A Creative Release: Turchin Center offers space for creative journaling


Georgia Privott, A&C Reporter

Every Tuesday, people flow into the Turchin Center classroom where wine corks, bubble wrap, dictionaries and magazines are spread on a table. With their heads full of ideas, students gather random materials together to construct a masterpiece of tangible emotion in what they call a visual journal.  

A visual journal is part scrapbook, diary and photo album, and no drawing experience is needed to make one. Martha McCaughey, an App State sociology professor and visual journaler, said she uses her visual journal as a way to express complicated feelings. 

“When I (visually) journal, I feel like I’m transforming how I feel about a situation. Anyone can use a visual journal and move beyond their personal pain into art and insight. It can express whatever mood you’re in and help you process what you’re feeling,” McCaughey said. 

McCaughey is the facilitator for the Turchin Center’s weekly visual journaling open studio and provides supplies, as well as writing and drawing prompts. 

“It seemed like there were all these people hungry to do this. It’s like the difference between going to a yoga class where everyone’s doing yoga, and you’re more motivated to do it than if you just did it on your own, like with a YouTube video,” McCaughey said. 

The group setting is used to share ideas and creative techniques, like drawing with a non-dominant hand or never lifting the pen. 

McCaughey said not being able to draw shouldn’t be a barrier, and using unconventional techniques removes the need for perfectionism. Drawing outside the lines is expected in visual journaling, whether it’s spraying water all over the paper and painting with fingers or gluing together torn out dictionary pages, it’s a way to release stress and built-up angst, McCaughey said.

It’s an eclectic mix of your own personal expression. You don’t have to be a trained artist to harness the power of creative expression.

— Martha McCaughey

“A lot of my stuff recently has been feelings, like I’ll put writing in and a picture next to it to bring more stuff out, like what I’m actually thinking about,” said Emma Fox, a freshman sustainable development major.

Fox, Emma Drummond and Joanne Ferhadi come to the open studio every week to work on their journals. 

A freshman social work major, Drummond started her visual journal in high school, which contains 15 to 25-page prose pieces. Her ideas are based on what materials are provided in each session.

“Sometimes I have things in mind. But, most of the time, it just depends on what materials (McCaughey) has out,” Drummond said. 

McCaughey said having notes with doodles or bright colors on them are more interesting to look back and review. 

“You could use visual journaling to connect what you’re learning across different classes, what you’re learning outside of your formal classes. Like, you went to see a film or a lecturer, and you might write it down. That’s a huge part of learning,” McCaughey said. 

 McCaughey suggested being open to creativity and letting go of the idea that art has to be pretty. 

“It’s an eclectic mix of your own personal expression. You don’t have to be a trained artist to harness the power of creative expression,” McCaughey said. 

The Visual Journaling open studio is free to students and is every Tuesday from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the Turchin Center second floor classroom.