I had a wonderful visit with an artist friend recently who is interested in art journaling but didn’t know how to start. I thought I would let you in on our conversation! We identified many benefits of an art journaling practice. Here are ten of them:
- An art journal is a great place to express yourself in words and in images and colors!
Speak up! You have a unique view that is yours alone and the world will be a richer place if you express yourself. It is so important to find your voice and to know what you think, especially if it is different from the voices around you. If you don’t express your vision, your feelings or your thoughts, you may be repressing them and that is not healthy. As Brene Brown says in Gifts of Imperfection, “Our unexpressed ideas, opinions and contributions don’t just go away. They are likely to fester and eat away at our worthiness.” And nobody needs that!
- An art journal is a safe container to raise your questions and explore your doubts.
Some questions have no answers, yet. Some doubts can be deeply disturbing, to you or to those around you, because doubts can be seen as undercutting all that is certain. I think naming and discussing doubts is a healthy exercise. For me, certainty can be a very heavy burden that safeguards the status quo (even if it is harmful) and prohibits growth and exploration. Your art journal is a private place to process your thoughts and dig into what is bubbling up inside of you without subjecting yourself to criticism or judgment of others.
- An art journal is a place to make mistakes.
This is a judgment-free zone. No one gets to see it but you. If you hate a page you have created, just cover it with gesso or glue down some collage bits and start over.
- An art journal is a place to explore new techniques.
There are almost endless techniques, art materials, and ideas online, on Facebook or on YouTube. Once you find an idea you would love to try out, do you become paralyzed with fear that it won’t turn out right? You’re right, it probably won’t turn out the same because the other artist probably has been working on that tip or technique for a while and you have only seen it once. But give it a go anyway and see what you learn! Give yourself permission to be a beginner. Read my blog post here on how a beginner’s mind helps you adopt an attitude of wonder and let go of expectations. It also helps you stay in the present moment without agonizing about the past or worrying about the future.
- An art journal is a place to enjoy the process, not the product.
It is the place to experiment and discover new ways of being an artist. It is a place to show up for yourself before you are ready to share your art with the world. You may decide to take what you have learned in your journal to a larger canvas after you have worked out the kinks. And then you can focus on the end result. But in your art journal, you are just exploring the process.
- An art journal is obstacle-free way to practice art daily.
What obstacles get in your way of creating art? Time? Space? Inspiration? By keeping your art journal and colors together and ready to go – in a basket or box – you can take advantages of small bits of time and you won’t need a ton of dedicated space to make art. Your art journaling kit is portable and accessible and ready to go whenever inspiration strikes. Actually, inspiration likes to find you working! Set the timer for 15 minutes and paint a background, add another layer to your current page, or capture your thoughts for the day. Keeping an art journaling kit helps you keep moving the line every day.
- An art journal is a place for lists, prayer requests, quotes, and notes.
The practice of keeping an art journal allows you to reflect on where you were and notice where you are headed. As you look back on earlier art journal pages, old lists can show you what you thought was important while written prayer requests show you how God has answered your prayers. You can keep track of and refer back to quotes that resonate or record your reactions to what you are reading.
- There is a low barrier to starting to art journaling.
You can use lots of things for your art journal. I like to use old hard-bound books sold at my library book sale and cover the pages with clear or white gesso – this is especially important if the pages are slick. You can use old books, spiral bound sketch books, or heavy paper catalogs you might get in the mail. Or you can make an art journal out of cardboard pieces trimmed to the same size, three-hole punched, then bound together with key rings.
Don’t use anything too precious. I used to save the expensive art materials for when I became really a good artist…meanwhile the paint in the tubes slowly dries up. Not anymore. Use whatever you have for art materials. Start where you are. Now!
- An art journal is a place to hide from your inner perfectionist.
Your inner critic is just trying to save you from embarrassment or humiliation that might result from trying something new and risky. Instead of hiding, it is helpful to dialogue with that one and explain (using all the reasons here) why art journaling is actually good for your soul!
- An art journal is a place to find more joy in your everyday life.
Is there anyone else who is hearing that nagging voice tell you that you are wasting your time with this art thing? Or that it is too much money? Or that you will never be good enough? Making art everyday quiets those voices. The joy that comes from having art in my life every day is the most important reason to me right now. Playing with art materials brings me joy. Making art feeds my soul. It relieves stress because I am focused on the process of play and not on the outcome. And I am worth the time and money that I spend on art because of the joy it brings me.
You are worth it too! What will you create today?
PS: Have I convinced you? I’m starting up an art journaling group in the Cleveland, Ohio area – just a time to connect and to play. Let me know if you are interested and I will send you the details. If you are too far to join us live, you’ll have to wait for my online class that will be filled with lots of techniques, step-by-step tutorials and encouragement. Or start a group of your own!
Another PS: The image above was inspired by the images in the Saint John’s Bible and created in an art journal that began life as a hefty catalog that North Face mailed to me a couple of years ago.