Art journaling is an activity that helps me a lot with self care, artistic expression and just general management of life. Lately I’ve been experimenting with combining some artistic expression with material I’m learning in Social Engineering class. There are a lot of acronyms and concepts to remember – things that lend themselves well to bullet journals, art journals and chart and graph type graphics.
These pairs of pages you will see are in progress. I made them to have something to do adult coloring and other paper craft based activities on when I want to relax and be creative for a bit. As I work I can study and memorize the “bullet points”. I’m going to erase some of these pencil lines as I go. For a couple of the more complicated layouts I made drawings on tracing paper and chipboard templates to help cut the paper pieces to the right sizes and shapes.
Some of the stencils I used are commercial products I sell in my online Etsy shop. If you would like to see the selection, it’s at this link: Stencils and Stenciling Supplies.
I hope these pages in progress will give you some ideas for organizing information in a creative and fun way!
A SWOT Analysis is a Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat Analysis. Here I am using an outline partly based on an unpublished paper I wrote for Marketing 5000 class last spring to create a SWOT analysis for the #12daysoftomsbeard project. My unpublished paper, titled “(Name of Fantasy Company) Marketing Plan” was based on an assignment and outline given to us by Webster University professor Dr. John Jinkner.
I’m going to publish a small portion at a time, because it will take some time to write. I hope you enjoy it!
I. Executive Summary
#12daysoftomsbeard is a conceptual art project engaged in by Carolyn (Me) and Tom Winkelmann as part of our annual Christmas tradition. This is a young tradition for us, having been recently practiced for only the second year in a row.
The activity was inspired by several things. I have a long history of engaging in conceptual art through Mail Art, the ‘zine scene, and various art experiments involving photography, handmade books, ephemeral art installations, Pop Art, Dadaism, and more. There are two definitions of conceptual art in an interesting article I found, “If You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault”. One definition, the one I gave to my husband off the top of my head while I explained why I wanted to take pictures of him with things in his beard, is that conceptual art is a form of art where the idea is the art and the tangible object created is not considered important. The other definition in the article is that conceptual art is a set of plans or strategies (Kaplan).
Tom has been letting his beard grow more often and is frequently teased about his beard by his family. Last year I decided it would be fun to turn the teasing into humor and art so I showed up at Christmas Day celebrations with colorful paper circles and squares with a few collage elements on them and writing implements for family members to color and draw on to put in Tom’s beard to take pictures of. The idea for hanging paper or art items from a beard is not original with me, there are people who use their beards as mini art galleries and vehicles for Christmas decorations.
I invited family members, many who I know like to paint and color, to use pens and markers to add to the paper pieces, which I then clipped to Tom’s beard with mini clothespins. Then I took photos for Instagram and posted one each day for 12 days, with the hashtag #12daysoftomsbeard. The idea for hanging paper or art items from a beard is not original with me, there are people who use their beards as mini art galleries and vehicles for Christmas decorations.
Since I like to art journal as a creative development and self-care activity, when I was done taking pictures of the paper pieces in Tom’s beard, I mounted them on art journal pages, some of which I planned to exhibit in the then upcoming art show, Back To Our Roots which opened in February 2020 at the historic Arcade building in downtown St. Louis.
II. Environmental Analysis
There were several parts to the #12daysoftomsbeard project as executed in the 2020-21 holiday season. Since I was anticipating only distance Christmas activities due to the pandemic, I decided to send out tags and invite people to alter them and send them back to take picture of in Tom’s beard.
1. I made a black and white version of collages that Tom and I made together to use in our Christmas cards, then had copies printed out on white cardstock. I traced shapes from Christmas cookie cutters onto the back of the cardstock and cut out shaped tags. I made stickers for the backs of the tags that explained the project and featured a QR code so that people could easily check the results of the #12daysoftomsbeard Instagram feed with smartphones if they wanted to.
