From the middle of March until about two weeks ago my anxiety and stress levels were crazy high thanks to COVID-19…the Pandemic—there’s nothing like a Pandemic to really make you question your life, your life goals, your creativity and your creative life, as well as your purpose. Not that I need a Pandemic to make me questions things, but when all of your squirrels are screaming “Pandemic” it’s hard to think much less focus on your creativity. SO while many of the people who were forced to stay at home were feeling immense creative urges, I wasn’t feeling off kilter—I work from home so it felt like it should have been no big deal.
Oh, but it was a BIG deal. There’s a difference between wanting to be home and being forced to be at home. Not to mention the fact that so many people were on the Web that it made uploading my videos take longer. It also overwhelmed YouTube, which was having issues—going Live on YT became problematic the end of March and the beginning of April. It’s not an issue anymore, but for a few weeks it was a major issue. I create videos for Patreon, but I’ve found that I really enjoy going Live on YouTube.
A few weeks ago, I finally got my shit together enough to get back on YouTube on a (mostly) consistent basis. Whew! It felt good to be back. I’d felt my creativity coming back slowly but surely thanks to being on Patreon and my Patrons, who are so supportive that they make me feel like I have something important to offer others—inspiration and motivation. There are a lot of great artist’s and writer’s out there. Numerous people who create videos about journaling and planning. Many of whom create absolutely wonderful videos about those topics. But the one thing you don’t see a whole lot of are pictures that aren’t curated, videos that aren’t majorly curated. I am not a “curated” kind of person.
Don’t get me wrong, there’s nothing wrong with an aesthetically pleasing video and/or picture. I watch a lot of people who curate their videos on YouTube. I also follow a lot of people on Instagram who curate their images. I’m not saying that I don’t clean off part of my desk or craft table so that my videos look decent. Or that I don’t try to take a halfway decent photo when I do post to IG. But I prefer to capture the creative chaos that often ensues when I am creative, or to capture the outright mess on my desk, or the process—which is often times messy. Do I get watercolor all over me sometimes? I sure do. Do I sometimes get paint on my pretty white desk? Yes, and there have been times when I’ve had to get up from my desk and go to the kitchen to get the cleaner so I can clean my desk in the middle of a creative session. Gotta love when that happens.
Earlier today I went live on YouTube to show how to add “art” to your journal pages if you’re not someone who feels comfortable drawing, or you’re a beginner when it comes to drawing or doodling. I also tried out a new art supply—M. Graham Gouache, which is fantastic by the way. I love watercolor, but gouache is fun to experiment with (for now), and I’m hoping that the more I play with gouache the better I’ll get at it. It’s similar to watercolor but different.
Despite how much I’ve wanted to get back to blogging, I’ve been remiss. No, that’s the wrong word… I love blogging, but I guess I felt blocked, or maybe I’d been away from it for such a long while that it was easier to procrastinate than it was to just sit down and write a damn blog post. So I finally said “just do it.” So here I am, just doing it! Hope you’ve enjoyed it. Thank you, especially if you’ve made it this far.
Mr. Rockstar (David) was driving “over the road,” and I had to have surgery (a hysterectomy), which meant I was bed ridden for a bit. While bed ridden I really got into my “fauxbonichi.” It wasn’t just the journaling, it was creating the pages–combining art and words, documenting my life on the pages of my journal. I hadn’t created art in almost three decades, but I was having fun and being creative so I was happy. I wanted to get better. I wanted to find my groove again (I loved to draw and paint all throughout elementary, middle, and high school). So I worked on prompts, watched videos (a whole lot of journal with me videos, mostly Hobonichi and Fauxbonichi videos back then).
The more I worked on my pages, trying different things the more joy I felt. The less anxious I felt. After getting over my initial fear of “what if I don’t do it right?” or “what if it’s awful?” or “what if I suck at this?” and then there was fear of the blank page–what do I put on the page? But after more and more journaling, practicing my artistic skills and techniques I got over the bulk of those fears. I found adding art to my journal pages to be fun, relaxing, and interesting. I learned a lot and am still learning a lot.
