Less than a week into 2017, nine women joined Dawn around a big table covered with art supplies. They gathered Thursday at ArtWorks, headquarters of the Edmonds Arts Festival and the festival foundation.
There was no talk of tough-to-keep New Year’s resolutions, no mention of workouts or diets. Instead, each woman took a paintbrush or pen in hand, or used scissors, rubber stamps or other art tools. They began to create, accompanied by the hushed hum of conversation.
“It’s very freeing,” said Dawn, 51, who lives in Lynnwood. She also teaches visual journal workshops at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell and Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park. “Being together is a part of it,” she said. “Doing something creative, you’re using a different part of your brain. It connects people in a very intimate way.”
In a visual journal, art and words are paired to convey emotions or experiences. Writing can be part of it, but what’s written may not be readable. “You might tear your writing into pieces and make a collage out of it,” Dawn said. Tearing something can help with letting it go.
Dawn, whose Edmonds classes cost $10 each to cover supplies, uses her own journal to share examples of what’s possible. “I like to work around an idea,” she said, showing pages with hand-crafted windows and doors. On a page with a paper window, Dawn wrote: “Change the way you look at things.”
In this new year, Dawn is working on becoming a better listener.
Candi Betts has attended Dawn’s workshop since it started a year ago. “There’s a magic quality to the atmosphere around the table,” said Betts, who comes from Kirkland to Edmonds for classes. Her words flowed onto a page Thursday, taking the shape of a landscape.
“What I learned last year was not to pay attention to fear, to push fear and worry aside,” said Betts, whose pages reflect that intent.
“I have an issue with starting tasks and not completing them,” said Dawn Everett, another class member. The Lake Stevens woman drew a tidy garden, and wrote on her page: “Follow Through. Grow Create Build.”
Other women designed pages with personal challenges of 2016 in mind. Seattle’s Julie Selmo, who was divorced last year, said her journal addressed the process of moving on — “and literally moving.”
For Cynthia Gahan, writing and art are ways to express feelings of loss. Her mother died in August. To her journal page painted in purple watercolor, Gahan added what she called “almost a letter to my mom.” Torn and attached to the page, her letter was accompanied by these words, added with rubber stamps: “I hold on to you. I accept the cycle of life.”
Gahan, of Mountlake Terrace, said her mother’s passing was life-changing for her. “I’m exploring what I’m doing next,” she said.
Dawn started her visual journal classes as a volunteer with EvergreenHealth Hospice. The agency’s Creative Playshop programs were aimed at helping hospice volunteers and staff “deal with the heaviness of the work they do,” she said.
What she teaches isn’t scrapbooking, a decorative way to display photos or mementos. A visual journal isn’t an artist’s journal, a place to work out concepts for creating fine art.
“Visual journaling is introspective. It’s letting your mind speak. It is personal,” Dawn said.
Julie Muhlstein: 425-339-3460; firstname.lastname@example.org.
“Visual Journaling for Women” meets noon-2 p.m. Thursdays at ArtWorks, 201 Second Ave. S., Edmonds. Cost is $10 per class and covers supplies. Class leader Karen Dawn, who runs The Visual Journal nonprofit group, also teaches art journal workshops 10 a.m.-noon Wednesdays at the Northshore Senior Center in Bothell, and 10 a.m.-noon Mondays at Third Place Commons in Lake Forest Park. Find information at www.thevisualjournal.com/artworks.