Art Journals

Recently, I've been making art journals. Making these little creations refreshes my soul. Wow, that sounds extraordinary, but really, that is the way it is. The freedom of making these - the process itself - is loads of fun and sets my mind in a place of timeless enjoyment. It has the feeling of when I was a little girl and I would play for hours with dolls - paper dolls, barbie dolls, baby dolls - yep, that's it - it's clearly like "playing." There are not many things we do as adults that give us that carefree sense of playing, but when we find it again - it is a gem. 

I begin by pulling out all kinds of papers - whatever colors and patterns strike my fancy. Then I go to my antique books and sheet music, letters, and vintage advertisements. Usually, a story starts to build when I'm looking through these things - maybe it's a lyric like, "sweetly, you sing to me" or "the sparrow found a home" that causes me to get a spark of inspiration. After this, and usually with the "rush" of the idea - I will pull out lots of fibers, buttons, vintage jewelry and found objects from my piles of collected stuff. 
It's beautiful how just holding these things in my hands causes the story to progress. Maybe with "the sparrow found a home" I will pick up a little antique key or a little vintage sparrow broach and those elements add to the story. I may come across small branches that remind me of a bird's nest, so I add those in somewhere. I begin to think of the scripture that says, "even the sparrow has found a home" and so then I begin to build the story around the idea of "home" and what that means to someone.

So then, I will sketch a little character that is pondering about "home" and the story builds. As I pick up the papers, the colors sing the right melody and I'm inspired to add the sheet music with the lyrics "sweetly, you sing to me." The fibers - the rich beautiful fibers (one of my most favorite things in the world) are then selected. The colors and even the very textures of the fibers seem to finish up the story - I may weave them or braid them as the threads of the story unify; I may leave them softly dangling in a whimsical way; I may even wrap them around the journal - something tangible that must be held in the hand to unlock the beauty of the journal's contents. Adding the fibers always feels to me like "icing on the cake" or the "last stroke of a composer's baton" or the "dancer's curtsy when the roses are thrown to her."

I'm sure this sounds fanciful - and is. This is the pure whimsy I find in making these journals. Furthermore, the experience is evermore beautiful - it is actually transforming.  For me, the process of making art journals is like when you are a child playing and the story is no longer being constructed, but you actually become a part of the story. So in essence, I am the one who is like the sparrow who is promised a home; I am the one who has been given the key; I hear the sweet music; I begin to sing; I feel completion of this transformation in my mind, soul, and spirit as I tie on the last bits of fiber. My father, Papa God, is teaching me through play - the best way for a child to learn.

Isn't He wonderful?

And then, after all this fun and heart-warming joy -  I'm ready to share the story with someone else. Though it is an intangible experience - it is a spiritual reality. Someone is waiting who is also needing that kind of transformation.  Though it is simple - it is deep and profound.
It reminds me of life. We often have pieces of collected stuff - memories, words spoken and given, hopes, dreams, fears, relationships, etc. that are our collection of "stuff".  The messiness of all that comes together into purpose at the right times in our lives. If we take the time to listen and follow our heartful whims, something beautiful is created.

The idea that these journals become a part of someone's life as a piece of functional art is rewarding to me. They are not something to hang on a wall - they are to be touched, held and used. Perhaps they will hold someone's treasures of the heart, or family recipes, or notes about someone's music, or art, or relationships. Maybe a photo or two will get tucked in; maybe a flower given by a child, or a note from a friend; maybe a card from a lover; or a funeral paper from a loved one's passing.  These journals are destined to become a sort of  treasure-box of life. Though they are simple, they are also profoundly personal and deeply complex - isn't that the way of life?

Art – A Child's Strength and Shield

The LORD is my strength and my shield; my heart trusts in him, and I am helped. 
– Psalm 28:7
Recently, I had the joy of seeing art provide a safe place for a child in a difficult situation. Art is like that - when held in the right respect, it becomes more than a thing - it becomes a place.

I sat there in a crowded negative place among people who seemed so different than me, yet, whom I was way too familiar with. I was realizing what a different person I had become in recent years. To put it plainly, I was uncomfortable, I wanted to leave and just get out of there.

Then....there he was, sitting beside me with his legs swinging back and forth and talking "a-mile-a-minute." If it were not for his wide-eyed wonder, I may have found a way to be distracted from his chattering. He went on and on but then spontaneously said, "So, you can draw like real-stuff. How do you do that? And then his hands went up, as if sculpting the air, and he said, "How do you make it look like it is coming off the page?" I answered him, something typical like, "Well, you just have to practice." Up he came out of his seat and through the screen door he went faster than I could think about what he was doing. I thought, "Well, there he goes, off to something else" but then as quickly as he left, he returned with a stack of paper, pencil, and some of his drawings he had been working on. He said, "Show me." A smile came across my face. This wiry bundle of randomness, typically viewed as a nuisance, or the "one to keep in line" was asking for an art lesson and was being diligent about getting just that.

We sat there for a long time, talking about how drawing was just a matter of seeing, how letting the pencil move under your fingers in connection with your eye causes freedom in drawing, and how capturing reality was a matter of being able to touch the object visually without literally touching it. He got it! As we talked and practiced drawing objects, I quickly saw that I could relate to this usually immature, even what others called "babyish", child on an amazingly mature level - which was more than I could say for most of the adults loafing around - the source of my previous discomfort. So as we talked and drew, I was astounded at the levels he passed through in his drawing in a matter of about 45 minutes. He went from very flat map-like drawing to being able to capture form and line, shadow and highlight, and realistic figure sketching. It was nearly genius - but this was not the most impressive thing about my encounter with him. There was something more gained.

