Speaker 0 00:00:01
Hi, sweet friend. Welcome back to the show. In today’s episode, I’m excited to introduce you to Theresa Merriman. She is the founder and c e o of Mind’s Eye Journals, and the Art Journal Avenue. She is a nationally recognized multiple award-winning artist in the venerable craft of book binding, and has participated in the most prestigious juried art shows in the country since 2005. In today’s episode, we will explore the beauty and the benefits of keeping an art journal, as well as hearing about a challenging time in Theresa’s life and how she decided to come back to the practice of our journaling to help her with her mental health. Hi, sweet friend. Welcome to the Come and Creative Podcast. This is a podcast for artists and creatives of all backgrounds who seek to build a resilient mindset. Together we’ll dive into all things mindfulness and mental health as they relate to a creative journey. We’ll explore different tools and tips that can help us cultivate a more resilient and positive perspective on life. I’m Volta. I’m an author, a watercolor and animation artist, and the founder of Color Snack. I’m so happy that you’re here feeling stressed. I got you sweet friend. I created a free resource just for you. It’s five creative exercises that you can do anytime, anywhere. To tap into a moment of calm, you can access the resource on my website, color snack.com/calm. And again, that’s color snack.com/calm, c a l m. Hi Theresa, welcome to
Speaker 2 00:02:06 The
Speaker 0 00:02:07
Creative Podcast. How are you today?
Speaker 2 00:02:09
Thank you. I’m good, Walter. It’s good to be here. How are you?
Speaker 0 00:02:13
I’m doing well. Thank you so much for joining us today. So to get us started, I know that you have a very special art journaling practice. Could you share with our listeners a little bit of how that came about? How did you start and how does it make you feel whenever you do engage in it?
Speaker 2 00:02:34
Okay. So art journaling has been and continues to be my life. And I didn’t know that it was gonna be this way. I really didn’t. But when I was an exchange student to Costa Rica, when I was 16 years old, one of my father’s friends handed me a journal. She goes, here you go, Bon Voyage. And I said, what’s this? And she gets a journal and I said, what’s a journal <laugh>? She’s, well, you need to write down things that happened to you in a day and just, you know, kind of keep track and so you could remember. And I was, oh. And so every day when I was on my exchange program and I was there for nine months and every day I wrote down, just started writing. And I was, I from then on now, then on forward, I should say I’ve been a journaler.
Speaker 2 00:03:19
Fast forward to 2005 and I became a book binder. I was making leather bound journals and still do, and I take ’em around the whole country to dur different juried arts festivals and sell them to people who love to also journal. And in my first few years of doing that, I would say my first year of doing that, somebody came into my booth and she said, do you ever make journals with watercolor paper? No, but that’s a really brilliant idea. So I went back to the studio and I started making journals with watercolor paper, took ’em to the next show and somebody was like, is this hot press or cold press is what? What weight is it? Is it 140 pound? Is it 300 pound? What is it? I’m like, I, I don’t know. Let me go find out. People would ask me questions about how the paper behaves to this medium or that, and I wouldn’t know. So I had to experiment. So instead of writing as I always had done, I started painting in my journal from then on forward. And I was, why didn’t I think about this when I was in Costa Rica? <laugh>, so <laugh>. So I continued to this day to paint and do art journaling with mostly watercolors, but also inks and acrylics and whatever medium I can really get my hands on. But loved art journal, especially in the journals that I make <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:04:40
Oh my gosh, Theresa. And for anyone listening I wanna share that Theresa was so sweet to send me one of her journals. I mean, they are just so beautiful. They are truly works of art. And I think I’m a little in my head about it to use it because it’s
so beautiful. And I know that how much artistry and work went into this. So I, I like, I don’t know when I will be using it, but I know, I know I will one day <laugh> when I’ll be brave enough to open it and, and work on some of those beautiful pages.
