Creativity

Journal spotlight: Art journal

I’m going to start simply by saying that an art journal can be anything you want it to be, really.

In its most simple sense, an art journal is any kind of journal where you express yourself visually. Often art journals are mixed media – that is, a combination of elements such as collage, acrylic or watercolour paint, gouache, pencil, crayon, stamps, inks, etc.

I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure out exactly what an art journal is, at least for me. I’ve seen the beautiful works of people like Tamara Laport, the simple but touching pieces by Nicole Rae, the messy and inspiring sketchbooks of Lisa Sonora, and the gorgeous and striking works by people like Alena Hennessy and Hali Karla.

I’ve worked in sketchbooks, gluebooks, journals, binders, altered books… I’ve collaged, stamped, painted, drawn, written, sprayed, taped, watercoloured, lettered… and still I have struggled to define exactly what art journaling is.

I’ve struggled to find my own style and really claim my own art journaling approach.

Then, a dear friend of mine pointed out that I do have my own style – I just wasn’t acknowledging it.

You see, I had always thought that art journaling was not the same thing as visual journaling. In fact, here is an awesome video that discusses this point quite nicely.

So while I’ve been journaling visually for some time – in a similar sketchbook style to Lisa Sonora (if I may be so bold as to suggest that), I haven’t felt as though I have been art journaling, really, at all. Sure I was incorporating art techniques into my visual journaling, but it certainly wasn’t art.

Perhaps it’s the word ‘art’ in the name art journal – I mean, no pressure, right?!

I much prefer the term visual journal, or creative journal.

For a while, I saw an ‘art journal’ as more focused on particular techniques and creating a specific, visually pleasing outcome, and the term ‘visual journal’ as more about the process and self expression. Now… I’m not so sure.

When I saw Lisa Sonora had blown up images from her sketchbooks to put up onto the walls of her studio, a little thought crept into my head: maybe, just maybe, this could also be art? She says,

They’re not art…but they are artifacts of a creative journey. It’s like meditation, but with art supplies.

I don’t know. Seeing them up on the wall like that, they sure look like art to me. Surely they can be both?

As for my own messy journals – I may not have found a style that looks anything like the work of Tamara, or Alena, but I’ve got my own visual approach. Who’s to say it’s not art, in some form? And it will continue to evolve over time, as I do. I figure as long as I’m expressing myself visually, well, that’s all that matters.

My advice to anyone who wants to start an art journal: grab some art supplies you like (acrylic paint is a good one, as are stamps) and play. That’s it. I was going to give some lengthy list of instructions but really, you don’t need them and they would only serve to confuse or intimidate someone starting out. Find an artist you love and copy their style for a bit, then copy the work of someone else. Do this many times over and you will start to find your own style. Give yourself permission, try to get past the fear of creating, and practice being imperfect. You don’t have to show anyone, or you can join 15 Facebook groups and show the world. There is no right or wrong way.

Do you keep an art journal? How do you define art journal? Do you see art journaling and visual journaling as different things? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.

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Creativity

Join me in a year of journaling dangerously!

At the beginning of last year I was not in a good place. I was unhappy with my life and felt like something was really missing, although I couldn’t put my finger on what it was at the time.

On a whim, I enrolled in a journaling course. A friend of mine was doing it too, and we both fell in love with everything journaling.

After the course I continued to journal every day, and found my life turning around in unexpected ways. I no longer felt on the verge of tears for no reason every day. Instead, I wrote and poured my heart out on the page. I tuned into my own source of inner guidance and found out what my soul was really calling out for.

I tapped into a wellspring of creativity within that I didn’t even know existed. I kept up my daily journal writing, and began to blog, paint, collage, carve stamps… and my creativity blossomed. I felt constantly inspired to create, and I found courage inside me to try new things and share them with others.

