Illustrated Discovery Journal

discovery journal
I once wanted to paint my front door to look like the photo on right

Back in 1995, Sarah Ban Breathnach published a book called Simple Abundance. It was a big sensation back in the day, before lifestyle blogs. It was a bit spiritual, a bit home-making, a bit loving yourself. It sold millions of copies. Many women I knew had a copy and at least attempted to follow it.

I did, too. I was 46 and I was searching for something to give my life more meaning. There were good and bad things about the book, the oniy thing that really stuck with me was the idea of making and using what she called An Illustrated Discovery Journal–surprise, surprise! Of course, I went for the journal…

It was meant to be a place to store discoveries you made of things you loved. The suggestion was to go to a very well-stocked newsstand with many magazines and take your time picking out all the magazines that appealed to you visually. You were to purchase your picks and look through them and tear out the pages that most appealed to you, whether you knew why they appealed or not. Then, in no particular order, you were to glue or tape them into a large, bound blank book. This was the basis of your Illustrated Discovery Journal.

A lot of the ideas in Simple Abundance were kind of expensive, so I often felt like I wasn’t doing it “right” because I couldn’t afford to buy a stack of fancy magazines to use. I did find an inexpensive blank book at Barnes and Noble, though, and I used my collection of American Home, Country Living and Mary Engelbreit magazines to make my journal.

The idea was to find your personal style through this process. It was a lot of fun to do. I still have my journal, and I still love every page in it. I have never had a dwelling that looked anything like the photos in my book, but the style still appeals to me. I have incorporated bits of the illustrations into my homes, and I started collections based on things that appealed to me when I found something like it in a thrift store or antique mall.

discovery journal
the daybed in my apartment bears a resemblance to this photo

I realize now that that journal was my first visual, or “art” journal. I started it long before Pinterest, and today women would probably be advised to start a mood board or something like it. Not a bad idea, but I haven’t quite adopted Pinterest, except for collecting recipes and a few articles. I have other boards, but I never check them.

There is something about using our HANDS, to write, to cut out photos and glue or tape them in a book, to draw and paint, or color with pens or pencils. It slows us down, for one thing–you have to use scissors to cut things out, you look at what you are cutting, you move things around, glueing them to the page, you look at how the paint or color looks and feels as you apply it to the paper.

You are engaged with the physical materials, but your mind is also making connections between the colors, the shapes, the instruments you are using and the sum becomes greater than the parts. It is a process I love, and I love to share it with others. It’s a process similar to what I described in my last post, you are engaging your right brain, the non-linear brain and interesting things happen. I am always surprised when I look at my Illustrated Discovery Journal, that I still love everything I chose to put in it. I no longer add to my book, I use visual journals in a different way now, but it served its purpose and showed me the power of putting dreams and desires on paper with images instead of words.

I’m working on a newsletter which will include a short list of tips to get started on visual journal play. You can use them if you are stuck getting started on an idea or dream, or you’re just curious to try it for yourself! If you are already on my mailing list, you will get it in a few days. If you haven’t signed up yet, you can do so here so you don’t miss out!

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About author

Thank you for taking the time to read my blog, I’d love to hear your comments, and please contact me with any questions at gwen@gwendelmore.com