2. I put tags in most of the Christmas cards we sent out. I also included in many of cards some scrap paper pieces and examples of faux postage that Tom and I made to use in Christmas artwork, for people who might want to join in but don’t have a ready supply of art materials around. Some of the paper scraps were examples of Christmas faux postage that I’ve made on my own and with my husband so if people didn’t end up using them in the project they might want them for some other craft or just something to look at as part of a Christmas greeting. For a few of the people that we hand-delivered cards and gifts to, we punched a hole at the top of a tag, attached a loop of cord for hanging, and put one on their doorknob.
3. I made a graphic to use as a social media header that included the QR code and images from last year’s beard series to raise anticipation and awareness. I also wanted to cheer people up with some bright colors since I knew a lot of people who were feeling sadness over separation from loved ones and the loss of loved ones during the holidays. I know from personal experience that the holidays and winter are often difficult for many people even in more typical years depending on their current situation in life.
4. To help people get started sooner if they were eager, since we weren’t as early as I would have liked getting our cards mailed, I made graphic that people could download and print out that had tag templates on it, instructions and the QR code.
I posted the template graphic in social media for download, and mailed and emailed a few copies to people I thought might be particularly interested.
5. In keeping with the theme of bright rainbow colors I had started, I prepared 12 little collages made from colorful upcycled hardware store paint sample cards so that I would have something to put in Tom’s beard if no one sent me any art pieces to use. On some days I made extra items to fit the color theme of the day and also incorporated found objects if I was inspired. For example, those two guys in the right picture above were cut out from a piece of junk mail. Some of the paper pieces there were parts from older Christmas card designs.
6. When taking the pictures, I had a lot of fun experimenting with different eyeglasses on Tom and taping things to the lenses of my clear protective goggles to make crazy compositions. I installed some new photo filters on my smartphone to make the pictures even more fun and colorful before I posted them to Instagram.
7. Tom and I were feeling lonely over the holidays and thought that since we were staying home, it might be fun to have a New Year’s Eve themed #virtualartparty, an ongoing series of online meetings I started when the pandemic began, with the purpose of cheering people up who were missing out on their usual social activities.
We ended up cancelling the New Year’s Eve edition of #virtualartpary because our cat Griffin was terribly ill that day and we were sure we were going to lose her. Griffin has been with my husband for 21 years and Tom needed my support and attention so he could be with Griffin, and I thought we were going to be dealing with grief on New Year’s Eve and not in the mood for a party. But to our grateful surprise, Griffin recovered and is doing very well now. At her age we know she won’t be around that much longer, but we aren’t eager to lose her any earlier than we have to.
I had been planning to talk about #12daysoftomsbeard on December 31 as part of the #virtualartparty, the timing made sense since I was taking a daily photo from December 25 through January 6. I made some sequential social media header graphics with colorful beard pictures and the hash tag #virtualartparty to help build interest. I didn’t have time to make a header graphic for each of the 12 days, but maybe next year I should.
A. The Marketing Environment
Even though #12daysoftomsbeard is not a commercial activity, we do need to market the project in order to persuade people to participate.
