Goodbye 2010

Today is the last day of 2010. And as with every passing year, I sit, scratch my head, and wonder where the time has gone. Another year has slipped away, and here I am pondering. I've already reflected a bit on my birthday a week and a half ago, but today I want to reflect a bit more. Looking through possible journal spreads to post, I ran across this one from volume 12, and the question "What is your truth?" struck a chord with me. And so I wonder what has been my truth over the last twelve months and have I been living up to it.

Over the last 12 months, I have come to realize my truth in a few different areas. The first is balance. I feel that I was able to strike a balance throughout 2010 among the various aspects of my life. I have been able to balance work, art, home, journaling, spirituality, cyberspace, and conferences fairly well. Of course there were times when certain areas ebbed and others flowed, but that is life. Things never balance perfectly all the time. But I feel like I have not deprived one aspect of my life to devote energy to another.

The second truth is in the area of spirituality. I have discovered that I am a very spiritual person - not religious. Though I grew up in a Christian household and embraced Christianity as a child, I became disillusioned with the faith in high school and college. For many years I was very agnostic to the point of being almost atheist. I guess that I am still that way, and so it has been no wonder that I have been drawn toward Buddhism, which by the admission of the Dalai Lama is an atheist religion since it does not hold to the belief of a divine creator. There is such logic and rationality to the Buddha's teachings, and I am drawn to the idea that we can achieve happiness from within by training our minds, reflecting on how we react to things and situations, and seeing objects and phenomenon as they really are - empty of inherent existence. But I don't call myself a Buddhist - I have yet to begin really practicing. I have found opportunities for stillness and quiet. I have found opportunities to be present in the moment. I have found opportunities to reflect on what it is that I wish for my life. I believe that these are ingredients for a spiritual life - get still, get quiet, and go inside.

The third truth that I have realized in 2010 is the impact that I can have on people through art and the journal. I have been continually surprised and awed at the reaction that The Journal Junkies Workshop has received, at the excitement and wonder expressed by participants at our workshops and presentations, and at the reception of my endeavors through this blog, Facebook, and now YouTube. To see our ideas of the visual journal and creativity spread has been a humbling experience, but it makes me firmly believe that I am on the right path. Although there are certain aspects of teaching art in a public school that I absolutely love, I feel that I have a limited impact within my classroom. I feel most in my skin when the impact is much wider and broader. I feel that it won't be much longer before I can leave the constraints of public school behind, and take a leap into something greater. I am continually grateful for all those who spend some time with the Journal Fodder Junkies.

And so to wrap this up, I would ask you to ponder these three questions:

How have you found opportunities for balance?
What have been your opportunities for stillness?
In what ways have you found to leap into the unknown?

I wish everyone a bright, happy, and prosperous new year.

Watercolor Bleed

This is the second of the video tutorials that I have posted on YouTube. As with the book, the demonstrations are very basic, but deciding when and where to use them is completely up to the individual. We don't want to can creativity. We want to share some basics and allow you to decide how to use them. To see more videos visit my channel on YouTube.

Happy Birthday

Today is my birthday.

I don't say this in hopes of receiving lots of birthday greetings and nicely wrapped birthday presents. I say it because my birthday is a time of reflection. With it being so close to Christmas and the New Year, my birthday is always a pensive time when I look back over the previous year. I usually spend some time rambling in my journal, but I thought that I would do it here this year instead.

This past year has been an incredible year - busy and jammed packed - but amazing to say the least.

First a few highlights. In 2010 there was my solo exhibit at UNC-G, the National Art Education Association Convention in Baltimore where we presented twice to enthusiastic crowds, the release of The Journal Junkies Workshop and an awesome book launch party hosted by our dear friend Linda, my 7th wedding anniversary, the beginning of my 15th year of teaching, two state Art Education conferences, acceptance to teach classes at Art Unraveled, and the opportunity to meet and inspire lots of amazing people and to share a profound journey.