Speaker 2 00:05:13
Oh man, I hope you do enjoy it. And you know, just in case this helps you, Volta, I think that the journals look so much better when they’re filled. Oh, that’s not when they’re empty. You know’s a
Speaker 0 00:05:24
Great tip. Honestly, like, I’m so glad you shared that because I know I have experienced that in the past, even with just like buying regular sketchbooks that are mass produced or whatever. But you still have sometimes the hesitation to what if I mess up the first page? Or how do I get out of it? And it was interesting that this came up for me again with your beautiful journal <laugh>, because I was like, oh my gosh, this is like a work of art. I should just frame it and look at it. <laugh>, do you have that a lot? Any advice you can share?
Speaker 2 00:05:58
Oh yes, I do. I do. I mean, I get this a lot, especially at the shows in my booth. People are like, oh, these are just too beautiful to use. And to me it’s, I think it’s hilarious because when I’m in my studio, I’m making these folks very meticulous. Now, Theresa, you make these to the best of your ability. ’cause someone’s gonna be putting their heart and soul in these, so you just make sure that this journal is gonna be worthy of that. And then I take it to a show and somebody’s like, I’m not worthy of the journal. And it’s, oh, this is too funny. This is way too funny. So I think it’s also just, it’s a compliment for sure. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But like I said, I think the journals look a lot better when they’re filled, especially if you put your heart and soul into it.
Speaker 2 00:06:39
So, but my suggestion is you don’t have to start on the first page. You don’t, you can open it up to any random page and do something on that. Mm-hmm. Now, if this journal ends up taking on a theme, that first page that you did somewhere in the journal doesn’t fit. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, just glue it to the next adjacent sheet. Glue it shut. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> or leave it there. I mean, it’s your journal and there are no rules. But definitely if it’s the first page that freaks you out, then don’t do it first. <laugh>, just go into some other page and you’ll just be right on your way as soon as you break open that journal and cross that threshold and do that. Yeah. A page in it. That’s half the battle right there.
Speaker 0 00:07:17
Oh my gosh, I love this. This is such great advice. ’cause it’s so true. We get hung up on, oh, the first page, I have to start there, but says, who, let’s break that rule. Let’s try something different. Yeah, that’s, and as you are like talking about someone feeling worthy of a journal or a sketchbook, I was kind of like, this idea popped into my head is investing time and creating in a journal. I mean, that could be seen as a sign or practice of self-love, right? If maybe we don’t feel worthy enough. But if we push through that and then we’ll see like, no, let me show my brain this evidence. I am worthy of this beautiful sketchbook. What are your thoughts
Speaker 2 00:07:58
On that? Absolutely. I, you know what? This the, it gave me goosebumps. It’s the first time I’ve heard it put that way in those words. That was so well said. Yes. It’s a form of self-love. Absolutely. And I think too, that if you’re going to invest in a 99 cent journal from the dollar store, what kind of work are you gonna put into that journal? Oh, what are, are you gonna treat it like scrap paper? Great, everybody needs scrap paper. Yes. But if you spend X amount, whatever, some amount that kind of leaves a dent in your pocketbook a little bit, then you’re going to think you’re gonna be very selective as to what you put in that journal. You’re, it’s gonna pull the most out of you. You’re going to put in in little extra care, a little extra thought. And that moment when you’re in that zone, that’s what it’s all about anyway. Mm-hmm. You’re supposed to be getting meditational benefits out of the act of journaling, whether it be art journaling or writing, or even writing poetry. All of that is so good for your mental health. It’s so good for your spirit. It’s so good for you, <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:09:03
Oh, I love it. And just in case someone is listening that maybe doesn’t know the difference between, how would you define an art journal versus a sketchbook?
Speaker 2 00:09:14
That’s a really great question. And I don’t think anybody really has defined it specifically. I can’t go on Google and be like, maybe AI can now tell us. I don’t know. But my answer to that is a sketchbook is to me, if I wanna practice a technique or if I wanna practice drawing a faces or something, then a single page would be me practicing an eye, a nose, a mouth, maybe the whole face over here and over here. Just little sketches all throughout the page. That to me is how I would use a sketchbook or, and how I would define a sketchbook. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And our journal to me is where you are intentionally expressing something on a page using one or more medium. I use a lot of durwin ink, 10 blocks, a lot of watercolors. I do collage stuff and fun stuff. Markers. Yeah. I just, I recently got these tombo, dual, dual brush pens. You work with those?
