Fruit sticker collectionWhat is a Visual Journal?

Visual Journaling tells a story through both text and imagery. It’s a diary gone wild. The sketches, collages, pictures and illustrations in my journals are page after page of my responses to life through creative expression and humor.  Although I also work with other media, journaling is my core, my carbohydrate, my church.

I started back in 2006 with a 5×8 Moleskine sketchbook and I continue to fill one up at least every year.  I consider the moleskins my lab notes.  This is the place where I list my ideas and brainstorm.  The pages are unplanned but they end up telling the story of my daily life.  They are my ugliest books but probably the most interesting and real.  In between pages of outlines for projects, meetings minutes, or class notes are pages with smashed price tags and fruit stickers, weird crap I can’t quite manage to throw away, and magazine clippings.  Part scrapbook, part sketchbook, part diary, part notebook, my moleskines are a big creative scary casserole. They are the journals that when misplaced, always make me a little nervous.  If this were the only impression a doctor or police officer would have of me, I’d be screwed.

Bic Pen Journal Page, TJ Goerlitz

What is an Artist Book?

Artist BookOver the years I’ve learned how to make the books themselves.  At some point it wasn’t enough to buy journals. Eventually, I found the Minnesota Center for Book Arts and completed their core certificate program.  Planning and making the structure has become as much fun as working in the pages.

Now, in addition to many commercial journals filled with work, I have also amassed a collection of complete artist books.  Most of my artist books are still journals, but because they are handmade structures with carefully planned content, they become a work of art in themselves.

Journal page

Illustrated Conversations

Part of the appeal of journaling is the fact that somehow you’re giving people a peek into something that is normally private. There’s a reason most diaries come with a lock and a key.  Visual journaling has the capacity to hide tons of words and images or symbols within the layers of the work.  It’s almost a way of illustrating a conversation, visually representing how we hold some things back and let other things shine through.

Mental Telephathy, mixed mediaThe word ‘journaling’ hasn’t made it into the dictionary yet but for our purposes it’s a verb.  The process of creating in a journal brings about transformation. Transformation looks different for everybody.  For some people it’s awareness, for others healing.  Some people solve problems during the process while others are chasing curiosity.  Such a simple and easy thing can bring an immense amount of joy and peace to people.  They should have named it visual relaxation. It’s moving meditation with visible results.  The results aren’t just what come out on the paper, the results also happen inside the artist.

Poor Man’s Seminar

Tony Robbins Journal PageI like to think of journaling as a Tony Robbins seminar in slow motion.  I have never been to one of his events (bucket list), but from what I can tell his participants leave completely transformed.  Tony has a huge energy and presence that he brings to his events and orchestrates exercises to exchange some of it with his audience.  I am fascinated by him and his ability to create shifts in people.  Journaling can do the same thing, just without the shouting and screaming and noise. Journaling is quite the opposite, getting quiet in a world gone mad.  Tony says, “if you get in your head, you’re dead.”  He’s right. Journaling is a tool to get you out of your head.  It’s the poor man’s Tony Robbins seminar.  For the price of a book, some pens, and paint you too can transform if you make the investment of continually coming back to your pages.

Transform, TJ Goerlitz Journal

Want to Journal?

There are many ways you can begin your own journaling practice.  I’m a believer in working in many journals simultaneously so take some time to browse through the Journals tab.   I hope it can serve as a departure gate for your own journey.  I’m warning you though, it’s a one way ticket for most of us.