Journaling With Strangers and Friends

NOTE:  This project has been completed, please do not join. Every artist needs to tackle a big creative project and jump into it without a safety net, at least once in life. My time is now. I’m leaping into a journaling project with no idea where it will go, what will happen, or what the result will be. I have a teeny, tiny need for control (OK, a semi-Prussian control ideal) and it is hard to let that go. But I’m doing it. I’m journaling with strangers, all over the world. In a standard journal.

Here’s the project: I took four red, unlined, Handbook journals, and am sending

The red journals before they hit the trail.

The red journals before they hit the trail.

them into the world, to perfect strangers, to let them do what they want with the journals. Write in them, draw in them, paint, collage. Anyplace in the world that can be reached by mail. And then return them to me.

Three of the four have themes, one is unthemed. Some people are happier if they have an idea to work with, some have an authority neurosis and don’t want to be hemmed in.
Here are the themes:

  • Travel, real or imagined
  • Dreams, daydreams, night dreams and wishes
  • Summer in Phoenix (You have to live in the Sonoran desert for this one, the entire Valley counts)
  • Unthemed for free spirits or writers or artists with creative claustrophobia.

What happens to the journals? This is the great part. I belong to the 1001 Journals Project. Each time the journals come back to me, I scan the pages and post them on the 1001 Journal Project site, as well as the What’s New page on my own Raw-Art-Journals site.

Eventually, the journals will be full. If I’m lucky, and there is a good response, I’ll add journals and themes.

At least three libraries are working with me to create a class, and then have people check out the books using the information/reserved book desk for about a month or so.

Once the books are complete, they will go on tour to libraries and possibly museums.

Leave your mark by journaling

Leave your mark by journaling

There are more ideas, all still in development. For example, in some classes, rather than hand around the book, which would require people to draw under pressure, I’m handing out individual pieces of paper. The person draws on both sides and returns it to me. I’ll bind these into a book, creating a new journal in an unusual way.

Where are the books? Right now the books are in their second round of journalers. One is in Maryland, and the others in Sedona, Mesa, and Goodyear, AZ. All of this will be tracked on the What’s New  page of the Raw-Art-Journal website. There will be a list of the people waiting for the journals (first name, last initial to protect privacy), so journalers will know when to expect the books.

What’s in it for me? The immense joy of knowing that writing or drawing in a book is still valued and important enough for people to wait, write, draw, send back a real-book journal. Acknowledging our culture in ways history books do not and cannot.

I’ve read hundreds of journals written by immigrant women and women who crossed the country in covered wagons. Overwhelmingly common to their books were tales of birth and death, food and fashion, all starting with “this is just a day to day track of my life and not important.” Their stories are detailed and fascinating, and I want to help that happen in our time.

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

My grandfather's journal, c. 1899

I have computer diskettes in every size that I can’t open because I didn’t update the storage and retrieval system on my computer, but my father’s first art journal from the beginning of the last century is still in my bookcase, paper and drawings intact, ready and available. For me, that’s worth it.

Where’s the money coming from? For right now, I’m funding the project. I bought the journals and the pieces of loose paper and envelopes. I’m mailing them out at my own expense, and asking participants to pay the postage back to me. I purchased the domain and built the raw-art-journals website.

And yes, you can help. I’m hoping that there will be organizations who pay me to talk about journaling, teach raw-art journaling (for people who want to keep an art journal but can’t draw), bring the journals and create classes. I’ll look for grants. I do know that I can’t support the project forever, or even for a long time. I’ve got about $400 of my own money into it, and for me that’s a lot. I believe in journaling, I believe in this project, and I believe in its success. People will contribute (there’s a button on the website for donations), doors will open, opportunities will arise.

You can read about the updates of the journal’s travels on the What’s New page of the website.

You can join the list of journalers and  sign up to write in the journal of your choice.

You can leave ideas and suggestion by leaving a comment to this post.

If you prefer to email me, you can do that by sending an email to: rawartjournals [at] gmail [dot] com. Writing it out like that slows down spammers and phishers, so it’s not a direct link.

I’ve always admired people who believed in art and took part in something meaningful, and then do it. For me, this is more important than the 15 years I spent selling my art work at art festivals. Because it is not a marketing tool or an income producer. It’s simply art for art’s sake. And for me, that’s making meaning in life.

Quinn McDonald is a writer and journal keeper. © Quinn McDonald, 2009. All rights reserved.