At the beginning of 2022 I started keeping a journal again after many years of not doing so. 2022 was a journey of many things for me, partially to deal with PTSD, partially to recover some of my artistic nature. I did a book study with a friend, on Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way. She recommends writing three pages a day of basically stream-of-consciousness journaling (“morning pages”). This sort of thing did NOT appeal to me in the least, being the organized writing tutor that I am! Give me a story to summarize or an organized outline of notes taken around any particular topic, and I’ll happily craft from that. Or even in my journals from years ago – let me write about events that occurred or how I felt about something. But coming at a piece of paper with a pen and not knowing what to write? Forget it. Except, I tried, because I was now committed to this book study with my friend and had to report back on homework!! At first it just seemed so ridiculous to me. Then it started to become a relief as I processed waves of thoughts and emotions from the months after my daughter was hit by a car and acquired a TBI. Now I’m pretty well into the flow of journaling again, although I don’t do it every day. And on some days, when I run out of things to write (because I definitely do not write three 8 1/2 x 11″ pages’ worth), I doodle and sketch. Thus this post, to show you some of my colourful pen sketches. By the way, if I was going to do this journaling thing again, I needed some pretty pens. So you’ll see the full range here of purple, green, pink, and red pens I bought for the duration.
Since I tend toward perfectionism, I had to steer myself from that by purposefully writing whatever words came to mind. In the same way, when I got bored of writing words, I had to purposefully just start sketching without a whole lot of planning. Flowers are a theme on my website, in case you haven’t noticed. 🙂 For this purple flower, I started with a simple circle, and then loosely held my pen as I sketched out my imagined version of petals around the centre and growing outward. Rounded shapes, then pointed shapes, then leafy shapes. Then a simple stem, loosely coloured in, with leaves attached. After I drew this, I simply felt better. And THAT is one big reason why creating is so valuable for me – it makes me feel better, like I’ve taken time to notice something that is non-traumatic or non-urgent or non-“necessary” like a paid-work or a household task. My hand has moved to shape something appealing, with materials that provide enjoyment in their look and in their ease of use.
This next one was a combination of what I saw outside my big livingroom window (tree trunks stripped of leaves) and on my coffee table (teacup). Again, no perfection involved, just light and loose motions with my hand holding my red pen after running out of words to journal. I used short lines to add texture to the tree trunks, but willed myself to not examine the trunk closely. The teacup is out of proportion to the real thing on the table, but I don’t care. I cared only that my pretty red pen was flowing and creating. And I WAS pretty proud of making a semi-decent looking handle on it, as well as the flower detail peeking around the corner. Steam rising was a final flourish for me.
In this next sketch done in pretty green, I was practicing a technique I’d just learned. To make a flower look flopped over, you draw an oval wherever you want the flower to be, then you draw a smaller oval inside near the edge where you want the flower centre to look furthest away. Then you draw petals radiating out to the outer oval. After enough practice, I won’t need to draw the outer oval anymore. Again, here, it was about pretty green ink flowing, practicing a technique, and loosely filling in various components such as the petals, stems, and leaves. And, I admit, it was also about filling up blank space on the other side of a journal page, haha!
This pink sketch is similar, but I this time I bunched the flowers together as a bouquet. Likely I concentrated so much on this that I didn’t bother to fill in petals or stems.
For this next sketch in purple again, I started out just playing with gridded and directional designs. Anything orderly and geometric fascinates me, so I find it fun to try to recreate different patterns. I started out with little squares with lines going off the corners, making them point in different directions. Then I created grids and filled them in. The first is actually supposed to represent gingham, just by the way I filled in some of the squares. I also tried a dropped repeat. After that, my brain always wants to go back to flowers. I really admire the floral designs of Kristin Nicholas, but for some reason I can’t always figure out how to put as much folk design into mine. I know it’s a matter of adding in lines and shapes, but I get stuck! But on this day, I was able to get somewhat unstuck, and this is what happened. I rather like this entire composition of random designs.
I’m slightly proud of this next one! I was able to capture a stack of hockey cards that were sitting on the table. My guitar-playing-and-teaching husband collects them. By the way the front vertical lines zigzag downwards, I hope you can see that the stack was askew. Except, hm…that makes me look at the third vertical line and realize I forgot to really look at it. “Oh well,” I tell myself, “this is practice and fun right now.” The other two sketches are simple butterflies amongst wide blades of grass.
Finally, we have sketches of some plant pots that were on the coffee table. You can even see the teacup again from the previous photo (these are closeups from the same piece of paper). The rounded pot really does contain just stems, because I had to cut off leaves that had died while we were in Europe. The square pot is one of several that now house some thriving-again spider plants. You can see again that in addition to sketching the outlines of the objects, I filled some in with basic scribbles and lines.
I’ve thoroughly enjoyed doing sketches in my journal and continue to do so. Do you do any sort of loose practice of something creative? Would you share in the comments about it?