The Art Journal Challenge
by Rachael McCampbell
This article was published in the January 2018 issue of Nashville Arts Magazine
It’s January—time to take a moment to reflect on the past year and create intentions for the next one. For freelance artists (painters, writers, musicians, etc.), New Year’s resolutions often merge with business ones as our personal well-being is intrinsically related to our work life. Since we don’t get employee “sick days,” self- care is paramount for an artist’s survival. So, at the top of the list are resolutions such as exercising more, giving up fast foods, and getting more sleep. After that, time structure is a top concern.
Artists need a great deal of time to make art, promote it, and sell it, which is very time-consuming and often creatively draining. When my artistic side suffers, I seek balance. To help release stress and keep my creative juices flowing—I have committed myself to the practice of Art Journaling. Each morning, before anything else happens (phone and laptop turned off), I devote thirty minutes to my sketchbook. This is an unedited time of play, exploration, and subconscious dumping of my feelings and thoughts (and their visual interpretations) onto a page. My purpose? To release through words and images what I’m processing in my mind, unclutter it, let go of pent-up worries, and clarify what is truly important. This unedited art play allows me to experiment and try new things (perfectionism has no place here), which can lead to unexpected new ideas and creative techniques that I can apply later to my studio work.
Many famous artists, such as Leonardo da Vinci, Gauguin, and Picasso, kept art journals. Frida Kahlo kept an intriguing visual diary that documented what seems to be subconscious musings expressed without definitions or explanations. Not everyone is as fearless as Frida—it can be intimidating to stare at a blank page—where do I start? I suggest setting out a mixture of tools: watercolors, acrylics, colored pencils, pen and inks, charcoal pencils, acrylic pens, glue, and old magazines. Then take a breath, let go of your to-do list and start writing. Don’t edit—just write about the first thing that comes to mind. It might be a dream you had, a joyful thought, or a worry. If you are stuck, find a line from a favorite song or poem, write that down and see what imagery follows. Tear out images or words from magazines and glue them down—how do they speak to you? Maybe draw a self-portrait, a secret wish or something you are afraid of. What about a childhood memory? Just start making marks, cover them over, write again, paint again. Let the process guide you instead of the other way around.Art Journaling can be combined with Travel Journaling where you sketch what you see combined with your internal feelings about that place. I’m leading a trip to the Cotswolds this summer where I’m encouraging both subconscious and conscious journaling—sketching what we see or don’t see. Our impressions and feelings of an experience are often much more impactful than a literal record of it.
I invite you to join me in an art journaling practice in 2018. Please send me pictures of your outcome. Give yourself the gift of a few minutes a day to write and sketch about your internal life or simply paint your coffee mug . . . I promise, somehow your whole life will appear in that, too.
One tip: Keep a table with all your supplies set out and don’t move them. If you put them away, you are less likely to journal.