Tuesday, April 13, 2021

Analog Things: Art Journals

My art journals...
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by Laurie Allee

Making your own illuminated manuscripts...

Okay, so maybe they don't rival these illuminated manuscripts, but art journals have taken my regular blank books to a whole different level.  They've also given me a meditative practice that I look forward to doing.  Illustrating my journals adds another layer of creativity to my life, and provides a great alternative to scrolling on my phone.

Here are a lot of different art journals.
So what, exactly, is an art journal?  
According to Wikipedia, it is a journal often containing both words and sketches, and occasionally including mixed media elements like collages.  

Don't let the name fool you into thinking you need to know the intricacies of shading and perspective to partake in this endeavor.  (Although if you know these things, you will make great art journals.) I consider an art journal any blank book that you use to draw, doodle, trace, color, collage or otherwise alter to include your own illustrations.  
I've been a regular diary-keeper since I was in elementary school.  My early entries were what you might expect: light on substance, heavy on pedestrian activities with lots of details about passionate crushes on boys.

When an English teacher in junior high assigned Diary of Anne Frank, I was profoundly moved to try to do more with my journals.  Sure, Anne complained about her mother and professed her undying love for Peter, but she also left behind a memoir of great beauty and importance.  

Her diary guarantees the world will never forget the holocaust.  It inspires as much as it informs. 

Reading Anne's diary made me realize that journals could actually change the world. Honest, introspective personal histories were important.  While I never, ever rose to the level of Anne Frank, keeping a journal has definitely made me a better writer and a better person.

Regular journaling helps me work through problems, explore opinions, flesh out creative ideas, keep records, document my experiences, chronicle (and possibly exaggerate) my adventures, process grief, experiment with sentence structure and write pages and pages and pages of fairly mediocre poetry.  Keeping a journal led me to becoming a professional writer and it (naturally!) led me to becoming a blogger.  

I don't think this counts...
My boxes and boxes of old journals contain all kinds of scribbling, but they don't have much in the way of illustration.  

Chalk it up to coming of age in an either/or era that insisted you were either a writer OR an artist.  I never thought of my blank books as places to sketch or doodle.  They were places to write... right? 

Not necessarily...

It's more than a blank book now.
The pandemic has given many of us an opportunity to explore new pathways for creative expression and personal enrichment that we might have been too busy to discover before.  

While I am dedicated to avoid living most of my life online, the last 13 months in lockdown have been challenging.  It's tempting to fall back into the old habit of scrolling, scrolling, scrolling.  Journaling has always been a great analog alternative to posting on Twitter --with infinitely more space to make a point --but I'm not always in the mood to write.  Maybe I've already been writing a manuscript all day.  Maybe I just don't want to put words together.

The thing that makes social media so tempting and addictive to me is its effortlessness.  It's easy to mindlessly stare at all those ever-changing images.  Getting out a sketchbook to MAKE ART, however, can feel daunting ... especially when it's so much easier to binge-watch funny Tik Tok videos.  

This page is coming up roses.
Joining the adult coloring craze is an option, but coloring books don't interest me for long.  Maybe I just just never liked the idea of coloring within someone else's lines.  

Doodling in a book I use as a journal, however, is a perfectly effortless alternative to social media.  Coloring in those doodles elevates them to illustrations.   Going back to those pages to write makes me feel even more creative.  You know how intimidating it can be to look at a blank page?  I don't have the same hesitation when the page has cartoon flowers on it.

 Art journaling is a great left-right brain collaboration.  
Morning pages and more creative hacks
If you don't have a regular journaling practice, I highly recommend giving it a try.  For a great jump start, check out The Artists Way.  In this creative self-help classic, Julia Cameron introduces the practice of writing "morning pages." Millions of people do it every day. 

If you join in, your relationships will probably be better, your mind will be clearer, your ideas will flourish and you'll leave behind a record of your life that will probably surprise and shock your children when they eventually sort through your things.   

A great read about
the left/right sides of the brain
If you just don't see yourself keeping any kind of a regular journal, you might try turning your day planner or calendar into a kind of art journal.  Or, just start filling a spiral notebook with doodles.  If you don't want to doodle, you might like making collages.  There are many interesting artists on YouTube making all kinds of beautiful things out of blank books.  I've included a few favorites here to give you inspiration.  I don't do collages -- well, not yet anyway.  My only supplies are my favorite Bic ballpoint and a lot of different colored pencils. (Crayons are good too.)

One of the things that surprised me the most is how much better my mind works when I spend some dedicated, relaxed time making visual art.  I don't have the same experience editing my photographs and videos,  possibly because I am not nearly as relaxed as when I'm simply drawing and coloring.  I solve a lot of problems and have a lot of eureka moments just zoning out with my doodles.  I don't even think about picking up my phone.

Be sure to watch my video at the top of the post to see some of my illustrated pages.  I feel like a kid bringing my coloring book to show-and-tell!  

For more art ideas, check out NerdForge here.  If art isn't your thing, make music.  Here's some inspiration

Stay tuned for more hands-on, analog activities to avoid phone scrolling.

For my guide to social media alternatives, click here

For great books to conquer digital addiction, click here

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