Journaling with Pen and Paper

Put down the paint–all of it. Acrylics, watercolors, pastels. Lay down your  neon gel pens, distressers, macro- and micro-glitter,  mica shards and flower petals. Put them down. Now. You don’t need them to journal.  Breathe. Clean off your desk.  Breathe again. Just for now, we are going to keep it simple. You can go back to layers-upon-layers tomorrow.

bkgrnd_ifc_p1Just for today, allow your journal to be a quiet discovery of what’s in your heart and soul. It doesn’t need six layers of paint, crayons, punchinella stencils, gloss varnish, sprinkles and hot chocolate sauce. The last dozen journals I’ve seen were heavy and colored and had ephemera stuck all over them, but not a single word that helped the owner make sense of her life.

I believe in slow art. Simple art. Original art. It has your fingerprints in it and your mistakes throughout it. Because it is original and raw. I believe that the original digital art was done by hand–ten digits, including an opposable thumb– with a pencil on paper. After that, pens and maybe watercolor pencils were added. That’s all you need to make meaning. Meaning might not come from words alone, but it doesn’t comes from pressure to buy pounds of tools to create busy, color-laden, thick, but word-empty pages, either.

bkgrnd_p-4-5Try going to spare. Simple. Pen and paper. With words. If you feel that your journal pages have become the boss of you, and meaning has taken the back seat, throw everyone out of the art van and rearrange the seats.

Put creativity and your good common sense in the front seat. Everyone else who is clamoring for attention (“But X puts paint in her hair and puts her journal on her head to get color!” “Be like Y and use that new archival peanut-butter-and-jelly stain to create an inner child page!” ) has to sit in the way-back and be quiet. Give them a coloring book and ketchup packets.

Black Pitt pens work just fine. A touch of color, maybe. But not a lot more.

Black Pitt pens work just fine. A touch of color, maybe. But not a lot more.

Now you are ready to drive. Find your meaning, purpose, and self awareness in simple, direct lines.   Remember when you loved making things? Go back to that time. It was rich in content, satisfying in the doing.

-Quinn McDonald has a Shaker and Bauhaus sensibility today.

30 thoughts on “Journaling with Pen and Paper

  1. I´m sure the first sentences made us all open our eyes like plates out of sheer fright. Giving up our pretty colours? Scary.
    I could never master the layer on layer thing because I´m sad to cover layers I like. Maybe I should journal on cubes, so each layer is still visible on a side and the thought is complete in the figure. Now, there´s an idea, 3D journaling. I need a dodecahedron. 😉

  2. Thanks Quinn…just the right words today. Writing, sketching and if the spirit moves me, to add something from my toolbox. It is enough to put the ideas, thoughts, words, ramblings, moving around with conceptual pictures as I sketch simply, just to be getting to the page. Perhaps sometimes I will open the tool box and play a bit to enhance someting that is falling to the page, yet it is that simple place of not so much stuff that my writing spirit has been pushing me now for many weeks….your posting of “permission” to keep being simple, keep on with the writing, just keeping going with that magnificent process of writing and sketching in a journal…simple truth…it is good.

    • It’s powerful to write. Adding meaningful mark-making is wonderful. I have nothing against lots of paint, nothing against just having fun, but I’m seeing a lot of fear and confusion in the name of journaling.

  3. I have to say that this came at exactly the right time for me. I had been procrastinating about the visual journalling, finding a million and one other things that I could waste time on rather than facing that page and all that stuff! And so I am going right now to get out my black pen and my journal….Thanks!

  4. Very nice! Journaling has really become a hot mess of a concept when it used to be so simple. Setting the micro shards aside today.

  5. From the journal therapy person here, THANK YOU! I’ve seen enough pointed hats, wings, crowns and green-tinted faces to last a lifetime!

  6. Quinn Creative,

    I am looking into coaching, getting a coach, eventually being a coach, I love journal. Looking into beginning a new path with a great amount of writing in my future. What exactly do you coach? I like your style, seeking to create my own… Any ideas where to go next?



    Sent from my iPad

  7. Hahahahahah! I am laughing too. After a while they all look the same and as you say, either no words or meaningless cliches. “I am an artist, I am grateful for, BLAH BLAH BLAH! Oy.” Thank you for saying all the things I should say but do not!

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