Tag Archives: Images

Journal Friday: Art in your Journal, or Why I had to lock Nigel in the Garden Shed this Morning.

Diary Page mental energy groundedThe title for this post, “Using images in your journal”, has been in my editorial diary for weeks, swimming around, getting crossed out and rescheduled.  I knew I had to write about it, because Art Journaling is a huge movement, and one everyone can enjoy.

So why couldn’t I bring  myself to write about them?

In a word, Nigel.

Nigel, if you haven’t already come across him on this blog, is the name I have given to my inner critic.  At least its the one only one thats printable!  He is the psycho-demon-fuckwit-critic-from-Hell that sits inside my head, barking orders at me, making sure I keep being a Good Girl so that people will love me.

Yeah.  Right.

In the case of my art, I can identify exactly when my drawing became unacceptable.  Nigel began with the voice of my ‘A’ level art teacher, Bob Taylor.  I had always been a passionate artist, and while I always knew I wanted to be a writer, I felt that earning a living might enable me to use my art skills.  So I took Graphics at ‘A’ level, intending to apply to Art College.  When I told Bob Taylor this, he said the following:

You’re a good draughtsman but you don’t have originality.

Yeah, right.

Looking back on it as a much wiser adult, I can see what he was saying.  My art at that time was very constrained.  I was too busy producing what I thought other people wanted, and not following what I wanted to do, or breaking out and breaking rules.  My art was, frankly, pretty boring.  But being a Good Girl makes for boring.  Regardless of that, its a pretty cruel thing to say to a 17-year-old who has always dreamt of a sunny studio in St ives.  I suppose he was trying to save me many years of misery and disappointment. I just was not ready for Art School.  Or perhaps he had picked up on the vicious Nigel voice inside my head that kept me in check.  Whatever the reason, I quickly lost my passion, and ultimately abandoned my art.

Now I am pretty blocked.  Nigel says I shouldn’t draw unless I can make something perfect and professional, something of the kind I admire in other artists.  Only the best is good enough for me and you, he says.  And if you can’t make it perfect, why do it at all?

This morning, I locked Nigel in the garden shed with a ball gag in his mouth, and got out my diaries.  Because, you see I do draw.  Sometimes.  Where no one can see.  Where no one can judge.  And because a picture, as I learnt so long in Graphics class, can say so much more than words in describing a feeling.  I draw how I am feeling.  Sometimes.  If I am feeling daring, or desperate enough.  In my diary, it doesn’t have to be perfect.  It just has to be got out on paper.

Here are a few of my drawings.  Nigel is very unhappy about my publishing them here, and he wishes me to point out that they are not up to my usual artistic standard.  I would like to point out that you don’t have to be able to draw, let alone draw like Rembrandt, if no one but you will ever see the images!

sleep sketchThis one is about my illness and the days I spend unable to get out of bed, which are frequent.

grumpy bear 1 grumpy bear 2

This is a feeling I had one day that I wanted to personify, in the hope of recording how to get rid of it.

hound sketchThis was the product of a night of insomnia.  Once I had drawn this rabid dog, something I felt compelled to do in a literally physical way, the feelings I was struggling with literally dissolved, and I went back to bed and slept for seven hours straight.

The point I want to make is not whether I can draw or not, but that you can use images to express your feelings in your journal without fear of judgement from others.  If you can’t draw, or can’t bring yourself to draw, paste in images cut from magazines, or postcards.  Collage is a great art form you can try without fear of criticism.  There are lots of ways to express what is pent up inside that are nothing to do with words.

Don’t let Nigel limit you.

Journal Exercise:

I am going to talk more about this, as I feel like I have opened up a rich seam, now that I have got over my block about it.  But in the meantime, you get to do some more shopping!  Go and buy yourself some nice coloured pens or pencils.  Sharpie ones are good and bright, but I like Staedtler Triplus fineliners and Berol Colour Brushes.

Reread my previous post about colour, and play with your pens or pencils inside your journal. Makes some marks.  Doodle.  If you fancy drawing, do, but don’t be critical of what you produce.  This is not about getting a grade A.  Just have a play.

What colours and shapes express particular feelings for you?  How do you feel when you use a particular colour?  What do certain shapes mean?

During the week, keep your eyes peeled when browsing newspapers and magazines, or even junk mail.  Pick out images that speak to you.  Pull them or snip them out and stash them in a box for future use, or stick them into the pages of your journal and write about how they speak to you.

Happy Journalling,


Inspiration Monday: Images


My Image Box

Writing exercises are a great way to get yourself going with new writing ideas.  Sometimes it is hard to think up something to write about, and this is where images can be really useful.  If you don’t have time to go out into the world and absorb the landscape, or you don’t feel like listening to music or doing something else that feeds your imagination, images of all kinds can be evocative prompts to get you going.

I keep an ‘Image Box’.  I buy odd postcards when I am visiting shops, art galleries, National Trust properties.  (I even drop leaflets into my image box, knowing the colours used in them can get my juices flowing, and I scour magazines and newspapers for pictures that catch my eye.)

Postcards don’t have to be of anything particular, the places and objects depicted don’t have to be of things you have seen or visited.  They just have to get you started.

When I am stuck, and need to write something fresh, something that comes clean out of the blue, I pull a random image out of my box.  Then I set the timer, and write for fifteen minutes on what the image suggests to me.

Here are a few pictures out of my box:


Postcards from my Image Box

(clockwise from top left) Sylvia Plath 1959, photographed by Rollie McKenna;   The Forest of Bowland from ‘Our forbidden land’ by Fay Godwin 1989;   ‘Silver Moonlight‘ by John Aitkinson Grimshaw (Harrogate Museums and Arts);    ‘A Norfolk Village’ by Edward Seago (Norwich Castle Museum and Art Gallery);    Sound II sculpture by Anthony Gormley, Permanent Installation in the Crypt at Winchester Cathedral, photograph by Roger Twigg.

These are all striking images, but what stories do they tell?  What do they suggest to you?

Writing Exercises:

1) Start collecting images for an Image Box of your own.  You might like to do it the old fashioned way, as I do, with postcards and pictures cut from newspapers, magazines and Sunday supplements.  Or you might like to use a digital version like Pinterest.  Whichever suits you.

(These days I also keep a private folder of images that I download from Tumblr on my laptop, which also feeds my imagination – I don’t use them for anything other than my own private use, so I hope I’m not infringing any copyright by doing so.)

Keep an eye out for anything really striking – a black and white, chiaroscuro portrait perhaps, or an arresting street image.  Whatever catches your eye.

2) When you have time for a writing exercise, get out your timer and your writing notebook.   Fish out a random image that appeals to you, set the timer for fifteen minutes, and write!

It doesn’t have to be a complete story, remember.  It can just be a sliver of description, a bit of character study, a list of traits or adjectives, or a bit of backstory.  What is going on in the image?  What is the place like? Are there people?  What are they doing, and why?  Is it a portrait like the one of Sylvia Plath above – forget who she is for a moment, and look at the image.  Why might this girl be wistful, a bit sad or worried?  Who could the person in your portrait be?  Why do they look the way they do? Or who is the person doing the looking, taking the picture?  What is their story?

Use your Image Box whenever you are stuck for something to write about.  I have got whole stories out of a single image, like this one, which I wrote from a fanart masterpiece by Marielikestodraw, the doyenne of gorgeous fanart.  You never know what might be sparked off.

Happy notebooking!