For about a year after taking the journaling course that started it all, I was riding the inspiration high. Sure, I still had dark days and moments where I just wanted to crawl back into bed – but most days I turned to my journal for comfort and inspiration.

Notice there that I say ‘most days’. It’s easy when things start to feel good to let habits slide. It’s easy to relax into the things that bring pleasure without challenging yourself to move forward. And that is what happened to me: over a year later and my lovely daily journaling habit has slipped away. I check in with my journal a few days a week, but the joy and inspiration is short-lived, and fades quickly.

I know that the best way to tap into inspiration and courage is through my journal. And I know that these things come through a regular creative practice.

That’s why I’m launching my new project: a year of journaling dangerously!

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Simply put, I’m going to journal in some form every day for a whole year and I invite you to join me.

Some of you may remember that Journal Wild started out as Journaling Dangerously. Even though the blog has gone through some changes, the idea of journaling dangerously has never left me.

I see it as committing to showing up to the page every single day, even if all I do that day is write the date or swipe some paint on the paper. It is the act of showing up that makes it worthwhile.

So I send out an open invitation for anyone who wants to join me: all you have to do is show up to the page in whatever way you want, every day for a year.

Creativity

Practice makes imperfect

If you’ve read anything else on this blog, you will likely know that I have a bit of an issue with perfectionism – I struggle when things are imperfect.

Actually, I think a lot of people do. I think it’s symptomatic of an age of airbrushing and increasingly ridiculous expectations.

Nowhere is my need for perfection more apparent than in my creative work – my creative journaling, my painting, my writing.

Visual journaling is a real challenge for me because it’s supposed to be about letting go, playing, exploring and expressing yourself. It makes sense that the outcome of this process is not always pretty. In fact, I feel like visual or creative journaling is more about the process than the outcome – just like regular written journaling.

I don’t sit down to write a journal entry so I have a pretty page of words, I write because it helps me to process things and is healing. Visual journaling should be the same.

It’s been a real conscious process for me with my perfectionism in my art. I have to regularly remind myself that it doesn’t have to be perfect, that it’s ok to make a mess and not know where it is going. It is a very uncomfortable feeling, playing with my paints and not knowing how it will turn out. I have to deliberately sit with that uncomfortable feeling.

But I’ve discovered that the best way to get past this is practice. And I don’t mean practice so that I get better artistically, I mean practice being ok with not being perfect. Practice being in that state of discomfort. Practice being imperfect.

The more I can work in my journal and actively continue despite feeling uncomfortable and even fearful of what will happen, the more I start to become desensitized to that feeling. The less power it has over me. The more I can create freely.

Someone once told me that discomfort is a sign that we are challenging ourselves, that we are growing.

So the feeling of discomfort, as unpleasant as it may be, is actually a sign that we are doing something good for us. I like this. It means that when I sit down to work in my creative journal and I feel uncomfortable with not knowing how it will turn out, with making mistakes, that I’m actually growing.

Maybe one day there will even come a time when I can play without fear of what will happen. Maybe, with practice.

Creativity

The problem with creative shoulds

Completing the 30 Life Lessons last month was full-on. It took a lot out of me, and while I didn’t plan on taking the following month off from blogging, I found myself delighted to have some time free just for me again.

I dove headfirst into multiple creative projects. So many that I started to get overwhelmed and disoriented. Before long, my free time started to feel a little crowded.

During July, I was involved in or contemplating these projects:

Not to mention I’ve been doing my own written journaling, thinking about the blog and newsletter, brainstorming ideas for creating my own online courses, thinking about making a bucket list journal, and mulling over novel ideas. Oh yes, and working and building a house too.

This is not the first time this has happened to me.

In an attempt to combat this next stepsoverwhelm, I made a list of all the things on my creative radar. I divided this list up into three categories:

  • Groups/courses
  • Blog
  • Personal

This way I could clearly make sense of all the directions I was feeling pulled.

