How Ali Brown discovers herself through art journaling
What is your creative story?
I have been a person that creates in many different ways. As a child, I started singing in church for specials and learned how to play the guitar when I was 7. I grew up thinkin’ that is where my creativity ended. In high school, I fell in love with storytelling through photography and after my boys were born, began a career taking portraits. My business became very successful and lasted until we had to move. Photography was, and still is, my passion. After moving to Texas from Montana, I lost all my clients and was having a rough time starting my photography business in San Antonio. Right when I started to get some movement with my business in 2015, I had put my first video on YouTube. I was never an organized person in terms of my time and so planning was not natural for me. There was this challenge called ‘One Book July’ and all these different ladies were showing their planner setups and I thought, “Why not?” After that month’s challenge and a few videos, my husband’s channel (that I took over) grew from 24 subscribers to nearly 1,000! People wanted more videos but I didn’t have the time to grow my photography business and be a ‘YouTuber’ so I had to make a choice. At the time, my family was living in a couple of Sunday school rooms in a very old Methodist church. Rent was super cheap so it felt like it was safe for me to let my photography dream go and start down this visual arts journey. I started with planning but then combined my love for photography with my personal journal and created videos on my journaling. I would add Tim Holtz distress stains on the page, tip in a photo or two and call it good. Over the next couple years, I fell in love with watercolors and even tried my hand at drawing. This whole art world is so new to me. I basically turn on the camera, try something for the first time and let all the mistakes happen. No editing. Lots of laughs. I have learned so much from sharing my creative journey with others via YouTube videos and Patreon. I now know that abstract and expressionism art is my love language. I am a sucker for loose contour-y florals. I have learned that I am NOT a realism artist and I am absolutely ok with that. I love bright colors and a wandering line. I am still discovering so much about myself on this journey and it’s not over yet.
Why do you love creating?
I find that I get lost in colors and marks. There’s transcendent moments when I feel like the the lines are making the decisions and I’m just observing. It’s like time doesn’t even exist when I’m creating… whether in be in art, photography or in music. With how much I have going on in my life: providing for my family financially, homeschooling my two boys and directing the worship teams for our ministry… journaling and art, when done for myself, is a place where my soul can get refreshed and I can escape from my busy reality for a bit.
What tips do you have for beginners?
Take risks. Don’t be afraid of failure. Those times that your art doesn’t turn out exactly as you had planned are beautiful opportunities to learn for the next time. It’s great to be inspired by others, but don’t get caught in the trap of comparison…comparing what you create to what someone else does. Comparison will steal the joy in your journey. When inspired by someone else’s work, figure out WHY you are drawn to it. Is it a particular range of colors? Is it the loose lines? Is it the emotion within the piece? Take note of it and experiment by incorporating those single attributes to your own art. Hang your art on the wall. Be proud of it.
What do you do when you don’t know what to make?
I take, what I call, ‘Joy Notes.’ When something makes me SUPER happy as I create, I write it down. Whether it be a color combo or a specific order of techniques in a piece… I try to be intentional about taking notes on what gives me joy while I create. When there’s a time when I feel stumped… I go to my Joy Notes and create something from my notes.
✨ 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?
There is a hard truth that I am going to say here: You TAKE time for things that you value. If you don’t value making art, you will not take time for it. I mentioned that I wasn’t natural at time-management before. Over the past few years I have learned the rhythm of productivity and presence. There is no such thing as balance between the two. Balance is an illusion just as perfection is. In nature, rhythms are displayed in waves, seasons, moon phases… your very heartbeat is a rhythm… these two realities, productivity AND presence must be made a rhythm in your own life. I am present in my art. I am not present watching TV. I have to decide what I value more and take responsibility for that choice.
What is your favorite technique? Any tips?
My favorite technique would have to be adding any sort of line work to a journal page or art piece. I love loose lines and the freedom I feel and impart to my work by those loose, messy lines.
My tip for any mark making or line work would be to not overthink it. Try to silence thoughts of ‘ruining it’ and let intuition take over. Where does the line want to go? What does it want to say? Lines can express so much emotion on a page or piece of art.
What are your must have supplies?
I am lost without my Daniel Smith watercolors. I also love my mark making tools: various widths of graphite (0.3mm – 2mm) for line work, china markers in both white and black and a white gel pen. If I’m working on abstracts, I must have a palette knife close by and black acrylic ink for some bold contrast.
Do you feel like your art reflects your personality? How do you get it to look like you?
I am still so new to art and am trying to express myself as authentically as I can. I do think that my art will always be evolving as I learn and grow. My personality tends to get bored easily and I see that in my art. One month I could be only painting abstracts and then next I will be on a portrait kick dabbled with some sweet owls… the next month I will be all about florals. In high school, no one could peg what ‘style’ I was. I would come to school looking preppy with a ribbon in my hair one day and grungy with a wallet chain the next. I do believe I am the same way in my art. I just want to express all. the. things. haha!
Like I had mentioned before, the one thing that helped me to figure out my ‘style’ (honestly, I still think I’m figuring it out), was to take note of WHY I liked a person’s work. I looked at all the people I was inspired by and gathered the one thing that brought me the most joy from their work. These were ‘ingredients’ that I used to make my own art recipes. Some turned out yummy to my eye and others were a big flop. I learned from those flops and just kept experimenting and trying. I am so grateful for all I have learned and am going to keep pushing myself to explore more and more. Exploration yields growth and I never want to stop growing as an artist.
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Ali Brown is a wife, mother, teacher, intercessor, singer, musician, photographer, filmographer and artist. She is a life scribe who has kept a journal for as long as she can remember. Ali’s passion is to encourage people to see the beauty in their life and to write it down in a creative and artistic way.