For the Love of Creativity and Healing

(Jeanette Miller)

If you ask me what’s wrong, I can’t tell you just one thing. I would say, it’s this pandemic, the isolation, the deaths of friends my own age and younger from something we know so little about. It’s the inability to fully grieve. It’s the fear—not holding me hostage—holding me cautiously back. The isolation. Living alone, in isolation. Holidays alone for the first time in a decade. Distance from those I need/want most to spend time with. And although it’s a connection with the outside world, the computer screen is where all my flaws come out to play. Real or not, that’s how life feels right now.

So what’s to be done? 

As an artist, I’d love to say I already possessed a daily creative practice. I didn’t. And when there is trauma, sadness, anxiety or the face of what seems like a perpetual unknown, inspiration is hard to come by. But creativity is healing. I’ve know this from youth, where art therapy literally saved my life. Being able to express myself without having to talk about it was an excitingly wild idea as a teen. Getting my hands messy in paint or clay, glue and paper, and various other mediums brought a tactile physical and emotional healing.  Art had been both my cry for help and salvation. 

I’ve recently turned to it again. In need of self-expression and ways of reminding myself that there is hope on the other side of this. While spiraling in and out of depressive cycles, in January, I stepped out of my commissioned and bigger projects to create a near daily practice of art journaling. In this 8×10 paper journal, I face conflict within myself, offer encouragement to myself, express love and joy, work out thoughts and experiment with new ideas. It’s both visual artistic expression and a highly personal journal.

And undeniably, it’s healing. 

It doesn’t take hours a day. It’s one page. Some days I’m inspired by the artwork of others. Most days I grab a pile of paper odds and ends, some paint and just start putting something together. Some days I create spaces for writing and other days, I write. Sometimes it takes just a few minutes; other times, an hour or so.

The best thing about art journaling or art as a method of working through the rough stuff and reminding us there are better days ahead, is it doesn’t have to cost much. It doesn’t have to be a journal even. Individual pieces of paper—even scraps—you may later find a way to bind with string or clips; a watercolor paint set from the local dollar store; glue sticks; magazine cuttings; and pictures or memorabilia from something important is all it takes to get started. Also, it doesn’t require you to be an “artist.” It can be anything you want it to be. You don’t have to draw. It can be scratches and swishes of color across the page. It can be squiggly lines with a pen and paper. It can be collages of paper, paint and magazine cuttings. It can be as personal or not as you want. If you use a daily planner or bullet journal, it can be done within those same pages. I find inspiration on Instagram and YouTube. Sometimes I find it looking out my windows or in random photos from the internet. I date the pages, because as I look back through them, I want to remember the things I was working through and the healing that is/has taken place. 

Its mid-February and I’ve filled 26 pages of my art journal this year. It has already provided hope and healing. The pages are beginning to show a theme of forward looking and hope. I hope if you, too, are in need of hope and healing, you might consider expressing yourself in new ways across empty pages, just waiting to hold all you have to offer.

Here are some Black women artists on Instagram whose work you might find inspirational:

Shemi Dixon @shemidixon

Rachel Juanita @queenpreneur

Julie @reddragonflystudio

Janette Simmons @janettesimmons

Tiare Smith @iamclassygirl

Kiala Givehand @kialagives

About the author

Miller is a visual artist, writer and social justice activist. She works at The Lighthouse | Black Girl Projects and lives in Jackson, MS.

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