Art Journaling Insights // Part I
Each session of Art and Mindfulness begins with students responding to art journal prompts. In addition, I post additional prompts on our Art and Mindfulness Facebook page for students to complete on their own time. Art journal prompts are intended to foster self-reflection and creative expression as well as trace artistic developments throughout the course. As an educator, the prompts served as a tool to help me better understand why participants signed up for the course and how they are progressing. By asking questions and providing art journal prompts, I was able to better understand and guide students though the course, making their time more meaningful and productive. The prompts promote aspects of mindfulness which include observing one’s surroundings, feelings, thoughts, and emotions.
To begin our first Art and Mindfulness session, I asked: What are you hoping to achieve by participating in the Art and Mindfulness course?
Students reflected in their art journals with a combination of imagery and text. By reviewing students responses to the prompt, I was able to comprehend what participants were expecting to accomplish by taking the Art and Mindfulness course. After observing student reflections, I came to understand that many students were interesting in developing their creative abilities as well as using the time to relax and spend time focused on hobbies that bring them happiness and fulfillment. Below is a journal response from Jessie, an Art and Mindfulness student who was interested in developing artistically as well as becoming more connected with herself.
Jessie explained how her profession as an event planner always focused on an end goal. She described herself as goal-oriented, but was interested in engaging in artistic expression that isn’t so “black and white,” which Jessie described in her own words. Jessie expressed her desire to create art that was process-based, focusing on the act of creating instead of focusing on the end product. Jessie also explained her experience with the fine arts in high school. In her adolescent years, Jessie created art which was realistic and representational. Jessie explained that she was ready to “explore new processes and just wanted to spend more time creating art.” In addition, the idea of incorporating artistic expression and mindfulness was a new concept for Jessie and she was looking to try something new. She suggested, “magic happens outside the comfort zone.”
Three sessions and one month later, I asked students to create an art journal entry narrating their progress in the class, if they had observed any. Jessie responded in her art journal explaining the impact the Art and Mindfulness course has had on her.
In her art journal, she states:
I have learned to be more open and comfortable in the abstract. I have learned to enjoy the process, and the journey of art, rather than simply the outcome. I have learned that nothing is precious, and that there is value in simply taking the time to create, to think, to breathe, to reflect- not everything has to start and end, not everything has a packaged conclusion. (Jessie 2016)
Upon observing Jessie’s journal entry, I came to the conclusion that she had accomplished what she had set out to do, which was to spend more time creating art, leaning more about practicing mindfulness, and create with less emphasis on the final product.
Alex, another student in the class expressed her desire to explore creative development and practice mindfulness. Her first journal entry was an artistic narrative of what Alex was hoping to accomplish during the art and mindfulness course (Figure 3) Alex expressed in her journal prompt, her desire to find an outlet for her “energy and stress, and learn positive, creative ways to channel that energy.”
Several weeks later, Alex reflected on her initial journal response, creating an artistic narrative which represented her self-reported personal development through the course. In her own words, Alex expressed her experience in the Art and Mindfulness course stating; “I really believe that I have accomplished everything I set out to do”. She explained how she has learned to be more creative and embrace her artistic expression. She described herself as a “perfectionist” prior to the course, but has learned how to be present, in the moment, and go with the flow.
She explained “Whatever needs to come out, whether its emotions and feelings, I just let it flow in my art without judgment.”
"I was always worried about creating, because I was afraid it wasn’t going to be perfect, and I was insecure about my ability. Being in the class and pairing the art and mindfulness has allowed me to create with out judgment and embrace the imperfections. It allows me to try new things, make mistakes, and learn and grow through the process. It has helped me find a positive creative outlet for her energy. I always had a problem letting go, and the mindfulness and the art was a creative outlet to channel my energy, and explore artistic expression in judgment free zone" (Alex, 2016).
Alex reflected upon her initial post, “Why am I here?,” with a creative narrative on the opposite page of her initial response. Her journal response depicts statements which include, make mistakes, let it go, be here now, have fun, and just do it!
Art journal reflections have played a significant role in the Art ad Mindfulness course. Having students create and maintain their artist journals, I was able to record student progress, as well as identify reoccurring themes and patterns that surfaced throughout the course. Jessie desired to create art without a specific outcome. Over the course, Jessie created art that was process based and focused less on the final product. Alex learned how to be less of a ‘perfectionist’ and let the art flow freely.
Check back for updates on our Art & Mindfulness sessions, and learn about how the practice expressive arts and mindfulness can be beneficial when integrated into your daily life.