Artist Spotlight

How art journaling saved Debbie Bamberger

Debbie Bamberger is a nurse practitioner in California. She has been caring for women and providing sexual and reproductive health care for over 25 years, hence her obsession with all things vaginal. She lives with her husband and two sons. In her spare time, all she wants to do is art journal.

What is your creative story?

I am a nurse practitioner and have been working in the field of sexual and reproductive health since I was 19 years old. Before two years ago, I didn’t have any creative outlet or think of myself as artistic at all. I took one graphic design class in college and one life drawing class shortly after graduate school, and that was it. One day in 2016, my friend Nancy asked me if I wanted to take an online art journaling class that she had been taking. I didn’t know what art journaling was, but I thought it sounded interesting. The class was taught by a teacher in Michigan who sent out 3 prompts a week along with some tips and suggestions. I really loved it and kept doing that for about a year. In February of 2017, I had hip replacement surgery and was out of work for 6 weeks, which coincided with the 100 Day Project, a free global art project where participants commit to doing something creative every day for 100 days and posting it on Instagram. I chose to make an art journal page every day, and I did it. And then I never stopped! Through that process I discovered Get Messy and have found the most supportive, encouraging, creative community imaginable!

Why do you love creating?

I love art journaling. I tried written journaling many times over the years and only kept it up for about a week, and I hated going back and reading it. With art journaling, I am working out intense feelings and experiences on the page, but when other people see it, they don’t know the details of what I’m processing. When I’m working on a page, I feel driven to finish it. It’s extraordinarily satisfying to look back on my art journals. About 3 months after I started art journaling, I went through a very painful experience in my life. I think art journaling saved me. I ended up burning a couple pages in a ritual many months later, and that was also very helpful in my process.

Describe your creative process. Do you have rituals to making?

I work best with prompts and tutorials. I like to have some creative nudge to get me going, although I also do make pages “just because.” I don’t have any particular rituals, but as of this summer, I have my own, very own art studio in my house, and that has been transformative for my process.

What tips do you have for beginners?

I recommend taking a basic art journaling class, either online, in person, or with a book. It’s great to see examples of different techniques and materials when you’ve never art journaled before.

✨ Free class for creatives ✨

In How to Start Art Journaling, we’ll walk you through the art of art journaling, including how to start doing (🙌) and make your very first art journal page (even if you’ve never even opened an art journal before).

How do you find time to make things?

I have two sons who are 12 and 16, a partner, a dog, a gecko, and a job I love, which means my creative process has to fit in to the limited slots I have for it. I often get up early to art journal, or stay up late, but the best time is when no one else is home and no one needs me. I only work part-time, so I’m lucky enough to have some windows during the week when everyone else is at school or work.

What is your biggest struggle or barrier to creating and how do you overcome it?

My biggest struggle is my inner critic. She is very loud. She says, “You don’t know how to draw. You will never make pages as beautiful as X’s. You shouldn’t be using magazine images. You should try different/better/more things.” The biggest way around her is my Get Messy and Instagram community. I get so much love, compliments, support and encouragement when I post my pages. It really keeps me going.

How do you go from beginner to expert?

Just keep doing it, trying new supplies and techniques, adding layers, and getting involved with the online art journaling community.

Do you feel like your art reflects your personality? How do you get it to look like you?

I have a few themes that show up a lot in my art journaling: love/relationships, Judaism, and reproductive justice. I use a lot of poetry, particularly Mary Oliver, Nayyirah Waheed, Rupi Kaur, and Nikita Gill. I don’t see my pages having a certain style, but I do feel very connected to them and do think they represent me and my inner world pretty well.


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Debbie Bamberger

Debbie is a sexual and reproductive health nurse practitioner in Berkeley, California. She began art journaling in 2016 with no prior art experience. Debbie lives with her partner and their two teen boys and is pursuing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree at the University of California, San Francisco.

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