The air is still around me as I turn the pages in a
book, soaking in romantic words of far-away worlds. The clock ticks down the hours until I need to get ready for work, but for now, I am blissful in content surroundings.
Eyes wander to the copies hanging on the walls. The Wall of Firsts.
They hold captions like, “First time I used watercolors,” and “First illustration for a story.” Faint lines run horizontally across the pages, marks meant to keep words from falling down the page. And the mind wanders. Back to the beginning...
At that time, my Moleskine journal had a Batman comic glued to the
cover. It’d been a birthday present a few years before from my mother, as I was young and poor and couldn’t possibly conceive paying $14 for a journal myself. But someone else buying it for me? That was perfectly acceptable and, more importantly, welcome.
But being one who hoards journals like they’ll one day be currency, it
sat unused for a better portion of three years, until one day, while bored on the internet, I stumbled upon a website devoted to the love of these small black notebooks.
And it was amazing.
A stationary-whore, I gobbled up everything I could find before learn-
ing about visual journals, those tombs filled with detailed drawings from both life and the imagination, records on milky white pages written in ink. And they instantly had my attention.
I was a junior in college at the time, living in the South Loop neigh-
borhood of Chicago. My hobbies were fandom and Batman, and I’d gotten myself a library card to the largest library in the city, which happened to be right next to my building. Score! So when I began my search for more literature on this illusive form of art, I had a pretty good line on some libraries that would have the older or less-published items. And, well, I was attending a liberal arts school. Our library was full of art books. Double score! That winter was spent dragging my best friend along on searches for books I’d scrawled on a cute Japanese paper pad on my desk, gloved hands folding and unfolding the paper with practiced ease.
There wasn’t much out there. A few books and ‘zines, maybe a couple
artists on this new website called Flickr, but that’s it. Nadda. Abandoned to experiment on my own, I began drawing every day, as Danny Gregory advised. Just little things. A clock. Lamp. Check in desk at the ER. The little Moleskine traveled with me everywhere, catching new things every day.
And – here’s the awesome part, the big part, the world-changing-
eyes-opening part that lives in my heart every day, every time I share this love of journaling – I found myself appreciating the world around me more. Seeing the little things. Finding a silver lining in the disaster my life had become. Slowing down to really experience life. My mood improved, my health improved, and I stopped pushing myself to be “normal.”
Except there was one tiny problem.
I’d never done art before in my entire life.
Mornings when I don’t have to go in usually
go like this. I wake up, grumble at the sun, then catch sight of Drake padding his way up the bed to kiss me good morning. We get some tea, and I enter my studio, my younger brother’s old bedroom. Everything I use to create art is in organized shelves and cases on the white plastic desk I call my Art Table.
I avoid the computer. I long ago set up my cell phone to grab emails,
so I browse them on it when I wake up to make sure there isn’t anything demanding my attention. Doing this allows me to bypass the computer without guilt; I can be lost into stories, blogs, and fandom for hours if I go on this early. So into the Art Table’s chair I go.
This is my version of Julia Cameron’s Morning Pages. Instead of writ-
ing three pages of longhand, I open my paints and create two pages of color and collage before my brain’s had a chance to wake up. I find my internal censor takes a little longer to wake up than me, and those precious few minutes allow me to enter my flow and get raw emotion onto the page. I can see a marked difference in the pages I’ve made early and those I’ve done at night, when I have to battle through my fear to my faith.
There’s a magic to the air of early morning, as if your soul awakes with
the sun. Have you ever noticed how still the air is in the morning? How birds simply bask in the sun? Even the grass seems to smell stronger. I love being awake before anyone else in the house, even if it means I need to take a nap later in the day.
My supplies are simple: acrylic paints, scraps of paper, five paint
brushes. What once took up the entire room has been condensed into four letter-sized drawers and two larger snap tubs. Once overwhelmed by an abundance of choice, Iâ€™ve gone down to the staples, allowing myself to channel more creativity through limiting supply. I love it. I love having everything within reach. But I also love being able to live what I advise â€“ a life of simplicity, even when it comes to art.
I let the pages dry while I get ready for the day. The come with me,
take in life, and tuck me in at night.