Though it is fun, and I absolutely love documenting my life with art and words, I’m still a bit overwhelmed at times by the sheer volume of different means and mediums, and the ways that people use them. There people who simply use pen and ink, some add watercolor to their pen and ink, while others use watercolor and gouache, along with colored pencils, and there are those who use acrylics. Not to mention other things you can use on your pages like ephemera, pictures, collage, colored pencils, markers, crayons, stamps, and/or stains. I’ve tried a few different mediums, but I always find myself primarily using pen, ink, watercolor, pictures, everyday ephemera, colored pencils, and/or markers.
I’ve also tried various styles, from more realistic to more illustrated, a bit of a comic or clipart style, to a combination of styles. I love to just sketch things, but I’d say my favorite is when I can capture the essence of what I’m sketching no matter which style I use. I realize that my journal pages and sketchbook pages are not masterpieces, they are not likely to ever be displayed in a gallery, but they’re mine. Not only did I put a bit of love into the pages but I also had fun and was able to capture a bit of my life onto each page.
I’ve learned so much on this journey of combining art and words to my journal pages, but the biggest lesson I’ve learned is that what works for one person doesn’t necessarily work for another. In the beginning I compared my pages to the pages of others–big mistake, but once I started looking at how far I’d come with my own technique it made me realize it’s really more about the moment. Some days my pages are so good they make me take a second look at them to make sure they’re my own. Other days I feel like I’m having a bit of a Mercury Retrograde with my art. On those days I can’t seem to draw a straight line, much less illustrate my day. So those are days I make it more fun and childlike, more whimsical. Other days I simply splash on some watercolor and add ephemera, pictures, and journaling and call it a day.
One of my favorite things about a blank page in a journal or sketchbook is that there are all these possibilities. You never know what kind of page you’ll find in my journals or sketchbooks. Some days I document the book I’m currently reading, other days a bit of a self portrait and a quote. What I create on my pages really depends on my mood, the events of the day, and what materials (like photos or ephemera) I have on hand.
Whenever I do something creative I feel like 1. I’ve accomplished something even if the outcome isn’t brilliant, 2. I’ve had fun, even if the outcome isn’t what I’d hoped it would be, and 3. just doing it, just being creative brings me joy and relieves my anxiety, stress, and helps me reign in my focus (always a good thing when you have anxiety, depression, and ADHD).
I try really hard not to criticize my work, or anyone else’s. Some days our work might look like a flour sifter, other days it might look more like a cup of hot cocoa–but beauty, as they say, is in the eye of the beholder so either way–flour sifter or cup of cocoa I’m happy. How about you?
In Thomas Merton’s book “No Man is an Island,” he said, “Art enables us to find ourselves and lose ourselves at the same time.” That quote is one that really resonates with me–art is a form of mediation, therapy, creativity, and fun for me. It’s a time to relax. To let go. To create. To play. And I do often find myself in the “zone.” That zone where you’re present in the moment and you are so focused on the “creating” or the “doing,” that you pay little attention, if any at all, to anything else.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**
Not the noise that was in your head before you started… that voice of “I can’t draw…paint…I’m not any good at this…” or the noise of cars passing by outside or the children next door in their yard yelling at each other (mostly it’s the oldest boy yelling at his younger siblings, mostly his younger sister–par for the course with siblings sometimes). Or the people across the street revving the engine on the vehicle they’re fixing or the planes from the Air Force Base. Sometimes I listen to a podcast, a book on Audible, or a YT video while I create, other times I just listen to instrumental music and/or RainyMoods, though lately I haven’t needed to listen to RainyMood because it’s been raining here on and off for weeks.
Yet there have been times when I have not been successful at shutting out that naysayer voice. The voice that wants to whisper in my ear that I have no idea of what I’m doing, that I am not any good, that I’m not an ARTIST and I shouldn’t be doing any of this–I’m a fake, a lousy piece of shit fake and I need to just stop and get real with myself. It hasn’t happened in a long while but it used to happen a lot. Especially in the beginning.
