What’s in your sketchbook?

I’m not keeping a visual journal as regularly as I used to.  I still try to write every day in a composition book, first thing in the morning, but since Covid-19 started I’ve been more tired than usual and usually opt to sleep through my writing time.  I’m working on that.

I do keep a sketchbook/visual journal, but I paint a lot on canvas now and don’t try to capture my daily stories in images so much.  I’m using it to work out ideas, to try color options, to practice.  So my last journal lasted from December til yesterday.  I thought I’d share it with you because I believe you can use your journal for anything that you want.

One of the habits that has emerged is to do drawings of Frankd Robinson.  He posts a lot of pictures of himself as he makes his journey through diabetes, kidney dialysis, and learning to walk with prosthetic legs.  He gives me permission and encouragement, and I learn how to draw faces and expressions.

So here is a flip through of most of my latest sketchbook journal.  Some you’ll recognize from previous posts, some I’ve not shown before.  I included a few lists and pages with mostly writing.  I also collect ephemera — labels, tickets, mail, cards, and bits of paper.  Some of it I past in the journal, some on the cover.  Lots of goofs and things I couldn’t quite get a handle on.  But that’s what sketchbooks and visual journals are for.

Even if you don’t get the results you wanted, you have learned to see better.


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Front covered with handmade paper
Inside cover with stamps and stickers
Title Page
Poem by Victoria Ericson
Frankd’s Hand
Frankd Robinson in acrylic
Mary Ruth as she lay dying
A Gift for myself
labels and sloth description
Poem by Rumi
One of Frankd’s selfies
10 minute pencil and marker copy of FD
Lynda Barry’s 5 minute journal entry
practice in pencil
saving my paper fan’s beautiful painting
Gwenn Seemel’s turtle sticker
My sea turtle not so good
Practice with line and watercolor
Misdeliverd mail to Uncle Boo from Toone TN
Practice drawing a pharaoh with amputations


At a zoom meeting
Quick drawing for a plan to put disabled people in Chagall’s Promednade
Conjuring goddesses
Quickies from zoom meeting
Idea for a painting using short thick brush strokes
Bleeding hearts with markers
First version of Rosie The Risk Reducer
My new mask
Myself in pink
New Ink
White Dipladenia in watercolor marker
Nose practice
Eye practice
Ear Practice
Ink lettering practice
Note from my written journal….
Folded up and pasted in the visual journal
Elephant ears and petunias in pencil and marker
Idea for a poem illustrated in walnut ink
2nd page of poem
Frankd in blue ink
Frankd in pencil and acrylic
Copying a magnet of Tim’s from unidentified source
Stolen flowers in marker
Mark in acrylic, painted from a tracing but didn’t turn out well
Mark drawn freehand in pencil from photo
Going to the dr in the new normal
Frankd and friend
A list of what I want to do — too much
End of month sort of selfie
I make a pocket for the journal and put in cards, art show programs, and other junk
Stickers on the back — notice Gwenn Seemel’s sticker homage to our lady bits




This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

If you’d like to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal at my email address joyzmailbox @gmail.com

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

It’s Written All Over Your Face

About the middle of last year, I started painting small faces.  The first four 5×7″ fauve faces I did fit together in a piece I called Peer Pressure.   All of them were done following intuition, using bright unrealistic color, and letting each piece tell it’s own story.

I found I didn’t have the same kind of angst and worry when I painted small.  I just went forward, and if I didn’t like what I was doing, I painted over it and started again.  I now usually keep a 5×7″ canvas close by when I’m painting other things, so I can use the colors on the brushes to get started.  Eventually, each piece takes on a life of it’s own.  Most of the pieces had a statement to make, though some only do so by the expression and colors of their faces.

After an art guide talk with Gwenn Seemel, she suggested that I make a goal of putting them together in a book.   I thought that was a great idea.  I have 16 pieces now and I hope to have somewhere around 30 for the book, which I hope to have finished in the late fall.  The working title for the book is “It’s Written All Over Your Face.”

I am trying to remain intuitive about what I paint, but obviously, what’s going on in our world will influence how the pieces develop, as well as my own goal to paint disability and neuro-diversity.

