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Art Journaling and Creative Expression

What is Art Journaling?

Art journaling is an important source of creative inspiration in my life. Even though I am not an artist, and have little to no artistic talent, I find that creative expression is important to all of us. Our brains are wired for creativity, and this is one way to use it! When I tell people that I’ve been art journaling, a lot of them ask, “what the heck is that?” or “art what?”  Put simply, it is like any regular journal, except you use words and images to express yourself. It is a means of gaining insight and inspiration in your life. For me, it is a way to be more creative and find inspiration in my life. I think it’s sometimes hard to define because there aren’t any set rules or guidelines that tell you what is or isn’t an art journal. Anything goes!! The only real rule is that Art Journaling is about creative expression, and the focus is on process not product.

Art journals are meant to be non-judgmental, which means that there is no such thing as bad art, lack of talent, and the only limitation is what fits on your page. The point is creative activity, not perfection.

One of the most helpful definitions I’ve found of an art journal can be found here: http://debbiehodge.com/2010/03/defining-art-journaling/

But I’m not an artist! 

Let’s bust that myth right now. I can’t draw to save my life, and most of the time, what ends up on the page is nowhere close to what was in my head. But the beauty of the art journal is that it’s okay! The truth is, we are all creative beings. God’s first act was creation, and we were made in His image. Even our worst creation is something God declares beautiful enough to stick on His refrigerator. Okay, that part isn’t in the Bible, but I believe it with my whole heart. Think of all the crazy pieces of art your kids bring home that you proudly display. As the perfect parent, I’m pretty sure God’s fridge is plastered with our stuff.

Okay, fine… I MIGHT be able to do this art journal thing. Why should I consider art journaling?

We live in SUCH a judgmental world. Everything we do gets a stamp of whether or not it’s good enough. Maybe not literally, but there’s always that voice of judgment either in our minds or in someone else’s mind. Because the whole point of art journaling is NOT to judge, we’re free to express everything. Have an ugly emotion? Get it out! Express it in your art journal. Want to make an ugly page? Do it! If you want to create something pretty, that’s great too. You have full control over doing what feels good instead of following rules and being forced to color inside the lines. If you want to scribble, have at it!

One of the things that happens when we engage in a hands-on creative activity is that it opens different pathways in our brains. By not judging whether something is good or bad, we create new connections in our brains and get our thinking patterns out of the rut we’ve been stuck in. An art journal is the perfect place to take the things you’ve been bottling up to get them out. Because it’s your personal creative space, you don’t have to share if you don’t want to!

How do I get started?

At the risk of having things thrown at me (there are advantages to doing things online, after all), just start!! Go rummage through your kids’ drawers and find their old crayons, paints, markers, colored pencils, or whatever else you might have on hand and do it. While I’ve taken a lot of classes that use fancy supplies, you do not have to start out that way! My favorite art journal pages are made with Sharpies (I have a serious Sharpie addiction) and watercolor paint. And when I say watercolor paint, I mean the cheapo watercolors pans you find in the kid art supply aisle. As for paper, you could start with construction paper, computer paper, or even an old notebook. I found after my first page that I really don’t like using lined notebook paper, and I pretty quickly invested in a nice spiral bound mixed media pad. But you can use whatever you want!

Seriously, though, I don’t even know what to journal about!

Hey, I get it. There are hundreds of art journal prompts out there. Sometimes I use a prompt, sometimes I have an idea in my own head that I want to use, or an experience I want to document. Sometimes I have a problem I’m trying to work out. My favorite art journal topics are things I’m feeling grateful for or experiences that touch me deeply. But if you really want me to tell you what to art journal for your first page, here it is: How do you feel about art journaling? Excited? Scared? Ambivalent? Doubtful? Hopeful? Express all of your emotions- each one, even if it contradicts one of the emotions you’re feeling is okay. All of your feelings are important and accepted. Get them all out!

I did my page, now what? What’s the next step?

Visit my Unleash Your Creative Spirit page to sign up for my classes, and be sure to sign up for my Art Journaling newsletter, and you’ll get lots of neat tips to help you engage with your creative spirit. I post a lot of free prompts on my blog, so jump in wherever you feel comfortable. Being perfect or following directions completely isn’t the point of any of these exercises. It’s about freeing yourself to be more creative and to find new ways of thinking and seeing your life.

You can also visit my blog and look for the posts with the art journaling tag.

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