Starting a Journal

Students often think of journals, sketchbooks or visual diaries as a chore, but they can be an exciting space where they can synthesize and express experiences of both the external world and their own internal worlds of imaginings, feelings, dreams and ideas.

In this time of lockdowns, journals can be an even more useful tool.

This week’s resources will help you inspire students to let go of pre-conceptions, be experimental and find the joy in starting an artist journal.

Source: Latrobe Art Institute  Education Matters Edition #7
Link to Education Matters sent by Carol, one of our journal group.
You will find more 2020 resources here 

As Good a Time as Any to Make a Start

Today is a good day to do what we have been talking about doing – to begin creating our new journal.

The Muddle-headed Wombat – Ruth Park

After a frost it is a bright and sunny day today! What to do? Alas! It is another Covid day and we are all supposed to be staying at home. At least in the Muddle Headed Wombat’s world the rain that saw them pull out their paints and pencils was eventually going to stop.

This Covid business is lingering on and on, with no end in sight.

It is the perfect time to get out the paints and pencils and make a start on that journal we all promised to start.

I draw a card from the Australian Animal Wisdom Cards and the Fairy Penguin reminds me that whatever is going on, we are here to work at living, not, as so many would have me believe, here to be serious and living just to work.

If you are reading this, do that thing you have been talking about doing right now! Let yourself play! Start the journal by creating a notebook to put your first ideas in! Go on! Just do it!

Timed Journal Writing

Founded in 1914, Daiyo is a 4th generation family business of candlemakers who are based in Shiga prefecture, Japan. There are 2 types of fires, says the company: Hinoe and Hinoto. Hinoe, the elder brother fire, and Hinoto, the younger brother fire, live without hierarchy but in a Yin-Yang relationship. The elder brother fire is like the flame of a burning sun. It is wild and must be handled with care. The younger brother fire is much smaller and can be handled with our hands. Fire has been with mankind for longer than history and have offered comfort in many shapes and forms.

“To light a candle is to share the stories in our lives and to establish new relationships.” – DAIYO

These fun tiny candles are handmade from natural rice wax. Because they’re virtually free of contaminants, the candles burn for 15 minutes with almost no smoke or drippage. Unlike typical candles that are made from hydrocarbons (or fossil fuels), these are environmentally friendly and perfect for indoor use.

The cat & mouse packaging design pays homage to the history of candle-makers in Japan, who have always made candles from vegetable wax. The natural wax attracts mice so candle-makers always had a cat around; a pet that was also a guardian.

Use a tiny candle it for your daily meditation, as a timer for taking breaks, a timer to write an intensive journal entry or simply to relax.

Establish a Memory Palace

It has become popular for people wanting to enhance their memory to learn how to create memory palaces. Sites like Insanity Mind Upgrade Your Brain explain that basically, a memory palace is a mental structure that can help you memorize anything in an easy and sticky way. By applying this technique, you can quickly memorize what you need and remember it at the time you need. offer step by step instructions.

My mind, functioning as it does, immediately turns over this idea and I begin thinking about how a writer, seeking to improve their memory and fill their pages with richer details, might apply this technique.

Did you know, for example, that the technique was employed by the fictional serial killer Hannibal Lecter in the novel series Hannibal written by an American author Thomas Harris? In several passages of the novel, Lecter was described as mentally walking through an elaborate Memory Palace to remember facts. That’s the basics of the Memory Palace technique.

I can come up with some more ideas of my own about how I might use this technique. In a recent class where we worked with Memoir Maps, we found we were literally pulling out extracts from our memory palace books. Postcard Memory Palace is an interesting application.

Check out history and science! What do you think? How will you stock your memory palace? How could you apply this method to art or writing? I am interested to hear how others might adapt this!

Memoir Mapping

Map by Roland Chambers for The Magicians, by Lev Grossman. Image from Roland Chambers.
The Milly Molly Mandy books always included a map of the neighbourhood.

One of life’s great treats, for a lover of books (especially fantasy books), is to open a cover to find a map secreted inside and filled with the details of a land about to be discovered. A writer’s map hints at a fully imagined world, and at the beginning of a book, it’s a promise. In the middle of a book, it’s a touchstone and a guide. And in the end, it’s a reminder of all the places the story has taken you. (Remainder of Article)

This is a memory map and also a memoir map, showing the six years the author lived in Annandale, from 1998 to 2003. The map mostly abandons geography in favour of slippery dips, which represent different avenues of memory. At the centre is the floorplan of the house she lived in, a crumbling and mouldy terrace house that she is surprised to see still standing.

What would a map of your life or a place you lived in for an extended period of time look like?

Draw a memory map of:

  • Your old neighbourhood
  • A secret childhood hideaway
  • A house you lived in as a child
  • Your childhood room

Dig out some books that included maps.

Take your time and put in as much detail as you can. Write about something you had forgotten and that emerged when you drew your map. Write about something that happened in the location you mapped.