Then I prioritised each item on the list in terms of what was urgent (for example, a live course that was running now only, or a membership that was about to expire) and what could wait.

Great, I thought. Now I know what to focus on and what to put aside for later.

I had created a sense of creative direction for myself. It was foolproof. If only I could have ignored the fact that the priorities I had selected were of no interest to me at that time, then it would have been perfect.

It was my own fault, really. I took a totally left-brain, logical, rational approach to an entirely creative and intuitive problem.

You see, the issue wasn’t that I had too much going on. The issue was that I felt like I should be doing something else, rather than listening to my creative intuition.

I felt like I should be making the most of a course I had signed up for.

I felt like I should be finishing off a set of prompts I had already begun.

I felt like I should complete one journal before beginning another.

I felt like I should try to get the most out of a course before it was over.

I felt like I should finish one course before doing another.

If I had just stopped to ask myself, inner compasswhat do I really really want to do? then I would have had my answer: paint. I want to paint, in journals. I want to fill journals with paint.

I see creativity like this: it is all over the place. Some days I want to write in my journal for hours, others I want to carve stamps. Some days I want to watch YouTube videos of my favourite painters at work, others I want to read about journal writing. Some days I want to play with paper and glue, others I want to write. Some days I want to do a bunch of prompts from a course, others I want to play with watercolours.

Each and every creative activity nourishes us as we need it to, when we need it to. The act of listening to our creative intuition in each moment allows us to do what is most important to us in that moment.

I have learnt that sometimes I am incredibly focused on one thing to the point of obsession. But it is these short bursts of creative focus that allow me to get things done.

Other times, I am a creative butterfly, hopping from one project to the next, not really finishing much but loving the variety.

Accepting this and allowing myself to follow my creative intuition has been incredibly freeing. Trusting that I will find the focus I need when I need it, I can enjoy the pull to new things for now.

The problem only really comes about when we insist that things be done a certain way – when we let our shoulds interfere.

I invite you to consider the following prompts in your journal:

What are your creative shoulds?

How do they limit you?

How can you give yourself more creative freedom?

What would happen if you followed your creative intuition and released the shoulds?

How can you put more trust in your creative process?

Creativity, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: What lights you up?

We all get bogged down by the necessities of daily life – working to pay the bills and put food on the table, sitting in traffic, arguing with others, catching up on sleep, and trying to find time to exercise, and so on.

But what about finding time for the things that you really love?

If you’re exceptionally lucky, then you are one of few the people who manages to make a living doing what you love – you get to do it every day. But I would guess that most of us don’t fall into that category.

So it comes down to making time whenever possible (every day?) to do the things we love – be it knitting, meditation, learning a language, painting, hiking – whatever.

Sometimes, though, after doing all the necessary tasks of the day, we just don’t have the time/energy/resources to do these wonderful things.

I lived this way for years. I had an lesson 15interest in writing, in being creative in some form, and sharing that creativity with others. But I got so bogged down with working full time (or more, if you consider teachers also work on their weekends and evenings) and so exhausted that I could do little other than work. Sure, teachers get regular ‘holidays’, but after working non-stop for ten weeks, all I could do was sleep and try to rest (when I wasn’t marking piles of essays).

Perhaps it’s my own fault for going into teaching. I guess it doesn’t matter what I was doing, all that matters is that I wasn’t exploring the things I loved, the things I felt most pulled to.

I carried on this way for years. Slowly I became more negative, more depressed, more bitter and more cynical about life. I was disillusioned and felt that growing up sucked, basically. I felt like there was no joy in my life, nothing I was doing just for me.

Since taking Susannah Conway’s Journal Your Life course where we were encouraged to journal every day, I started to learn about what was missing from my life. I got back in touch with myself and reconnected with the parts of me that had been ignored. Mostly, that was my creativity.

But then I hit another road block: fear and resistance. It became abundantly clear through my daily journaling what I wanted to do – to write, to paint, to create, to share my work. I got back in touch with these desires, but for a while didn’t do much with them.

