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Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process

art journal art journey nichole rae

I love art journaling, although I don’t have as much time (read: almost never) for it as I’d like. But while I may not bring out the acrylic paints and paintbrushes as often as I should, I do find myself devouring lots and lots of books about art journaling.

My main complaint about many of the art journaling and mixed media books I’ve read over the years is that there’s often a feeling of sameness to them. The color palettes, the basic styles, the overall look – often one book will mesh into another and in my memory they become one long book, the pages virtually indistinguishable from each other.

Not so with Nichole Rae’s Art Journal Art Journey: Collage and Storytelling for Honoring Your Creative Process. I opened this book and was engrossed from page one. Unlike most other books on art journaling or mixed media, Nichole begins by plunging us right into her journaling process, and it’s a great process on its own, whether or not you decide to take what you’ve written and create an art journal out of it.

Her method of art journaling begins with her journaling process, which she does on the computer. She works with a list-style format of journaling which in her case reads beautifully, like poetry. It’s a very original, organic process, and just reading about it gave me lots of ideas for journaling different themes, which is something else she talks about. I always have so many ideas about various projects I want to work on, and I love how Nichole’s journaling process gives you permission to work on many themes at any given time:

“I often start multiple journal documents on my computer to set the writing process in motion. I save them to my desktop and am able to work on them little by little. Over time I will have a collection to use for my projects. Once I begin these journaling documents, my heart feels content to know they are created and will evolve with time. The simple joy of having them started provides comfort, knowing they are there to visit at any time.”

Once you feel you’re ready to print out one of your journal projects, it’s time to get into the creative process of putting all the pieces into a book. Nichole uses old, hardbound books for this process, and one thing I love is how she also incorporates pages from old books into her journals, in a method that’s a little similar to Austin Kleon’s blackout poetry, but with colour and without having to black most things out.

If you’re not a fan of working with altered books her techniques can definitely be applied to any blank sketchbook. I’ve made a few altered books before but have never really enjoyed the process. I don’t like having to glue pages together, or gesso them either, and I often lost the inspiration while I had to wait for the pages to dry. What I like about Nichole’s method is she doesn’t gesso the pages to give herself a blank canvas. Instead, she covers the page with a page from her printed journal and, in some cases, uses part of the page as her background or as part of the focus of the page.

While the discussion about laying out and assembling the pages is interesting, probably my second favourite part of the book, after the section on the journaling process, is the section on the creative mini projects.

“Working on a mini project while you are in the process of collecting and gathering supplies for your main project is a great way to be creative during this process. … I use mini projects to inspire my creativity and to help jumpstart the creative process.”

The mini project that appeals to me the most is the Inspirational Card Deck. There are just SO many possibilities for this one project. Not just from an art perspective, either. From a writer’s point of view, I can see myself creating writing prompts, mini character sketches, setting cards .. the possibilities are so exciting.

In fact, much of the process Nichole describes will help me with several of my writing projects. I’ve always loved combining my words with art, and Art Journal Art Journey gives me a process I can use without having to worry about my quite amateurish drawing skills.

There is an originality and freshness to Art Journal Art Journey that I really enjoyed. I finished reading it feeling very inspired, and the fact that her journaling process is one I can use for my writing was a huge, unexpected and very wonderful bonus.

Do You Keep a Journal?

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I love to write, but I’ve never been good at keeping a journal.

On the other hand, I’ve had some success with what I call “specialty” journals.

For example, I kept a gratitude journal the year after my divorce (and it was very, very helpful).

I’ve also worked on a few art journals, and one year I kept a “mandala journal” which resulted in a wonderful little book filled with gel pen mandalas that I still like to look over every now and then. I found the time I spent creating these little mandalas each day to be incredibly meditative.

Some of my favorite mandalas from that little book:

mandala mandala2 mandala7 mandala8

I’ve had my greatest success, journaling-wise, with “Morning Pages”, from Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. I did them for about eight years, and toward the end, they, like the mandalas, had become quite a meditative tool. I still have several notebooks crammed on my shelves, even though I occasionally pull a few out to shred them (the whole idea of Morning Pages is that you NEVER reread them, so I’ve had no problems disposing of them).

But I’ve never been able to keep a regular “daily” journal consistently, something that I could pick up and read over older entries, see what I was up to on a certain day in a certain year.

A while back, I wrote about how I was inspired to give journaling a try. In fact, I titled that post much the same as this one!

I never did do anything about my inspiration last time around, though. Those beautiful Moleskine notebooks arrived but I never did anything with them.

Recently, though, I’ve come across a few articles online that have made me think about how wonderful it would be to keep a journal. And during our decluttering these past few weeks, I also decided to pull out the book Creative Journal Writing, by Stephanie Dowrick, from my TBR pile.

Those Moleskine notebooks from last year are still blank, and now I’ve decided I’d like to start using them.

And it occurred to me that maybe the problem I have with journaling is that I am just too eclectic – it’s hard for me to consistently write the same kind of thing every day.

So what if I let myself write whatever I wanted to every day? (Ahem. Much like I’ve been doing here, and thank you all for continuing to read, by the way.)

I’ve been thinking that I could write in it:

  • gratitude lists
  • story ideas
  • conversation snippets overheard or dreamed up
  • my dreams
  • quotes from things I’m reading or see online
  • any of those one-line thoughts that come to me in droves every day

Or anything else that might occur to me. Maybe sometimes I’d even write about what I did that day.

And some days, I might whip out my gel pens and draw something, create a mandala or maybe do a ZenTangle.

I’ve been thinking that this just might work. I might work in my journal consistently if I let the content be as varied as whatever might appeal to me that day.

Do you journal? If you do, do you have any tips for me? And if you don’t, do you ever think about keeping a journal?

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