After writing two books on art journaling, then going back to school to study poetic medicine, the question I get asked frequently is, “Have you given up on art journaling?” Interesting question. I am not “giving up” on art journaling, but I am not following the flow of painting a page heavily and writing a single word on it, or copying an affirmation. It’s not me.
I’m interested in improving my sketching skills, so I am practicing blind contour drawing. I look at something in front of me and draw exactly what my eyes see, without looking at the page. It’s great practice in eye-brain-hand coordination and I find it fun and interesting. When I travel, I usually sketch while waiting for my meal, so my journals fill up with glasses of ice tea, salt shakers, and empty butter dishes. I ask waitstaff to take away bread baskets, so, none of those.
I’m practicing letter forms, so my journals fill up with letters I haven’t found a pleasing way to shape yet: I, J, R, and V are my biggest stumbling shapes.
The other problem I have is space. My carry-on is already filled with items I need for class and don’t want to put in a carry-on, in case it gets gate-checked: the instructor’s book, the clicker for the projector, the file of reservations, hand cream, eye drops, a book to read, diabetic-safe food for snacks or a missed meal, glasses. Not a lot of extra space. Sometimes there is also partially completed poetry homework and some Stow-Away Poetry.
One of the problems I wrestle with is a journal that I can work in comfortably. I like to work on free-standing pages (a lot of my ideas on that topic is in the DVD North Light filmed.)
A few days ago, poking around in a
junk antique shop, I found an interesting journal. It was two hardbound covers with rivets in it. Each page has two holes, and the binding is a piece of sturdy twine. The binding allows me to add pages that I work on independently. Blank pages in different kinds of paper fit in the travel folder and I can work on them when I want. The twine binding allows for adding and taking out pages.
Even better, it’s entirely possible that I can create a new cover when this book fills up. I’m excited about this way of journaling again. One of the reasons I want to keep those not-very-good letter practices and blind contours is to watch myself get more skilled. Practice is the only way to do that. And I’m doing more of it.
Oh, poetry? I’m writing quite a bit of it, and working on ways to incorporate it on those journal pages. I’ll share when the poems aren’t quite as personal.
Meanwhile, I’m secretly thrilled that the first poetry class I’m teaching is filled within six days of advertising the class. I had no idea people were that interested in playing with words.
—Quinn McDonald is a writer who teaches writing and writes poetry.