Carly Swenson • Intuitive Artist

published: art journaling spring 2018

“I’ve worked through Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way off and on since 2010.  It’s a great resource for inspiration and to get back in touch with my inner creative self, as well as renew my artistic confidence. My last two years have been full of amazing highs and lows, including leaving my marriage, getting laid off, moving to a new city, struggling to find work, and the finalization of my divorce. I know my situation is common, but that doesn’t make the day to day any easier. It was a struggle to simply stay afloat. When you’re consumed with job applications, apartment hunts, physically demanding part time employment, and, you know, just trying to keep yourself alive—it’s easy for art to move to the end of the list.  I still created, but I had only a very little space and and equally small budget to do so.

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Once I’d finally landed a reliable (and very enjoyable) full-time job and an apartment, my life finally felt like it slowed down to a manageable speed. I could focus all that energy previous spent on simply existing back to my art. However I needed some sort of creative cleanse from the emotional turmoil and fragility of the previous years. And that’s where The Artist’s Way came in.  One of the first tasks Cameron assigns is creating affirmation cards. For anyone unfamiliar with the concept, affirmation cards are positive self-statements that you read and reread, like flashcards to help you memorize that you’re awesome.  I fully acknowledge that the idea of affirmations can sound sort of lame.  But they’ve genuinely been a game changer for me.

Affirmations are easy and free, and over time become an automatic defense against that negative voice in your mind.  You likely know the one. It’s the voice that tells you that you aren’t enough, you’re not talented and you deserve to fail and you should be embarrassed for trying.  That voice. That voice is the worst, and it can be so loud.  However, the reality is, deep down you know what you’re capable of.  You are capable of amazing things. And I’m capable of amazing things. Sometimes, we just need to be reminded. Instead of searching for external validation, we’re able to remind ourselves of our own value getting us back to a healthy and productive mindset.

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Cameron assigned affirmations during the first week, to be read them daily. I wanted to engage more actively with my creating my affirmations and visual journaling felt like the right choice.  I created my journal from a place of intuitive positivity. I embraced my own handwriting (because I usually hate how it looks). I took on a very playful no-mistakes approach. I used color combinations I’m not normally drawn to, I used glitter. (That was fun. And messy. Glitter is sort of the best and the worst.) I explored the capabilities of white markers, gel pens, paint markers and stencils.

My time working on this journal was more emotional, therapeutic, and symbolic than I expected. I set out to create a pretty journal with affirmations, something I could look through to remind myself that I am growing, and I am unique, and I am adventurous.  But it turned out to be an end and a beginning. I felt like I was finally finding a closure to the tremendous energy excursion and uncertainty I’d gone through. And now, I was beginning to finally slow down take a breath, be mindfully present, and appreciate how far I’ve come. This was a fresh reminder of my own value. A reminder of that I’m growing and evolving closer to the woman I want to be. It’s a reminder to play with art. To let art be what it is, even if the end result isn’t my favorite aesthetic, it holds its own beauty and value when I broaden my own definitions.  That place of acceptance and positivity is the perfect starting point for my next chapter.”

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