I did not grow up writing in books, with the exception of some textbooks. Books were semi-sacred objects that one did not deface in any way, especially a Bible, which in our house was enormous and sat on a shelf and would have made a great biceps-strengthener, if I’d ever actually picked it up. It did make a very effective leaf-and-flower-presser, due to its impressive girth and weight. But the overall rule while I was growing up was that a written-in book was a ruined book.
Fast-forward to adulthood, when I began studying the Bible in earnest. After some initial hesitation, and following the lead of assorted spiritual mentors, I got over my writing-in-books phobia, swallowed hard, and started writing in my Bible–maybe underlining a phrase that stood out to me, or jotting a clarifying note in the margin. It turns out that, as a tactile sort of person, I learn best with pen or pencil in hand. So note-taking, underlining, and doodling is a way for me to more fully ingest the truths I am learning.
Now I’m taking one giant step further: I’ve started art-journaling in a Bible! One of my favorite Christmas gifts this year was a journaling Bible (mine’s from Crossway; there are others). It’s designed with extra-wide margins practically begging for reader interaction. But instead of just writing in it, I’m going to use it specifically for art-journaling, thus saving my regular Bible for normal reading and study.
Art-journaling helps me grasp onto biblical morsels in a different way. I suppose it’s a form of meditation: turning a particular truth over and over in my mind as I work on expressing it through ink and paint. I know it sounds sort of airy-fairy, but maybe if you’re an artist, you’ll understand. I’m not a visual artist–not in any typical sense–but I do love playing around with color and texture.
For my first entry, borrowing an idea from accomplished Bible-art-journaler Rebekah R. Jones, I chose Joshua 1:9: “Have I not commanded you? Be strong and courageous. Do not be frightened, and do not be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.”
As in Rebekah’s example, the theme that jumped out at me is “Be brave,” so I masked off those letters. I chose dark, shadowy, thundercloud-like colors for the background, because the world is a scary place, but then the letters are in a contrasting light color (a pale peachy color that doesn’t show up well on camera) because Christ is the light shining in the darkness, the way a candle illuminates a dark room. Then I underlined the precise verse, Joshua 1:9, in orange to make it stand out. I don’t know if I’m completely finished with the page yet, but for now I like the way it turned out.
What do you think? Have you ever tried art-journaling (in a Bible or otherwise)? Does it sound interesting? Or does the very idea of using the pages of a Bible (or other book) as an artist’s canvas seem disrespectful? I’d love to hear your thoughts.