What You'll Find Here

I post daily (photos of my journal pages, things that inspire me and personal bits and pieces) to inspire and encourage others. I have always believed that if I can do it, so can you.

You'll find resources (my favorite supplies, books, slideshows of my art journal pages, favorite bloggers, etc...) listed along the right hand side of my blog.

I've been teaching both in person and online workshops for more than twenty years. You can find out more about my classes by scrolling down along the right hand side of my blog. I strive to make classes accessible to everyone (both beginner to advanced).

I love teaching and truly believe that deep down inside everyone is an artist, capable of creating something. There is power and knowledge in the act of creating something with your own hands, made from your own heart and head.

If you have any questions, please feel free to email me at EGorey99@sbcglobal.net

Thanks for stopping by!


Sunday, March 07, 2010

Thoughts on Journaling...

"Artists who seek perfection in everything are those who cannot attain it in anything." Eugene Delacroix

I often hear from a lot of people who've never kept a journal before (or who have only been keeping one for a short period of time, or who dabble in it but aren't faithful) mourn that their work isn't "very good". A few thoughts on that-

It's something that takes practice and time. Your journal is a perfect place to crack open a new set of paints, or a favorite pen, or your glue stick and ask yourself, "What if?" Don't judge. Don't worry. Try something on a page or two, finish it and turn the page. Move on. Don't look back. Go back to it in a week or a month and see what you can pull from the page.

There's a current trend to make journal pages "perfect". With this current trend, comes the feeling that people think that they can do something once (or twice, or even a few times)
and have it come out SHINING and PERFECT and FABULOUS the first time.

That's not true.

"There is no such thing as talent. What they call talent is nothing but the capacity for doing continuous work in the right way." Winslow Homer

I'm all about the WORK. You have to do the WORK. You have to put in TIME. You have to put in ENERGY. You have to sit down and DO IT. Some people get this. Others don't. You also have to WANT to do this. Don't keep a journal because you think it's a current trend. Do it because it's a yearning pull in your gut. It's an inside voice that says that you HAVE to do this.

Some want it easy. They want an easy way to make a journal page that they'll love. That they can send to Big Name Magazine and that Big Name Magazine will fawn over and publish. It's not about that. It ain't that easy. It's not about publishing. It's not about being fawned over. It's about staying true to yourself. Staying true to your voice. It's about hard work. It's about passion. It's about asking questions. It's about experience and documenting a life, your life.

"Every good painter paints what he is." Jackson Pollock

Some use paint. Some use paper. Some use both. Some use pens. Some use fabric. Find the medium-not one that you like, but one that you LOVE. Find a medium that makes your heart skip a beat when you see it AND when you create it. Don't try it once. Do it again and again and again. Rinse and repeat as I say. Ask yourself, "What happens if I do this?" "Shit, this didn't work, what happens if I try it this way...but hey, look-I did learn that I could do this even though what I had in mind didn't work." Push yourself. Push harder next time.

"Art teaches nothing, except the significance of life." Henry Miller

Which brings me to another thing...don't have something in mind and expect it to come out perfect. Having something in mind is fine. Perfection is not. Journaling is about two things-

Experimentation-having a safe place to try something out

Documentation-having a safe place to express yourself

"They thought I was a Surrealist, but I wasn't. I never painted dreams. I painted my reality."
Frida Kahlo

So, how do you get there? How do you start?

"When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work. I told her I worked at the college- that my job was to teach people how to draw. She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, "You mean they forget?" Howard Ikemoto

You start by working. You pick up your medium of choice. You crack open the book and you start. You WORK. You work forward. Don't look back. Don't judge. Don't compare. Don't say, "Shit! My work isn't looking like Big Artist so I must be no good." Don't EVER let that Evil Inner Critic Voice in. There is no room for her now. There is only room for you and for the WORK you are doing. PLAY. Play hard. Work hard. Push yourself. Finish a page. Yay! Turn it and work on the next page. Don't judge. Don't stop. Keep pushing.

"The artist need not know very much; best of all let him work instinctively and paint as naturally as he breathes or walks." Emil Nolde

Limit yourself to a few colors, papers and pens. Limit your choices. It will make it easier.

Ask yourself at the end of every page, "Am I done? Does it feel like I've said all that needed to be said?" Don't concern yourself with good or bad. Just answer that question.

The more you work, the more it will click. You will realize what colors you like, what your symbols and favorite imagery are to use. You will learn what you like. You will learn to push yourself.

"The best reason to paint is that there is no reason to paint...I'd like to pretend that I've never seen anything, never read anything, never heard anything...and then make something...Every time I make something I think about the people who are going to see it and every time I see something, I think about the person who made it....Nothing is important...so everything is important." Keith Haring

I don't have anything to say. Oh hell, yes you do. You can make a journal page about ANYTHING.

"Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures."

Make a page about something-anything that happened today. Did you eat something that tasted good? Did you hear something that made you happy or angry? Did something spectacular happen or was it an ordinary day? Did you recall a moment from your past? Are you thinking about the future? Did you see a color combination in a catalog or shop window that you want to try with paint, paper or fabric? Did you take a photograph that you want to paste in your book? You see, there is always something to journal about.

