I love art. I love writing. And I love combining them when I journal. Sometimes my journal holds more words than pictures, and sometimes the paintings and pictures take over the pages. I didn’t always keep an “art journal.” For years I had my sketchbook… and I had my journal. And I struggled to find time for them.
Then on day, I stumbled onto the concept of art journaling.
I was feeling stumped with an art project that was languishing in my basement studio. It had been waiting, patiently, for months, gathering dust as I ignored it and took care of the other things in my life. I would occasionally visit it, make a tiny change, then walk away to other deal with the kids or my job or whatever else demanded my attention. That day, I finally sat down, determined to finish it. And that day I sat and stared and nothing came to me.
I was stumped. Blocked. Blank and empty.
To shake it off, I paid a visit to the nearest bookstore, peering into art books and hoping inspiration would strike. Instead, I felt more frustrated and more than a little jealous. Here were thousands of finished projects, thousands of creative souls, and I was doing nothing. But, I rationalized to myself, I am super busy. These people must all be full-time artists, and I’m just a … a wannabe artist. And I can’t even make enough time to be creative, to finish one project.
Then I picked up No Excuses Art Journaling: Making Time for Creativity by Gina Armfield. As I leafed through the pages, I realized this book held the key to what I had been looking for – a way to make time for creativity, to stop make excuses and start making art.
No Excuses provides guidelines on how to incorporate art into your daily life in small, manageable ways. Armfied sets you up with daily, weekly, and monthly tasks. Daily, she recommends drawing a design, your daily color, the weather, and a word to describe you or your mood. Weekly, she recommends finishing a small, credit-card sized painting (or drawing) and creating a photo strip. And monthly, she recommends completing the “kickstart” assignment for the month, a collage that serves as a visual springboard, brief writing assignments, and creating a nested envelope for storing tokens. There are also countless other ideas, tips, and resources peppered throughout the book including artist interviews and sample journals.
The first couple of months, I followed the guidelines pretty closely. When I wasn’t inspired, I simply copied ideas from the book or from other sources. But I completed the tasks, no excuses.
And an amazing thing happened.
I began to find more time beyond my art journal for creativity. I started to look for patterns and designs, ideas for my weekly drawing/painting, and I paid more attention to my moods and how they influenced my writing and art. And the best part was that I took it all and started new creations – new poems, new stories, bigger drawings, an entire painting series… It was like a dam burst and all of the pent-up creativity came rushing out all at once.
A few months rolled by, and I started tweaking the art journal by doing what worked best for me. I spent more time on some aspects and less on others. Being drawn to words, I added journal pages where I could write poetry or record events of the day or make lists of quotes that I doodled and illustrated. And I began to feel brave with my creativity. I was more willing to take risks and accept failures. When I’m stumped, I’ll often go back through my journals for reassurance and inspiration. I’ll even copy old drawings or use them in new ways (as you can see with the first and last paintings on this post.)
My art journals are not full of masterpieces, but they are full of masterfully created pieces of me, wrought in sorrow, happiness, times of insane busyness, times of peace. They are a part of me.
Now that I’ve been art journaling for an extended period of time, I honestly believe everyone should try it. At least once. Even if you don’t think you are an artist. Even if you can’t draw a stick figure!
Everyone holds the possibility of creation inside.
You don’t have to do it to the way outlined in the No Excuses book, or in any other art journaling book or website. But mindfully executing a different form of creativity – even a tiny bit – on a daily basis can work wonders for your writing, your art, your poetry, photography – whatever part of your inner creative you are trying to grow.
And who knows … you might surprise yourself with what you come up with, both in your journal and elsewhere.
If you already art journal or decide to try it, let me know – I’d love to hear different experiences!