I’m excited about this project and it’s helped free me from some of the 2020 doldrums that have kept me feeling directionless and powerless.  I expect a masked character or two will show up before long.

Thank you for your support and I look forward to sharing the book’s progress with you.  At this point, all the originals have sold, but some may be available soon.

Their fear muted his power, so he show it only to his family
Let Your Dreams Guide You
He thought by now he’d have it all figured out, but things were more confusing every day
Is there a color that would make me safe?
If you just admitted I’m right, we wouldn’t have these problems!
Sinus City
Hungry Ghost
He went to the garden and never came back
Am I Blue
This was definitely NOT part of the plan
No amount of hatred would put out her fire/freedom
space case
She was always a bit of a Space Case
sacred light
No matter what else happens to you, keep your sacred light
After she was nothing but scars, she bore them proudly to honor all those friends and doctors who put her together again
Don’t know what it’s like to be safe in my own country.  My parents didn’t either.  Maybe my grandkids will.



This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

If you’d like to make a one time donation, you can do so at paypal at my email address joyzmailbox @gmail.com

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

Fear of a Mask?

Rosie the Risk Reducer by Joy Murray

One of the observations  I’ve made about this (sort of) quarantine for COVID- 19, and people’s anger at being forced to stay home, or wear masks, and suddenly find their world much smaller and less in their own control, is that it’s like having a disability.

When you have a disability, there are things you have to do that you don’t want to — medications, assistive devices, and often pain.  You don’t get to go places you went before, you’re stuck, sometimes for the rest of your life.

Many people find making accommodations for you annoying, or not worth the expense.  People try to tell you that if only you took this vitamin, used this meditation technique, or saw this healer or preacher, if you believed, you wouldn’t have the disability.

If you didn’t take the drugs that are helping you, you wouldn’t be as sick because it’s all a plot from big pharma anyway.

You get tons of “information” by people who don’t know you.  Because they don’t have your disease, disorder, or mental condition, obviously it can be overcome by willpower.

One of the most toxic statements I hear from people, even sometimes people with disabilities, is “If I can do it, anyone can.”

I thought about this as I was exercising a few days ago.  I had gotten to where I could do 5 sit-ups pretty consistently every morning.  I was going to try for ten, but I couldn’t even do one.  I squirmed around like a turtle on her back.

Why?  Why after my progress was I back where I started from?  My neurologist said it’s just the nature of my thinning spinal cord and how messages are relayed from my brain to my body.  Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t, and eventually it won’t work at all.  And there’s not a damned thing I can do about it.

Flying Monkey Chair by Joy Murray

But I’m used to these roadblocks in my life.  I learned early on (I was 16 when my disability started) that I would have to work within and around limits and boundaries.

Most people don’t.  Their bodies carry them through life unencumbered by problems.

Now, however, everyone has had their lives disrupted and limited by something they can’t see, and can’t fight, even though they are trying.  Trying so hard to not believe such a thing could happen to them, to us, to the world.

They blame, they are comforted by conspiracy theories, and are determined to not let it alter their perception of themselves, God and politics.

I can understand that.  I think of all the times I tried to deny my own disability, and all the experimental remedies I’ve tried.  My disability wasn’t diagnosed until I was 46, so I went 30 years  not knowing what I had.  Possible Multiple Sclerosis was the best I got, but Abnormal was my diagnosis for decades.

How good or bad I dealt with it through my life was later underscored by a diagnosis of Bi-polar disorder and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder from child abuse, plus the undercurrent of fear in my life from my disability.  One of my first doctors told me that I may be dead by the time I was thirty.

Here I am, though, nearing 60, more alive in many ways than I would be if I had not had this strange disability accompany me through life.

My diagnosis changed a few years ago to Hereditary Spastic Paraplegia. Since then, I’ve gotten much better treatment for my symptoms, and better support for the degeneration that the previous diagnosis didn’t address.

It's complicated
It’s Complicated by Joy Murray

But now I use a wheelchair all the time.  I can’t get into buildings I once did.  I can’t volunteer at places I want to because their buildings aren’t accessible, I can’t go to some restaurants, art galleries, or churches. I can’t visit friends because I can’t get into their houses.  I roll around the neighborhood and am faced with no curb cuts on some sidewalks.  People use the sidewalk to stack all manner of yard waste, garbage, scooters, bikes.

