My secret dream is that everyone in the world keeps an art journal. Wouldn't that be something? A whole world of people, young and old, sick and healthy, laborers and power brokers, all who reflect, experiment, express...who witness and value their own creativity... and then go out into the world as the creative beings they are (we all are) and unleash that force into all the occupations on earth.
"Why should we all use our creative power? Because there is nothing that makes people so generous, joyful, lively, bold and compassionate, so indifferent to fighting and the accumulation of objects and money..." Barbara Ueland
I think my dream would come true if people understood art journaling a little better. I can see how some people might look at the colorful visual books we art journalers make as...well, as many different things they might appear to be: pretty books, diaries, practice books, scrapbooks, a random collection of art pages or personal records.
And sure, depending on the art journaler, our books may be any of these.
What the casual observer might not see, though, is that art journaling is truly a practice more than a product—a verb rather than a noun. And while we art journalers often love what we create and we cherish our art journals sitting there on the shelf (gently taking them down now and then to flip through the pages)...
The real value lies in the encounters on the page as we create.
I quoted Barbara Ueland above and I'm going to pull out a few more nuggets from her book of creative wisdom (1934). For instance, Ueland tells us:
"Everyone who is human has something to express."
We go about our days generating thoughts—and feelings and ideas. And sometimes it seems like we don't produce these so much as receive them. Thoughts...feelings...ideas come to us—whether arriving in a brilliant flash or washing over us in a torrential downpour.
It is natural, an initial impulse that begins at birth, to express!
Whisper to another.
This is the creative impulse and we all have it: to take what is inside and express it in some way, some form.
Even as children, we knew that making marks on paper is a powerful way to be express, to create. And we knew then that we don't need to be artists to express ourselves on paper. We just wanted to create, so we did. Until we grew up and, too often, we put our crayons away.
Now, there's a whole lot to explain why people don't indulge their creativity. People who did then didn't. Stopped. People who work too hard and long. Who take care of others instead. Watch TV instead.
But the fact is, people don't think it's important to nurture their own creativity. As Ueland says:
"We have come to think that duty should come first. I disagree. Duty should be a by-product...the creative effort, the use of imagination, should come first—at least for some part of every day of your life. [emphasis my own]
It is a wonderful blessing if you will use it. You will be come happier, more enlightened, alive, impassioned, light-hearted and generous to everybody else. Even your health will improve. Colds will disappear and all the other ailments of discouragement and boredom..."
To keep an art journal is to indulge one's creative impulse. To express what needs expressing, privately, regularly, creatively. It's a safe and private place where we each can put aside all the other concerns of our lives—for other people, no matter how much we love them, for our jobs, no matter how hard or how much we need the work.
We can step outside of the stress and anxiety and physical, mental and emotional efforts of our days for even a short time...
And the wonderful benefit—the "true blessing", as Ueland puts it—the real value of art journaling?
This creative practice actually illuminates all the other parts of our lives.
We connect more with who we are and what we experience...
We gain creative confidence...
We generate more thoughts and feelings and ideas...
And we take all that connection and insight into other creative projects and into strengthened relationships and into work that we now have more clarity about (and probably more opportunity that mysteriously comes our way).
Just imagine: scientists and politicians, teachers and students, contractors and plumbers, engineers and software developers, store clerks and housekeepers...all taking just a little time out of their busy days every day to creatively express their lives...
That is my wish for the world. That is my wish for you.
Photo courtesy of James Cridland/Flickr