Sera Beak is so cool! I posted here about her new book, The Red Book. I was so intrigued with concept of turning an art journal into a spiritual quest that I did an interview with her. She graciously answered my questions and I am so inspired by what she had to say...
AM: How and when did you know that the journaling you did in your own Red Book became something deeper and more universal?
SB: I was given the red book, as well as a shopping trip to a craft store, as a birthday gift by my older sister the day after my grandfather died. Watching my grandfather pass away broke something open in me, I was pretty raw, and so when I received this new journal I was ready to try something different with it. I didn't know exactly what I wanted to do, but I did know that this would be no ordinary journal filled with daily recaps. To prep the book and myself I made my dedications clear on the first page where I placed 2 photos. One was a photo of an icon of the Hindu goddess Kali that I took while I was living in Calcutta (Kali represents a very strong and powerful aspect of the divine feminine). The other was an old photo of me at about 2 years old, standing on top of a rocking horse jumping and singing gleefully. Naked. My older sister gave me this hilarious photo to remind me of how free I was as a wee one. Glitter and paint and the question *How Intensely Do I Exist* fell around the photos and set the personal and devotional tone for the book.
AM: What was your creative process for working in your Red Book? Did you use quotes from others, come up with your own quotes?
SB: When I finally sat down to write in the red book I did it, oddly enough, via my computer. One night I lit a few candles put on a favorite CD and just allowed things to get real quiet in my head. I started listening to a deeper part of myself. And soon enough a sentence fell out of me onto the screen. The sentence was *Come forward now. Closer still Till closer has meaning no longer*. I didn't analyze its weirdness, I just printed it out, cut it from the paper, and pasted it at the bottom of a page in the red book. The phrases continued pouring out of me and I knew that no matter what the hell they sounded like to anyone else, for me, the experience of writing them was deeply sacred and new and extremely healing. This was no new agey channeled woo wooness. It just felt like me meeting Me, for the first time and it was incredibly powerful. So I continued to let her rip. And, because I dedicated the red book to unleashing my new voice, I never used quotes from anyone else.
AM: You said you used a lot of magazine images in your collage work, did the images you created become symbolic for you?
SB: The simple phrases, or prayers, became the root, the main art of the red book, but they took up hardly any space on the big white pages, so I looked around my Cambridge apartment and grabbed the only sliceable medium available: fashion and yoga magazines. I used ads for mascara, Gucci perfume, laundry detergent, as well as typical spiritual images.
The media images grounded my obtuse words and my phrases gave mainstream advertising flashes of sacredness. And yes, the images I created did become symbolic for me, as did the process of creating them. I was finally mixing and matching my outer world with my inner voice.
AM: When did you then take the next step from keeping an art journal to writing a book on spirituality? That is quite a leap of faith...literally:)
SB: After graduate school, I moved to San Francisco and took a temp job while I was figuring out what to do with my comparative religions degree. The job afforded me a lot of free time sitting in front of a computer. And one day, burned out from web surfing, I started casually writing about the process of creating the red book and what this form of creative journaling might ignite in other young women. After typing out 25 pages in one day I realized I had a lot to say on this subject and after a few weeks of writing, my boyfriend read some pages and suggested I try a book. By this time, it just felt natural and good for me to continue writing. I always tell people that if I had sat down one day and said "hey, I'm gonna write a book for young women about spirituality" I would have most likely spontaneously combusted due to the pressure I would have put on myself. It was all about baby steps for me. The real leap of faith happened when I decided to try and get my writing published. I was taking my voice, which was very private and new to me, and trying to making it public. I was terrified. But I pushed on because my passion for this material outweighed my fear.
AM: Do you still work in your own Red Book?
AB: No. And I've told myself that that's because I've been buried in the time-consuming book writing process and that I use other creative outlets, but this interview is making me realize how much I miss that interaction and experience. And you know the original red book is only half full, it's waiting for me to continue.
AM: Anything else you'd like to say to us fellow journal artists, spiritual beings, travelers on this path?:)
SB: Thank you all for existing and inspiring others (like myself) to go the distance. I witness your creations and it makes my own spirit wiggle free. It's contagious, and real, and so very powerful. I believe that to create is one of the main reasons we're here. So do it up - no matter what you do or don't believe about spirituality. Redefine that word through your art, through your daily life, through your colorful and honest self expressions. And watch the universe sway in awe of your bold beauty.