Art Journaling is primarily about deepening my relationship with myself and accessing my creativity. It has become a ‘practice’ that brings me into being present with myself, how I feel, what is going on inside. It bypasses the conscious mind, allowing the inner voice to be heard.
I may work with dreams, process feelings, doodle or play with techniques – it doesn’t matter WHAT I do, just that I do it. In fact, giving myself permission not to produce ‘art’ is liberating.
This is essentially for me a daily opportunity to really listen, a meditation, being present with what my inner voice wants to be expressed. More than that, it feeds my other creative work, whether painting, writing or gardening – it exercises my right brain, my ‘creative muscle’.
In my first years of keeping some kind of journal/sketchbook I perhaps did it once a week (or when I was in crisis) though sometimes I noticed I hadn’t visited my journal for a month or more. One early journal was dated 1997 – 2001!
Then I deepened into it more through a book* I bought when I was desperately trying to develop a creative business – the processes in it shifted something in me and I took flight, dropped the idea of the business and immersed myself in journaling.
For the next few years I filled an A4 spiral bound book every year. The last couple of years I have filled them in 1/2 a year or less. I say this not to boast about productivity, but to illustrate how this process – a dialogue, a conversation with the self – is so rich, rewarding and deepening one cannot stay away.
I now journal every day – not necessarily producing a page a day – but working on it every day. This past year has seen me engaged in the process of grieving the loss of both my brother and my closest female friend(see Even Death is a World to be Explored) Journaling has helped me immensely to process feelings and to explore the bigger spiritual questions. Journaling is now part of my spiritual practice. It helps me get out of my own way – much of what I create comes from somewhere my conscious mind has no control over – and it’s great!
Traditionally the Muse has been female for both male and female artists – but to me the Muse is primarily a catalyst (inspiration) that moves me to create. The Muse can be an actual person, music, poetry, landscape, or an abstract idea.
My Muse is the ‘Edge’. And that edge is manifested both internally and externally. The Edge of life includes death, challenges to who I think I am, confronting fear at all levels.
I connect most easily with that edge in wild landscapes and ancient monuments, big skies and roaring seas, high mountains and wind-blown moors, there I lose my small sense of self and join with something bigger. This doesn’t scare me – quite the opposite. In the presence of nature I am reassured, reconnected, redeemed.
It is often useful to reflect upon what inspires you and create the conditions necessary to have that in your life. (Beware however of addictive substances & relationships – these ultimately destroy the creator)
May Sarton (a writer and poet) says this: ‘The Muse opens up a dialogue with oneself and goes on her way’.
The key here is that of opening oneself up for a dialogue. Many things, people and events have done that for me in my life. But more recently I have been reflecting on how Death has been my muse from the very beginning – in that its presence has catapulted me into huge, life-changing decisions. Included in the big Death are all the little deaths or letting go’s one has to deal with.
Within us all are many archetypal energies, manifested throughout the centuries and in different cultures as Goddesses/Gods, spirits and totem animals etc. Once we begin the dialogue with our inner voice we may be shocked, delighted and surprised by what is revealed.
The archetype that emerged for me was passionate and wild, angry and scary – but once I had let her out she refused to go away. She took the form of Hecate, the Goddess of the crossroads/thresholds; sometimes she was Raven/Crow-woman, Cat-woman. She is covered in tattoos, wild-haired/feathered. At first she scared me but I have come to both love and trust her and listen when she speaks. She is my anima, my intuitive shadow. She is not my Muse, the catalyst for my creativity, she IS my creativity.
Your animus/shadow needs to be discovered and heard. Who will she be I wonder?
Wonder – that is the key word in all this for me. If I can hold onto the wonder it helps get past the fear! We fear what we do not know; we fear we will find something within ourselves that is both unacceptable to others and ourselves. My experience has been that this is totally untrue, quite the opposite.
A few notes
These are the 4 Noble Truths for Creators:
- Creators create.
- Creating is a process.
- You never know what you will end up with until the process is over (or you stop)
- If creating (read writing, composing, painting etc) is your practice, then the only way to fail as a creator is NOT to create!
You don’t need any training or specialist knowledge; in fact ’empty mind’ is best! It’s good to have some basic equipment and resource (see my dedicated page for this) Also it is vital to have a dedicated space even if it’s only a tabletop.
Meanwhile I would recommend watching YouTube – just type in art journaling and off you go – these are great for techniques and how-to’s – don’t be put off by the fact that some of them operate on a ‘pretty’ superficial level and some are very ‘product’ oriented. And try not to get caught in copying exactly. When you come across a technique that you like – head for the studio/desk and play with it!