Tuesday, October 14, 2008

A Fall Display: Student art, and Visual Journaling

It took me a couple of afternoons to get the pieces up, but it was worth it.

The single tree drawings are from a kindergarten class (a combination of oil pastel and crayon drawing). The apple drawings are from a first grade class (oil pastel). The three tree reflection (watercolor) is from a 2nd grade class.

At first I was just going to hang the kindergarten tree drawings in one of the main halls of our school, but then I remembered that one of the first grade teachers had not yet hung up her students' work, the apple pictures. I asked her if she had sent them home. She said no, but she wasn't sure where she'd hang them. I suggested she let me hang them with the other drawings I wanted to display, and she was thrilled.
When I hang a display, I don't just tape them to the wall... I mount them on poster board first... to give them that framed effect.

Well, while I was hanging the K's and the 1st grade drawings, I thought about the 2nd grade watercolors that were finished a few days earlier. I had not sent them back to their classroom yet. So I asked their teacher would she mind if I hung them with this other display, and of course, she was more than glad to let me do it.

As I hung them, and I hung them all from all three classes... I did not leave anyone out... I heard many positive comments from the teachers and parents that walked by. Many were surprised that the drawings and paintings were from the younger students. A couple of people shared their childhood memories of when they loved to draw and paint, and how they wished they hadn't stopped.

I hear that a lot now that I'm out. I say I'm 'out' because there was a time I didn't tell people of my interests and talents. I kept it hid from most people. Only my closest friends and my family knew that I could and would draw. I didn't tell people, I think, because when some people find out about one's talent for drawing, they will either ask you to draw something for them, or they will tell you what you should be doing with your talent rather than what you already are doing with it. I learned the hard way. Just keep it to myself.

But that was me when I was younger. Younger meaning under 40 years old. I've got a better handle on it now. People know, and if they do try to tell me what I should be or could be doing other than what I already am doing, I don't hear them. I do it with a genuine smile, and nod my head, but I don't hear them.

The other people, the one's I enjoy speaking to the most about what I do, are the ones who confess that they always wanted to draw, but quit. And they don't remember why they quit.
The conversation then opens up for me and I offer my ideas about why some people let their interest in art go the way of childhood toys. Probably someone (close to them, a parent, a teacher) deflected their aspirations with well-intended criticism which did more harm than good. In high school other more demanding interests took over, like dating, sports, and hanging out with friends who didn't like being reflective. Or their parents couldn't afford to buy the materials and supplies they needed or wanted. As adults, they became overwhelmed with the process of getting degrees (serious degrees... "not many people make good money as an artist, you see"), finding jobs, earning incomes, paying bills, and raising families... too much to do, not enough time to pursue something as trivial as art. Who were they trying to kid??? They weren't good enough... they remembered when someone long ago told them they'd never be an artist because they weren't good enough.
Inevitably, somewhere in that monologue, my words strike a familiar chord, and they start sharing their experiences with art. And their desire to pursue it now that they're older, with more time, less bills, kids are grown and moved away, and they even can spare a few dollars to buy the supplies they need, maybe take an art class.

Yesterday that happened. I was speaking to a woman who stopped to express her amazement with the children's art, and a conversation soon followed, it wasn't long before I discovered that she wanted to draw and paint. I suggested she get back into it... she could join an artist group or take classes at the local community college.
I talked to her about visual journaling, how it helps an artist get in touch with her dreams and express her ideas and images... her creativity... even..., no, especially her spirituality. The inner seeking we often turn away from when facing worldly problems. I showed her one of my visual journals... not many people get to see inside them, but I do open up for those who seem (to me) to be coming awake to their own inner seeking. She said it was something she would like to do... the visual journal... and after I talked with her, I thought to myself, I would like to get back into visual journaling myself. I haven't done it in six or seven years.

There are many ways to approach visual journaling. My first experiences began w ith Julia Cameron's book, The Artist's Way. Here's an excerpt of her book if you are not familiar with her work. I didn't have time to write all about her, or the book, but I think I provided enough links to get you started, at least to find out if you'd be interested.

You might also consider illuminating your paper journal. Often the journal entry will inspire you to create a page of art. Other times, something you paint or draw on your journal page will allow you to access deeper thoughts, and lead to a totally unexpected journal entry. Here's another link for some ideas on how to get started.
This is definitely a topic I could write about extensively, but that's enough for tonight. Have any of you taken up visual journaling? How did you use it? Are you doing it now? Let me know.


  1. Interesting! Do you find visual journaling exclusive to paper and paint? What about the time and creativity involved in making and embedding video or pictures in an on line journal entry to accompany the story teller?

    Caregivingly Yours, Patrick

  2. As always, very enlightening Bea. I Love your student's artwork. It's always so well done and fun to look at!

  3. Enjoyed your post. You did a great job with hanging the students' work.

    I was thinking while reading what made me give up my love for drawing and art...it was a teacher, unfortunately. She was one mean cuss, LOL. I did continue to do it on my own for a spell and I guess never considered it more than a hobbie, not something I would do as a career. It gave me pleasure to draw, and was relaxing. Maybe I will take a class someday. Gave me something to think about.

  4. Nice to meet another journaller. But I knew you had to be.
    I often start a new journal meaning to keept it for best and neat work but soon find that I return to doodles, sticking things in and visualising. Of course - this is 'best' not the schoolroom 'best' that I think I mean. This is creative play and should include everything - I even have a corner of my garden where I store and display all the 3D ojects that I collect on my travels - assemblage journalling maybe?

  5. Love the displays of student artwork, Bea - they did a great job. I've never heard of visual journaling before, so thanks for the links.

  6. Hi Bea! I'm back. You have been busy. I like the new title, it suits you. You are a bridge builder as well as someone who is always moving forward in your own life. I share Patrick's question about applying the concept of visual journaling to online journals.

    I was an avid sketcher in my youth. I filled notebooks with my drawings. It was always my little hobby and I never thought of it as something that I could actually make into anything more than that. I puirchased some brushes, watercolors, and canvas this summer because Michael's was having a sale! I think that I'm going to actually use them and see where it leads me.

    Btw, Marc has started a blogazine. You should check it out and make a contribution.