Lessons Learned from Keeping an Art Journal

Journal entry

Years ago when I was living alone, I would paint on canvas with acrylics. I loved it. I’d put on a rotation of classical music or dinner party jazz on Spotify, pour myself a glass of red wine and spend hours creating art pieces, some that were eventually trashed but a few that ended up hanging on my walls.

Then I became involved in a serious relationship, and when he moved in, there was no more space for my easel, canvases, and array of paints and brushes. I hated to do it, but I had to give up on my hobby of painting, and it’s been that way for the past three years.

Thankfully, I no longer live in my one-bedroom, one-bathroom urban apartment and have since moved into a larger two-bedroom, two-bathroom urban condo with enough space for two people to comfortably co-exist. And while I have not dug out my easel and canvases from the storage closet attached to my balcony, I have found a way to paint again without taking up too much space.

I discovered art journaling through a free Craftsy class Michael’s craft store was offering its members. After watching the online tutorial, I was immediately hooked. And while my art journal entries are not as spectacular as the ones made in the tutorial (which would have cost a fortune to make had I purchased all the art supplies used), I seem to have found my groove and have developed my own style, which I am quite pleased about.

As I venture back into this long-lost world of paints, mixed media and creativity, I have learned (and been reminded of), some important lessons about art, creativity, and life in general:

  1. Even spontaneity requires planning. Creating art definitely involves an element of spontaneity, but by far my best pieces have been those that have required a little bit of advanced preparation. From planning out the design of the piece to priming the pages for mixed media, never have I been pleased with a piece that didn’t require some sort of prep work.
  2. Creating art takes time. While it is very possible to create a well-crafted piece of art in under an hour, very rarely have my best pieces been done in such a tight timeframe. Just priming the pages alone requires time for the gel medium or gesso to dry (especially in this mid-Atlantic July humidity) and when acrylics are involved, even more drying time is required. But that’s the thing I like about my art journaling experience—the luxury of not being rushed, of being able to take my time and enjoy the ride. Very few things in my life offer that benefit, which is why I have found art journaling to be so satisfying.
  3. Making art allows you to recycle, but it also involves a lot of unintentional waste. Art journaling is one of those crafts that allows you to use almost anything to create a quality piece. I have used lots of scraps from past craft projects to create amazing art journal entries and have seen examples from other artists who have used everything from recycled wrappers to wrinkled tissue paper to make spectacular pieces. However, given the small size of my journal, it just kills me to see how much acrylic paint I seem to waste. I really do try to squeeze from the paint tubes very tiny amounts of paint, but more often than not, I am forcing out more than I need. I have come to accept this reality about making art. Sometimes, waste is unavoidable.
  4. “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” Thomas Merton once said those very true words, and while I don’t know if he was talking about making art or consuming it, I have been reminded of this reality as the one in the artist’s chair. When I’m involved in a piece, I’m completely involved. Very often I lose track of time as I work to blend the paints into the desired shade or meticulously cut out images to paste on top of my painted journal backgrounds. I really am lost in my own world, yet at the same time, am experiencing such joy in realizing the creative possibilities that exist and utilizing this part of the brain I wish I could exercise on a daily basis.
  5. Instagram is addicting. I am probably one of the last people on earth to join the Instagram craze, and that has been intentional. Before, I was never able to understand the point of Instagram and simply could not be bothered with creating and painting “yet another” social media profile. But with this new hobby of mine, I can easily share my work with a broader audience while seeing what others are doing — and it’s completely addicting! (My Instagram handle is jodikatherine11–follow me!)

background.JPGThere is a reason art is used as therapy for those who have undergone traumatic experiences. It’s soothing, it brings self-satisfaction, and has an element of freedom and self-expression that is refreshing and cathartic. And even for those looking for an escape from the craziness of life in general, the act of creating something truly does have a positive affect on the psyche. That is why art journaling is definitely a hobby I will continue to keep.


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