Can journaling help us as artists?

By | 2017-08-22T20:44:03+00:00 June 19th, 2015|For creators|1 Comment

This week, as part of the Artistic Parenting series, the awesome team Grundler interview author and artist Eric Scott. He explains how keeping a visual journal can turbocharge your creative endeavours.


Recently, one of our awesome #k12ArtChat friends Arlene Shelton introduced us to a challenge, and she is all about challenges. It’s a thirty-day visual journal challenge developed by Journal Fodder Junkies. Running throughout June, every day on their blog there is an exciting new approach to traditional artistic mediums.  People are sharing their work via Twitter and Instagram using the hashtag #jfj15for30 and the response has been fantastic.

One of our beliefs about being artistic parents is that we must model the making involved in the creative process, keeping a sketchbook and/or visual journal is a terrific way to show kids how ideas evolve and transform sometimes turning into something more and sometimes just living in the journal.

We thought this challenge and the creators of Journal Fodder Junkies would be a perfect interview to share with creative parents, teachers and artists.  Eric M. Scott co-creator of Journal Fodder Junkies and co-writer of The Journal Junkies Workshop and Journal Fodder 365 kindly agreed to participate in our interview.

So here it goes… Eric, thank you so much for sharing with our creative community of parents, teachers and artists.  Your #jfj15for30 visual journal challenge has been an awesome way for many of us to start the summer.

How and why did you develop this visual journal challenge?

Over the last five or six months I’ve been looking for ways to connect with more people online and in person, and I’ve been posting more on Facebook and more on the JFJ blog trying to connect to and be inspired by others. Also as an art educator, I am committed to connecting with other art educators, and I attended the National Art Education Association’s annual convention in New Orleans where I met Arlene. Knowing about my wish to connect and inspire, she contacted me after the convention and suggested creating a challenge as a way to grow those connections. I gave it some thought, and designed a challenge that reflects my own personal style of working in the journal. I rarely work on a single page or spread straight through. Instead, my pages develop over time, and often I simply sit down and do one thing on several pages, like glue in collage elements or paint with watercolor. So, I saw the challenge as a way to open people to a process of working in the journal. I also, just wanted to get back into working in my journal on a daily basis, and the challenge became a personal challenge as well. I’m hoping that the habit of working in the journal daily will stick once the challenge wraps up.

What are the keys to visual journaling?

One of the keys to working in the journal is showing up. You have to make it a sustained habit. If the journal sits unopened and unused, there’s no chance to explore and create – to grow and discover. That’s a goal behind the challenge – to challenge myself and those that want to participate to show up for 15 minutes a day. We all have 15 minutes that we can sit down and do something in the journal. Another key is being open. We can’t close ourselves off to possibilities in the journal. Many artists get a narrow definition of what the journal can and cannot be, and they leave no room for discovery, play, and spontaneity. Also, they end up doing the same thing over and over. I look over my 20 volumes of visual journals, and they are a record of my thoughts, my process, my growth, and my evolution as an artist and as a human being. Being open to a new idea, a new technique, a new path to explore is at the heart of my journaling

Why do you feel visual journaling is an important component to the creative process?

The visual journal is an open platform – a place to play and experiment, document and reflect, make and create. It is a place to discover and to plan, and it has spurred all of my creative endeavors over the last 16 years, and the art that I make now could only have happened because I have worked in the journal all of these years. There’s a myth about being an artist that basically treats inspiration like a bolt of lightning. But there are two quotes that I love about inspiration and making art. The first is by Chuck Close: “Inspiration is for amateurs. The rest of us show up and get to work.” The second is by Pablo Picasso: “Inspiration does exist, but it has to find you working.” Both of these quotes speak to the same idea – art comes from making art. If we sit around waiting for inspiration to strike, we’ll be sitting around a lot and not making anything. As we work, our creativity opens, connections are made, and a direction is found. Art is work and the journal is a place to show up and get to work.

Tell us about your journaling practice, where, when and how often?

Ideally, I’d like to journal everyday, even if it’s just painting in watercolor or gluing something in for 5 or 10 minutes, but I don’t always get a chance to work in it everyday. I do take my journal with me almost everywhere, and if I can’t take my big journal, I try to take a pocket sketchbook. I journal everywhere and anywhere. I might sit in a coffee shop or at a bar working and journaling. Or I might sit at my coffee table watching tv or a movie, or I might sit in my hotel room on trip finding time to glue things in, doodle some shapes, or reflect on what’s happening. I try to open my journal up as I teach so that I can add something during my workday even when I only have a few minutes. Of course, I also work on the journal in the studio often adding to pages as I work on other works of art. To me, journaling is just a part of life.

