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!

main header

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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Have courage

I think fear is one of the most dangerous things we can experience.

I’m not talking about real fear – the kind where we feel afraid of going too close to the edge of a cliff, or driving too fast, or not being able to afford food.

No, I’m talking about the kind of fear we feel when we face the blank page, when we dare to show our work to others, when we think about doing something we have always dreamed of, when we want to follow that deep longing inside. That kind of fear is a liar.

imageIf I had to list all the obstacles that got in the way of me pursuing my dreams of writing, painting, creating, sharing my work with others and generally building an awesome career and life that I love, it would be a very short list.

What has stopped me? Fear.

Sure, we give it fancy names: resistance, procrastination, perfectionism, planning, preparing, waiting until the time is right, following common sense, not being rash, etc. But really all it boils down to is that I have been too afraid to go after what I really want.

And I know that I am not the only one who has experienced this.

What have I been afraid of? At first, it’s hard to describe. But on closer inspection it becomes obvious: I’ve been afraid of looking foolish, of failing, of making mistakes, of being disappointed, and even of being successful.

Fear’s job is to keep us safe – safe from these imagined dangers. The key word here is ‘imagined’. That’s not to say those things couldn’t happen – of course they could – but rather, that I won’t know for sure that they will happen. Fear assumes the worst. Fear knows for certain that they will happen, and it’s just not worth the risk.

But fear is a liar.

We have no way of knowing for certain that these things could happen. It is also possible that wonderful things could happen – the most amazing things we could possibly hope for.

There’s a line from a poem by Erin Hanson that sums this up nicely:

What if I Fall? Oh, but my darling what if you fly?

Fear says, you will definitely fall.

The antidote to fear is courage. Courage says, you could fly. Let’s give it a try.

fear is a liarCourage is a nice word, and it sounds simple enough, but courage is like exercise: you need to do it consistently every day to see results. Courage is an active thing that takes deliberate effort.

Every day I have to ask myself, what would a courageous person do? I’m not exaggerating when I say this – I actually ask myself this question on a regular basis.

You see, journaling regularly made it abundantly clear to me that fear was holding me back. The more I journaled, the more absurd it became that the only reason I wasn’t going after my dreams was because I was afraid of imagined outcomes. So I taught myself how to be courageous, with that one little question.

Courage will look different to each and every one of us, but for me it looks like:

  • Sitting down with my journal even when I feel like I have nothing to say
  • Facing my journal when I have difficult things to deal with
  • Painting and creating often
  • Showing what I create to others
  • Opening up and expressing myself freely to others
  • Offering what I create to others not knowing whether they will like it (for example, the newsletter)
  • Committing to things that scare me, like the 100 Days Project
  • Singing in front of others
  • Owning my talents and gifts
  • Embracing the parts of myself I used to reject

Now I know not to listen fear, because fear is a liar.

 >>> Prompts:

How do you experience fear? How does fear hold you back?

What would/does courage look like to you?

How might your life be different if you had more courage than fear?

In what ways do you already practice courage? List anything you can think of, no matter how small.

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: Make the most of today

When I was 21, my dad said something to me that has stuck with me ever since:

This is it. This is not a dress rehearsal. There are no do-overs.

We only have this one life. Make it count. All those cliches that say to ‘do one thing each day that scares you’ and ‘live each day like it is your last’ and so on – well, they have a point really.

this is itWhat is it you really ache for? What sets your soul on fire? What do you think about more than anything else? What moves you? What makes you feel alive?

Do the things that matter to you, don’t worry about the opinions of others, find your own happiness. You won’t get another chance to live this day again, ever.

Life is short and it will pass faster than you know. Don’t put things off. Don’t wait for the perfect circumstances.

I don’t have much more to add except this line from Mary Oliver’s The Summer Day:

Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

>>> Prompts:

Write the Mary Oliver quote above in your journal. Now, list all the things you want to do. Create a bucket list full of items big and small. Start checking the items off.

Answer these questions: What is it you really ache for? What sets your soul on fire? What do you think about more than anything else? What moves you? What makes you feel alive? Now consider, how can you do more of this, every day?

Obituary exercise: write your obituary if you were to continue living your life the way you are now. Then, write your obituary if you chose to live your life as fully as possible, doing all the things you dream of.

If you were to win the lottery and never had to work again, what would your ideal life look like? How can you start to make your life more like this ideal version, now?

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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Forgive yourself

I doubt not one of us can say we don’t have a single regret.