1. Competitive forces. Other sources of entertainment, amusement or hobby activities are the main competition for the attention and time that potential participants might allow for just understanding what our #12daysoftomsbeard project is, much less time to participate. With the amount of time that people spend in front of a screen or with a smart device in their hand, it is difficult to get anyone’s attention away from anything that isn’t corporate in origin. As Dr. Jim Taylor lamented in an article for Psychology Today, the nations of the former Soviet Union, Italy, Spain, Germany and nations conquered by the NAZIs, Cuba and North Korea have experienced decades of suffering because aspects of their authentic culture were abusively removed and replaced with a synthesized totalitarian culture (Taylor, “Popular Culture: We…”). I would add China and the United States to that list also. Dr. Taylor’s article reminds us why there are so many organizations throughout the world dedicated to cultural heritage and cultural preservation. I quote Dr. Taylor in this excerpt:
“As individuals, a genuine popular culture instills a sense of ownership and empowerment in our society because each of us knows that we contribute to that culture. We are more likely to act in our society’s best interests because we know that those best interests are also our own. An authentic popular culture also gives us a sense of shared identity, meaning, and purpose that transcends differences in geography, race, ethnicity, religion, or politics. All of these then encourage us to lead a life in accordance with our culture’s values and norms because they are our own (Taylor, ‘Popular Culture: We…’)”
In other words, if we throw away our authentic culture for synthesized corporate culture we should not have to wonder why so many of our citizens have been programmed to serve the interests of large corporations so thoroughly that they are literally waging war on their behalf with people that they formerly were able to co-exist with. Many people trust screens far more than they trust friends, neighbors and even family members that they have known for decades. The manner in which many people experience the world is corporate-based with life beyond a screen regarded as if it is fiction. They allow corporations to tell them what the world outside is like instead of going out and finding out for themselves. People are told that their own judgement is not to be trusted and they need corporate “fact-checkers” to tell them what is ok to read or hear about. I overheard art teachers as far back as the 1980s trying to urge some of my fellow art students to use their own authentic experiences and senses of self to create art instead of just drawing corporate cartoon characters and corporate based entertainment characters and content. I know so many people, who if you removed corporate consumer culture from the topics they could talk or think about, there would be almost nothing there. Teaching art or trying to market an art activity without corporate branding attached to it is inherently very difficult. We know that children can’t distinguish advertising from entertainment, that is widely acknowledged, but I don’t know many people who admit that a lot of adults can’t either. Most people I know aren’t aware that when they are entertained they are actually being marketed to and they are not the customer for the entertainment – the advertisers are the actual customer.
The #12daysoftomsbeard project is not completely devoid of corporate content because it includes found objects and some clothing with logos. However, by basing it on the universal human experience of personal grooming and running it from December 25 to the Feast of the Epiphany (the day we Catholics observe it, my understanding is it varies depending on tradition), I intended to bring attention to authentic human and authentic Christian culture and away from the corporate way of celebrating Christmas for just a little while, just to give Tom and I and others a break and a reason to look at each other while really seeing and interacting each other. What would my slightly weird Christmas cards look like next to other cards designed by corporations? What do people think when they see the resulting pictures? What did they think about while making an art piece to send back?
Kaplan, Isaac. “f You Don’t Understand Conceptual Art, It’s Not Your Fault.” Artsy, 2016, www.artsy.net/article/artsy-editorial-if-you-don-t-understand-conceptual-art-it-s-not-your-fault. Accessed 22 January 2021.
Mitchell, Grant. “Strength, Weakness, Opportunity, and Threat (SWOT) Analysis.” Dotdash, 2020, https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/swot.asp. Accessed 15 January 2020.
Taylor, Dr. Jim. “Popular Culture: Too Much Time On Our Hands.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200909/popular-culture-too-much-time-our-hands. Accessed 15 December 2020.
—. “Popular Culture: We Are What We Consume.” Psychology Today, 2009, www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-power-prime/200912/popular-culture-we-are-what-we-consume. Accessed 15 December 2020.
Last fall during the Old Webster Fall Art Walk, I demonstrated making pages for an art journal with paper collage work and stencils at Schnarr’s Hardware. I added in some paint samples to pay tribute to the hardware store atmosphere and remind me to have fun with colors. Later on I added some image transfers I made with clear packing tape. Learn how to make image transfers and add them to your art journal pages on the Schnarr’s blog:
Last week some of my science inspired art journal pages were in a slide show as part of an event called “Science of Creativity”. I’m a believer in the fun and benefits of adult coloring and art journaling so it was very rewarding for me to show some of my samples and also participate in coloring activities on at the event. Venture Cafe activities are kind of like mini conventions and happy hours where you can attend presentations and network with people in a low-pressure situation.
