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When you do something every day, you build your confidence and skill. This is the premise behind the idea of frequent if not daily artistic journaling. It is the opportunity to expand and work your creative mind, to practice, play and to experiment.
Dory Kanter, who teaches painting and artistic journaling workshops and is one of our artistic journaling instructors, offers motivation for those of us who want to start journaling in our sketchbooks.
“The more I draw and paint, the more I value what I call private art–daily creative exercises in my artistic journal,” says Dory. “They are an account of ideas, questions, dreams, explorations, and experiments of the hand and the heart. Each is a witness to an awakening to the full spectrum of ordinary life. They mirror the gentle stirrings of the eye, mind, and soul.”
Why Keep an Artistic Journal?
There are a lot of reasons! Some people use their journal to chart new ideas or sketch according to a specific theme like landscapes or “What I Had for Breakfast.” Other artists like to use their artistic journal as more a place for improvising techniques or doing practice exercises to warm up for a painting session.
“I believe there are two purposes for keeping an artistic journal,” says Dory. “First, you want to record personal sensations, whether at home or away. And, secondly, you will accumulate a cache of remembrances to develop further, if you choose. The important thing is to do at least one page each day.”
How to Start
Write all over the page, or not at all.
Use color, or shades of gray.
Use pencil, pen, collage, or watercolor.
Make quick notations or fully developed paintings.
Use written words and collage elements…or don’t.
The Five-Senses Exercise
“I made this watercolor painting while I was sitting in a café by the harbor in a small Mediterranean town in France,” says Dory.
“I was sitting peacefully, sipping a fresh-squeezed lemonade, listening to the gentle sounds of water lapping against the ancient seawall and splashing against the yachts anchored in the harbor. All of a sudden, an ambulance arrived, with a screaming siren.”
The red stripes in Dory’s painting represent the sound of the blaring horn, in contrast to the soft purples and greens representing the sound of the waves and water, and tinkle of cups and glasses in the café.
After completing the painting, she cut it into four strips to create a collage. You can see that some sounds appear louder than others!
A Chance to Look Closely
“Many years ago, my son’s four-year-old playmate asked me what I had done that day. I told her that I painted a flower. “Oh,” she said, “wasn’t it pretty enough already?”
Her fresh and natural response delighted me. She had the enviable gift of still being startled by life. One of the joys of being an artist is an excuse to look at life closely, and to nurture a sophisticated innocence. The replenishing solitude of my artistic journaling practice revives my own four-year-old beginner’s eyes.
The Only Rule
The only rule for the artistic journalist is that there are no rules. “Results are not important,” says Dory. “Creativity and innovation are. Cultivate a curiosity of the ordinary and a passion for everyday life.”
Resources for Artistic Journaling
Dory has written an inspiring book of creative prompts for artists, Art Escapes: Daily Exercises and Inspirations for Discovering Greater Creativity and Artistic Confidence.
And there are plenty more to keep Dory’s insights company! Be sure to check out all the artistic journaling books, videos and guides we have at the ArtistsNetwork Shop — from exploring texture to setting a mood through color to artistic journal prompts to set fire to your creativity.