So, if it calls from the heart, do it. Keep at it. Do the work and don't give up. When you start to fall in love with what you are doing, when you are okay with things, then you can look back. Then you can ask questions and see what worked and what didn't work. Don't tear things out. Leave them in. They are documents and windows into glimpses of your life. The pages in your books are moments of your life that you've captured and held tightly onto. Don't let them go.

"I want to touch people with my art. I want them to say 'he feels deeply, he feels tenderly.' "
Vincent Van Gogh


Sandy said...

All of this is so very true. I journal for myself and so one day maybe my son can pick up my books and read something in them and maybe he will understand something about what I was thinking while he was growing up. If he doesn't that's fine too. It's an outlet and it's also fun. It's also a healing process and it does work. It keeps me sane. I don't journal to get any of my pages published. Hell I don't think I'd want any of these last couple of months published. They're private to me.

Great post.

Bren said...

Well said Kelly. I think if I believed I had to create something excellent in my journal it would shut down my creativity completely. I only began art journaling a year ago, but what a year of growth and development it has been. I keep playing and the play opens me up to new discoveries. I'll be encouraging people to give your 'thoughts' a read! Thank you

Sue said...

Wonderful. Thank you for this entry - it was just what I needed today.

Sharyn said...

I love you Kelly Kilmer :) Thanks for being a cheerleader to all. I believe such posts periodically are helpful because we all lose focus sometimes. Thank you.

michelle ward said...

Kelly - FABULOUS post! You are such a terrific cheerleader for journaling. I consider my journal to be a *time card* and I try to punch in every day. The best rule I play by, is what you have already said: never tear out a page. It is the ugliest page that provides the greatest lessons as you work through trying to make it more pleasing for your own self. Like you said WORK. It takes work, page by page. The more you do the more you will find your own way, your style emerges, and it becomes an addiction.

Thanks for sharing your perspective on process and pure enthusiasm for journaling. xo

Desert Mermaid said...

Amen,Kelly, amen. Was just talking to my husband and mom yesterday about how important it is for people to see artists IN PROCESS, to hear artists talk about how many times, ways & efforts it took to go from conception to the piece we might be seeing in front of us, to hear artists say they made piles & mounds of shit, mistakes, crap, blunders, before they got to where they wanted to be. The artists we each love do NOT sit down at desk or stand before easel and just pour out the beautiful pieces WE see, ultimately. Instant gratification is NOT part of the process of art. I feel like if you don't learn to embrace the process as the Main Point/Joy/Passion, instead of the outcome, you're in for a long long long and disappointing road of disillusionment. One of the guest artists on my blog said it, and I've adopted his quote as my own, "I've learned to love the perfection of imperfection."

Viki said...

Oh Kelly, I so enjoyed this post!!
thanks for all the inspiration!

Paula Phillips said...

Kelly, wow, it's hard to find words after that! What a GREAT post, so inspiring and so true. From a girl that's going to be published in "Big Name" magazine soon (lol, love that name), I agree that lots of people don't see, or understand, all the pages upon pages that are the ones you speak about. Journaling for me is a way to heal my depression and to create everyday, being published is a bonus.
Again, thanks for the inspiration. I am going to link this post to my blog.
Much Love

Sherri said...

Thank you for this, Kelly.

melle said...

well played. I have a great advantage in the fact that no one I know has any interest whatsoever in anything that I'm doing. So if I make something ugly, I'm the only one who knows about it! :D

I was never the child who ran to mum with every little drawing. I never got any satisfaction from her staring at the tv and mumbling "uh huh" out the corner of her mouth.

Perhaps other people do? *shrug*

Brian K said...

You are always sooo inspiring! Wonderful words! When I was just starting out in art journaling my teacher(and now my good friend) Orly had us name our inner critic, I picked a name I can't stand "Bruce". We then did a spread about the things we wanted to say to quiet our inner critic. It has been one of the most popular pieces on my blog and still one of my favorites. Thank you for your wonderful encouragement. Art Journaling has become one of my life necessities... If I don't do it for a few days I feel odd and grouchy. Keep on, keepin' on journaling!

Mouseybrat said...

Thanks for this wonderful post. It is great to have a reminder that it's ok not to be perfect.

sheilasab@sbcglobal.net said...

kelly-- you are too cool--this is just what i needed today--tell it like it is--after Mark makes our Sunday morning breakfast, i am going up to the studio and try to do what i do--shouldn't come out too yucky--i have had a great teacher these past 2 years !!! i can't remember the Japanese word for teacher--i think it is something like sensen--but that is too bitter a candy !!! i am sure you get my meaning though...xxxooo sam aka sheila sabatino

Penney said...

Wow! I love when you inspire me to create. Almost everything you said was what I have been trying not to say to myself! Gotta get going......gotta create........thank you!

T and J said...

damn I missed another trend !
the trend of a perfect page

Traci said...