Also, I treat the journal as an Everything Book. It’s not about having artful pages. It’s about throwing everything into it. I document my life, my art, my thoughts. I experiment and I play. I discover new ideas and come back again and again to the ideas that intrigue me the most. I don’t set out a theme before I work, and often the meaning is made as the page gets made. Since, I approach the journal this way and don’t plan what happens, it is not a linear process. I add to pages at anytime, and when I feel that I need a fresh page, I turn to a blank page. I jump back and forth in my journal adding to pages started months ago as well as beginning new pages. I have to have a lot of things to work on at one time because an idea might not be right for the page I’m working on, but might be just right for another page.

Can you share with parents and teachers ideas for visual journaling with kids?

I think one of the best things is to journal along with them. Though I don’t have children of my own, I teach elementary art in a public school, and they always respond when they see me working on my art. It motivates them to work on their art and in their journals. They don’t need to do exactly what you’re doing, but I find that children often want to do what the adults are doing. Children learn by watching us, and they learn to value what we value. If we value making art and we show them by doing, they will often value it as well. I also think allowing children to develop their own ideas is important. Too often, we adults want to dictate what children make. We can allow them to develop their own ideas because they are going to have different ideas than we do, and they’ll think of things that we never could. Allowing children to explore, experiment, and discover teaches them to think for themselves. It develops their creativity and nurtures their independence.

Do you have any parting pearls of wisdom that you’d like to share with our community as we conclude the challenge?

We give priority to things that we value. If we don’t give ourselves time to make art, then we simply don’t value making and creating. Life gets busy, but we find time to eat, to watch tv, to do the laundry, to go shopping, to Facebook, and to Tweet. Why is it so difficult to dedicate the time? I have my own bouts of creative drought where I don’t work in my journal or my art very much, but because I make art such a part of my life, I do come back to it. I think so many people out there want to make and create, but they lack the creative courage. I think the journal is an optimal place to develop that courage. And that’s the heart of this challenge – 15 minutes a day adds up to a significant amount of time working, and it gives us the permission and initiative to create. The challenge is sustaining that momentum. That’s why it’s always good to have artistic accomplices – people who motivate you and inspire you. People who will hold you accountable in your efforts.

Thank you so much for allowing me to share my ideas on visual journaling.

Eric, again thank you for sharing! There is so much about your process that resonates with us.  We love your viewpoint that visual journaling is about exploration and the journey, isn’t that what art education (really education in general) is about?  It’s why we parent artistically and teach art, the process teaches us to see differently, to learn more, to go deep into the exploration of a big idea.

So jump in with us, it’s never too late to join the #jfj15for30 challenge and certainly never too late to start a visual journal.

Wishing you creative experiences,

Matt & Laura Grundler

#TeamGrundler


Eric M. Scott’s bio

Hello, my name is Eric, and I am a Journal Fodder Junkie. For over a decade, I have conspired with my buddy, Dave to create rich, layered visual journals. As a dynamic duo we have presented workshops, presentations, and seminars on the visual journals spreading the importance, the power, and the joy of the visual journal. We invite you to explore yourself, your life, and your creativity. Grab a journal, some supplies, and join our journey.

Don’t forget to follow Eric on Twitter: @jrnlfddrjunkies

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Laura Grundler (www.grundlerart.com / @GrundlerArt)Laura began college as an undeclared major and quickly discovered a desire to combine her artistic passion with leadership endeavors. After teaching middle school art, high school art and working as an assistant principal, she has moved into the role of district Visual Arts Coordinator. Her passions for art, education and leadership continue to collide as she leads the district's outstanding visual arts teachers successfully instruct student artists./ Matthew Grundler (@Artguy76)Matt took a slightly different path, majoring in graphic design and working in that field for the first few years of his career; however after finding the commercial side of design to be unsatisfying he was persuaded by his family to seek alternative certification, where he soon found his niche as a K-5 Art teacher. Matt found a home at Brinker Elementary where he connects with the community and feels he helps students discover a life-long love of art.

  • Katie

    Hello Eric and Dave!
    My name is Katie. I am a single mother of two living in a low income Seattle commmunity of formerly homeless families. My community is more like a family. We love eachother’s kids like our own, have relationships close to that of sisters and brothers (rather than neighbors) and have supported each other in overcoming, sometimes, the most horrendous barriers.
    I am in the process of organizing a writing group for the parents in my community. I use the term “writing” loosly, as my vision is more of just an outlet to tell our stories. Many of our residents speak several languages, English not being their native language, and some do not read or write. I would like to provide a creative avenue to create a visual image of our families’ stories to share with our children and, hopefully, later on to bring awareness to the greater public of what life in poverty really looks like. To combat the stigmas and stereotypes commonly associated with homelessness, low-income families, domestic violence, and those recovering from addiction.
    Your visual journals are absolutely beautiful and something I really feel my community would connect with. Do you have any information, resources, or time/materials available to help with this project? I can provide the 501(c)(3) number of my non-profit foundation for your tax purposes.
    I appreciate your time and willingness to be apart of our creative process.

    Best Regards,
    Katie