When I first started drawing in a journal, almost twenty years ago, I didn’t know anyone else who did it. I bought books on drawing and I looked at catalogs of art workshops and courses but none of them described what I was getting out of drawing and recording my life: a real personal transformation. I wasn’t just interested in mastering media and technical challenges. I wanted to change how I saw the world.
Then I found one book that described illustrated journaling. It was called “A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal” by Hannah Hinchman. Hannah draws beautifully but underlying her lovely illustrations was the message I had been seeking: draw your life and you’ll live it more deeply. I carried the little paperback everywhere ’till the binding broke and the pages fell out.
Next I discovered a ‘zine in a record store in the East Village. It was called “Moonlight Chronicles” published by D.Price who lived in Eastern Oregon. It was a simple illustrated journal, drawn with a pen in a book and chronicling his life. Just what I was doing. I wrote to him and asked for some back issues. Soon we were writing to each other regularly and we became fast friends. We traveled across the country to meet up and draw. In Manhattan, in Oregon, in California, in Death Valley. Our lives were completely different. I was an ad guy living in Manhattan. He was a hobo living in a kiva in the woods. But we had this thing in common, a thing that could include the world.
Then, as I spent more time online, I met Richard Bell. He was recording his life and observational drawings and sharing it on a web site called Wild Yorkshire. We started corresponding and eventually I started keeping a blog, just to share things with him.
One day, I was walking through the East Village and saw a guy sitting on the curb drawing in a book. As I got closer, I saw it was my old pal Tommy Kane. We hadn’t seen each other in a half dozen years. I told him I also drew in a book He said he knew, he’d read my blog and it had given him the idea.
Fast forward a decade. Now I have thousands of friends around the world who all love what I love: recording their lives in drawings in a book. This simple habit has changed my life. But what has made it all the more rewarding is sharing my drawings, learning from others, getting support and encouragement.
Maybe you also draw in book. But maybe you don’t know anyone else who does. Maybe you live far away and feel all alone in what you are doing. You may have joined an online community but deep down you would love it if someone you knew shared your passion, someone you could sit with on the weekend, someone whose journal you could hold, someone who could share their experiences and experiments. A neighbor, a relative, a colleague.
You can make it happen.
Just pick up an extra sketchbook and pen and ask them to sit with you. Show them the basics you have learned. Show them the work you admire. Help them overcome their own fears about not having skills or talent. Encourage them in what they do.
The habit of making art is wonderful. Sharing it is sublime.