Fabulous post Kelly! This applies to almost everything in life. Keep trying. Keep doing.

I had a canvas piece that I was working on...it was a disaster. I had turquoise paint on it, pink paint, gesso over that. I then decided to try some sandpaper and all I did was create a mess, so much so that I had to vacuum the canvas. I was literally ready to throw the piece in the trash but as I was sanding and wiping, a new background started to appear. It was lovely. Well, the gist of this story is...I just sold that piece this past Friday!

What started out as a huge mistake turned into a happy accident. I could not repeat that process if I tried. I have to pick up a new canvas, throw some paint on it and see what appears. Sometimes it's a long process but it's still a beautiful journey.

Butterfly Works said...

Boy, did I need to hear what you wrote today.....I am so glad I found your blog because I really needed the encouragement you gave today...I am new to art journaling and I am afraid I have let "what I think" others will say keep me blocked...
Hugs and Blessings,

Carin said...

Just found my way over from Journal Artista! Thank you so, so much for this post! Just what I needed to hear. I am only just starting out and have the evil witch of perfection cackling in my ear day in day out that I'm no good and should just give up, and even posted about it before the weekend, so this was very timely! Thanks!

Michelle LaPoint Rydell said...

WOW WOW WOW. You hit the nail on the head. Awesome and thought-provoking. Thank you Kelly!

Raine said...

THANK YOU, KELLY!!!!!!! I SOOOOO needed this today. I haven't journalled in over a month. I have been busily working to reorganize my studio. It's finally done. I was just thinking, "Now what?" I was at a loss. I was unnerved by the choices. Sometimes the easiest choice is to do nothing. But that doesn't help me to grow as an artist. Granted, I thoroughly enjoyed the reorganizing and consider it an artform on its own. But it's done. There are picky little things I still want to do, like organizing my HUGE collection of art paper. But not now, not yet. I want to MAKE something. I NEED to make something. I just have to choose. Will it be my art journal? a new, from scratch, journal? a painting? an online class that I have waiting in a document file? I'm not sure yet. I'm going to rummage around my 'puter for a bit to help me decide. But TODAY I WILL MAKE ART! I'll tell you all about it tomorrow. Really!
Thanks so much for being my muse today! I love you. {{{{{{{BIG HUG}}}}}}}

eleni [a pink dreamer] said...

hi! i'm eleni from greece! how right you are! i adore art journaling so much... i have been journaling since i wasa little girl! and now i'm 37! can you imagine how many art journals i have?
well i'm glad i found your wonderful blog. please visit me whenever you can.thank you!!!!

Lorraine said...

Amazingly accurate and insightful post with the perfect anecdotes to enhance/support. Thanks for putting into words.
Though sometimes our work, whatever it may be in life, doesn't come out perfect, your post did!
What a great share.

Aundria B. said...

Thank you so much for this post - I truly needed to read this today. I've been the one who has had trouble getting started, not only with art journalling, but with other means of personal expression, for ALL of the reasons you wrote about. I tell myself all the time, "It's not for anyone else;" "You can't mess this up". I know this is something that I NEED to do for myself, even if it's just to get the pain & yuck of what's all tangled up inside of me, out. I have faith that one day I will be able to move beyond the inner critic and just do it. And then do it again, and again, until that inner critic is silenced once and for all.

Jenesis said...

Well Said! I feel like I've told some people essentially the same thing.

crimsoncat05 said...


Marilyn said...

thanks for this post. I just started journaling this year and I love it. But it's just for me and I don't care if somebody sees it but don't ask me to "explain" it. I like to look at your blog and others to get ideas (not to copy). Any way ....thanks!

Glenda T. said...

Well said! If more people realized that journaling was a creative outlet, a way of documenting pieces of themselves instead of a perfection contest, perhaps they would do it more. As someone who has been published in "Big Name" magazines (love it!) I can honestly say that I journal first and foremost for ME. Everything else is just icing on the cake and a way for me to share my journal and art. I look at my journal as a visual diary and can see where I was and what was happening at different times in my life. It's so important to free your mind and just play!!!

Linda Woods said...

I could not agree more! I think the moment the goal becomes to create or duplicate what is in a magazine instead of express yourself, the whole point of journaling vanishes.

ysdw said...


Awesome post! Thank you so much for your words of wisdom - they ring true for me and are very timely.

I've become frustrated at times with wanting to be like such-and-such artist because they're published, or because they have sold work, or because because because...they seem successful. But that's not me.

I've never been into art for the outcome, even from a young age - that goal-oriented thinking actually sickens me and is another cause of my frustration as an art student who is about to graduate this semester. I don't want to have to live off of my art and fit it into a profitable type of art. That's not me. I'm passionate about making art, not being known as an artist or whatever - that's not what it's about - I just love the work and the process and creating stuff. Thanks. <333

Amy said...

Very huge! Thanks..we all need to read this type of info every once in awhile because some of us do get caught up in the "perfect" more often than we'd like to admit!!

Barbara Hagerty said...

There's no greater gift than helping people "get it". You've said it well, Kelly!