Journaling to inspire

Article Published: Dec. 30, 2010 | Modified: Sep. 7, 2011
Journaling to inspire

Judi Russell arranges her artwork at Art and Artifacts Gallery in Blowing Rock.

Photo by Lauren K. Ohnesorge

With bright colors, curved lines and a double dose of personality, each drawing-turned painting tells a story.

"I never know what that story is going to be," Judi Russell said.

To diarist turned artist turned gallery owner Russell, each sketch is a mystery that only a Sharpie and a creative mind can solve. It's an art that started with an activity that's anything but mundane: Journaling.

"I started writing in my journal, like three pages a day," she said. "As a reward to myself for completing my three pages, I started just closing my eyes ... and I'd just make marks on the paper."

It's like those doodles you used to create in the margins in math class, only freer, with her eyes completely shut.

"If it feels like it's turning into something, I change my hand or turn the paper upside down," she said.

After all, spontaneity's the whole point, not the final product.

"Then, I look at my scribbles and see an image," she said. "As I outlined my image with a Sharpie and colored it in, often words would come to me."

By using Photoshop to cut out the extraneous scribbles and the words, she is able to create the inspirational prints currently on display at Art and Artifacts in Blowing Rock. Occasionally, the images inspire paintings. The new passion's been a long time coming.

What started as a journal project has snowballed into a journey project, with sketches and words that talk about everything from life to spirituality, highlighting both who Russell was and who she's become, and she's a very different person than she was 10 years ago.

It was journaling that lead her to leave her job in advertising and help open the Art and Artifacts Gallery in Blowing Rock. In that day's scribbles, she saw a figure and found herself writing some telling words.

"Does it really matter that it might take decades to discover a passion?"

For Russell, those words were telling. She was in her 50s before she discovered art.

"I did paint in high school," she said, "but I didn't paint for 25 years. I never considered myself a painter. As a part of this whole process, though, I decided that I really wanted to paint, that I really had a passion for painting."

Now, 300 scribbles and 40 composition books later, she's more than discovered her passion: She's living it.

Her new on-line radio show, premiering Dec. 1 on, is intended to help others find inspiration.

"People can call in live, and they can send in e-mails," she said. "We'll talk about how I've taken a lot of these images and created paintings from them."

But, as she'll stress on-air, it's not about the images. It's about the process.

"You just empty your mind," she said. "You're writing about what happened yesterday, needing to go to the grocery store to pick up laundry, I'm worried about something ... It's just a bunch of clutter that's in your mind."

Stream of conscience journaling is how you get rid of the clutter.

"By doing that, it's like you open your mind up to receiving the kind of inspiration and messages that can help you," she said.

It's a process she recommends, not only to find artistic inspiration, but to deal with life's scribbles.
"I've worked with cancer patients, and this has been a way for them to deal with their situation," she said.

And journaling is the perfect way for adults and children to find their inner muse.

"All they need to do is sit down and take a pencil and paper and close their eyes and make a bunch of lines on the paper," she said. "By doing the journaling process, by cleaning your mind, you're really opening yourself up to your deeper subconscious."

It's meditative. It's passionate. And it's the perfect way to de-stress, she said.

For more information on abstract journaling, visit Russell's website,

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