Back in November or December of 2014 I fell down the rabbit hole of what some call Hobonichi or Fauxbonichi style journaling, or what others just call documenting your life in a journal. I fell in love with it. I was hooked. But I didn’t have much in the way of supplies. My wonderful daughter, who is an artist, gave me some supplies, like Prismacolor pencils and Prismacolor watercolor pencils and it wasn’t long before I was adding little drawings that I’d color in or watercolor (learning how to use the watercolor pencils was trial and error) on my journal pages. In February of 2015, I had surgery (a hysterectomy) and was bed/couch bound at first, which meant cradling the laptop in my lap to write was uncomfortable, but putting the journal on a pillow in my lap was not–and I delved into journal and art prompts, along with documenting my day in my journal.
I wanted to make my journals more than just personal reflections of my thoughts and feelings, vent sessions, or bit of notes, ideas… I wanted some of my journals to be keepsakes. I kept at it. With help from fellow #fauxbonichi journalers I learned how to incorporate art, pictures, words, quotes, prompts…onto my journal pages. I didn’t want to stop there though so I started looking around social media for other ways to document your life in your journals. I learned about an Omni Journal from Rhomany of Rhomany’s Realm, and MissVickyB. I learned about world of Hobonichi’s, as well as Sketch Journals or Artist’s Journals or “Real Life Journals” from artists like Gwen Diehn, Cathy Johnson, Danny Gregory , Liz Steele, and Gina Rossi Armfield. But it didn’t stop with books or sketchbooks. I found my way down the rabbit hole of paper…
Paper like Tomoe River paper, Mixed Media paper, watercolor paper… I fell in love with the Standard and then the Crossfield by Nanami Paper (it was part of their SevenSeas line), and then I found Taroko Design Shop on Etsy and fell in LOVE with the Enigma, which has notebooks with 68gsm artist Tomoe River paper. Then I found Brie from Documented Journey and she started creating B6 sized notebooks for sale in her Etsy shop with either mixed media paper, Tomoe River paper, or a mixture of the two. And I fell in love.
But up until this past year, what never really fell in love with was my own art. Sure there were times when I thought I’d done well. When I actually liked something I’d done. When I felt like I deserved a pat on the back. But I wasn’t consistently producing work that I felt that way about. When things really started to change for me was when I finally finished a journal from start to finish (it had been after a bit of rut because my dad had been diagnosed with cancer (stage 4) and my husband was diagnosed with Crohns Disease (July 2017). My dad died on the fifth of October 2017, just a few months after the final diagnosis, my mom was admitted to ICU the very same day… needless to say I was all over the place (between healing and grieving my dad’s death, trying to make sure my mom didn’t also die from Sepsis (she’s better now), and taking care of things, trying to be a rock and a shoulder…well, let’s just say that after all of that I did not remotely feel creative).
But when you’re a content creator you have to create. And the thing is– I love creating. I love Art. Words. Journaling. I love being creative–but I did not feel remotely like creating. I knew I had to do something, so I reached out to Brie and asked her to make me a customized notebook. That notebook and one she sent me as a prototype with Tomoe River paper in it saved my creativity–saved me in a way. Creativity is how I release stress, it’s how I reduce my anxiety, how I help keep depression at bay (in a way… there is not cure for it, but it does help me tremendously). I needed to be creative for myself, not just because I was a content creator. I still need to be creative for myself, not just for content.
The thing about being creative is that whether you’re a beginner or an old hand at it, there are going to be times when you get in a rut. If you can get back to what people often call the beginner mindset, the “let’s have fun and play” attitude the blank page doesn’t look so daunting. What you’re creating isn’t about what anyone else thinks, it’s about how you felt when you were creating. It’s about the process not the result. When I stopped thinking about the result and started concentrating on the process. When I started enjoying the journey I was on creatively and stopped thinking about my ultimate destination… I unlocked something inside of myself and I started seeing not only my journals differently, art differently, but the world differently.
