JFJ 15 for 30 Challenge - Day 29: Connection

Through journaling we connect to ourselves, and we connect to the places we inhabit. Through sharing we connect to others and we build relationships. It is through these connections that we begin to see our place in the world and figure out what is important to us. The journal grounds us in our lives as we discover the ties that bind us.

For today focus on the idea of connection. Explore the connections that you have made to yourself and to others over the last twenty-eight days. Focus on how these connections have brought about clarity, confusion, questions, and answers. In what ways have you connected to yourself, to places, and to others? In what ways have these connections affected your relationship to yourself and to others. Write, paint, collage, and draw. Respond in any way you see fit.

As always, share and strengthen those connections. #jfj15for30

Heroes - Dan Eldon

Dan Eldon was born to an American mother and a British father in 1970, and at an early age he and his family moved to Kenya. Despite his extensive travels, he always considered Kenya home. As a child, Dan received his first camera and developed an interest in photography that he would pursue for the rest of his life becoming one of the youngest photographers for the international news agency, Reuters in 1992.

Moved by stories of famine in Somalia, he travelled to the country to see for himself. He stayed in Somalia as the civil war raged on documenting the strife and the UN’s attempts to manage the situation. His photos find their way into Time and Newsweek. Dan’s life was unfortunately cut short at the age of 22 by a mob that turned on him as he was trying to cover a bombing in Mogadishu.

Dan is probably best known for his 17 volumes of visual journals that he began keeping around the age of 15. He filled his journals with newspaper clippings, photos, labels, writing, and much, much more. He poured his life into the bulging books as he cut, glued, painted, and drew. He included pictures of his family and friends and evidence of the places he travelled and visited. Dan’s mom, Kathy shared a wide selection on Dan’s journal pages in 1997 in the book The Journey is the Destination: The Journals of Dan Eldon published by Chronicle Books. It quickly became a great source of inspiration for many, many people who were moved by Dan’s story and his rich journal pages.

These layered pages hint at a life filled with passion and adventure, and Dan documented the people he met, the places he went, and events that took place in his life. As a photographer, his journals are filled with many of his own photos, contact sheets, and negatives which he often cut apart reimagining the pictures and the stories of his life.

Dan’s journals and his life have inspired me greatly as I have tried to record my life and to think about the kind of legacy that I will leave behind. In many ways, Dan’s short, yet inspiring life makes me wonder about what I have done in my life and the impact that I have had on the world. Dan seemed to have lived life to the fullest, and his journals reflect that packed life in rich, luminous detail. I am constantly amazed that Dan filled 17 volumes of journals in about 7 years. He put so much time and energy not only into his journals, but into the art of living.

It is because of Dan Eldon that I continue to work in my visual journals and that I continue sharing with anyone willing to pay attention. In continuing Dan’s legacy, I hope that in some small way, I am changing and challenging the world.

For more information about Dan, his life, his activism, his art, and his journals, visit www.daneldon.org.

Heroes - David R. Modler

One of my goals for 2015 is to spotlight people who have had an impact on me in some way and who have inspired me and helped move along my path. Some of these heroes I know personally, some I have met briefly, some are internationally known, and some have long left this earth. They are from all walks of life and are from very different backgrounds, but they all have impacted me in some substantial way, and I want to acknowledge and honor them.

It is only right and fitting that I start with my fellow Journal Fodder Junkie, David Modler, for it was he who helped set me on the path I am on now. Without Dave there would be no JFJ, no books, no traveling and presenting, and my art would probably be much, much different.

David and I met over sixteen years ago in the fall of 1998. I had just moved to Leesburg in Northern Virginia to start teaching in Loudoun County Public Schools. We met for the first time at a training session for elementary art teachers, but we were never formally introduced. It was only a couple months later when we met again at an artists’ reception that we were formally introduced, and I was first introduced to the visual journal when I noticed the small, bulging sketchbook that Dave carried. I had no idea then what an impact it would have on my life at the time.

Dave and I quickly became friends, and he introduced me further to his art and to the visual journal. I was deeply impressed with the fact that here was a guy who taught art in the public schools like I did, but he was finding the time to make his own art. Dave was the first art teacher that I had ever met that was also an artist, and that’s exactly what I wanted to do.

Over the first few years of our friendship, David was very much a mentor to me, both as an artist and as an educator, and though it took me a while to find the courage to begin a visual journal, I embraced the process once I did. My art began to radically change under Dave’s influence, and anytime we learned or discovered something new about the visual journal, we eagerly shared it with each other. Even after Dave moved to North Carolina in 2001, it became our habit to exchange journals first thing when we got together. At the time, we were just two artists sharing a passion for art and the excitement of working and learning in a new form. We had no idea where this was all heading.

Things began to take off in 2005, when we teamed up and began presenting together at a couple of art education conferences and officially became the Journal Fodder Junkies. Things expanded when we presented at the North Carolina Center for the Advancement of Teaching (NCCAT) on five separate occasions and were able to work with some wonderful North Carolina educators. NCCAT was an amazing experience, and it only happened because of Dave had the opportunity to attend NCCAT as a North Carolina educator. Other presenting and workshops followed at various schools, mostly in North Carolina.

It was during this time that David quit teaching in the public school systems, and went back to school and obtained his MFA. In many ways I felt like I was going back to school with all the discussions that we had about art. Dave shared his grad school experiences with me, and I tried to absorb as much as I could. He talked about the theories he had to read about, the artists he was exploring, the critiques he had, and of course, the art that he was making. All of that got me thinking about my art and my motivations. Once again my art began to radically change as what Dave was sharing with me got me to delve deeper into my work and to question that things that I was doing.

Two books and countless presentations and workshops have followed. We have been fortunate to travel all over the US and to Canada, and Dave has even gotten to travel to Australia. We have met thousands of people and hopefully inspired and motivated a few, and to think that it all started in a computer lab with a group of art teachers more than sixteen years ago.

David is one of my best friends, and I consider him a brother. I am so grateful to have an accomplice like him, and it has been an awesome experience to share the JFJ’s journey with Dave. He has pushed me to grow as a person, as an educator, and as an artist. I look forward to seeing where we go from here.

Thanks, Brother. It was been quite adventure.