Why Keep a Visual Journal?

I’ve kept a written journal for years. I’ve done morning pages, evening pages, no pages. So why start a visual journal? Because a visual journal helps you keep memories more clearly than just a written journal. And you don’t need to be a visual artist, either.

My journal entries often take up a lot of space describing something well enough so I can remember it. In other words, I write a lot to create a picture in my head. So I thought I’d try going directly to the source, and draw the thing I want to remember. This helps me be more observant. About color. About shadows. About shape. About what was really important–was it a linked memory, an emotion, a new idea?

radish bunchSince it’s my journal, and I don’t intend on exhibiting it or turning it into a movie, how well my drawing resemble the object I’m trying to draw it not as important as capturing a memory.

Sometimes I give myself a time limit. It helps to see what I need to see and not spend a lot of time on too many details. I’m trying to catch an idea, not a plot line.

A visual journal helps you be more aware.
A visual journal allows you to see colors more vividly.
Texture comes alive in a journal, and you can use words to compare what you see now to something else. The radish leaves are slightly fuzzy and gritty with sand. I’d never given it much thought.

Your images help you accept your level of art ability, particularly if you give yourself deadlines to prevent overworking an image. In this case, I also tested some of the reds on the same page, so I could layer some colors and get the radish right. Next time, I’ll write the color underneath, so I can use the journal to test color swatches. Another use–getting colors right.

I was flipping through my journal the other day, and as this page passed, I immediately could taste the radish sandwich I love in spring–crisp red radishes sliced thin and placed on smooth unsalted butter on nine-grain bread. I could taste it again.
Pictures are a shorthand to an experience, and you can make the most of it with a visual journal.

Next: It doesn’t have to be pictures, words can be visual, too.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer and certified creativity coach. She keeps journals for many reasons.
Image by Quinn. (c) 2008 All right reserved.