Last year at this time I was fighting major depression as a result of abuse. I am thankful that this year is much better for me but I know some people who are really struggling right now. I vividly remember how last year’s Holiday season made me feel worse. Winter weather and less daylight contributed to the struggle also. I had counseling and intensive outpatient therapy to help me recover. I learned some new techniques and tips to help me pull out of depression and here are some actions that I found to be the most effective for me. Please keep in mind that I’m not a professional therapist or a doctor and I needed professional help along with the following practices I could do on my own to recover. Please get professional help if you are suffering from depression. If you are afraid that you might harm yourself, please call 911 or a suicide hotline immediately. Here is the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline phone number – 1-800-273-8255.
Action #1 Help someone else who is suffering – No matter what your situation is, there are always going to be people who have it even worse than you. I’m not saying this to invalidate what you are feeling because you feel how you feel no matter what other people are going through. Maybe you can visit a lonely person or make a phone call, make someone a nice baked good or homemade gift, do a good deed for a neighbor or volunteer for a charity. No matter how humble you think your gifts are, someone out there can use them. I know that one of the most depressing thoughts you can have is that you don’t matter or no one would care if you are gone. It’s not true, even if other people have tried to make you think that. Doing things for people helps you prove that to yourself and the gratitude you get is very healing.
Action #2 Explore DBT skills for emotion regulation – DBT stands for Dialectical Behavior Training. While in group therapy we practiced some DBT techniques which helped me out a great deal. The concepts were new to me and I wish I’d known about them earlier in life. I kept printouts about the anger and sadness emotion regulation techniques hung up in my bathroom for months so that I could perform normal life functions and do things I needed to do for recovery. I recommend you get the workbook and if you can, take classes. When I was feeling overwhelmed with emotions the techniques on the worksheets were invaluable.
For example, I had to learn to tolerate distress because I was in a situation that I could not fix. You can’t make the trauma not have happened. There were people in group therapy with me that were rape victims, crime victims, were homeless and in other situations that could not be undone or fixed quickly. You have to learn to tolerate your situation to avoid making it worse. For example there were many times at work when I had to run to the refrigerator to put a cold drink on my head and do breathing exercises so I could do my job – that’s an example of learning to cope to avoid making things worse. It wouldn’t help my recovery to add financial and career problems to the trauma I already had. I was left with a huge therapy bill, enough to buy a good used car, and adding unpaid bills to my other problems would not make me feel better!
Action #3 Attend support groups – Some people tell me that support groups are not effective for them but I find them valuable. It’s a good place to discuss painful things with people who understand some of what you’ve been through and will listen without being judgmental. Sometimes there is no one else in a person’s life to provide this. If you do have people in your life who will listen you have to be careful not to burn them out. It feels good to provide this service to other people in the group because you know how valuable it is. Also you can learn from the other members’ experiences and get good information about resources you may need.
Action #4 Use AND statements in your internal dialougue – I learned this in a support group and it’s one of the most helpful things anyone has ever told me. “I feel ______ AND I’m going to _______.” This is a good way to remind yourself that there are a lot of things you can do despite how you feel.
Examples of AND statements I’ve used to motivate myself:
“I’m angry AND I’m going to give this customer extra good service and make their day easier.”
“I’m sad AND I’m going to take a walk and enjoy nature.”
“I’m tired AND I’m going to go grocery shopping so I have nutritious food to eat.”
Action #5 G.R.A.P.E.S. – This is an acronym to help you remember to take steps each day to help recover from depression. When you are really depressed, it’s difficult to take any kind of action. I learned from experience that if I did everything on this list daily I would improve. It was hard. It took a long time. But it did work!
Being Gentle with yourself
I made a set of felt ornaments for a friend to put little pieces of paper in as a reminder of which activities have been done that day and motivation for getting as many as possible completed each day. I suggested she start with the papers on the sun side and move them to the moon side as they are finished to get more out of the cycle of each day. I also made a set for myself. The patterns for the sun and moon came from the book “Forest Fairy Crafts”.
