Why a Visual Journal is a Must in my Creative Process and Daily Routine

If there is one routine and creative process that shapes my entire studio practice, it is my discipline with my visual journal. I keep a notebook journal where I write down my thoughts almost daily and I have a visual mood board where I hang photos, magazine cutouts and basically anything else that I find that is currently inspiring me. But the most important aspect of my studio practice is the painting and drawing work that I do in notebooks each and every day before I turn to my canvases and various current projects.

Monica Shulman Visual Journal

I love learning about how an artist creates. I think that an artist’s creative process and studio method are as important as the finished work itself. Do they have a notebook to jot down ideas or do they just have scattered papers every where? Do they keep a visual journal where they draw or paint or do they make a mood board? Do they have a daily process or do they start every day in a different way? Do they leave their paints out or are they tidy?

The first thing I do every time I step into my space, after I hang my things, turn on my music and burn some palo santo and incense, is to sit at my table and paint inside my visual journal. I have several books going at the same time and I never skip this very important part of my daily routine.

Visual Journal

I love spontaneity and surprises with my artwork and I truly believe that one of the reasons why I am able to let go and create freely is because I first start my process every day by getting my feelings, thoughts and ideas out in my visual journal notebooks before turning to my canvases. Important things happen when you step out of your comfort zone and try something new, and working in my journals is the first step for me to get there.

My notebook (and my Pinterest) is where I jot down ideas and thoughts and keep lists but my visual journal is where a majority of some of those ideas and thoughts come to life. I never rip up anything in my visual journal. Sometimes with my paintings on canvas I paint over things I don’t love so that I can have a fresh start but I like to use my visual journal as a place where all of my ideas, even the ones that I end up hating, can exist without too much of my own judgment and second-guessing.

My studio vision board is always changing. It currently has a few painted pages from an old journal, photographs that I shot in  Greece  a few summers ago, my first palette from when I was a teenager, magazine cutouts and other photos from my archives that are inspiring me right now.

My studio vision board is always changing. It currently has a few painted pages from an old journal, photographs that I shot in Greece a few summers ago, my first palette from when I was a teenager, magazine cutouts and other photos from my archives that are inspiring me right now.

I experiment with colors and different combinations and mixtures on the pages of my journals. I practice with layering, textures and drips. I try to execute ideas and sometimes they work out and often times they don’t. For me it’s such an important process and a lot of times my visual journal ends up being the first place where an idea comes out before it turns into a much bigger concept on canvas. Many of my completed and sold paintings were born on the pages of my visual journal before they grew and evolved to a finished piece and I often find myself referencing pages in my notebook in my larger work and even in other ways like what I choose to wear or how I decorate my home. I’m always trying different color combinations and layers and textures and the first place I experiment with that is inside my visual journal.

Do you have a daily routine or ritual that you can’t live without?

A couple of pages from my vision journal.

A couple of pages from my vision journal.