At some point, while my new art protege and I were immersed in these empowering moments of learning a skill that many desire, but few pursue, one of the adults who typically kept this little boy "in-line" decided, for no other reason that I can think of except to be cruel, that he needed to be reminded of the nuisance that had defined him. So....she began by saying she was so surprised that he was sitting that still to learn anything. She indirectly shot off comments that he just thought he was "all that" because he could draw now. He ignored her. My praise towards him increased. She continued. He began to shrink - literally, tucking his shoulders in and ducking his head low. He managed a little insecure chuckle but continued drawing. So she brought out the big guns and said, "Ask him how he's been acting? You should see him when he gets so angry – he throws one more fit on us – scratching his own arms, and yellin', and crying like a little baby." I was just about to come to his defense and strongly explain to her that he probably acted that way because it was the only way he knew to deal with her verbal abuse, which was loudly on display in that very moment, BUT....

I looked at him and he was about to lose it...tears were welling up behind those eyes which had moments before been filled with wonder and confidence and he took about two deep breaths, tightened his shoulders, and he…


And as her poisonous chattering seemed to fade off into a tunnel where it could never reach us in that moment or hopefully, in any other moments again....he drew, and drew, and drew.

As I watched his shoulders relax and his confidence stabilize, I knew that God had given him, through our simple art lesson, a very powerful tool to endure the poison of the enemy.

That's what art is about. It's more than art. It's about life.

Art is Language

All true artists want to change the world. Metamorphosis is the very nature of all good art. This quality of positive change has almost disappeared in the art world. There is mostly darkness. However, artists longing to reveal the revelation of the Holy Spirit, the heart of God, and a relevant message of the Gospel of Jesus are awakening to the call to bring a fresh light in the darkness. We will create art that will not only reflect the culture and who we are now, but it will also change that culture and push humanity closer to God.

There is a problem…

How do we get the world, the church, and even our own friends and family to see the light? How do we get them to understand our voice?

Art is language – and art can speak volumes without words – but if we are ever going to inspire people to be enlightened and convince the “naysayers” to say “yes,”  then we must learn to speak their language in order to help them to understand ours. There is a seemingly un-crossable divide between artists and those who do not see themselves as artists. Artists often speak a language many do not understand and therefore people do not want to hear what we have to say. Occasionally we do have those who are seeking to understand – who are being awakened to the artists within themselves, but mostly, people (especially those in the church) pass us by and ignore our expression. Too many want point-blank answers about the arts – so they do not have to go to the deeper places of understanding the artistic language. We, as artists, know the beauty of this language – but they do not.  Do we just leave them there without understanding or do we really mean it when we say we want to change the world? Is expression any good if no one is affected?

For far too long, artists – like the church – have insisted that people come to us and learn our language so that they may understand our “revelation.” Artists especially have created this false sense of superiority and elitism that separate us from a great majority. I say this is rubbish. If we are going to affect culture, our artwork has to meet people where they are. There has to be elements in the art and the language of it that will speak to our audience in common, familiar ways yet also in deeper, profound, unspoken ways. There is no formula to help people understand art. It is different with every artist and every viewer, but I do believe everyone can understand art. Everyone can go to the deep places. As artists, we just have to learn to speak the right language – to connect – to communicate – to love. Fearlessly.


I read in an antique book from the 30’s: a young man had come to the city from the country and he noticed all the women on the streets dressed in their work attire rushing about very busily and he thought, “if all the mothers are here, then who is making homes?” Though that seems very out-dated, I’d like to bring the question into our present time and think about it in the sense of the spiritual.

As we rush about busily, is anyone making a home for us? Is there anyone to nurture us and build for us a comfortable place to grow? Are we so busy and focused on our agenda that we never cause anyone to feel at home with us? People yearn for home. As adults, we still have this longing – it never goes away. This is why you often hear ninety-year-olds talk reflectively about their mothers as if they can step back into that child-like place of being home in her care. Home is important.

We all have this deep longing for “HOME” that goes beyond even our minds and hearts and pulls at our very soul. We find that place of “HOME” in glimpses. A glimpse may come in a good conversation with a friend who seems to see inside you, a sweet life-giving moment with your children, a timeless moment with your spouse, the euphoria you feel when you drive into a place of beauty, or the sense of wholeness you feel as you worship God. These places of “home” come to us in countless ways and each one is a gift – a gift from God. God is HOME.

In John 14 Jesus said, “in my Father’s house are many mansions.” He said He was going to prepare a place for us. He has prepared that place for us with His death and resurrection.” He prepared a place where we can live in God’s house and where God can live inside us. He made way for us to come to a place of eternal home. As we live our lives, we have glimpses of that home. Those glimpses are beautiful gifts. You know when they happen – they are the beautiful moments in life when the atmosphere is charged with the wondrous wholeness of God.  That is our journey – to continually find our home in Him – in the everyday struggle and joy of life. This isn’t difficult and it isn’t left to chance or fate. God’s doors are always open – He always welcomes us in – we just have to enter. We should never feel homeless when we are HIS.

Being that Jesus prepared this place of  “home” with His death and resurrection and that our very lives are a testimony of His work in us, shouldn’t we be taking the time to help people feel at home? If they experience “home” because we give them a glimpse of our home in God – don’t you think they may want to move into God’s house?

To live artfully is a life journeyed well. This blog reflects my soulful, intellectual, and spiritual quest to find the heart of God in the Arts and to positively communicate and express His heart in simple and extraordinary ways. As I study, ponder and sometimes ramble, I'd like to share it with you. I see it kinda like a good meal and some conversation over coffee and dessert. I'm from the Appalachian Mountains and that's just how we journey! So pull up a chair and "sit a spell." Please feel welcome to comment - I love to hear your thoughts - it makes this journey so much richer. Good conversation is a treasure. Be blessed.