I made a PDF file that includes reminders that you can print out on cardstock or on clear sticker paper to incorporate them into different systems that you might use for motivation such as calendars or planners. I threw in some motivational sayings that are designed for cards the size of ATCs (artist trading cards). Some people call these “self care cards”. Download PDF here
Action #6 Light Therapy – Other people can explain better than I can the science behind improving your mood with light. I just know that it works. I give myself exposure to a natural light lamp and try to get natural sunlight on me as much as possible. Of course that is difficult in winter when you have to cover up to be outdoors but I use the outdoor activities I enjoy and gardening to motivate me to get what sun exposure I can.
Action #7 Meditation – I never tried meditation before I was in group therapy. I was having severe sleep problems and a group meditation session got me closer than I had been to sleep in quite some time. I decided to download some apps to help me meditate on my own and I’ve enjoyed using them ever since. There are guided meditations designed especially for problems such as sleep, anxiety and depression. Meditation has been a great discovery for me!
Action #8 Collect motivational and comforting sayings – fighting depression feels like you are fighting your own brain and your own thoughts all the time. Putting an input of healthy thoughts in my brain is helpful. I put some of them in my journal where I can use them for inspiration, a journaling prompt or just a reminder to get my thoughts in a healthy direction. You might put such sayings on the wall, on a fridge, on a computer slide show, on a Pinterest board or wherever it’s convenient for you.
In a support group meeting that I go to, we read affirmations at the end. We are supposed to pick ones that resonate with us at the moment. Sometimes I or other people have to look at the list a long time before we see one that we think is the truth. I know what it’s like to read an inspirational or motivational saying or affirmation and think “yeah, right”. Give it a chance and give it time and maybe more and more of them will seem true to you.
Action #9 Try new activities with a group – Doing something fun with a group of strangers may not be a substitute for having a close friend to do activities with. However, I think it’s much more likely to lift your mood than staying home alone. You’ll also get the opportunity to make some friends. For example I do a lot of activities with groups on Meetup.com. There are groups you can join for every interest and activities for every budget.
Action #10 Journaling – there are several ways my art journal helped me fight depression.
I wrote down thoughts which helped get them out of my mind. Once expressed, it was easier to get my mind on something more pleasant.
I gained new insights through writing. Forcing myself to organize my thoughts by writing them down made me understand situations better.
I kept track of my tasks. I found it much more satisfying to do what I needed to do to get better if I made a task page or some kind of task listing for it in my journal/planner. I found it motivating to fill in or mark completed tasks as opposed to just keeping track in my head. Seeing tangible evidence of the completed tasks made me feel proud.
Do artwork that expresses your feelings. Some of my best artwork was made when I was really having a bad time. It makes me feel a little bit better to know that if I had to go through the feelings, I at least got some strong artwork out of it. Here are a couple of art journal pages that I did Christmas Day 2016. I hope I never feel again like I did that day but I did get quite a bit of satisfaction out of my artistic expression. “Going Cheap” “Secrets”
I made gratitude lists. It’s easy to forget about the good things we still have – referring to a list of things to be grateful for is a good reminder that life isn’t all bad. As an exercise when I felt like I “hated everyone and everything” I decided to go through two magazines and make a collage out of things I was grateful for. I realized that even if I could not enjoy them now I would again in the future.
I made a list of my progress. Seeing what I’d achieved in recovery then referring to it when I felt frustrated by my seemingly slow progress was a great motivator for me. I had been taken down so far by abuse that performing normal, everyday activities became milestones. Keeping track of them DID help me realize I was slowly getting better and gave me determination to keep working.
Action #11 Spiritual practices – In my life I’ve gone back and forth from having religious faith to having serious doubts. I’ve resolved my doubts for the most part at this stage of life but that doesn’t mean it’s always easy for me to take time out for prayer and worship. However, I’ve found spiritual practices are one of many things where if you don’t “feel like” doing it, if you do it anyway the feeling will follow. In other words, let feelings follow the actions, don’t let feelings dictate your actions. Is this proof of the existence of God or just how the human brain works? Either way, if you’re open to it spiritual practices have been a source of strength and healing for me. I’ve prayed for strength in many tough situations and received it and I am very grateful.