Have you ever thought about how all of the twists and turns you have taken in life have led you to the place you are today? What were the consistent ideals and interests in your life that led you to choose one path over another? And now that you know what happened along those paths, where do you want to go in the future?

In the month of of August, I spent a lot of time thinking about these questions as I created a “Life Map” in my monthly art journal.

The idea to do this actually came back in May. My boss challenged our staff to create a “timeline” of our life. He said we should include key moments and events that shaped who we are today. As he described the project, he said we could do it however we wanted — on paper, in a spreadsheet, or we could create something more artistic. He looked at me for this last suggestion, since he knows I even take meeting notes in brightly colored markers!

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On my first attempt, I opted for function over creativity. I wanted to be able to update the timeline in the future, so I decided a Google spreadsheet was the way to go. I created one column for each year of my life. Then, I created rows with categories like “family,” “faith,” “places I’ve lived,” “jobs,” “interests” and “life events.”

A few days after I finished the spreadsheet, I received the art journaling box that I get each month from Let’s Make Art. I couldn’t believe it when I looked inside and realized the month’s them was all about creating a life map. I knew this project wasn’t finished yet.

I have loved all of the monthly themes suggested by Let’s Make Art. (You can see my July theme on heARTwork, my June theme on Nature or my May theme on Animal Advice for Life.) But this one required a whole new level of introspection as I looked back and forward at my life paths, mountain top moments, and the qualities that make me who I am.

I always start my art journal by doing the tutorials suggested by Let’s Make Art. Before I started this journal though, I mapped out what I wanted to include on each page and in what order. I didn’t want to get to the end and realize I had forgotten a major category of my life! I always leave the first page empty until the very end of the project to determine what should go there.

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I knew the first spread needed to be a family tree. I did every page of the journal with the four colors of Holbein Gouache that came in my August art journaling kit.

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One of the tutorials provided by Let’s Make Art for the month included a collage of maps. I decided to use this idea to write down all of the places I have lived.

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Creating a page about my faith journey was probably the most challenging page. It was hard for me to find a way to do this that didn’t seem overly factual, rather than spiritual. I actually had to redo much of this page because water seeped through from another page and smeared my writing the first time. I’m still not completely happy with it, but that’s OK. That’s the beauty of an art journal! It doesn’t have to be perfect!

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The right brain page was another tutorial from Let’s Make Art. This is probably my favorite page in the journal. I just love the composition, colors and style of this page. It was fun to look at my right brain qualities that give me my creativity.

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The center spread was the most intimidating. These are all of the important milestones in my life, such as college, getting married, having kids and my career path.

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After doing the right brain page, I was inspired to also do one for the left brain. When I look at the way I think, it is such a mix of right brain and left brain. I wanted to make this page more black and white and linear. I thought I wouldn’t like this page as much, but it was actually super fun to creatively think about how I could make a page that was straight lines without color.

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Now, the journal is starting to get more serious. I wanted to include some of the mountain top moments of my life. I just chose seven that stood out and seemed super obvious. The only thing I don’t like about this is that some of the defining moments of my life were hard things that I’ve experienced. I forgot to create a space for those.

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I love this page with for my Future Dreams. I will write those on the balloons, but I didn’t want to share them with the world.

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Earlier in August, I had taken an afternoon away by myself and spent some time thinking. I wrote down in my journal some of my “life rules.” They are just thoughts I’ve gathered throughout my life I’ve repeated a million times to myself, to my kids or to other people. I decided to create a page of those and call it my “life mantras.” I wanted to keep going with the map theme so I painted a world map as the background.

By the time I did this page, I had really started to understand how the gouache works. If you add a lot of water, you can use it just like watercolor. However, if you use only a little water, it has an opaque, matte finish. I absolutely love using it and the combo of watercolor and matte on this page.

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Finally, it was time to do both the first and last page of the journal.

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For the first page, I created a page that was all about me. “Who is Emily?”

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For the last page, I journaled all of my “likes.” I had done a page like this back at the beginning of the year, so it was easy to come up with an entire page of things I like!

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I’m so glad I completed this project, but there is no way I would have done it on my own. I’m so thankful that my boss challenged me to create the initial timeline. Once I had done that in a spreadsheet, it made it much easier to work on a creative version. Let’s Make Art gets the credit for inspiring me with creative ideas to make it pretty.

I hope you will be inspired, too!

This was such a fun and meaningful project that I would love to see other people give it a try. Let me know if you accept the challenge!

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