For a long as I’ve been able to hold a pen, I’ve kept journals. I love the act of writing, listening to the scratches of words being born on the page. Yet, at some point in my journey, I started to feel the need to go beyond words and to find new ways of expressing myself. That’s when I embarked into visual journaling and never regretted it. Visual journaling has enabled me to tune deeper into my soul as I let colors, shapes and images deliver their messages.
While “art journaling” is the term most frequently used to describe my practice, I intentionally speak of “visual journaling” instead. Visual journaling is not about art making and creating an aesthetically pleasing product. Visual journaling is about the process. It is about intuition, exploration, and trusting that letting go of control will connect you deeper to your soul. Many of us who use visual journaling are also artists, but these are two separate practices. A visual journal is not an art object it is first and foremost a journal. In removing the concept of “art” we free ourselves from the expectations of production, perfection, and an external audience and we focus instead on a practice on meditation, intuitive exploration and play.
Visual journaling is a simple practice accessible to all. No special tools or skills are required. All it takes is a desire to explore and play.
What you need:
- A notebook (any size works, but I suggest starting no smaller than 8.5”x11”), acrylic paint, brushes (or an old credit card and baby wipes), a glue stick, assorted illustrated magazines
- Forget about fancy art supplies! They block playfulness and spontaneity by making us feel that we must create something beautiful and perfect. Instead, use cheap, craft supplies. Best place to shop: the children/craft sections of discount stores. The cheaper, the better!
- Limit your supplies: three paint colors and three magazines are enough. Too many supplies create distraction. Remember it’s not about art making, it’s about the message. Less is more!
- Centering: Hold your journal, close your eyes, take a few deep breaths to center yourself and set the intention of being present and open to the process. Once centered, open your journal and paint a few pages. My favorite painting method is dropping paint on the page and spreading it around with an old credit card and baby wipes.
- Image hunt: While your painted pages dry, collect images from magazines. Work fast – don’t use scissors, rip the pages with images that trigger an emotion (positive or negative). Collect only images – no words! Don’t question yourself, just collect. Pay attention to the emotions that arise as you do so.
- Collage: Glue images in your journal. You can create compositions (yes, you can use your scissors!), or just glue full-page images. I love making flaps and creating hidden spaces to write underneath. Here again, work fast and don’t agonize. Trust that your hands are doing exactly what your soul needs.
- Harvest: Center yourself, then look at your collaged page(s) and listen. What are the colors, the shapes and the juxtaposition of images telling you? Engage in a dialogue with your collage and write (directly in your sketchbook) to reflect on the process. Sometimes, all that comes up is a question: write it down – you are generating your own writing prompts which can be answered at any point.
- Harvest again: Later (days or months), return to your collaged pages. Journal about what comes up. Answer the prompts you had left for yourself. Visual journaling is an ongoing dialog with your soul. Each new visit will generate new insights.
- Work fast. This is journaling, not art making. Trust your intuition.
- Work only with images: words send us back into our controlling left brain.
- Paint pages ahead of time: it alleviates the fear of the blank page.
- Set a timer to avoid getting lost in image hunting, or the collage process
- Work in your sketchbook randomly. Letting go of linearity is very hard because it goes against everything we’ve been taught, but it is the most powerful creative gift you can give yourself. Allow yourself to jump around! Your life is not linear, it is a constellation of experiences and feelings – let your visual journal fully reflect that.
Visual journaling is a simple and powerful tool with a myriad of applications: self-exploration, spiritual practice, as a way of processing grief or trauma, as a method of conceptualizing a business plan or explore a character for your next novel. However you chose to use visual journaling, I promise you that you will have fun, and that you will become attuned to the beautiful whispers of your soul.
Christine Ménard is an accredited Creative Journey Facilitator who trained with artist and creative entrepreneur Lisa Sonora. Christine facilitates group workshops and offers individual mentoring to those seeking to connect with their creative soul. Christine can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org
Below are helpful examples of Christine’s visual journals to help guide you with your own. [click to scroll]