An artist’s journal is a place where secrets are spilled, mistakes can be made, new techniques are explored, and beauty is revealed. In my own creative journey I have found that my journal is one of the most powerful tools in my growth as an artist.
There was a time when a new journal with its pristine pages would have intimated me. As I opened its cover I would think of the beautiful and perfect art that I desired to create. And then I would shut it, convincing myself I didn’t have the time, skill, or ideas. I think now about all of the years I wasted believing the lie that beautiful art was perfect and complete. Beautiful art is the art that you have the guts to create, no matter the outcome.
Soon, I realized that all the gaps in my day allowed me the opportunity to connect with my creativity if I was open to it. With simple tools and an art journal always with me, I began collecting marks, patterns, and symbols. I gathered thoughts, ideas, and quick sketches. I started opening the journal and caring more about connecting with the joy of creating than the pressure of creating perfectly. In this journey I grew as an artist.
When we get stuck as creatives it is easy to turn to a million other things instead of turning to the world around us. Our story, our quiet, our intention, and our inspiration are right there in front of us. They are in the blind spot: that area that is always there that we don’t notice. For me, that spot was the gravel roads, silos, old barns, and the men and women with incredible stories from my childhood. It was the mountains and prairies of my present. It was the stories I didn’t know how to tell so I didn’t tell them, when really I should have found new ways to express them. This is the freedom I discovered in creating in an artist’s journal. My art didn’t have to be complete, make sense, or be shown to anyone else. My journal became my stomping grounds, the place I hung out to figure out myself and my art.
Now, when I feel stuck or I wonder what I want to create next, I turn first to my journal. It’s full of words, sketches, ideas, and marks. The best part is that my journal is filled with my stories and with me. There was a time when I didn’t understand art journaling because it was not a finished piece of art. I didn’t see the purpose. If it could not be sold or shown, why would I do it? I didn’t see the need for practice nor that letting go and imperfection were needed in my art.
An art journal is the place where you can find inspiration for other artwork. Or maybe what you create in your journal simply stays there. An art journal is a place for you to be yourself, to find yourself, and to express yourself. Your journal is your space.
Jeanne Oliver resides in Castle Rock, Colorado. She is inspired by personal stories, travel, and nature. Jeanne is married to her dream maker, Kelly, and has three funny and creative children. You can often find her hiking, creating in her studio, and finding an excuse to have another cup of coffee. Jeanne is the author of The Painted Art Journal from North Light Books. She speaks and teaches around the country. Through mark making, layers, and mixed media, Jeanne hopes to convey that we all have a story to tell. Visit her website at jeanneoliverdesigns.com.
This essay also appears in our May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine. Flip through our lookbook preview to see more of the inspiring mixed-media art inside this issue!