Why Art Journal

Art journaling combines the written language and the visual language to give a greater breadth of expression and understanding. In essence art journaling is the combination of art making and journaling with the intention to create greater insight and understanding of the self and others. Art journaling is about expression, both written and visual, of emotions and thoughts; it is a space for questions that may not have answers, a place for thoughts that may otherwise not have a home, a safe container for emotions so that they do not have to be loose in the world. Although the journal can become an extension of the self, it can also be a place to play and experiment with art materials. Enjoy the process, and listen to the art--it may have something to share with you too.

My story:
I began art journaling as a way of processing the emotionally charged material I was dealing with while studying art therapy in graduate school. I had aspired to be an art therapist from about middle school on, but I had been discouraged due to the fact that I was “too sensitive” and would not be able to separate my work-life from my home-life. For many years I believed that, but after having my world turned upside-down, I decided that I needed to make those decisions for myself and that I could be an art therapist. That being said, when I was accepted into the program at SIUE, I became fearful that maybe I was too sensitive. As I began studying my new profession, I found comfort in the idea of boundaries with clients, and eventually with the idea of self-care. It was a new concept for me. The thought of taking care of myself so that I could take care of others had never crossed my mind.

That began my initial interest in self-care, and I began my journey to prove to those  that doubted me that I could be a successful art therapist, sensitivity and all. I began studying types of self-care, why it was important and the idea of compassion fatigue. It was all very fascinating to me. I knew that clients would affect me because I was sensitive, but the idea that all therapists can be affected by their clients was a new concept. Knowing that compassion fatigue existed normalized my fear of becoming overwhelmed with my clients’ emotions. Along with my new discovery of compassion fatigue and self-care, I was using art making in a completely foreign and exciting new way. I began making responses to articles in class, I began making art responses to all sorts of feelings, and sometimes made art that revealed feelings I didn’t even know I had. During the Summer and Fall of 2008 I began to utilize art journaling as a way of responding to my practicum experience.

From that point I was hooked. I art journaled daily. First it started as a self-care discipline, and now it has turned into something more. I now make art with my partner once a week as a way to strengthen our bond; I keep my self care journal; I facilitate groups on art journaling for pregnancy; I wrote my thesis on art journaling; I participate in round robins and collaborative journals; and at any given time, may have 5 different art journals that I am working on.

I hope that you find art journaling to be as invigorating as I do!

18 comments:

  1. I was really happy to read this history of your art journaling. I to am studying to be a type of therapist (a psychologist, to be exact) and I'm worried that it may prove too draining to be around so much pain from others. But I want to help. I have recently gotten back to my art, and no longer feel ashamed or bad that I enjoy working in my 2 sketchbooks, as opposed to a substrate. I am inspired by you and your collaborations with your partner. I wish you all the best and hope you are vastly blessed in life, both personally and professionally.

    If you would like to visit my tumblr, I would be so grateful. Thank you.

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  2. Thank you Melissa so much for the post! I will be visiting your tumblr!

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  3. Amazing story! I commend you for following your passion even when you were discouraged, that takes real courage! I have never thought of my own artwork as a response. It puts a new perspective on how I create art. I am inspired to start an art journal! Thank you for sharing!

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  4. I am always looking for alternative ways to not only encourage my son and work with his learning issues but something where I can join in too and get "arty". Thank you for this blog as it has opened a whole new world to me in where I can be more effective at home tutoring my son as well enjoying the benefits on all personal levels :)

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  5. Your blog is so inspiring, I am considering doing an MA to become an art therapist. I have been looking at art journaling for the last year and haven't quite understood what it was about! But after reading here I totally do and today will be the day I begin! I work as a family support worker Altho my degree is in textiles at the moment and I have been looking for a way to use my art work and my work together, but have often been told I am to sensitive for therapy work. But, I believe I can do it! Thank you! :)

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  6. Becky,

    I am so glad that you found the blog and that it has helped you develop an understanding! Sensitivity is the key to this work!

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  7. :) thank you!! I have had the best creative week, I truly feel I have found some direction!! On to find a course for the new year!

