Art Journaling

A few years back, while visiting the blog of my beautiful friend, Ann Voskamp, I read about what she called her “Visual Homemaking Journal.” It wasn’t so much the title but the pictures that grabbed me. I wanted to know how to make one of my own, so I wrote this comment under her post:

I’ve been so consumed with an unexpected project that I feel I’ve lost touch with the part of me that walks through my garden, and sits down to knit, and enjoys staring off into space. Something resonated with me when I looked at your journal. I felt that I was looking at a part of myself I had left behind. So I want to jump right in.

Ann was gracious enough to write a tutorial for me. I’ve since refined the journal to my own liking and passed the “how to’s” to other women at retreats and conferences — most recently at the retreat I taught last weekend at Calvary Chapel Olympia. As requested by a new friend I met there, I’m posting the particulars here.

The “why” of this journal (I tend to think of mine as my Art Journal): as a place to collect little bits of a day, ushered prayers … and laughter, the keepings of my home, gratitude and devotion. In particular, I’m conscious that I’m building a legacy, page by page, that will tell my great-grandchildren (when I’m not here to tell them myself) that I loved Jesus.

Along with sending my heart ahead to all those great-grandbabies, I keep this journal to remind myself to look for and see God’s hand in all things. On the first page of my journal, I wrote a favorite verse from James 1:17: “Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of Lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.” Our days are filled with these gifts, but we have not trained ourselves to spot them.

To help me be mindful, I start most days by sectioning off a “gratitude” corner. As the day goes along, I jot notes about the things I’ve spotted:

I also recorded this quote by Henry Ward Beecher … the first part which I find exhilarating; the second, sobering:

My aim is to capture and hold at least a few of those ten thousand truths each day.

The “how”: purchase a plain art journal (I prefer spiral-bound), glue, colored pens, stickers and stamps (if you like them), and a good supply of beautiful magazines. I pick up Victoria, Country Living, and Martha Stewart’s Living whenever I find them in thrift stores or at the library. To store all the pages I rip out, I bought four opaque file folders in green, red, yellow and white. One is labled, “Spring and Summer,” another “Fall and Winter,” the third “Everyday,” and the last one is left for stickers and borders and the like.

Once you have a stack of magazines (or even just one or two to start with), make a cup of tea and open the first. Read it with an eye for beauty — not just in pictures, but also fonts and phrases. When you come to a page you like, pull off everything in your left hand and discard. File the part you like.

You now have a choice to make. You have to decide whether you’re going to embellish your journal all at once, or fill it as you go. Ann chooses to sit down with her folder of pictures and her blank journal and fill it all at once. Since she’s already chosen a stack of pictures she finds inspiring, she simply rips and pastes those until her journal is decorated and ready for filling.

I imagine Ann writes in her journal much more than I do, which is the main benefit of her method. All she has to do is open to the next blank page and she’s ready to capture her day.

But as for me, well … what matters to me is story. I need a connecting thread between what is seen and what is read. I can’t commit a picture for next Tuesday because I don’t yet know what next Tuesday will feel like to me. So I categorize my pictures and wait for each day to tell me what needs to go on the page. Here are some of the ways that gets determined:

Sometimes a verse I’ve read in the morning will stick with me, and I’ll happen to have a picture in my file that illustrates it well (like this tree, around which I wrote Psalm 1:3)

This was one of those manic cooking/baking days that I love so much. But all that activity really left its mark on my kitchen. As I looked around at the wild mess, this verse came to mind, and I hoped Dave would remember it too when he came home.  And of course he didn’t mind the mess. Do you read where it says, “four dozen cinnamon cookies”? 🙂 But the thing is, the memory of this day would have been lost to me had I not recorded it here.

… or maybe I find myself thinking about an entire passage, or a chapter.

Often, when I’m writing a new retreat theme, I’ll use my journal to work out all my questions. These are from a retreat called, “Lest We Drift”:

And these from a retreat entitled, “Draw Me Close”:

Sometimes I’ll latch onto a song lyric …

… or a quote. On this morning, I opened my journal and wrote the first thought that came to me, which was “Outdoors, the earth is breathless … waiting for spring. And I am breathless, too.” I felt that “wide sense of thankfulness and peace” that this quote refers to, so I recorded it below.

Other times, the mood I’m in will dictate the pictures. I love misty blue-gray days. So when I found this picture, I saved it for the day I knew was coming. It was too big to fit on one of my journal pages, but that was fixable.

And then there are all those life events that cry out to be recorded.

This was the day we found out our offer on a new church home had been accepted. I drew a hasty heart, held it to the page, and traced around it my prayer for what our church would be: “A place where we can come in from the storm, and find rest for tired souls, and know that we are loved.”

This was the day we went to court with our friends, the Schalos, and witnessed the adoption of their two children. It brought back so many memories for me … we even had the same lawyer for one of our adoptions.

And sometimes the events are painful.

This is from the tea party my friend, Laurie, and I brought to Carla when she was too weak to get out any more.

And the day she left us …

My journal holds those thoughts that won’t let me go …

(And what if He had only given us the color gray?)

… my prayers …

… insights from Scripture …

… even favorite recipes …

… and notes about gardening.

In other words, fill it with your life. Then put it in a safe place where someone down the line will find it again. And then … start the next journal.


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