Next some acknowledgments. I am grateful to everyone who bought a copy of the book, wrote and posted reviews, attended our presentations and workshops, stopped by to see what we've been up to here, on our website, and on Facebook, and emailed or left comments of the most sincere form. I've said it before, but it bares repeating. It is the positive feedback and the knowledge that we are making a difference that keeps the JFJ rolling on. I am grateful to all of the support from my colleagues, my friends, and my family. And the deepest appreciation goes to my wife who whole-heartedly supports my running off to do conferences, workshops, and presentations, and who indulges my hours spent in the studio, and who understands and accepts the money that I spend on hotels, plane tickets, and art supplies.

And finally some personal reflection.

2010 was a year of personal growth. I read a lot mostly on spiritual and creative matters and gained some valuable insight. The Dalai Lama has been a constant source of inspiration and spiritual consideration as I have immersed myself in more and more Buddhist teachings. Patti Digh and Ken Robinson brought home some great points about living creative lives. I feel like my life has much more balance as I juggle work, art, and home. I feel like my relationships have grown stronger, and I feel like I am having a greater impact in the world.

I look forward to the continued sharing of my journey. I look forward to making more art, to inspiring others, to spreading the power of the journal and creativity, to touching the lives of others, and to being touched and inspired in return.

It has a been a great year - not perfect, but great. As a token of appreciation. I am offering up my rules in a fairly hi-res format above for anyone to print out for their own personal use. I created a 6x9 mixed-media piece on watercolor paper. I reworded a couple of rules to take the edge off, and rewrote #10. So, please feel free to print the image and hang in the studio, in classroom, or in an office. Or feel free to collage it into the journal as a constant reminder to make life a creative one.

Thank you to all who have shared this journey with me.

Art Unraveled 2011

The Journal Fodder Junkies have just landed their first big art retreat gig, and we are very excited. We will be presenting three full-day workshops in Phoenix, AZ at Art Unraveled in August 2011. Many big names of the journaling/arts-and-crafts world will be there presenting workshops and taking classes. This is something Dave and I would like to do more of, and hopefully this will be the first of many opportunities.

Below you will find a description of each of our workshops.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011 - Visual Ammunition for the Art Addict
Based on their popular book The Journal Junkies Workshop, Dave and Eric designed this class to bombard you with artistic possibilities. Come and explore a variety of techniques and media that are just as at home in the visual journal as they are in rich, mixed-media wall pieces. This workshop allows you the flexibility to work either on individual pieces or in the visual journal giving you a full range of creative choices.

Focus will be placed on how a plethora of techniques can be mixed and mingled, layered and built upon. Stock up on new techniques and add to your creative arsenal, and leave with visually loaded journal pages or mixed-media pieces ready to hang on the wall.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011 - Mapping Identity in the Visual Journal
It’s all about you in this mixed-media visual journal workshop. Using a variety of prompts, exercises, media, techniques, images, and words, you will begin to unravel the mystery that is YOU by contemplating the questions: Who are you? Where have you been? Where are you going?

The Journal Fodder Junkies lead you through a process of self-discovery and deep introspection as you delve into the visual journal and what its creative powers can mean to you. Prepare to get still, get quiet, and go inside as you learn to encounter the visual journal as a powerful tool for living and dreaming.

Thursday, August 4, 2011 - The Challenge of Beauty
Using a process developed by Angeles Arrien in her book Signs of Life, The Five Universal Shapes and How to Use Them, this class will focus on the use of personal and universal symbols as a way to explore concepts of beauty and personal challenge. The mixed-media approach of the process will touch upon a variety of art media and techniques, but will also add writing and words to the mix allowing you freedom, flexibility, and choice throughout the process.

Come with an openness to explore, and leave with the beginnings of rich journal pages or layered wall pieces.

Click here to see a full list of all the workshops at Art Unraveled.

Facing Death

I faced death yesterday.


It wasn’t what I was anticipating as I headed down the driveway to get the day’s mail right after getting home from work.

