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Student's Guide to Keeping an Art Journal, The Review by Diane Whealer

Barry Stebbing
How Great Thou Art

Every once in a while something happens in life to bring about big changes. We usually do not see it coming, but looking back we can say, “Aha! That is when it all began.” I had just such an experience this spring. I was at a homeschool convention with my fellow-staff writer Heather Jackowitz. We were meeting vendors and looking at curriculum, but I was finding the noise, the crowds and the amount of curriculum options a little overwhelming. We came around the corner and found Barry and Saundra Stebbing from How Great Thou Art. Barry had just written a great article for The Old Schoolhouse Magazine and we needed to give him copies of it. Heather struck up a conversation with the Stebbings while I wandered around the booth. Sitting on the display table was a book, a large journal-type volume, and on the front of the book was the title, Farm Journal. Curious, I opened the book. Now, if this were Hollywood, the scene would get more dramatic. The crowd would fade away, the music would swell, the lights would focus on me and on Barry’s journal. I truly felt transported to another place. I have had two desires building in my heart for many years: one is to be able to draw and the other is to discipline myself to write reflectively on a regular basis. I looked through each page, at Barry’s sketches, photos, and journal entries and thought, “This is what I have needed.” I came home with my journal, drawing supplies, and the dates for an upcoming art class with Barry in our town. Four of my children attended the art class with me, and we found ourselves with new friends and mentors in the Stebbings. This summer we are all, from Daddy on down to our four-year-old son, spending time three days a week working on our art journals.

What exactly is an art journal? Well, it is a book that includes artwork and personal reflections. Your book can have a specific theme (a vacation or spiritual reflections for example) or cover a certain period of time. In the examples that Barry provides, there are different amounts of writing and drawing, using color and black and white. The purpose is to see and to express with words and artistic creativity. As Barry says in his introduction, “We realize that many of you have a strong desire to do something more worthwhile with your time than being entertained by the media of this fast paced generation, to nurture and develop the abilities which God has given you. So, this book has been created for you - those of you who have a desire to reach a higher goal, to dig deep within yourself.”

The first chapter of The Student’s Guide is “The First Step,” which includes information on how to begin, what to write and what to draw. This chapter also discusses vocabulary, copying the masters, pasting items in journals, and several samples of student work are included. The other chapters are “Penmanship,” “Format,” “Recommended Art Materials,” “Drawing 101 (Pencil),” and “Pen & Ink and Colored Pencils.” Throughout the book are examples from Barry’s journals, inspirational quotes from authors and artists, and exercises to help with practice.

One reminder: The Student’s Guide to Keeping an Art Journal is not an art instruction course; it is about art journaling. There are basic, introductory techniques taught, but Barry has written other excellent materials for all ages that provide instruction on drawing, painting, the use of colored pencils, markers and more. You may contact How Great Thou Art at 1-800-982-DRAW, or at for more information about Barry’s instructional materials or to purchase The Student’s Guide to Keeping an Art Journal.

Our time in history will be known for cellular communication, emails, telemarketers and buckets of junk mail. We can easily live our lives in constant communication with someone, but where is the time for quiet and stillness? There is a call within my heart to raise children that are able to use technology as a tool, but to still be called apart for reflection. I want my children to be able to be quiet, to observe, to watch the clouds, to know where God is on dark and lonely days. I want them to dig into the Scriptures, into good books, to listen to great music, and to be inspired. I want them to know themselves and express the creativity that God has planted in their hearts. This summer we have pulled back from the beckoning of summer frenzy, taken a brief break from the endless list of things to do, and are spending time in our art journals. It is only a half hour or an hour three days a week, but we are hearing little voices around the property, “Hey, did you see the chair I drew?” “Wow, Mom, that’s Daddy. I can really tell.” “Di, I actually drew a leaf for the first time in my life!” The creative drive that is God-given is coming alive in each of us. Even with the long list of subjects we plan to cover in our schooling, time for art and journaling will continue to be a priority for us. Thank you, Barry. We are inspired.

-- Product Review by: Diane Wheeler, Senior Staff Writer, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine