Why I Heart Art Journaling

I Heart Art Journaling.jpg

Dear Creative Crusader,

I want to share with you why I believe in art journaling, and why I started teaching Art Journal Lab (nearly) five years ago. 

The term “Art Journaling” means different things to different people. I've seen a lot on the internet about art journaling. It's a “hot” thing right now. Even the self-professed "non-creative" Brené Brown has added it to her roster of offerings. Often, when I look into other peoples’ versions of art journaling, the focus is different than mine, which is more on technique, ways of creating pages that highlight pithy sayings or sparks of deep truth. 

For me, art journaling is about many things, but it is mostly about the experience. It’s a form of meditation (and in my class includes meditation as the starting off point). It’s about creating a space, a private space. A safe space. A free space. A space where there are absolutely no rules, the critic is not invited, and neither is your dog, your husband, your wife, or your kid. (Well, I have to admit  I do sometimes invite my kid to draw in my journal and my dog has been known to make a cameo appearance.)


But really... It’s a space FOR YOU.

In the fast-paced, space-crunched, tech-laden, urban world of today, there isn’t a lot of space left just for you. You may not live out in the desert or the country, like I do, where there’s lots of space. Not everyone is necessarily blessed with a room of one's own. But a journal, which is inexpensive and can be carried anywhere, is your turtle shell. It’s your mobile home that reflects your heart, mind, body & soul. A traveling holistic mirror. A moveable space where you get to develop your point of view, your world, your visions. It’s a space for lovingly holding your wounds, dreams & questions. And for artists of all kinds, its an invaluable tool.

When I look at culture, I feel concerned for us, as humans. I feel our humanity getting squeezed out and I seriously want to protect it. I worry that we have less and less time for ourselves to wander, wonder, fall apart, feel, experiment, play, dream, not to mention, create. I worry that we don’t give ourselves adequate time to heal our wounds, nurture our souls, question our lives, develop our ideas. I believe these kinds of right brained/feminine/yin experiences are important because with out them, we aren't whole, and we live like robot slaves--unintentionally reflecting the conventions of our externally focused culture.

Our culture has not valued this side of life for a long time. The tender, invisible, intangible side. We dismissively call it “fluff,” unnecessary or silly. This rejection is another form of internalized sexism. This is our culture’s rejection of the feminine principle: feeling, emotion, intuition, creativity, imagination, receptivity, compassion--it's a giant wound for all of us. Not just women. Even though women make up over 90% of my subscribers, clients and students, I always keep the door open for men and boys, just in case, because they need this just as much as women do. Maybe even more.

This is the reason I do what I do. To create a safe & fun space for people to enter into, so they can unpack their whole being and experience the beauty of all of their selves, including shadow parts, wounds, dreams & celebrations. This is what happens in Dance Lab, Art Journal Lab, in my private sessions, my online courses, events & my future retreats. Heck, it's even what most of my poetry and songwriting is about.

And that is what the journal is for. It's your safe space where you get to move according to your own rhythms, with no rules, apologizing or holding back.

For me, art journaling has so many facets & possibilities, too many for one blog post, but simply put: it is a process of capturing our life experience using both hemispheres of the brain—left processing (linear, rational, verbal, active) and right processing (non-linear, emotional, image-based, receptive). It’s about balancing both sides of our experience and honoring that both aspects are needed in order to be, and feel whole. I don’t believe I’ll ever tire of talking about this, and emphasizing its importance. 

Of the people who have attended art journal lab over the years, some are trained, self-identified artists or writers, but many are not. Some are highly comfortable with words, but are self-effacing about their drawing abilities. Some are just the opposite.

In the world of art journaling (and all of the art therapies), skill is not the point. Of course it is lovely to have skills, and to develop our skills. And I, for one, am madly in love with learning. (Skill building is a module in my 31 day intensive). But, in the context of art journaling, what’s important is that we do it, no matter how we feel about our skills. We draw, we try our hand at imagining, we experiment, we explore, we play. That is the point. The process is the point of it. The doing of it increases our creativity, enhances our ability to see, to understand the world through our own eyes.

We are linking the two sides of our brain, just by trying. Just by creating both words and images. Even if we feel we have failed to capture the thing we are trying to capture, we still have succeeded because we brought ourselves into deeper balance and we have paid attention. Just as with meditation--even if we were mostly in our monkey-mind, even if all we experienced was a mere sliver of respite, the fact that we observed our mind at all, that we practiced observation--made the whole effort (or non-effort) worthwhile. 

Whether you think of yourself as an artist or not, I believe we are all artists. We all can be artists, if that is what we choose to be. We all are creative and we all can increase our creativity through practice. Creativity is good for us. There is no doubt about it. We need our creativity to evolve, to become more complex and also more refined. As individuals and as a collective. 

And so I believe in art journaling as an invaluable practice for self-proclaimed artists or for anyone to become more creative, connected, and whole.

Just for fun, and just for today, as it’s the first day of the 31 Day Intensive, I am going to share today’s prompt with all of you.

The word of the day is: curiosity

The prompt is:

Throughout your day, keep your inner eye open to the visual world around you. And pay attention to your curiosity. Which objects, people, spaces, animals, plants, food, gestures, colors delight your curiosity?  What do you want to investigate, discover?

Use a page in your journal to list those curiosities through out the day. You can list them in word form or in visual form, or both. Or you can photograph them, if that is your preference. And then at the end of the day, take a few from the list, and leading with your curiosity, research each “thing”. There are infinite ways of researching. 

Here are a few: 

  • focused googling
  • studying the thing with all five of your senses
  • asking an expert
  • using your imagination as the investigator into the spiritual significance or history of that curious "thing"

Enjoy and let me know how it goes!

If you are interested in art journaling, I will be hosting another Art Journaling/Blogging Challenge in January 2018 and you can also join my Art Journal Lab Facebook group

Love & Creativity,