But I faced death as a 4 ton Chevy Avalanche came down the road, veered off the road, and slammed into the maple tree at the end of my driveway just 10 feet away from where I stood waiting – waiting for that very vehicle to pass so that I could get the mail. The tree stood steadfast between me and the truck that barely veered a couple of feet off the road. I instinctively began to back pedal just before impact. A loud BANG! and then flying bumper, headlight, and plastic shrapnel. The momentum of the truck rotated it a little around the tree so that it sat diagonally across the narrow road. Then the creaking and snapping of wood as branches rained down and a large dead branch fell just feet away from me. I pulled out my phone and began trying to dial 911, my brain trying to process the collision, the terror, and what I should do to help. The simple act of pressing three numbers became a monumental task as I tried to get a grip on the reality of the situation. Everyone in the truck was ultimately all right. Some cuts and some bruises – but no frantic ambulances rushing to the hospital – no life flight. Thirty minutes after the accident the truck, police, and people were gone. The injured presumably taken to the hospital by a relative or friend, and the truck towed.

Ten feet… This has stayed in my mind since yesterday. Ten feet away from where the right front side of the Avalanche crumpled into the maple. That tree may have been the only thing between me and the grill of the truck. If the tree had not been there, I could have been severely hurt… or worse. But that tree – that now has a two-foot section of bark missing – that was shaken but not toppled – stood solidly, and I was unharmed. But I can’t help thinking that I faced death. It was so close and could have happened so quickly. And it has my pondering.

If that tree had not of been there, and I had an up-close, personal meeting with death, what would I think of my life? What regrets would I have? What would I wish that I could have done differently? I wouldn’t regret much. I have achieved a lot. I have a wonderful wife and amazing friends. And it is a remarkable thing to think that I have touched thousands of lives with my art, my book, and my teaching. But I would regret not doing all that I feel that I am meant to do. My life is full, but I know there is so much more out there for me – so many more avenues of life to explore and so many more people to meet. I want to make the most out of my life no matter how long or short – to have an impact on the world. There’s so much more joy and life outside my front door.

I pondered this today as I walked down the hall, and I saw one of my students skipping down the hall. A freshman, 14 or 15 years old, and she was alone in the hall and probably did expect anyone to see her. But I turned the corner and she stopped skipping as soon as she saw me. As I said hello to her and passed by, I told her that I believed the world needs more skipping.

So I faced death and realized that the world needs more skipping.

Eric's Rules

Inspired by Patti Digh's rant (which she includes in her book Creativity is a Verb), I began thinking about what gets in the way of my making art. So, I wrote the rules below for myself adopting and adapting some of Patti's and inserting my own. I was very blunt and honest with myself because that's what I need. I expanded it a bit thinking that there are others out there who need such bluntness. So, here are my "rules" for making art and being creative.

1. Show Up
Make a space and show up every day. Get in the studio. Sit down at the dining room table. Clear off the coffee table. Pull out the journal or a small piece of drawing paper when you have five minutes, when you’re watching TV, and when there’s nothing else to do. Show up at the page, the canvas, the hunk of clay, or the pile of fabric. You must be present to win, so show up.

2. Sit the Hell Down and Make
Turn off the TV. Stop checking email, reading blogs, and surfing the web for inspiration. Get off of,, and Forget about the pile of laundry that all of a sudden got rather appealing, and forget about the dishes in the sink. Turn off the cell phone, stop texting, Facebooking, and instant messaging. Sit your butt down or go stand at the easel and start making. Start playing. Distractions are only a way of procrastinating.

3. Work
It’s all about working and putting in the hours. It’s about the process not the product. So work in the journal, doodle, and experiment. Start a larger work with no idea where it will lead. Work will lead to work, and the more you work, the easier it is to get to work the next time. Inertia applies to art. A body in motion tends to stay in motion. A body at rest tends to stay at rest. So get moving and working, and you’ll continue moving and working. Don’t wait for inspiration to hit. Forget about what it looks like. Forget about if it’s good or bad. Suspend judgment. The more you work the sooner you’ll get onto something. There’s an estimated 20,000 pieces of Picasso’s art in the world. You might say that’s because he’s a great artist. NO! He’s great because he made 20,000 pieces of art. He worked constantly experimenting and pushing his art. Dan Eldon filled 17 hardbound journals in his short 22 years. He made his life into art. Put in the hours and you will do great things.