Why? Because I was afraid. I didn’t really believe I could start a blog, that was terrifying. And painting? I had no formal training, who was I to attempt painting, let alone share it with others?

It took a lot of hard work, mostly by working through it in my journal, but I found a way to feel the fear and create anyway. I found a way to admit what I really wanted and start taking steps towards it. I reasoned that the fear of taking these creative risks could be no worse than the terrible feelings of ignoring these desires.

Now my life looks a lot different. I have a regular daily creative practice that ensures I remain creatively fulfilled, and a regular journaling practice that means I know when I start to feel like something is missing from my life.

>>> Prompts:

What lights you up? List or brainstorm everything that absolutely makes your heart sing with joy. Are there some things you are afraid to write down? Why?

How often do you do the things on your list? Are there some that you don’t allow yourself to think of, or that you actively avoid? Why?

How can you make more time for the things on your list?

Fun bonus prompt: If you won the lottery and never had to work again, how would you ideally like to spend your days? Describe what a day would look like (after you did all the fun stuff, like shopping, travelling etc – what would your daily life look like?)

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Journal prompts: Creativity and wellbeing

This post is featured as part of the Journal Chat Live Open House, hosted by Dawn Herring

I have had issues with depression for most of my life.

I’ve tried many different things to deal with this – counselling/psychotherapy, herbal supplements, exercise, medication, changing jobs/houses/partners etc.

However, last year when I began to consistently tap into my creative energy and express myself creatively on a regular basis, I noticed that the feelings of depression that tend to surface quite frequently with me didn’t visit so often.

In fact, if I keep tapping into mcreativity is essential for wellbeingy creativity on a daily basis, as well as doing a few others key things (exercise, rest, play, connecting with loved ones, eating well, etc), I tend to feel pretty damn good most of the time.

With all that other stuff I’m doing, how do I know it’s creativity that’s brought about this change? Because I tried all the other things before, and they didn’t work. At least, not without adding creative self-expression into the mix.

I’ve always been a creative person at heart – drawing, singing, writing since I was little, but once I hit adulthood most of that stuff sort of got forgotten about as I got ‘serious’ about life. Funnily enough, I have also spent a good portion of my adulthood dealing with depression.

I’m not suggesting that creativity is a cure-all for mental illness. But for me, personally, I have found creative self-exression to be essential to my mental, emotional and spiritual wellbeing. I can’t imagine my life without it now.

From my journal:

Ever since I’ve been exploring my creative side I’m a totally different person. I’m happier and more fulfilled. I feel like I know myself, what makes me happy. I feel a greater connection to the divine, to my own inner resources of strength, courage, wisdom and faith. I know that through developing a creative practice, I have a routine that supports me in daily life.

Creativity comes in many different forms. It doesn’t have to be artistic, it can be anything – cooking, building, the way you organise your furniture, or dress.

I believe that everyone is really a creative person at heart, and those that don’t think they are creative simply haven’t found the kind of creative expression that works for them yet.

>>> Prompt:

What does the word ‘creativity’ mean to you?

In what ways would you consider yourself to be creative?

In what ways would you like to be more creative?

What does creativity bring to your life? Why is it worth making time to be creative?

What are the obstacles to creativity in your life? They might be time, the opinions of others, resistance, fear, money, etc. What could you do to overcome these obstacles?

Note: this post was originally part of a series of 30 life lessons and journal prompts for my 30th birthday. You can access the rest of the lessons and prompts here.

Creativity

Art journal… Friday

Each week I share a page from my art journal. I love to peek into the art journals of others, and hope to inspire someone else by sharing my own work.

I’m am so bad at getting these posted on Wednesdays! It’s now Friday afternoon here in NZ… Perhaps I may change it to something called Art Journaling Weekly.

In the meantime, here is this week’s page!

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 Have a play-filled weekend!