Creating Art and Journals with Ashley

We have two new classes this summer with Ashley, Accordion Books and Art Journaling with Old Books. She shared with us why she loves to journal and how she incorporates art into her journal exercises.

1. You are teaching two classes with NCE this summer; can you tell us more about your upcoming classes?

I am teaching Art Journaling with Old Books and Mixed Media Accordion Books.

The Art Journaling class is a 4-week class. In this class, we will be painting and writing in old books. We will work with writing prompts and I will teach different techniques that I use with my own paintings while letting each person incorporate their own unique creativity. There will be different themes for each week so that we can be sure to get well-rounded information and ideas. Using books is a unique way to do this because it’s easy and if you can’t afford a journal and want to be resourceful, all you need is paint and paintbrushes. Anyone can do it! The reason that I started doing this is because I incorporate writing into my paintings and I began doing smaller versions in sketchbooks and journals. At one point, I had a bunch of older books that I had read and didn’t want to keep and after trying to sell them back to places that wouldn’t take them; I was going to throw them away. But I thought, “I could paint in these and make them into journals!” And that’s what I started doing. That is how I got the idea to teach the content for this class. I taught a few classes at an art store a couple of years ago where we painted in old books and I wanted to teach it again but in a slightly different way, with more structure and by bringing writing into the mix.

With the Mixed Media Accordion Books class, it is a one day class. We will create simple fold-out booklets that will be painted and will have mixed media/collage elements. We will also add little pockets where pictures or little notes can be placed. I like to create small mixed media cards, sometimes with quotes, and we will do that as well. Those can also be placed in the pockets. Little pages can also be added in certain areas on the book so that it can be like a journal as well. I saw a version of these types of books at an art gallery and I wanted to try creating some. I usually keep pictures in some of mine and I like to make them as gifts for other artistic friends. They can make great gifts too!

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2. When did you know you loved creating art and journaling?

I have always been into art in some form. In middle school and high school, I was more into dance and choir, so it was more about being creative with my body itself. Since moving to Nashville, I have fallen in love with Visual Art and Book Arts. And while I am obviously still using my body (hands) to create, I like painting and writing because I have a tangible thing that I can look at and feel when I’m finished. I really knew that I loved art after moving to Nashville and being immersed in it more than I had before. It inspired me to create and still does. I have enjoyed journaling since I was about 8 years old, although then; I only wrote maybe two sentences every few weeks about…probably my cat and my toys. I first really knew that I loved journaling in my late teens when I just had an urge to write and felt better after doing so. I try to keep up more often now, daily or every other day.

3. You have created both classes to focus on art journaling, why do you feel it’s important to have both elements in your particular class?

Both writing and painting are great ways to release and express emotions, whether good or bad. Either one would do the job, but to have both can make what you are creating more powerful. With the writing, I still like to keep it simple and not write too much because that can overwhelm the painting and make it fell contrived. But by adding words to paintings, it sort of solidifies the message that the artist is trying to portray, even if it’s just for them to see. It makes more real whatever it is that they are trying to say or heal. It also looks really cool! The way that I began incorporating the two is that I love writing song lyrics and I play the piano but I have sometimes had a hard time with songwriting. So when I began painting, I wanted to incorporate writing into the paintings as a way to not let my words go to waste, so to speak.

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4. What’s your favorite thing about journaling?

When I journal daily, I feel balanced and peaceful in my life, even if the content is about difficult things that I might be dealing with. I also come up with ideas for writing without trying. I will be free writing and suddenly I will write something that makes me think, “That could be a poem or a song,” and I write it somewhere else to go back to later, and I continue writing in my journal. I love the feeling of writing. I was a nerdy kid who used to ask for extra homework just so I could be writing something.

5. What inspired you to keep a daily journal?

I wanted to be able to remember things and to have a place to express things that I am going through without feeling like someone might judge me or laugh at me. I wanted to have something that was just for me. As a visual artist and writer, I try to exhibit art and read poetry a few times a year and so in that sense, I am literally putting myself out there for critique. And I love that; it can start interesting conversations and debates. But I also need some kind of balance where I can be myself completely, and have that be okay. My journal is always there; open with a fresh new page, welcoming me to just be me. It’s a great way to have a good relationship with yourself and to have compassion for yourself and your journey.

6. If you were to pass your journal down to someone else to see read it, what do you hope they would learn about you?

That I am so many different things. We all are. I sometimes find myself ruminating over things that I have said to other people or things I did that I felt dumb or regretful about and I write it all down. The good stuff and the bad, the funny and the scary, it all goes in my journal. So I would hope that someone would learn that even if I was difficult at times (and I can be) or too excitable, or whatever it is that others try to shame us for being, at least I was trying to live authentically and that all of my quirks and stubbornness and mistakes were making me who I am. Also, and I DO mean to sound cliché, I would want anyone reading my journal to see that as proof that no one is perfect. We all wear masks in different settings, around different people and that’s why journals are so important because if we are willing to be completely open, we can learn about ourselves on a deeper level. And maybe that would inspire someone reading it afterward to accept every part of themselves and to be open.

Also, I would hope that they might learn from my mistakes with men, ha-ha…

7. What can students expect from your classes once it’s over?

• Accordion Books:

To have the tools to create accordion books of different sizes and how to make the book longer, if desired. They can expect to know some techniques to add textures to their art pieces. They will have an accordion book to use as a small journal, photo album or even a travel journal.

• Art Journaling with Old Books:

Students can expect to know how to approach a small painting meant for a journal. They will have painted and written based on different themes and will leave with ideas for future-creating. They can expect to understand how to build a painting and to add writing and materials in a way that doesn’t clutter the page. I hope that they will be encouraged to continue art journaling after the class ends.

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8. How can you encourage some who may be afraid of the “Writing exercises” of this class?

I would tell them, “Don’t think about it.” That is something I find myself saying to at least one person in almost every class I have taught, whether it be just painting or just writing or a mixture of the two. We have jobs, some people have families, a lot of us have several side hustles and so we are often thinking all day long. I try to encourage more feeling. With the writing exercises, I would encourage students to release all pre-judgment because that’s all it is; judging something that hasn’t even made it to the piece of paper or sketchbook. So simply saying, “Don’t think about it,” seems to work. Sadly, “Just Do It” was already taken.

9. Describe your favorite piece of Art Journal or Accordion Book you created?

As far as my favorite art journal piece, I have two pictures from an art journal that were essentially sketches for a bigger painting. On one page, there is a boy who is crying and has a blank look on his face. I have another picture on the page next to that one of a man who is crying and the words, “Boys are taught to cry while strong men remember how” written around him. This turned into a big painting which looks almost exactly the same as the sketches.

And my favorite accordion book….that one is hard. I have a lot, different sizes and mediums (watercolor, acrylic, mixed media, etc.) One of my favorites is one that is about 7 inches tall and about 22 inches wide. On one side, the dominant color is blue and other the other, lime green. There are different color shapes and textures. There are also a few pockets. I have quotes on little cards and I put them in this particular book. I think I like it so much because of its size. There was more to do on this one because I had so much room.

You can register for Art Journaling with Old Books that start on June 6 and Accordion Books starts on July 11.