People pity me, preach to me, won’t look at me, or will stare at me.

But it’s no big deal to me anymore.  I survive.  I thrive.  I have negative emotions, but I know they will pass.  I can’t do everything I want, but I do a lot.

Rosie the RN by Joy Murray

So making an adjustment like wearing a mask and gloves in public is easy for me.  I work hard not to succumb to negative feelings about my situation.  I hate that the quarantines have limited me even more, I miss having my friends visit or going out to eat with them.  But I know the restrictions are there for my (and your) health.  It really sucks to be sick.

And viruses, bacteria, and other things we can’t see, all are part of nature, all have a life of their own.  Just like weeds, roaches and ticks.

Don’t take your or my health for granted.  It’s a precious gift, good health.  Don’t lose it over something as trivial and easy as wearing a mask and keeping a social distance from people.  Any new adjustment is hard at first, then it becomes easy.  It becomes that second nature that we all have been blessed with.

Stay safe ya’ll.




This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.

Inspiration Injection

I’ve had a hard time focusing on my work since the quarantines started.  When I got married the last time, my fiance and I took a personality test.  One question was whether or not you adjusted well to change.  He said, yes you do.  And I said no, I don’t.  My life has been plagued by unexpected and mind blowing changes.  I adjust at first, but there’s always a long term bit of depression unleashed that slowly takes over my sense of self.

What I thought might be a unifying fight against a pandemic became another ball of confusion, with conspiracy theories and further politcizing of our healthcare, and more division that I can’t understand.

Then there was the murder of Ahmad Abery, George Floyd, Breanna Taylor, and the full extent of police brutality became intolerable and protests broke out (which I support 100%)

But, yes, ball of confusion, contention and, hopefully, some growth.

And my painting ground to a halt.  Or I lost faith in its significance.

After a week or so of depression, I decided to take some on line tutorials.  One of my favorite artists, Gwenn Seemel, offers a 30 minute art guide session, so I signed up for one.  She works in series and creates books, and seems to keep on with her creative work regardless of the way the world infringes upon her.

It was a great session.  She admitted she too was having some issues creating when the world seemed so contentious.  But she worked on her Baby Sees ABCs series of paintings that has led to a charming new art book by her that features animal portraits and baby names.

She asked me what I found easiest to work on now.  It’s the 5×7″ faces I’ve been painting for almost a year.  I was inspired to start them from a little 5×5″ painting of a face painted by Portland artist Trina Hesson, and by fauvism — using bright color and shapes.

The result has been little paintings almost totally intuitive.  I don’t start out with any particular idea, and if I do, I often paint over that until the painting creates itself.

Gwenn suggested I make them into a book.  I thought that would be a great idea.  I’ve got quite a few of them, and I almost always have a small canvas with me when I paint a larger piece, to drop paint on, to clean paint off the brush.  From there, it’s a matter of picking out shapes, or painting over it until it starts to tell me a story.

I’ve thought about it long enough now to come up with a name for the book, “It’s Written All Over Your Face.”

So I had been procrastinating on a commission and now I’m back to work.  Here are my latest little faces, both painted in the last week.

I’ll show all the ones I’ve painted in a future post and keep you informed on how the book is going.

I’m grateful to Gwenn.  I’m also reminded that a block isn’t really a block, it’s an adjustment period to changes both within and without.  If you think you are blocked, then you begin to feel that you’re somehow failing.  If you think you are resting and restocking your imagination, then you know you are, in fact, working by not working.  Things have to happen in their own time.

Scars by Joy Murray, 5×7″ Acylic and ink  (I’m working on ways to illustrate disability, find the balance between beauty and survival.)


Maybe by Joy Murray 5×7″ acrylic and ink


This blog is brought to you by the generosity of people who support me on Patreon , buy my art, and who support me in so many different ways

Cards and prints on some of my art is available on Redbubble.  

If you find a typo, let me know, and I’ll send you a postcard.