I spent many of the later years in my 20s feeling full of regret – for the things I hadn’t done (finished a novel, traveled the world, built a business, figured it all out) and the things I had done (studied the ‘wrong’ thing at university, lost friendships, hurt people, spent too much money, continually lost and gained weight).

forgive yourselfIt wasn’t a conscious choice to feel regretful about decisions I’d made, but if I let myself think about it for too long, I noticed an undercurrent of unease.

But the truth is, we don’t have it all figured out (newsflash: nobody really does), so we will make mistakes. We will do dumb things, miss opportunities and basically wish things could have gone differently. That’s life.

What matters is what you do with this. You can let these regrets continue to pile up as you go through life, creating a laundry list of reasons to feel bad, or you can shift your perspective.

Recognise that at any given point in life, you are only doing the best you can.

When I look back at my 20 year old self making foolish mistakes, instead of letting that familiar feeling of regret well up inside me, I look at her with compassion. Sure, she drank too much, didn’t try all that hard at university, couldn’t quite keep the weight off, and never finished writing her novel, but she was having a hard time. Being young and out in the world for the first time is hard. She was doing her best.

It took a long journaling session to unpack these feelings, but slowly I came to see myself this way – not some idiot who had made a string of mistakes and missed a bunch of opportunities, but a young person finding her way in the world.

If you look back on your past and feel you’ve made a lot of mistakes, try to be as compassionate as possible. Recognise that you were doing your best, and that it is never too late for what might have been.

>>> Prompts:

What are some of your regrets, mistakes, missed opportunities? What do you need to forgive yourself for?

How is not forgiving yourself serving you? How might you feel different if you forgive yourself for mistakes you’ve made?

Complete this sentence: If I was to look at my mistakes through the eyes of compassion, I would…

Write a letter to your younger self. Offer wisdom, compassion and gentleness from your older self. Forgive your younger self.

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, Self Empowerment

Journal prompts: Vulnerability

Since embarking on my creative journey, I’ve been very interested in fear and courage. I had never really given vulnerability much thought, until I stumbled across the work of Brené Brown and her talk The Power of Vulnerability.

Our culture places a high value on having it all together, being strong and not being seen as weak. But I’ve found that allowing myself to be vulnerable, and sharing that vulnerability with others, has changed the way I approach my life.

Instead of feeling fearful and letting vulnerabilitythat stop me from doing things, I can acknowledge the fear and accept that it’s ok to feel that way. Instead of trying to make things perfect and get everything right, I accept making mistakes and feeling a bit uncomfortable about that.

Why?

Because with vulnerability comes growth. Vulnerability comes when we take a risk, dare to do something, and push ourselves out of our comfort zone.

And, vulnerability leads to real connections with people. It is the act of opening ourselves up to be seen, as we really are, that allows others to connect with and love us as we really are.

It is not a sign of weakness in any sense – how can taking a risk and daring to make a mistake be a sign of weakness?

As Brené Brown says:

Vulnerability is about having the courage to show up and be seen.

One thing about our imperfections is that we often try to hide them from others – we feel vulnerable when they are exposed. I have found it incredibly empowering to share my imperfections with others – especially on my blog and through my art. It allows me to take control of who I am, and embrace all parts of me. And, it helps others to see their imperfections are perfectly ok, and when they reach out to tell me that seeing me be vulnerable has helped them, well that makes it all worthwhile.

Obviously, there is a time and a place to be vulnerable. Pouring your heart out to your boss or the guy who makes your coffee simply because you want to be vulnerable is probably not the best idea. You need to consider who you can be vulnerable with, especially to begin with. Think carefully about who you trust to support you as you share a little more of yourself.

How can you practice vulnerability?

  • Try saying no to something when that’s what you really want
  • Tell someone how you really feel
  • Let another person see a talent or skill you have
  • Share an embarrassing story of yours
  • Tell someone what you are afraid of
  • Share your biggest dreams and hopes with someone

>>> Prompts:

What does the word ‘vulnerability’ mean to you? What does vulnerability feel like or look like to you? Does it have any negative associations? Write about this.

Write about a time that you have felt vulnerable.

How could you see vulnerability being a strength? Why might you want to include more of it in your life? Explore this idea. (If you’re stuck on this one, I really recommend Brené Brown’s work.)

In what ways would you like to (safely) allow yourself to be more vulnerable? Who could support you in this?

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.