Practical Creativity- Turn Your To Do List into Your Art Journal!

Meet my new studio puppy!  This is Fiona. She is keeping us laughing and has already stolen my heart. Many of you may think I’m insane, but I prefer to think of myself as romantic… it’s so fun to think about having her sweet face following us around for the next few years!

And yet juggling everything I’m doing with the addition of a puppy will require some practical changes.  I don’t want to sacrifice my creativity in the process of checking  off my To Do list. So I’m here today with a practical solution I’ve been using.  Its my creative way to combine your To Do List with your Morning Pages/Diary, and turn them into your Art Journal!

I think it’s part of our culture to try and pack as much into our lives as possible. Being a full-time artist, instructor, mom, blogger, Pilates enthusiast, workshop host, traveler, church musician, soon to be new grandma and new puppy owner… You get the idea. There’s a lot going in in my world!  I know I’m not alone. Pretty much everyone I know is struggling to juggle work and still find practical ways of doing everything they want to do.

For those of you who subscribe to my blog, you’re aware that I am a fan of a book called “The Artists Way” by Julia Cameron. It’s a beautiful book on how to promote the creative process. It’s a method that the author has taught for decades. It promotes a practice called “morning pages”.  It’s kind of like a modern day diary for creatives.  All kinds of creative people have benefited from this practice… Writers, visual artists, composers, songwriters. Her premise is one I really agree with: all artists dip into the same creative well.  She promotes a journaling practice to create a more ready avenue of tapping into our creative center.  I love this practice.  I want to make time for it because I really believe that “The Muse” visits anyone who is willing to invite her in for their creative work.

FYI- This process is called “morning pages”.  It’s one way of making that creative invitation.  Filling three pages with your hand every morning is basically the requirement for morning pages. It’s surprising what thoughts will come out as you make an effort to do this. The idea is to get all of the excess clutter out of the way to make room for channeling the good stuff.  If you keep a diary, you’re probably aware of the benefits.  Those of you who keep a prayer journal can also relate to the benefits of that quiet time of inviting something “higher” into your day.

It all sounds really romantic and great, doesn’t it? Except for the need to find the time and a practical way of making this regular journaling happen. I am not that disciplined, and I’m not superwoman, so as much as I’d like to poetically journal each morning, I gotta be real!   My mornings are not always peaceful and calm enough to allow for a half hour of therapeutic space. Sometimes introspection turns into a “To Do list” in my journal. I just let it happen.   All we can do is to do our best, right?

I have noticed that carrying my journal around with me has felt better than carrying a list around on my phone. Maybe it’s my age, but making a list and checking it off helps me keep an accounting of what I’ve accomplished over the course of the day. I’ve tried using apps for this, and they just don’t work as well for me. Simply writing things down and checking them off is still the most satisfying and effective way for me to get things done. Using my morning pages journal to keep this running “To Do” list has become a new routine. It serves two purposes. First, if my morning pages aren’t done first thing, sometimes during downtime in the middle of the day I can slip in a little bit of writing. Second, my list is always with me, and having it in a book seems to make it less likely to be lost. I’m famous for making a list and then losing it LOL.

Lately, I’ve also been realizing the beauty of keeping an art journal. I’ve written about this in past blogs. But that art journal is just one more thing to carry around,  right? Not anymore! I’ve begun turning my completed morning pages/To Do journal pages into an art journal. Voilà! One book for everything!

I don’t turn every page of my journal into artwork, but let’s face it, some of what comes out during my morning pages is not necessarily something I would like people to read, nor is it useful for me to remember. Those pages can be ideal candidates for covering them with artwork.

This reminds me of a story I’ll share with you now.  I used to keep a diary when I was young. I would fill it with adolescent ramblings and romantic thoughts. Sometimes I’d even use it for confession purposes. Along with some momentos of childhood these diaries followed me into adult life and got squirreled into an attic or tucked away in a drawer somewhere.

Along came the kids… (are you beginning to get an idea of where this is going? ) Yup! One of my darling daughters stumbled across those juicy diaries in her wanderings.  My cover was blown when some things about my past became apparent to her young impressionable mind that I would’ve rather she not know till much later in life. ?

So… If your morning pages become a little more personal than you’re comfortable carrying around, let that be another incentive to cover them with ART!  See…having an art journal can be practical AND creative! ?

Here’s another idea for you ? I use washi tape to check off my  list.  This is visually pretty and makes checking things off feel a little more creative and fun. Besides, I have a lot of washi tape and why not use it?! If you don’t have any washi tape and would like to see some of the beautiful patterns that are available out there, you can sometimes find them at discount houses like Tuesday Morning, or at local art stores, but here’s a link for those of you who’d rather click than shop.  Link to Amazon- Washi Tape selection

You can see an example of one of my “To Do” pages in the photo above.  This is how my list ends up looking when I check it off by using washi tape.  It’s a fun way to play with color, pattern and design. These can then become the foundation for mixed media projects that build on top of them. The colors in the tape often inspire what the page will become. Sometimes I’ll even do a two page spread with coordinated colors. That way I can create a two page mixed media piece as in the photos below. Art journals are just so fun!

As a final suggestion, the ideas which come to you during journaling time may be ones you’ll want to remember.  In my experience the coolest things will flow out of my pen when I make space for them by journaling.  My friend suggested using sticky notes to keep track of them, and so my all-in-one journal now looks like this:

So there you go… A practical way to combine your “To Do” list with your diary or art journal, and then  allow them to become a foundation for your creative impulses!  It works for me and I hope it will be something that helps you make space for more creativity in your busy world.

Update on Classes for 2017

Earlier this month (while journaling) I got the idea to start a new class for beginners!

The Wonders of Watercolor- Basics for Beginners.  This new class has been very well received, with a fun bunch of enthusiastic and creative people coming to take part on Wednesday mornings from 9-12.  If you’d like to explore some basic and fun lessons in watercolor, with a focus on what beginners need to know, then this class might be just right for you!

Saturday classes will begin again this month on Feb. 11th, from 1-4. The format will be one that students have enjoyed in the past, with a short lesson in Watercolor related topics, often with a demo, and then students will be free to work on projects of interest to them…perhaps even spending time on a painting from a previous class.

Watercolor Wednesday Afternoons are also ongoing from 1-4 pm with a format similar to Saturday’s classes. 

You can sign up for any of my classes here:

Wish us luck with our new puppy!  We’ve rolled up the rugs and are enjoying every minute (well almost every minute)

Love and puppy kisses ??

Rebecca and Fiona

Author Rebecca Zdybel

Artist, Instructor, Art-Travel Instructor - Spread Light, Share Love, DO Art! Rebecca Z Artist (Rebecca Zdybel) is an artist and instructor in Myrtle Beach, SC. She blogs and teaches locally and internationally. Sign up for her blog, classes, workshops, art travel tours, or see her work at

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Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Tiffany says:

    Fiona is adorable! I look forward to meeting her.

  • Erika Pichon de Bury says:

    Any chance of doing your beginner’s class from a distance? Do you still have your 30-day drawing challenge available on your blog? Love, Erika

    • Hi again Erika, how did I miss this question when you wrote it? I am working on some lessons for an online class and they will be aimed at basic entry skill level. I will be letting you know via newzletters and here on my website blog. I’ve taken the summer off from teaching to give myself the space to work on it.

      As for my drawing challenge, it’s still available if you’re interested. You can search my website for “30 day drawing challenge” or May 2015 and you should be able to find it.

      Thanks for checking in… ❤️

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