The Gift of Art Journaling

By Chloe Collin

Little did I know, when I was given that empty, plain, black book, how my life would be changed by the gift of art journaling. The gift was imparted to me during an art course (The Katrina School of Art, www.heartsathome.ca/katrina.html), and it continues to enable beauty and inspiration.

What Is Art Journaling?

Many people keep journals, and many people like to draw. Many people exchange letters, and many people have memorable adventures. But few people experience the delightful symphony of these combined interests; instead, they endure the confused din of many separate melodies playing all at once. Art journaling acts like a master score, blending the various sides of the soul into a harmonic song.

What Does Art Journaling Involve?

Art journaling has a simple format: the right-hand page features writing and drawing; the left-hand page holds letters, embellishments, and printed memorabilia. This frees the artist from the uncomfortable task of writing on the left-hand side of the journal, and it prevents ink leaking through the paper, ruining text or illustrations on the other side of the page.

Each journal develops as a unique creation, reflecting the author, and ultimately, revealing the beauty of the Master Creator. The components of an art journal can include:

Normal Life: Record the events, verses of Scripture, and people that make a day special. I took my journal to staff meetings and drew gestures of the speakers. It accompanies me to Sunday Fellowship, where I take notes, draw concept pictures, or sketch an item or person in the room.

Special Events: Wedding invitations, funeral programs, brochures from a tourist visit, and pamphlets from a musical performance get taped onto the left-hand page of my journal, while thoughts and sketches relating to the event fill the right-hand page.

Correspondence: Sometimes, describing our thoughts and feelings to another person gives us new perspective and expression for our own situations and problems. These letters can be copied or printed and put in the journal, along with cards or messages from friends.

Quotes: A quote from a book or story, a song’s lyrics, and a person’s words often need to be captured or expressed. Art journaling gives space to write or print, to incorporate pictures with text, and to create new fonts and styles.

What Are the Benefits of Art Journaling?

Art journaling differs from “normal” journaling in that it frees the writer from the lines and margins of an ordinary journal and sets them on a journey to discover and implement creativity and order. This happens in several ways:

Penmanship and Writing Development: A blank page forces a student to evaluate his penmanship and determine his style, pen preference, and favorite format. The accountability of other eyes seeing my entries encouraged me to think better, bigger thoughts, and to find ways to express life’s paradoxes.

Portable Memory Album: Instead of stuffing brochures, pamphlets, and memorabilia from field trips or family vacations into an envelope or box, art journals allow you to keep up with events as they happen. I remember places and events because I drew a picture of them, or saved literature from them, in my journal.

Record of Growth: The liberty of art journaling is that it invites us to live deeper and enjoy life more—no matter how poorly we draw, write, think, or express ourselves. Each time I look through my filled journals, I blush when I see some of the illustrations and entries from days gone by, but as I recall the stories, situations, feelings, struggles, and joys represented by my pictures and words, deeper gratitude is fostered in my heart.

Accessibility to Others: Creativity and inspiration are nurtured and encouraged by seeing the humble, happy journey of another pilgrim. A student’s personal development through art journaling is only half the picture: the potential behind his attempts and triumphs will travel beyond his immediate sphere of influence and give him opportunities to touch others’ lives. I often let my dad read my journal; it is a simple way to let him understand my heart, so that he can better guard and guide me. People who see me sketching ask to look at my journal, and it brings new dimension and opportunity into relationships. Many of my little friends have drawn in my journal, and these pictures are precious to me.

Reference Library: There is new confidence to attempt drawing a person, item, or landscape, when it has already been attempted in the safety of a journal. Playing with colored pencils in a journal gives new freedom to combine colors in painting. Beginning a journal sketch in pencil provides assurance to finish it in pen and ink, an intimidating, permanent medium. Finding the shapes in an item, playing with shading, and learning different techniques in the process enable the artist to reproduce a similar illustration in other mediums and sizes.

Out-of-the-Lines Creativity and Flexibility: Art journaling provides a positive pressure to constantly discover and implement standards and principles of success. There is “space” for a dud page, and there is jubilation over a breakthrough. When traveling, I often work ahead in my journal, sketching page after page of the new and beautiful things around me. Later, when drawing time is scarce, I fill in the pages with my thoughts. Entries can be all text or all pictures. Each day is a special gift from God, and our journals can reflect His creativity.

How Do I Start?

Journals can be purchased at craft or art supply stores. They can be sewn or spiral-bound; they have smooth or porous paper; they boast various sizes and shapes; and they come with blank or partially lined pages. I began with a hardbound 8½ x 11-inch journal and have been very happy with it. Younger children may be less intimidated by a journal half this size (5½ x 8½ inches); however, the full-sized journal will enable you to tape in all their “scrap paper drawings,” keeping these treasures in one place.

Some students will pick up journaling and run with it, while other students may do better with assigned journal time each day. Once set in motion, the habit gives the foundation for further growth and flexibility in their development. A student needs space to explore and to find the aspects of journaling he enjoys. This delight will spur him on and inspire him when he encounters difficulties and dull seasons.

Inspiration and the artist are unique. Encourage discovery by cultivating an atmosphere of positive stimulation. Take your journals to church, family devotions, movie nights, book reading sessions, or field trips, and let imagination and delightful curiosity propel development. A flourishing talent is fostered by simple boundaries and space for personality, innovation, and vision.

The goal in art journaling is to delight in God—in the gifts He gives to us—and to glorify God in the gifts He gives through us.

Chloe Collin is a home-educated graduate currently living with her family on their farm in Canada. She enjoys writing; playing piano; singing; sketching; designing quilts, cards, costumes, and salads; reading John Piper’s books; listening to her sister play piano; spending time with her family; sipping orange pekoe tea; and nibbling dark chocolate.

Copyright 2009. Originally appeared in The Old Schoolhouse Magazine, Summer 2009.

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