Now, I’m not a professional. Nor do I consider myself to be an Artist, but I am an artist. I am a creative person. I Create, therefore I AM…In a way that’s very true, except I’d have to say it’s more the other way around… I AM, therefore I CREATE.
Art is for anyone… it might not be for everyone, just as music or crocheting or writing or any other creative pursuit isn’t for everyone, but anyone can create art. It doesn’t matter whether you haven’t drawn anything but a few squiggles since elementary school, you can draw if you want to… the only way to get better at something is to practice. Below is the video that actually accompanies this long post… In the video I talk more about how Art is for Anyone or #artisforall. I think I’m going to start a new series on YT and call it Art if for All #artisforall. I’ve been thinking about posting those videos on Friday, which is supposed to be my Fun Day, or FRIYAY videos. 😀 The videos will be somehow related to how art is for anyone… from beginner art supplies, to my favorite art supplies, to how to stay creative, to how I create pages, sketches, what I am learning, have learned or want to learn… my goals in regard to my art, journals…
If you’ve made it this far, thank you so very much. Make sure to leave me a comment and let me know what you think about #artisforall.
A Heartfelt Thank you to my Patrons on Patreon, as well as Kateri Ewing for her “Art is for Everyone” series on YT, and for all who have inspired me, helped keep me sane when my creativity was waxing and waning this past year, and for you… all of you!
For the past few months, well really for a little over a year now, I’ve been finding my way through my new normal. When things change we often feel a bit out of sorts. I felt out of sorts in a variety of ways, but I tried to hold to being authentic. Being authentic isn’t always easy, especially when you’re grieving (people want to make you feel better, and you want to feel better, but grief ebbs and flows–and let’s face it, after a while you get tired of being asked how you’re doing? and others sometimes feel awkward when your grief is brought up). To be an authentic person means honesty, openness, integrity. It’s being genuine, “authentic.” When you’re authentic, people find it refreshing to be around you, to get to know you, to interact with you.
So why is being authentic sometimes hard? For the past few years, I’ve been honing my skills and techniques when it comes to journaling: art, handwriting, drawing, composition. And yet it often feels like the insurgence of messages from social media just keep telling me that unless my pages from social media don’t look aesthetically pleasing, which means damn near perfect, then the pages aren’t likely to be seen by many of my peers. However, the messages about being “authentic,” “progress not perfection,” “just be yourself” or “be true to yourself,” or “do it your way” are front and center. Seems like a bit of a contradiction to me.
**Some of the links in this post are affiliate links. This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission at no extra cost to you. All opinions remain my own.**
Don’t get me wrong, phrases like “be authentic” or “progress not perfection” are positive and encouraging statements, even if they can seem a bit cliche, are usually well-intended, but it’s not always easy to just be yourself, which is being authentic; or to let go of the anxiety you feel over your less than perfect but authentic watercolor of Thanksgiving when you’re constantly being bombarded by pictures, posts, videos, etc. that are damn near perfect. So you think to yourself… Hmm, maybe they photoshopped theirs–I sure wish I knew how to use Photoshop. Or maybe they took a class–maybe I should take a class. Or maybe they’ve been practicing for years–maybe I need to practice more. All three of those might be true, or just one of them might be true, yet it doesn’t matter, what matters is how you feel when you’re looking at those pictures–if you’re comparing yourself to others then you’re doing yourself an injustice.
Creativity is such a personal thing, from what and/or how we choose to be creative, to the mediums we use, to the execution, and the process. And yet, for those of us who are creative, especially those of us who are content creators, it is difficult to not feel at least a bit of anxiety, stress over uploading our images, posts, and/or videos on social media when every time you turn around someone is telling you that in order for you to succeed, to grow, to be well liked, and/or to be well received you need to curate your pictures, posts, videos. Or you need this background, or these supplies, or this camera, this type of cover photos, or this kind of thumbnail, or this kind of title or tags… the list is endless.
