draw about the world as a Native American shaman might. 
--Feature petroglyphs in Ohio as art that shamans created in the past
--Vary text and image placement on the page for more interest
--Leave pages unbound until end of project for ease of scanning
--Sketches represent what my character sees and draws, petrolglyphs represent art of shamans of the past
-- Draw and paint what I see in a realistic manner (as opposed to stylized drawings and layered collages that I often do)
--To draw and journal at least 10 days over the month. I did 16 days worth of pages.

PRACTICAL CONSIDERATIONS: Craft paper absorbed the media rapidly, and easily showed on the reverse side of the page. I solved this by doing some of the pages on a separate piece of craft paper and then gluing it to the page.

A few days into the month, I treated myself to the purchase of a book called Artist's Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson.  I highly recommend the book...Roz Stendahl, along with many other artists, has work featured in it.  It really helped me get ideas about how the text on the page can be varied in shape with respect to the placement of the drawings.

RESOURCES: Petroglyphs of Ohio, 1984, by James L. Swauger, Ohio University Press (out-of-print)
Animal Spirits, by N. Saunders; Encyclopedia of Native American Religions, Hirschfelder and Molin; Artist's Journal Workshop, Cathy Johnson.

NOTES:  In this journal, petroglyphs represent the art of shamans of the past. Swauger estimated Ohio carvings to have been done A.D. 1200-1700 by Late Prehistoric people, who may have spoken the Algonquin language.  Some designs show "x-ray" views of the inside of an animal or person.  "Power Lines" emanate from parts of the body-- indicating superior powers, magical powers, the ability of a shaman, or the ability to communicate with the Spirit World.  "Horns" coming from the head of a person or creature also indicate superior powers, according to Swauger.  The drawings and watercolors represent the art of the author/shaman character.  "The People" refers to Native American people.

 My research revealed that Native American beliefs about nature and the Spirit World vary by tribe. I tried to make general statements about those beliefs in this journal that would apply to most tribes.  It's an interesting topic on which volumes have been written, and there are many avenues that my journal could have taken.  Common themes that Native American stories address are the Creation of the world, how was man created, cosmic space and earthly space integrated into the everyday world, interpreting the essence of nature and society, opposing forces, heroes and tricksters.  Heroes and Tricksters would be a lot of fun...Crow and Coyote being two prominent Tricksters. What manner of trouble they could cause!

I found myself thinking and seeing in a more meditative manner as I was planning and executing this fake journal.  It felt a bit strange, and I suspect that is something that authors of fiction experience--an immersion in their characters.  I spent some hours at the public library researching the petroglyphs, which I find quite fascinating.  Unfortunately, some of the petroglyph sites are now submerged beneath several feet of water due to the construction of a dam on the Ohio river.  The large sandstone rocks and ledges at the river's edge were ideal surfaces for carving.  The hours spent carving into rock with primitive cutting tools, such as harder rock tools or antler, represents a real commitment to representation--for hunting success? for magical power over the creature portrayed? or just a desire to represent what they saw?  We cannot know for sure...

The above petroglyph was labeled by Swauger as a human figure of unknown meaning...with a large bump protruding from its side.  I believe it portrays a pregnant woman, perhaps a shaman. The circular shape inside may be a growing baby, or her heart?  The 'power lines' emanating from the bump could mean the life force of the growing child.  It is interesting to speculate...

The themes in this journal--of respect for nature, its sacredness, the belief that all life has Spirit--even plants--and that everything in the world has something to teach us-- created a satisfying experience for me, both in its doing, and in its completion.

Thanks Roz, for hosting International Fake Journal Month!


  1. What an awesome cover! the 3D elements add so much. So cool that you documented everything about your process. A ton of thought went into your project. So glad you shared it all!!

  2. Lovely journal and the brown paper looks so amazing!!!! well done!!!!

  3. This is nothing short of beautiful. That cover is lush. Your trees, and that sketch of the shell... so awesome!
    Thanks for sharing information about the background and culture behind the artist's journal. I love the choices you made!

  4. what an amazing cover and I love how you fill the book with your enchanting sketches and writing!! Love the earthy style! ♥ Conny

  5. Were you at all familiar with Kokopelli,the hump back flute player of the southwest?


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