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How art journaling helped me (and how it could help you!)

September 23, 2015

Image of an art journal page

I’ve been talking a lot about Art Journaling recently as some of you know I’ll be running my first workshop soon. I thought I’d write a bit about why it can be a great thing to keep an art journal.

I started mine when I was feeling stuck in my life, creatively, but also with planning for the future. I knew that I wanted my life to take a different path but I wasn’t sure what. I was feeling anxious, de-motivated and not creative in the slightest.

Why visual journaling?

I’ve always kept a written journal, which when I was a teenager was of course filled with the boys I fancied, and the usual teenage disappointments! When I grew into adulthood it helped me through a period of depression, and the times when my thoughts spiraled it helped to write stuff down, it still does.

I started the art journal as a way to play creatively, and somewhere to go where I didn’t want to write it all down. Here are some ways that my art journal has helped me;

1. It helped me to relax

I do meditate at times, but it sometimes feels like an effort. When I get out my journal and paints, I don’t have to think. I just do. And without worrying about outcome it gives my mind a bit of space. Sometimes my thoughts wander, sometimes I’m focused on what I’m doing, but I always finish up feeling much more relaxed than when I started.

Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi famously said of this feeling in his seminal work, Flow: The Psychology of Optimal Experience, ‘people are happiest when they are in a state of flow— a state of concentration or complete absorption with the activity at hand. It is a state in which people are so involved in an activity that nothing else seems to matter. The idea of flow is identical to the feeling of being in the zone or in the groove, an optimal state of intrinsic motivation, where the person is fully immersed in what he is doing.’

2. It helped me to get over my perfectionism

When I started my art journal I wasn’t sure what kind of artist I was. It helped me to experiment and play creatively without fear. I was so focused on the outcome that I was judging what I might make before I’d even made it, which led to me making nothing! My perfectionism in art was getting the better of me, and experimenting in my art journal, without feeling like I had to show anyone and be judged, helped me to get to where I am now. A place where experimentation is exciting and leads to possibilities. I also had some unexpected results which I’ve taken out of the art journal and into my artistic practice.

3. It’s so much fun!
It’s surprising just how much fun can be had with a blank sketchbook and some basic art materials, give it a go and see where it takes you!

There are lots of resources online about how to start an art journal, but if you fancy having a go yourself in a group of supportive people, with journal and materials supplied, come and join me on my workshop this Saturday. There are still a few places left, I’d love to see you there!

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