A Formula for (Creative) Freedom

Once I read this book, my visual journals were changed significantly.

It was a day, about a year ago, when I had just $30 to spare until my next paycheck. With that money, I needed to buy lunch for a few days that week, cover any expenses that might come up at my older son’s school (like a $10 contribution to a pizza party), plus I really wanted new shoes. Oh yeah, and the boys needed new clothes, too.

Yet I found myself at Micheal’s Arts & Crafts. (Oops.) Since I knew I had no money to spend there, I made a deal with myself–I’d limit my browsing to the $1 aisle. Good plan, right? How much trouble could I get into at the $1 aisle?

The problem with my plan is that at this Micheal’s, the $1 aisle ends at the book section. I realize this too late (books are a weakness of mine), and since looking at other’s art projects is a great way to find inspiration for your own, I am soon flipping the pages of books that I pick up from the shelves at random.

That’s how I found The Doodle Formula. The author, Adrienne Looman, is an adorable and talented scrapbook artist who seems to say, “Anyone can do this.” I love her whimsical doodles, and I believe her.

There is nothing in the book that implies, “If you’ve had brain surgery and your right hand doesn’t work that well any more, don’t bother.” And she calls this doodling, which sounds inviting–not like drawing, which sounds intense and intimidating and way beyond my post-surgery self.

I was immediately hooked. The book is almost $15, but I decided I could skip lunch.

Before challenging myself to "doodle," a painted background was the only hand work my collages included.

Now I love to add hand-drawn elements to a collage.

Another journal page I created after reading "The Doodle Formula."

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Journals and Healing

Some of the visual journals I've filled over the years.

“Who is left among you who saw this temple in its former glory? And how do you see it now? Does it not seem like nothing to you in comparison?” Haggai 2:3

I was about two months into what would be six months of physical and occupational therapy after my brain surgery. That’s when I realized that the best way to make progress was to tell my therapists what I wanted and needed.

That was how my work on my visual journals started–really, really, started.  Before, I had created collages and kept art journals off and on, but brain surgery had left my hands so weak and uncoordinated that I could barely write or hold scissors. Creating art seemed out of the question, yet at the same time, it wasn’t a part of my past that I was willing to give up.

So the occupational therapist and I brainstormed a bit. She asked if could I use punches instead of scissors. She suggested exercises I could do to strengthen my hands enough to hold a paintbrush. I was determined to try.

I set myself a goal of creating a collage a week in my art journal, but became so excited that I completed one a night for several nights in  a row. The journal became a tangible way to see progress though out my months of therapy. It was something small that I could keep close, look at, and think, “I made that!”

Were those pages like the artwork I had created before? No, but somehow the restrictions on my creativity slowed me down and forced me to explore new paths–ones I would not have bothered with before because there were so many others to travel, and they all seemed so easy.

When I showed fellow therapy patients my journal, they got it–they understood the pain, frustration, the small triumphs, all without a word said.

One of the pages in the first journal that I worked on while in occupational therapy.