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  8. I was an English professor and aspiring novelist when I had my first stroke at age 37. My occupational therapist suggested I might try drawing and coloring to help regain use of my right arm and hand-eye coordination as a precursor to relearning how to write. That was my first attempt at anything artistic since my required sixth-grade art class. A couple years later I suffered another stroke. This one took out the part of the brain that controls creative communication and visualization. I couldn't see color, I couldn't access the words to describe abstract or concrete ideas. I could answer specific questions and do complicated math, but anything that required the least amount of creative verbal response was gone. The therapist I was seeing at that time for pain management, suggested I play with crayons and just draw something everyday. She was hoping something in my choice of color or scribbling would give her a clue into what I was feeling and thinking. We did that for almost a month. At first everything was drab, colorless, and looked more like a child's first attempts at scribbling. By the end of the month I was seeing color in the world, although not in my head, and my drawings were beginning to tell a story. Once I got use of my words, I stopped drawing. It took over a year for my brain to heal or rewire itself. I still have trouble "seeing" things in my head.

    All that to say, I think I was doing a form of therapeutic art journaling; but it was never called that. Having stumbled upon this concept last week, I am wishing I had been encouraged to keep it up. I think it is a good option to help me deal with the ongoing side-effects of the strokes and the daily struggles, joys, and frustrations that I continue to deal with.

    Thank you for the time and effort you have put into this blog. I am learning a lot.

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  9. This is really interesting. I happened upon this blog while doing research for a course. I am a fifth grade teacher and am always seeking ways to be artistic (it has always felt like a release or form of meditation). The thing that struck me most was the reference to compassion fatigue. I often have students with many high needs, family issues, mental illness, etc.... And I find myself absolutely exhausted at times when trying to access the help that these children need. I had never considered that this is actually a common feeling for people who are in the position of "trusted adult" for youth. I will have to look into this more.
    As for the concept of visual journaling, I think I may experiment more myself and maybe even start them with my students so they can have an outlet for emotions and creativity.

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  10. Really interesting... wish they had taught me this in school

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  11. I enjoyed your story. I have an MSW, and work in a clinic. I have journaled since I am a young girl. I started art journaling while doing my MSW during a spirituality class. I had just turned 50, was going through a horrible time, and needed a way other than therapy to understand myself and what I was going through. I have always loved crafts and art and have a craft room in the house, where I make cards and other things. I just decided one day that I was going to start doing art therapy with myself. Within no time I was feeling so much better, and had a very good understanding of what I was going through, why and how to fix it. I am now 52 and continue to enjoy journaling. I am going to try to build an art journaling group at my clinic within time. I am currently reading up on it and building a curriculum. Thanks for your input.

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  12. Your story is so inspiring! I'm in college to get my masters is Counseling Psychology (eventually) and it's nice to know that there are therapists out there that use art journaling as a way to deal with things and express themselves. I art journal already, but it's good to know I can use it in the future as a form of self-care!

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  13. I am really interested to find your site. I have been trying to find out whether others use art journalling as I do, as a way of processing my feelings and getting in touch with what is going on in me - a form of self-care, yes. I too work with people who are hurting - as a personal growth educator - and I have never come across the term "compassion fatigue". But, sure, I am sensitive and I take on board a lot of feelings from my clients, and art journalling helps me to get back into my own safe space.

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  14. Thanks for sharing.. I often doodle and scratch while journaling, but nothing like you describe. I am so going for this. X

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  15. I found your blog a few years ago and enjoy it very much. I started to create my art as therapy rather than for my Etsy shop and I am so happy I did. Closed my shop to seal the deal and now my art is for me. It's a great outlet!

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  16. Funny how things find you.....I've been art journaling on my own for a couple of years and decided to open it up to my friends and have an art night once a week at my house. Well, it exploded and I found a shift in my future happening. I'm now starting to do workshops and extend the service to others outside my home. I'm a singer and a clay artist but art journaling has brought a whole new dimension to my art and how I share it and to see the impact it makes on people is truly amazing. I loved reading about your background. You've helped me in the wording my presentation. You've inspired me to dig deeper and go further into this new adventure. Thanks so much for putting yourself out there. Dirtpixie

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