Are you moody? Envious of others? Do you feel like something is missing from your life? Do you stress over your weight, or if you are pretty enough, or getting older? Are you sad because someone you love died? Does life feel a bit, eh? I want to introduce you to art and volunteering.
With the help of Carol Clayton who donated supplies, me and my friends Courtney and Cody decided to bring art journaling to people with disabilities. How did I do it? I looked up art and the disabled online and found this center. I went there and said, hey, let me do this, and they did. I have never taught the disabled before but it didn’t matter. I went into my first class with love in my heart. And you can too.
I have 13 students and each one of them has a journal. I chose the one Michaels sells called Artist Loft that has a canvas cover they could immediately paint and make their own. Having something entirely their own where they can make the decisions was most important because I knew they are told everywhere else in their life what they can and can’t do. Having a journal is more than an art project, it is a place to BE. All of the students are at different levels and physical abilites but all of them love to journal. It took a few weeks but we learned what each of their personal needs were and each class I make sure everyone has the materials to make them happy.
Stamps and stencils and paint and water soluble crayons and markers and stickers and scrapbook papers, all of it is laid on the table and I tell them to play. And just like every other student I have ever had who is a beginner to art journaling they are afraid to mess up the page. So I remind them, to make wonderful pages we must first experiment. If you do not play with your materials then you will never make great pages because you won’t have control over what you are doing. I give you permission to play! That is what is so wonderful about it. Each page is a new opportunity to make anything happen. Experiment and play and see what comes up. All of it can be turned into a background layer for more serious work if you want, or it can just be free expression. And each client has different needs. For some who cannot speak or hear, placing pretty objects into their books by themselves is a great cause for joy! Or spraying a stencil of a seahorse. This is magic for them! And it all happens inside their book where they are in control. I have learned a lot about my own art journal after working with them and how anal I can be trying to compose a pleasing page. Or how hard I can be on myself when something doesn’t turn out perfectly. I want the freedom to play and try things and have it be okay that I JUST LIKE SPARKLY THINGS.
Imagine, a grown woman with a page of soft, glittery hearts to look at. I am not ashamed to say I like it just as much as my students do. We all need encouragement. And you don’t have to be a fine artist to spread art journal joy. If you love it, you can bring it to others. You can bring it to children or to the elderly. You can bring it to a small group. Just start spreading the joy. It is NEEDED. As miserable as I can get missing my dad who is now gone, I lose myself in the smiles from my students who know they are not as capable as everyone else. Most have walkers and maybe can’t hold a pencil with any coordination. Courtney actually holds the hand of some of our more challenged clients and guides them into making an image. It is magical to see.
And do we have a lot of spare time for this? Ha. I have just as much spare time as you. I have none. But it is exactly when we are most busy that our soul needs to give. We can get caught up in the meaningless things of the world. We can start to feel sorry for ourselves. All of that disappears when we help those less fortunate than us. And instead of depressing us, we are lifted out of our misery.