Those of you who follow WYG may have noticed a pretty glaring oversight during the month of June. Father’s Day came and went and we didn’t do a single new article about it. We reposted old articles on social media, we had some great discussions on facebook, but here on the blog I just couldn’t quite get myself together to write something new.
For those of you who are WYG superfans, you may have even noticed that just after Father’s Day the crapiversary of my dad’s death came and went and I didn’t post about that either. Yeah . . . epic fail on my part for the month of June. I wish I had a good excuse, but I don’t. If it makes it any better I did post about preserving handwriting based my dad’s amazing handwriting, because I was thinking about it around Father’s Day. I know I know . . . not quite the same. But better than nothing, right? Maybe?
While feeling doubly low, because June always sucks for me and because I failed to write about it, I decided I needed to get something positive and productive in my life. Think of this as a little grief-blog-failure repentance. For years (literally) I have thought about doing some grief art journaling. I have stalked art journal blogs, I have purchased art journaling books, but I have never actually taken the plunge. Perhaps because I am not artsy – not even a little bit. Perhaps because I can barely commit to putting on shoes regularly, much less journaling regularly. So, in the depths of my failure, I decided the time was now. My art journal was born.
So, here is the plan going forward. I am going to do my darnedest to keep up with this art journal and, to keep me on track, I am going to post some art journal prompts here. I invite anyone and everyone to join me in this art journaling endeavor (because if I can do it anyone can. For real). I will definitely share my progress and I would love love love if you want to share your progress in comments here, Instagram, Facebook or wherever.
I hear a few of you screaming, what is an art journal?!?! Let me take a few steps back. An art journal is pretty much exactly what it sounds like. It is a journal that uses not just writing, but all sort of other artistic mediums: painting, drawing, photography, collage, whatever. You certainly don’t need prompts. You can create your journal and express whatever you want and need at the time. Or, for those who are like me and might need a little more motivation, a prompt can help with giving some direction and inspiration.
Starting Your Art Journal
To create an art journal there are tons of possibilities. The book that got me started, and gave me hope that you truly don’t need to be an artist to have an art journal, was The Art Journal Workshop: Break Through, Explore, and Make it Your Own. The author has a very collage-y (let’s pretend that is a word) style that looked fun and manageable.
I started with an old hardback book that was just sitting on my bookshelf. The important thing is to find a book with fairly heavy pages.
You then need to remove every 3rd or 4th page from the book. I used an exacto knife to cut them out – just be sure to put something behind each page while you cut so you don’t slice through multiple pages! You need to do this because as you journal through the book the pages will get thicker. You need to thin the pages out so the journal doesn’t get too thick for the spine.
Rather than going this upcycled route, you can also buy a blank art book to build your journal.
Obviously making the book feel your own is crucial, so create a cover that you are excited about. I painted my cover, but you could just as easily collage it or do whatever works for you. (You may notice in this photo my excessive arts and craft supplies for someone with no artistic ability. On closer inspection you will see these are craft supplies designed for those with no actual skills – stamps, stickers, stencils, etc. These are great tools for pretending you have skills).
Once your cover and pages are ready, you want to prep the pages with gesso. Gesso is a canvas primer you can get at any craft store. It will prepare the pages so your paint, ink, glue, etc. doesn’t soak through as easily. It will also lightly cover the text on the pages of the book to give you a cleaner canvas. I actually like that the text still shows through a bit, but that is a personal preference. You can do multiple coats of gesso to get better coverage.
Once that is done you are good to create!
That was the moment, staring at my lovely white canvas, that I panicked briefly because I had no idea what to journal about. Despite my laundry list of prompts and inspiration, none of them were actually speaking to me. The prompts I thought would make a great post for today just weren’t really working for me. So I took a deep breath and waited for some inspiration.
I have been thinking a lot about fear lately – all types of fear. Fear and regret, fears that keep us from moving forward, fears that are rational, fears that are irrational. I saw this concept in the art journaling book I mentioned above: journal something then paint on top of it, creating a fresh canvas to create something new. There came my personal inspiration: step one – write about (or draw or paint or whatever) your fears, specifically those that you feel are preventing you from moving forward in certain areas of your life. You can do this straight on the gesso.
Step two: paint over those fears and create a blank canvas, to journal (again, write, draw, collage, paint, whatever) the things that inspire you to move forward in spite of your fears.
I realize this inspiration that struck me may not work for everyone, but keep in mind you don’t need a prompt. So this weekend, if you have be considering starting an art journal (or even if you haven’t, but this got you thinking about it) I challenge you to do it! Get it started in whatever way works for you and, if you do, let us know. Leave a comment, post a photo on our facebook page, tweet at us, or tag us on Instagram (@whatsyourgrief). I will be posting my progress and some prompts in the coming months, if for no other reason than to keep myself on track. Future prompts will be a bit more grief-focused, and submissions for journal prompts are welcome! I am not going to commit to a specific schedule (I know myself too well to set myself up for that kind of failure) but I will do my best.
Leave a comment if you are an art journaler – I would love some inspiration from others. Subscribe to keep up with all our grief posts, including future posts and prompts about grief art journaling.