Speaker 0 00:10:07
I’ve played with those before. Those are so fun. They
Speaker 2 00:10:09
Are. They are. And they’re brilliant. The colors are just great. So I’m playing with those right now in my art journal. But an art journal is definitely something that you are doing to express an aspect of yourself. Mm-hmm. Or an aspect of your life, something that’s happening or something that you’re feeling very intentfully mm-hmm. To express that. Mm-hmm. That’s my definition.
Speaker 0 00:10:28
And would you say that, because whenever I hear the word, our journal, I often also picture people writing some things along with maybe images. Do you think, is the writing part necessary or maybe if, if someone is used to just writing, how could they bridge into the experimenting and maybe adding some imagery? Is there,
Speaker 2 00:10:49
Well, you can write something down. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and if you wanna save what you’ve written, that’s one thing. Yeah. But if you’re, if you’re in it for the act of writing it down, just organizing your thoughts and putting a vocabulary to your feelings, you can always write it down and then paint over top of it. You know what’s underneath it. Yeah. But if you don’t want anybody else to read it or you don’t wanna see it again, or you don’t really wanna preserve what you’ve written, just paint right over top of it, mute the words a bit, and then express yourself visually that way. Oh
Speaker 0 00:11:21
Wow. That just gave me goosebumps. <laugh>, <laugh>. Because it sound, it’s, I’ve never even considered that as, that’s such a fun way of combining the two together. And maybe if someone is used to, ’cause I, I, I am a huge proponent of doing morning pages and that’s just a brain dump of three pages of a stream of consciousness. Usually a lot of garbage <laugh>. Yeah. But it’s like garbage that I don’t eat in my head. And if I can maybe turn those pages, ’cause I have sometimes burned my journals just as a, like a way to release all those negative things. But if I could maybe paint on top of some pages or incorporate something that could be like maybe the next level of expressing yourself. So really, from what I hear, like there are no rules. You can do whatever you want,
Speaker 2 00:12:11
<laugh>. That’s right. That’s right. I like no rules. <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:12:14
I love it. And, and Theresa, so you mentioned you are doing a lot of book binding and I imagine like that’s a very kind of meditative process ’cause it’s very involved. And how do you feel whenever you’re super lost in that moment or whenever you’re working on, on each of these journals?
Speaker 2 00:12:33
Whether I’m making a journal or using a journal and I’m in that zone, that is my sanctuary, that is my favorite place to be. And because to me, I feel calm, I feel focused, I feel capable. I feel a duck in water. I’m doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing. I feel like I’m in the right time, in the right place. And this is something I get to do every day. It feels like a blessing.
Whether I’m making a journal or using a journal. It’s the zone. You know what I’m talking about? Yeah. I know that people listening to this podcast know what I’m talking about. Yeah. That special zone right there. I feel super lucky that I get to be in that zone and feel those feelings almost every single day of my life. It’s great. Oh my
Speaker 0 00:13:17
Gosh, that’s so powerful. And I know there’s so many different benefits of engaging in activity that not only engages your brain, but your hands. Because you have to, you know, work on the journals, put things together and arrange them in a certain way, <laugh> and Yeah. And that, that sounds such a intense process where you literally, you have to be so in the moment that you can’t think of other things that are maybe, which
Speaker 2 00:13:44
Is my favorite. Right. Which is my favorite. I mean, <laugh>, it’s a little bit dorky, but I don’t care. So I have these big parent size sheets of papers, handmade papers, watercolor papers. Right. They’re big 22 by 30 inches. And I have this grid that I drew out on a piece of Masonite. So you put the paper over top and okay, I’ve gotta tear the paper to seven and a half, 15, 22 and a half. So my brain is actually saying to itself, seven and a half, 15, 22 and a half. Mm-hmm. 11, uh, four or five. Uh, and I’m just like doing this math, which is fun for me. I really enjoy it. But it, my brain, what it’s not thinking about is, oh my God, I, I can’t believe I did that that one time and I can’t believe that I, that embarrassing thing happened to me that other time.
