[draw] drawn, draw·ing, noun, verb (used with object)
1.to cause to move in a particular direction by or as if by a pulling force; pull; drag (often followed by along, away, in,out, or off ).
As you probably know by now from reading this blog over the years, the one steady thing that has been a constant throughout all of my adventures as an artist, a world traveler, and a musician is the fact that I carry around a sketchbook with me. Pretty much wherever I go, I have a book in my bag, a small set of watercolors and a pen or pencil to write, draw, collect what I see and hear in the world. This practice began years and years ago, when my kids were really small. Say what you want about the beauty of motherhood. It IS beautiful. But it’s also really, really hard. Among the few things that kept me somewhat centered during the early years of parenthood (such as a great husband and many many many marathoning miles), the act of drawing in a little book became a habit that was like my anchor in the storm. Those early drawings are clumsy and poorly rendered. The really early ones didn’t even include any watercolors!! And yet, I have them (somewhere around here). They include tales of camping trips interrupted by pasta ravaging raccoons and over-the-top Halloween costumes made to order for my kids (One year Jack wanted to be a peacock. And his little sister? Yes, a Princess Peacock. I swear if I come across those journal entries/ photos I will totally share them).
Slowly, over many years, through many slumps and the crossing of proverbial seas, I began to realize what I had in this seemingly simple practice of sitting and drawing and writing a bit about my life. I began to do it with a bit more consciousness. I began to find others, people who called themselves Artists, who did a similar thing and seemed to even be making books and teaching classes. People around me, beyond my awesome family who always thought I could draw anything, began to notice. I even went to art school. But not for drawing. Majoring in sculpture, I was still noted for my copious collecting skills in the form of my sketchbook. Post art school, I made some Art, but it has been the sketching and journaling that has time and again come to the fore. This is mainly because, as a mom, it’s the one art form that’s portable (that and embroidery, but that’s for another post, another time.) All of this time and the many filled books, eventually led to my teaching this process to others wanting to learn it. Without even realizing it, I had developed a very individual and distinct way of doing this sketch-journal thing.
So fast forward to nowadays. I teach Keeping an Illuminated Journal in both individual classes and at the local community arts centers. I co-developed a business centered journaling process with a former student. (That project is tabled right now as we both pursue our individual work, me here in Cincinnati, and Adam in NYC.). With the support of the Art Academy, I began taking students afield to document the travel experience in a sketchbook. Through these trips to Taos it was even clearer to me that what I am teaching is more than simple life documentation, or learning to draw things that come across one’s path in life. This process has a power to draw a person toward their center. Keeping a journal, and more importantly an illuminated journal (one with drawings or paintings) is an act of meditation which leads to a deeper thinking about life in general. As a young mama, battling depression and anxiety, I was not only capturing precious bits of my kids’ fleeting childhood, I was actually healing myself. Keeping these books has been a slow-cooker style of self-guided therapy that has, over the years, taught me much. I’m much healthier in the head and heart these days and I attribute some of that to merely growing into myself. Growing into myself has happened in the pages of my sketchbook. It is there that I can jot down quotes that speak to me at the time, I can mull over the mundane and the difficult, I can draw a dog or a backyard bird and feel calmer for doing so. It’s like magic really. And I love sharing this magic.
This summer when I head to Taos with yet another amazing group of students, I will also be filming my segment of the Eco Chic Retreat DVD project slated to be completed this fall. I am so grateful for this opportunity. Often, the spiritual side of the classes I teach winds up being an added, unexpected bonus to the fun process of writing and drawing in a journal. But Eco-Chic’s retreat climate is all about centering oneself in the storm of life through a time of guided nutrition, yoga, painting, meditation and more and of course, keeping a journal. I’m tremendously excited to talk about how the simple act of making a drawing, writing a haiku poem, or taking note of the day can seriously alter a life. I don’t make the claim lightly. I was my first student and I am, finally after all these years, a firm believer in the power of this process.
What drove me to go into writer mode on today’s blog post is the photo below of some of the Eco-Chic family. This was shared electronically to those of us on the team who couldn’t be there for this particular gathering and when I saw it, my heart just swelled. These women are doing amazing work in the world. Each of them is a healer in her own way. I am humbled to be a part of this project. But I too am a healer. And I look forward to sharing my take on the ‘simple’ act of keeping a sketchbook in the hopes that it will bring healing your way too.