All of those “things” that we supposedly need to be creative, to keep a journal or a sketchbook or planner, to make a video, to have a Youtube channel or a website/blog or an Instagram account… they are just that–things. Things that may or may not work really well for some. Things that some like and others don’t. In an age where there are more and more people choosing to live a more minimalist life, or who are striving to go deeper instead of wider (check “Depth Year’), I don’t get it. Well, maybe I don’t get why it took me so long to get that “less is sometimes more.”
My Dad used to tell us that “there’s no such thing as can’t,” and for the longest time I reminded myself of that whenever I felt stuck, when I couldn’t figure out how to do something, or when I felt scared that I wasn’t smart enough or good enough or enough in general. But when my Dad died of cancer last year (October 2017) and my Mom was put into ICU and I was fighting to save her, fighting to keep her fighting, I learned what real strength is. What courage really means. My mom was in the hospital for 10 days and 9 nights. Her organs were shutting down when I signed her into the ER, and when they wheeled her into the ICU my Dad was still in one of the rooms because I had to leave my (grown) children with their grandfather so he wouldn’t be alone when he drew his last breath (after the respirator was pulled) so I could admit my mom into the hospital. It’s a year later and I’m finally starting to get my groove back.
I’m finally starting to get back into the flow. My New Normal, as I like to call it. But it wasn’t until the past few months that I finally started to feel remotely normal. That I felt the kind of depth of creativity that I felt before going through such a traumatic experience–my creative well is a bit different now. Now that I finally feel like my “authentic” self, there are a few things that I’ve noticed –even though I knew these things were out there, that I knew were an issue, I hadn’t let myself dwell on any of it too much–I had other things on my mind that were far more important; things like getting my creative groove back, like finding my way through grief and healing, like figuring out what my new normal was/is.
I’m not a Pro at content creation, especially on Youtube, but I do know what I like when watching Youtube videos. I’m definitely not an Instagram guru–hell, some months I’m doing good if I post a few pictures, let alone one a day or even one a week. Nor am a I much of a Twitterer, or very good about Pinterest, but I’m starting to get a wee bit better at some things. However, the thing that has often held me back is that I rarely curate my photos, or my videos for that matter. The real question is why I haven’t gone the route of curating my photos, or making my videos, my YT channel, more curated.
Progress not Perfection
Do I have to curate? No. My desk is often messy when I’m in the middle of creating. And as much as I wish I kept things really clean and clutter free, often my supplies are scattered all over my craft table and desk. Even when I’ve taken a bit of time to curate a photo there is still usually at least a wee bit of mess. Instead of a jar of fresh, clean water, or a clutter free area, I’ve simply moved a few things around so that you can clearly see what I want seen, and the rest is… well it’s how I roll. I love what I do.
I love being creative. I love art, writing, journals, pens, watercolor, tomoe river paper, traveler’s notebooks, leather, markers, fountain pens, color… the list could go on, but the thing I love the most is any chance I have to be creative. I would love to be able to be creative with photos, to learn how to use Photoshop, to be able to create my own logo, to use said logo on my videos, my cover photo for YT, FB, etc… but the one thing I’m not real sure about, even when I do endeavor to learn how to use Photoshop, is to completely curate my photos. I want others out there, like me, to know that’s it’s okay not to be perfect. It’s okay to be messy when you create. It’s okay for your art not to be perfect. We’re human beings not robots, our creativity is priceless, perfect or not. The more we practice the better we get, but it’s the process of being creative that is important. It’s the journey not the destination (another cliche, I know).
So I’ll continue to post pictures that aren’t perfect. Videos that aren’t perfect. I’ll continue to create art that isn’t perfect. I’ll continue to be myself and to be true to myself. And hopefully, that will help someone else who has struggled to be creative. I’ll continue to share some of what I create even when many of my creations are no where near perfection. It’s truly not about perfection, it’s about the process, the progress–that’s what creativity and authenticity are to me.