Speaker 2 00:14:34
No. None of those thoughts ever have permission to enter my brain when I’m in that zone. You know what I mean? Yeah. And you’re right. It’s a very hands-on thing. It’s very, very visceral, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I get to touch my materials. It’s like I’m having a conversation with my tools and my materials when I’m in the zone. If my partner comes down and says, Hey babe, and asks me a question, I won’t hear him. I’ll just be like, what does somebody say something to me? Yeah. Who dares interrupt my conversation with, with my tools and my materials? Yeah. But it’s like that for me. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:15:09
That’s so funny. It reminds me of not book biting, but my spouse, my husband, he does coding and it’s similar to him. If I come and he’s really deep in code and I say something, he won’t hear it. <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:15:23 Yeah. It won’t
Speaker 0 00:15:24
Register. So it’s kind of like the same thing, you know, whatever it is that ends up kind of resonating with you, maybe it’s book binding or a journal binding or maybe it’s just playing inside of your journal. Start with something that really resonates and speaks to you because like the benefits of being in that space are just, oh my gosh, it feels so good. And especially nowadays with how much I would say just noise there is in on social media and constant distractions and notifications on our phone. And I’m always seeking ways. What can I do that doesn’t involve my phone? I started, I love books and I love to, you know, also save money <laugh>. But if I buy a digital book, which sometimes might be cheaper, it’s still like using my phone. And sometimes that in that extra investment of the physical book, a physical something just helps me feel better. Because again, I’m not on the phone, not in that digital world.
Speaker 2 00:16:22
Right, right. You get to touch the pages, turn the pages, smell the pages.
Speaker 0 00:16:26
Yeah. Oh, smell the pages. Mm-hmm. That is such a good physical, I guess, experience along with just, not just engaging with it, but also, uh, I love that you mentioned that <laugh> and it’s so true because the new journal smell is just so, so fun to experience.
Speaker 2 00:16:44
I know. I know. We should make a candle that has that scent.
Speaker 0 00:16:47 Oh my gosh.
Speaker 2 00:16:49
Somehow is there a candle out there that smells like that? ’cause I could smell that all day long. I just love it.
Speaker 0 00:16:53
Yeah. Theresa, here’s your new product idea. Yeah.
Speaker 2 00:16:56
<laugh>. I’m gonna hop right on that. Yeah. In all my, all my spare time. <laugh> <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:17:02
So going back to the idea of engaging in your self-care practice, are there any other ways that, you know, aside from maintaining your, your journal practice is very important to you. Are there any other activities that you like to do that help you kind of get into that state of calm?
Speaker 2 00:17:21
Yes. Bubble baths. Bubble baths for sure. <laugh> bubble baths. But I gotta tell you, turning to journaling and art journaling is my go-to for relaxation. I mean, there’s lots of things that I can do. I love to drive, you know, I love to go hiking, you know, but my favorite form of relaxation Yeah. Is definitely journaling. And maybe I’ll tell this story ’cause I think maybe somebody out there listening right now might need to hear this today. Who knows. Yes. But there was a time where it was difficult. It was about six years ago, I decided that I should split with my ex. We decided we should split and we were going through a divorce right when the pandemic hit. And so I was stuck running my business by myself and getting used to my new environment. My new, everything was new, everything was just brand new, you know, <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:18:12
So it was quite an adjustment. And I was like in freakout survival mode, just like a lot of people. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so I didn’t journal during that time and that’s the absolute time I should have been journaling. I abandoned that practice that which brought me so much joy and so much relaxation and so much mental health reasons, you know? Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so for a good year and a half, I did not pick up a journal and it was pretty lonely. And then one day I was like, I’m gonna start journaling again. I really need to. But I didn’t have a whole lot of motivation. I didn’t have a whole lot of energy. I didn’t have a whole lot of inspiration either. I mean, things were just crappy at the time. Who wants to journal about that? So what I did to solve that issue, and it took me about a week to of like this diligent practice.