4. Ignore Everybody
Ignore what other people may think. Ignore what other people may say. A lot of people can’t except their own creativity and so will not except yours. They may not appreciate your work. They may be jealous of your activity. They may even say that you are wonderful and great. Ignore them. Criticism and praise can stall your work. Who cares if anyone else likes it? Stop comparing yourself to others saying how easy they have it, how naturally it comes to them, how great they are. Ignore them. It’s not a competition. They are not you, and besides they struggle just as you do. They have the same doubts and fears. Make for yourself. You are expressing yourself as honestly and truthfully as you can. And sometimes you have to ignore your honey, your kids, and your pets and lock yourself in the studio. They will understand if they know that this is what you need. Ignore them, but don’t neglect them.

5. Shut the Hell Up
Shut up about ideal conditions and what ifs and maybe whens. Shut up about not having the time and the energy. If it’s a priority, you do it. Plain and simple. Stop giving lip service to how much making art is a priority. Actions speak louder. Stop complaining, whining, and being jealous of others. Stop whining about having no creativity or no talent. You are creative and you are talented, so go make art. Stop telling yourself that you are a fraud and no one will like you or your art. Just shut up and make art.

6. Find Your Tribe
You can do this alone, but then you are alone. It’s hard to grow and evolve without others. Surround yourself with creative collaborators that can encourage and inspire you. Don’t compare yourself to them. Learn from them. Lean on them. Let them lift you up, and do the same for them. Artistic accomplices keep you on track. They challenge you. They support you. They point out areas to work on and ways to grow. A creative journey is best when shared. So, find a teacher, a mentor, a colleague, or a friend and start a creative tribe.

7. Look at Art
Find artists and artwork you admire – past and present, and be inspired by their lives and their art. Find artists that do similar things as you and artists that do things that are totally different. You will learn from both. Look at the choices they have made regarding materials, imagery, and composition. Learn from and be inspired from them. Just don’t use this as an excuse to not make art. See #2.

8. Nothing is a Mistake
Everything that you do is a learning experience, so see everything as an experiment. Have fun and play. Stop judging yourself and your art. Stop comparing yourself to other artists. The inner critic is only the voice of someone who criticized you and your work long ago, and it echoes to this day in your head. Ignore it, and create with reckless abandon. Spill your guts. Don’t tear up your work, tear pages out of your journal, or ball up the clay. Don’t throw away your art. Remember that it is about the process. Remember Picasso’s 20,000 works – they’re not all masterpieces. Keep everything as a record of your growth. Learn to let go of perfectionism. As Ken Robinson says, “If you’re not prepared to be wrong, you will never come up with anything original.”

9. Get Over Yourself
Stop putting yourself down. Stop saying how you and your art suck. Stop reducing and minimizing yourself. You’re not terrible. Get over it. Stop pitying yourself. If you want to create, stop getting in your own way. And don’t listen to the hype. Others may say how great, how talented, how wonderful, how amazing you are. Maybe you are, but don’t let your ego inflate. Stay humble, and always look to grow and evolve. You have a unique story to tell, so just spill it.

10. Do With What You Have
Stop going on and on about ideal conditions. Conditions will never be ideal. You seem to believe that only when you have the time, the beautiful 1000 square foot studio, the expensive set of Maimeri Blu Watercolors, the new laptop with the ultra fast processor, or the exquisite fountain pen, you’ll be able to make art, write, or create. Even if you had all that, you still need to do the work. It’s not the materials. It’s not the space or the time. It’s about making. Grab what’s at hand and make. Picasso did amazing sculptures using cardboard and paintings on newspaper. Don’t have the exquisite hand-bound, Italian journal with the leather cover, so what. Write or draw on the back of envelopes. Make do with what you have. Make and do. That’s what’s important.


