I’d send a thank you card to whomever introduced me to art journaling–if I could remember who it was. Maybe there isn’t a “somebody who introduced me to art journaling.” Maybe it was God. Maybe she knew I needed it. I’ve been keeping some form of journal since sixth grade. It started as a pared-down gossip rag . “Melissa likes Billy. I like Ray. I hate my hair. It looks like I stuck my finger in light socket. [It did.] They served square pizza in the cafeteria today.” Sexy stuff.
Overtime the journals evolved. It’s hard to describe into what exactly. Sometimes they’re observation logs–bits of people whom I’ve observed in real life destined to show up in my stories. Sometimes they’re pieces of stories or ideas for stories. I have pages that are nothing but lists of words I like. Other times I write pages and pages of self-indulgent shit–me wallowing around in my ego. I hate reading that crap. I have one rule–I do not tear pages out of journals. That’s like lying. Like saying I didn’t say all that id-ified crap when I know I durn well I did. My journals are a chronological account of my evolution as a person and a writer.
I’ve always drawn in them. Sometimes just analog emoticons–smileys or frustrated faces. Other times I’ve indulged in colorful pens or sketched out ideas for paintings. But recently I’ve found something wonderful. And it just happens to coincide beautifully with my study of embodiment theology, quantum physics (the popular science kind that comes without math), and the search for more creativity in my busy life. It is called art journaling and you can see some examples from my current journal above.
Embodiment theology is all about feeling. Not just emotions–not even emotions, really. It’s about how we experience the world through our senses on an on-going and relational way. It is also about how God created the world in relationship to it (out of chaos and glorious darkness) and how we experience God in process. I am not doing this theology justice because I’m still learning it. It takes my brain awhile with a new subject matter; to let it soak in before I can teach it. I have to let new ideas sit up there and trickle down into all those wrinkles and crevices. Embodiment theology is a bit, um, cautious of words. It emphasizes our direct experience of the divine. This brings me back to art journaling.
Drawing and painting are like meditation for me. They slow my brain and allow me to truly see what ever it is I’m trying to make. Color connects me to my subconscious in a way I don’t understand. That’s why its SUB-conscious. Often times I’ll start with a word that’s been popping up a lot and just sit with it. Then I’ll thow some color on a page, then, after a while, I’ll have a picture. It’s a little like magic, or God, take your pick. After I have the images, I gesso over them and write. Sometimes I write narrative, sometimes I write poetry, sometimes I paste on words from magazines that seem to fit. The poem post that pre-dates this entry was done in my art journal over images of wine, bread, and a woman walking away from a desk. The images came before the poem. They almost always do.
You don’t have to be able to draw to do art journals. You can get some modge podge and do collages with images from magazines or the interwebs. You can do stick people. You can use crayons. The idea is to be still and listen to what arises out of your soul. The process has been truly life changing for me. I can’t describe how peaceful and truly happy I am when I’m working with my journal–even when I’m very, very sad. Yes, sometimes the emotion that comes up is sad. Sometimes I work on a page–like the one above entitled “Not for Sissies” that is about dealing with something hard or painful, but working both visually and linguistically gets me through it and beyond it in a more complete way than relying on words alone. Words can only signify so much.
So I invite you, those who write, to draw. And I invite you, those who draw, to write. Allow yourself to dwell fully within your body and give it fully expression on the page. You’ll be surprised where the Spirit leads you. And then there’s dancing…but that’s another post.