Speaker 2 00:19:03
First what I did was I designated an area for my journal, my water jar and my paints and brushes and pencils and pens. Just this little area could, it takes up the space of a place mat and I never took it down. That’s where it lives and that’s where it stays. Having to get out the journal was half the battle anyway, you know what I mean? Yeah. But now it’s already open and the water jar is already filled and the pencils and pens and paint brushes and everything is right there waiting for you. There literally is no excuse. You can’t just walk up to it and not paint. Everything is out already. That what really, really helped me. And even though for a couple days I stared at it and didn’t dare get within three feet of it because then, then there really wasn’t an excuse, you know, <laugh>.
Speaker 2 00:19:48
Yeah. But after a few days I was like, all right. And so I started journaling again and again and again. And I kept going and my healing got better faster too. My just everything. And I said, oh my gosh, why did I not do this for that whole year and a half of struggling? Yeah. I just think it’s so, so important. So if you’re struggling, if you, you out there, if you’re struggling and you really know that you need to keep a journal, but you’re struggling so hard to find the time and the space to just start with a place mat and start putting your journal and your materials on it, start there. Mm-hmm. <affirmative> and watch what happens. <laugh>. Oh,
Speaker 0 00:20:27
Thank you so much for sharing this story. Such a vulnerable moment in your life. And I appreciate you sharing this with, with the community because I know someone listening might really resonate. ’cause it is, we do go through seasons in life where things are just so hard and we often, the things that we let go of immediately are the ones that we really should continue to do because they are helping us. Yeah. I always think it’s so easy to go to the gym and work out when you feel great. Yay. But it’s so hard to do it on days when we don’t feel like it. And I think those are the days when it matters most that we do show up. So similarly to, for your creativity and your self-care, taking the time, even if that’s 10 minutes or 15 minutes, that’s the most that you can accommodate then even that can like have such a huge impact.
Speaker 2 00:21:19
Huge. Huge. Because then you brain, you register, oh, I did it. Even if it’s a single stroke of watercolor. Yeah. I did it. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. And so that’s a sense of accomplishment and it’s positive reinforcement in the brain. I mean, <laugh>, you know, spirit, you could talk about from a spiritual angle, you can talk about this from a science and neurology angle too. And a psychological angel angle and a physiological angle and a holistic angle where with all of them involved and all of them agree, it’s good for you, it’s good for you, it’s good for you. <laugh>. Yeah.
Speaker 0 00:21:52
And Theresa, so if someone is kind of stuck on what it is that they should journal, do you have any quick starter tips or anything if say, if say they’re like, I know I wanna do it right now, and I did that one brush stroke, but I wanna do something more. Do you have any, any quick tips that someone could fill in inside of their art journal?
Speaker 2 00:22:14
Are you asking if you are sitting there in front of the blank page and you don’t know exactly what you wanna draw? Yes. Yes. That is tough. And I, I resonate with that because sometimes that ha it happens to all of us, doesn’t it? Yes. Yes it does. That does to you. Yep. Whether, and, and we’ve been journaling forever, you and I both, and it still happens to us. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>, I think, well luckily for us, we live in a digital world and there’s resources on your phone, even if you don’t wanna pick up your phone. But I mean you, for instance, you’re a great place to start <laugh> if you’re running out of, of inspiration or if you wanna paint but don’t know what to paint, go to your website and you’re like, oh, look at the strawberry. Okay, I’m gonna paint the strawberry.