I've been reading a lot lately about creativity, namely Ken Robinson's The Element and Patti Digh's Creative is a Verb. I have also been thinking about the role creativity has in my classroom and what my role is as the teacher to bring that creativity out in my students. And finally, I have been having many conversations with friends and colleagues on the subject as well. I am always amazed how a confluence of events can swirl around an important issue in one's life. A friend of mine would call it synchronicity.

Both Robinson and Digh make it a point to say that we are all creative no matter what we have been told by education, society, or our own inner voices. And when we tap into, accept, and embrace that natural well of creativity, we can begin to live our lives deeply and with meaning. Sir Ken shares many stories of celebrities, musicians, sports figures, and academic figures. Patti uses personal stories and her own struggle to be fully alive in her skin. I haven't read all the way through either book, but one thing keeps coming up in the reading, conversations, and my own thoughts. And that is the way that many of us reduce and diminish our own luminous creativity - how we refuse to shine.

Patti puts it this way, "We minimize ourselves in so many ways, and stop ourselves from living our most creative life -- or owning that we are creative beings just because we are alive. Often without realizing it."

The above spread was an exploration on this very idea that I did for the Illustration Friday prompt Pale nearly two years ago. Click here to see the original post. We diminish our gifts and our talents and fade into the background and refuse to shine even though we have so much to share - so much to offer the world. Yet we make up rules and excuses. We compare ourselves to others and deny that which makes us uniquely unique. We look at the negatives and negate the positives because somewhere someone told us that we weren't good enough, weren't talented enough, weren't creative enough, weren't suppose to shine. And we were young enough to believe, and for all these years we have been playing that soundtrack in our minds believing that we are never enough. "Why should we even try?" we ask ourselves. "There are those special people that it's just so easy for, and I'll never be one of those. I'll never be an artist, writer, singer, entrepreneur, or mathematician." And even when we venture to put ourselves out there, we are afraid that we will be discovered a charlatan and fraud. We can't see our own luminosity because we filter our perceptions through these stories that we have been telling ourselves for years. And the scary thing is that someone squelched that creative spark in us. Sometimes in a very direct and mean way, but often in a seemingly harmless remark. I bet if we all look back through our lives we can find examples of the remarks and actions of others have snuffed the creative flame, and we can find instances where they have fanned the flame and sparked our creativity and passion. Why do we focus on the negative?

So, when will we realize that we have so much to offer the world simply because we are human and we seek connection in order to share that which sparks us? We are not alone out there, and if we shine bright enough we might be able to see exactly how un-alone we are as our light falls on the faces and hearts of others.


I just wanted to post a random journal spread from journal #12. This spread evolved over a long period of time from a lot of random juxtapositions. Some of the random fodder consists of small watercolor experiments, to-do lists, a delivery notice from FedEx, and a magazine image. Some of the random drawing consists of the stylized face and tracings of various stencils.

Although this spread was fashioned from disparate elements, it derives meaning from the list of questions on the right-hand page.

JFJ in Norfolk

This past week, Dave and I enjoyed giving a presentation and two hands-on workshops at the Virginia Art Education Association Fall Professional Development Conference in Norfolk, VA. After a long drive in the rain on Thursday, we enjoyed an enthusiastic group in a hands-on workshop where we shared some tips and techniques for layering in the journal. On Friday, we presented about our journey to the visual journal and the book to a packed room where people filled the chairs, lined the walls, and sat on the floor, and on Saturday, we did a repeat performance of our hands-on workshop to another group of wonderful art educators.

Over the years, we have done a lot of these presentations and workshops at various conferences and conventions, and the enthusiasm, excitement, and personal experiences of the attendees still shocks me. I'm not sure why, but I guess that the journal has been such a part of my life for so long that the power of it seems to be almost commonplace. And to see the excitement and to hear the stories is almost overwhelming and always powerful. It is for all those wonderful people who show up eager to hear what we do that keeps us doing what we doing.

The Journal Fodder Junkies will continue to spread the power of the visual journal in education and in life. Thanks again for all of the support that everyone has given us over the last five or six years. We are simply two guys speaking our truth.

The above spread consists of notes and fodder from the conference.