Usually, when I create in my art journal, the words drift into substance dripping with paint and creative sweat somewhere along the path, after I’ve begun the page.
Yesterday, as I sat and contemplated one of the backgrounds I’d created for the art journalling course I taught at Kensington Arts, the words landed before I’d even set up my paints, with a clear and resounding note of “Here I am”, demanding a page upon which to appear.
So much of the fun of art journalling is in the ‘allowing’ of ideas for words and imagery to materialize from somewhere deep within – without judging, limiting or condemning each thought.
So often, as I created this page, I stopped and asked myself, “What am I afraid to try?” And then, I did that.
Like adding gold pearlescent powder to the leaves and birdcage (hard to see in the photo) I haven’t worked with those types of powders in years — it took a lot of opening and closing of cupboard doors and drawers to find them – but it was like encountering an old friend you haven’t seen in a long time. The familiarity, the comfort, the excitement, the remembering of things you’ve shared, the experiences you created together, the memories you built — they’re always there, enriching each step of your journey. As you begin to laugh and chat and share stories, the time apart evaporates and you are left with that wonderful knowing that a friendship like this is not measured by time. It is woven forever into your hearts, spinning songs of joy and laughter through time shared and time apart.
I danced with the muse yesterday. It was an old, familiar tune we played. In its familiarity, woven into each strand of melody, sweet notes of possibility filled my heart, calling my wings to spread and grow stronger.
Yesterday, when I stepped into the sheltering welcome of my studio, the muse whispered a tantalizing thought “He gave her words.”
Curious, I followed her lead.
I tore a page from an old book I keep on hand for just such occasions. I pulled out my GelliPad (a rubbery mat used for mono printing) and laid some colour down. Using the round end of a paintbrush, I drew a vase and flowers, laid the book page down and pulled a print.
The words on the page showed through. Cool. I kept going.
Pulled out a piece of deli paper, laid some more paint down (mostly darks), made more marks and pulled another print.
On the canvas paper page of my art journal, I collaged strips of paper from an old dictionary onto the page. The words defined on the torn strips all had to do with flowers. I collaged the deli paper printed page and then the printed book page onto the background and set to work creating a cohesiveness to the piece with paint pens, markers and fingerpainting – I had decided, somewhere in the process, that I wouldn’t use any brushes on this page. So I didn’t.
When I was finished, I placed my hands on the page, took a breath, closed my eyes and asked, “What words do you yearn to release?”
And the poem below came into being.
I am sharing my ‘process’ because it is, in so many ways, a reflection of life. We start with a desire to live life as best we can. We set goals. Follow dreams. Discover and use our talents. We gain knowledge. Expertise. Experiences. We layer on wounds. Scars. Cracks. They form the stories we tell ourselves about why or how we can or can’t do something. Those stories, made up of all the words we use to tell them to ourselves, again and again, create pathways, ruts, habits. Sometimes, we question their existence. Often, we accept them as natural limitations.
And then, one day, if we’re lucky or if we’ve hit such a devastating patch we cannot fathom how we will go on, we have no other choice but to start questioning the stories we’ve told ourselves about how we got to this dark and foreboding place. In our questioning, we start to unravel the words that formed those limiting beliefs that trapped us in believing this, this place where we feel so lost and alone and hopeless, is really all there is. Isn’t there more?
And then, if we’re really, really quiet, if we’re really, really still, we hear that voice deep within calling us to awaken. To open our eyes and heart and arms to the infinite mystery of who we are when we stop questioning our right to live wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
That’s when we begin the journey back to our truth. To the stories we tell ourselves, not of our limitations but of our limitless capacity to live wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
Yesterday, I stepped into the studio and the muse whispered, “He gave her words.”
I did not question, “What does that mean?”
I did not ask myself, “How on earth am I going to create something around ‘that’.”
Instead, I dove in. I let my intuition, my inner knowing guide me, unquestioning, into the creative expression of the muse’s invitation. I allowed ‘whatever yearns to appear’ to appear as I expressed myself without limiting my expression of my intuition by listening to all I tell myself I know about words and making sense of them or art and all I know about making it happen.