Speaker 2 00:22:53
Seriously, your tutorials are fantastic. I do them too in my membership and on my Facebook group. Mm-hmm. <affirmative>. But when I personally am sitting there, what I’ll do to start is I take a pencil and I draw a line in some direction. You can, it could be a straight line, it could be a curvy line, it could go sideways, whatever, it doesn’t matter. But draw a line and just stare at the line and go, what does that look like? What does that remind me of? Yeah. And I’m telling you, you al it always comes, but you have to draw a line first. Yes. At least I do for me. Yeah. Draw a line, a single line and something will come to you, I promise. Oh,
Speaker 0 00:23:29
I love this advice. So wonderful and so helpful for anyone that’s considering or is interested in trying this and you know, if you ever like get stuck, Theresa mentioned so many great resources out there, but also just starting with a simple line that, that is brilliant. Thank you so much for sharing and
Speaker 2 00:23:48
Hey <laugh>, it’s my pleasure, truly. <laugh>,
Speaker 0 00:23:50
<laugh> and Theresa, I know you mentioned you have a membership and could you share where people can connect with you and any resources that you, you’d like to share with? Sure. Our listeners. Sure,
Speaker 2 00:24:02
Sure. Okay. Well let’s start with this. Come on over to my Facebook group. It’s called Art Journal Avenue. You’ll submit a request to join. I vet everyone who comes in. So personally, I do this myself. I have a team as well. But I’m like, no, I wanna know each and every person who comes in. I wanna get to know each family member that comes in. So Facebook Art
Journal Avenue, find the group request to join. I will let you in. You can also go to my website, art journal avenue.com/volta, a little page that I said, especially for your lovely listeners, Volta, go to artur avenue.com/volta. On there you can join the wait list to be notified about when I launched my course, which is called Mastering the Art of Travel Journaling. Ooh. So you have art journaling and now you have travel journaling. Right. Oh, love it.
Speaker 2 00:24:51
You can grab, if you’re into travel journaling or if you’re always wondering what’s flat enough to fit in your travel journal, I’ve got a list of 25 of those on a beautiful P D F. It’s a curated list that I came up with myself. And so you can sign up and get that delivered straight into your inbox too. I’m also, I do have a membership, it’s called Art Journal Society. Mm-hmm <affirmative>. But join my Facebook group first, the AR Journal Avenue Facebook group. Join, join that one first. And for sure you’ll know all about that membership and if you decide to join, you can come on over and join that family too.
Speaker 0 00:25:27
Oh, wonderful. And I, I am part of your Facebook group. Mm-hmm. And I, I have to say that I always enjoy Theresa Post, so many encouraging messages and like ideas of what you can do to fill inside of your art journal. I highly recommend it. It’s such a like nice and like cozy supportive group. I just, I love every time I only go to Facebook to see what people in the groups are doing. <laugh>. That’s honestly what I’m, what I’m there for.
Speaker 2 00:25:53
I ease by on you too. Volta. <laugh> <laugh>. That’s funny. But thank you. Thanks for saying so. I’m glad you find it as a good resource for yourself too.
Speaker 0 00:26:02
Yeah, absolutely. And I will be sure to link to all of these resources in the show notes so that if you’re listening, you know, you wanna check this out. Absolutely. Please go visit Theresa and hang out with her in her space ’cause it’s super cozy and welcoming and creative and awesome. Thank
Speaker 2 00:26:18 You, <laugh>.
Speaker 0 00:26:19
Well, thank, thank you so much, Theresa, thank you for being on the show and I hope you have a calm and creative day,
Speaker 2 00:26:26
A calm and creative day to you too. Volta, thank you for having me. Have a wonderful rest of your day. Thank
Speaker 0 00:26:31 You.
Speaker 3 00:26:35
Thank you so much for listening to this episode. Sweet Friend. I’ll close this out by mentioning the acronym calm. The C and CALM stands for community. Remember, you’re Not Alone. I invite you to join the Calm and Creative Community group on Facebook. It’s a private and free group where we can share various supplemental resources to help us feel more creative and calm. The A in CALM stands for apply. I encourage you to apply some of these learnings from this episode so that you can integrate this knowledge better into your day-to-day life. The L and CALM stands for Leave a Review if you enjoy this episode. This will help our podcast reach a wider group of creatives that are seeking to feel more mindful and creative. The M in CALM stands for Mindful, and that’s simply just being kind to our minds and remembering that it takes intention and practice. And no matter how you’re feeling today, I want you to know that we’re all doing the best that we can in a given moment of time. So keep going. Sweet, friend, you got this.