It’s hard to say when I first began keeping a journal, but it was probably in high school. I remember spending nights avoiding my homework, writing and doodling in my diary. I never wanted to reveal too much for fear someone would read it, so I always held back a little bit and expressed serious thoughts and feelings through random doodles and drawings, only hinting at the big stuff with a few words. Drawing made me feel less vulnerable than writing out all of the details of my days, and creating those drawings helped me decompress. Handwriting as an art form is an expression of oneself, and I have a deep appreciation for how different writing utensils can alter my script. I have always loved the act of simply writing words—stringing them together in various shapes and sizes or using them to create abstract patterns. The words don’t actually need to say anything. Writing words or single letterforms in groupings—more like stream of consciousness thoughts—has always been a fluid and calming exercise for me. In college I had sketchbooks filled with random writings of patterned words alongside small drawings. I would photocopy these to use in collage work. The sketchbook I used for class notes and planning how I would solve design projects was the most precious thing in my schoolbag. My husband even proposed to me in one of my journals. When I became a mother, I filled journals with our boys’ first words and milestones. I keep travel journals on every trip we take, and I encourage my kids to always have a blank book in their bags as well. There is something about turning the pages of a book—this compact object that contains days, or months, worth of artwork and thoughts, transporting us to another place and time—that has always been so satisfying to me.
As the years passed, I noticed that the drawings were disappearing from the pages of my journals. As my life got busier with work and family, I spent less and less time drawing. Months turned into years, and eventually I felt as if I could no longer draw. I had spent more than eighteen years working as a graphic designer, and one day I realized that I was desperate for a creative outlet free from computer screens and technology. When I had our boys, I was running a successful design business, and I continued to work throughout their young years. I somehow balanced work and being Mom, but by the time they were in school full time, I knew the commercial design work wasn’t scratching my creative itch. The thought of sitting at the computer for eight hours a day became daunting. So I began to look for a new creative hobby that could enhance my days. But where to begin and what to do? These were scary questions, and I felt that the best place to start was in one of my trusted journals. My husband encouraged me by saying, “You used to draw more. The talent is there, you just have to find it again.”
So I made a commitment to include some drawing practice on each page of my journal. I had no idea what would happen, but I began to practice. I figured there was no safer place than inside my own private journal to relearn how to draw by hand. After a few months of drawing patterns, letterforms, birds, and food, I gained confidence. At that point I decided not to just draw random sketches, but to use the pages to draw a true record of my life. I thought, Instead of writing out my day for my journaling practice, why not illustrate it?
Copyright © 2018 by Samantha Dion Baker. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.