I stepped into the studio yesterday. I let go of ‘knowing’ and allowed myself to be present to the process of unveiling the mystery of what was seeking to be revealed.
And in the end, isn’t that what life is? A journey of exploration? A great mystery to be revealed with every step we take in its unfolding? Wild and free and outrageously ourselves.
He Gave Her Words
by Louise Gallagher
He gave her words
ripe and plump
of plundered promises
from the strings
playing a melody
he vowed would never die
with the turning of each season.
He gave her flowers
colourful and bright
cast upon indolent days
beneath a summer sun
hot against her skin.
He gave her promises
beneath autumn’s kisses
upon the frozen ground
of winter’s ice-cold breath.
He gave her words.
She gave her heart.
His words faded.
Her heart beats.
Fierce and free
of his words.
If you look closely at the painting above you will see it is mostly painted on cloth.
I was having fun playing with the eco-dyed cotton I created last week.
And here’s the deal. ‘Fun’ is the operative word. I was not trying to make art. I wasn’t trying to create something ‘perfect’. I was simply having fun exploring what happens if…
That’s art journalling. Exploring the what if’s of what happens when you let go of needing a purpose or destination to whatever you’re doing and just let yourself fall into the pure joy of self-expression that has no agenda, no intended outcome, no purpose other than to explore your creative essence.
Life is the art of living fearlessly in the beauty of this present moment.
‘Making art’ is just a means to access the creative core that resides in each of us through whatever medium we choose to employ.
For me, those mediums include paint, paper, (fabric too!) dried flowers and leaves (as in the cover of the handmade journal I created out of scrap papers.
My mediums also include the words I write, food I create, table settings, and a host of other everyday things I use to create beauty in my world. It’s all creative expression. My way.
Your creative expression will be different. It is a reflection of you. Your inner and outer world. Your experiences, preferences, likes and dislikes. But make no mistake, whatever you are doing, it is a creative expression of YOU! And because it is a reflection of you, it is, by its very nature, beautiful. You are beautiful just the way you are.
Make it Beautiful is both my motto and achilles heel. I struggle to keep in mind that sometimes my self-expressions aren’t so much ‘beautiful’ as much as one big beautiful mess.
Like this handcrafted journal I created at the beginning of August and continue to sporadically work on. It was an invitation from an online forum/art group I belong to, “Get Messy Art“.
Its pages are all bits and pieces of scrap paper. Different sizes, textures, colours, heaviness. The beauty of it is its ‘mess’.
And… confession… I struggle with the ‘mess’ of it all. I struggle to let go of my judgement of what is beautiful . I want to create pretty pictures. Not beautiful messes.
Which is why I’m sharing it here. To find the beauty in all of it… The places I judge as the good, the bad and the ugly.
It’s my invitation to ‘loosen up’. To give me the freedom of letting my not so ‘pretty’ parts show too. To quieten that voice within that likes to hiss in my ear, “What will ‘the neighbours’ think?” Or, one of the critter’s favourites, “They’ll laugh at you and not take you seriously.”
And that’s why art journalling is so powerful. It not only gives me a medium to express myself through words and art, it allows me to dive into those spaces within where I find myself hiding out from being ‘real’.
Being real to me is more than just ‘being authentic’. It means I allow myself to be vulnerable in my beauty and my beast nature. I allow all of me, warts and wounds and wisdom to be seen – because as this art journal so beautifully expresses for me, we are not just ‘the good’, we’re also the pieces of ourselves we want to hide. The scraps and broken places where we fear that if others saw them, they’d laugh at us, or mock us, or shun us.
We are all of who we are — not just the pretty parts we like to show off, but the dark spaces too.
Like the moon needs the sun’s glow to be seen in the dark, we need our darkness to let our true, inner beauty radiate.
That’s what art journalling has taught me. Again and again. To be grateful for the joy and the pain, the ease of passage and the turbulent seas. To be grateful and to express myself in every way my heart desires.
Oh. And to let my judgements go and simply Have Fun!
This is an Art Blog covering many topics to do with art, how to draw and paint tutorials, style, as well as creativity in general. We blog about art, photography, recommend related products and give our best SEO tips for artists and bloggers. We'd love to hear from you so get in touch if you want to start up a conversation or a collaboration!