Tuesday, April 19, 2016

Art Journal 2015 [Insert Creative Title Here]

Last year, I decided to document my year of 2015 through art journaling. It was a big--even risky--step for me. For a long time, I thought I wasn't an artist because I can't draw beyond stick figures or smudgy, unproportional doodles and because I don't know "how" to paint or color perfectly inside the lines. But I learned in an art class (which terrified me for a while) that I am an artist if I create. And creating isn't always about drawing perfect lines or doing it right on the first try. Art is allowed to be messy, unproportional, smudgy, and well... creative. It's allowed to spill outside of the lines and to be full of mistakes. It's about expressing myself, whether that means splashing paint on a page until it runs into a muddled mess or tracing perfect circles with a compass.

So art journaling became something important as I documented my year. I used an old Reader's Digest volume and recycled it by ripping out pages, gluing pages together, and covering them with paint or other mediums. As I went through the year, I collected pieces of memorabilia, took pictures, and wrote down my thoughts about events. Not everything in the journal maps out significant moments, but every page contributes to my story of 2015 and the journey of my creative process growing. I learned better ways to prepare my journal pages, I studied various techniques, and I copied ideas from other people. But I also paved my own way. I may have used someone else's process to create a page, but their page will always be different than my page, and vice versa. The journal truly captures my year from my perspective.

I started off working on pages with no plans, which is not something I'm used to doing with physical art. I chose colors because I liked them. I scribbled my thoughts across the page to see how it would look. The beginning pages aren't my favorite to look at any more, but they are still important to remember because as I flip through the completed journal, I see myself grow and learn in my creative expression.

I'm a writer, through and through. My writing process is different depending on what I'm writing. Sometimes--most of the time--my writing is spontaneous and unplanned. I hate outlines. I hate planning every detail of the story. I like to sit down and see where the story--and my brain--leads me. However, I had never thought of creating physical art in this manner--with spontaneity and letting myself just flow with what I was working with. I thought everything had to be planned down to perfection and ruler lines. But once I cracked open the art journal and allowed myself freedom to not care what it looked like (nobody needed to look at it anyways), I found a way to move past the perfectionist inside of me.

And I've created something worth showing other people.

I had fun with this project, and I plan to continue this creative expression during 2016 too. (Which reminds me... I should probably start documenting.) I plan to keep doing this until I run out of Reader's Digest volumes. (I have about ten on my shelf still!) I want to see what other fun, beautiful, and messy things I can learn to create. It has helped give me time by myself to de-stress and just experiment. It's my time to try new things without worrying about dire consequences. (Oh, a ruined page? Just rip it out or fix it by adding something else!)

I love this process, and I hope to do more with it in other areas of my life. Plus, I've always wanted to complete a journal all the way through. Journal writing has never been my strong suit. I always feel stupid and bored writing about myself or my life. I'd rather write about someone very similar to me dealing with dragons or spaceships or magical items. So this is a way for me have fun writing about my life but also documenting my life in a creative way.

(The last page of 2015 and the first page of 2016.)

Even today, a friend posted a photo of her watercolor art, and I was amazed at how gorgeous it was. But I found I wasn't filled with grief that I could never do something so fantastic. I didn't immediately respond with "Well, I will never be that good." Instead, I was astounded at how simple she made it look. And it made me want to learn how to do that. I wanted to learn that technique in order to grow in my artistic ability. And I think my year of art journaling helped me become this kind of creative person.

And now, I'm the person who can say with confidence that I am indeed an artist.

(If you would like to see the whole journal in completion and in real life, just ask! I'd be happy to share it with you!)


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