Thanksgiving Tablescape and Gratitude Journaling with Mou Saha

When I started gratitude journaling some twelve years ago, I was in dire need of a perspective shift. My days were filled with various children and household responsibilities and design deadlines. Outside looking in, my life looked full and bright, but in my heart of hearts, underneath the cheerful mask, I was miserable. My health suffered and I was a distorted shadow of myself. This is when I came upon the idea of mindful living.

An image of Mou’s art-journaling process

I began to observe and acknowledge the beauty that my life held and started taking stock of the small things – I smiled when I heard my son’s mispronunciations of everyday words, how our poodle sniffed all the dandelions on his walks, how awful the kids and I sounded singing together, drowning out the car stereo while driving home from karate and I started writing these things down.

Around those words, I doodled a little, then I started smearing some paints and before long, I had a small basket full of art journals that held accounts of my awe at the wonders of life. In my gratitude art journals, I wasn’t concerned about the beauty of the visual output or what products and tools I used. I used words, images and symbols that spoke to me. My consciousness had begun to shift, and I was detaching from my plan. It was not smooth; it did not happen in one fell swoop, but I was becoming aware of the blessings that I had taken for granted and I felt grateful.

Gratitude art journaling gave me the courage to expand my creativity beyond the sketchbooks and scrapbooks, into decorating, gifting, and celebrating. It became a way of communicating my affection to others. I am still essentially a paper-and-paint artist, but I feel what I make can be easily translated to other materials and media. For the upcoming Thanksgiving meal, I have planned an easy tablescape using what I have. You can expand or contract the design idea based on your needs.

Here are the supplies I used –
Unfinished craft pumpkins in assorted sizes (real ones would also work great)
Acrylic paints, paint brushes and painting water
Watercolor paper
Pencil, eraser, scissors/craft knife
Optional – candles, unfinished wood acorns, metal acorn bells, wooden bowls – things that pair well with your table cover, napkins, dinnerware, and silverware.
If you don’t have any such accessories, your local thrift store may be a good place to start collecting some basics. Let me walk you through the steps.

Apply acrylic paint to the unfinished artificial pumpkins. Real pumpkins can also be painted.

Add a touch of festive glam to the pumpkins by making simple marks with metallic paints or markers.

Draw a cascade of leaves with pencil on watercolor paper and color them with your choice of acrylic paints and what works best with your dinnerware, tablecloth, etc. You can expand or contract this design depending on the shape and size of your table. Draw more leaves on more sheets of paper or draw smaller or larger leaves. I painted two sets for my table.

Once the paints dry, cut the designs out with sharp scissors or craft knife taking necessary precautions to protect yourself and your work surface.

Choose your favorite kind of leaf and draw them on watercolor paper. We plan to use them as place cards – draw as many as you need. Paint them. Write the names with paint and brush or use markers.

Cut out the leaves with scissors and you may also use the back of these leaves to write a personal thank you note for each person. To create the tablescape, I like to start with laying down the table runners or tablecloth and then add the place settings before creating a centerpiece. I ensure that there’s adequate space for the plates first and then add decorations. I prefer shorter centerpieces so that I can see everyone and I like unscented candles that do not interfere with the flavor of the food.

Once the plates are in place, lay out the painted leaf cut-outs in the center. Place the candles. Arrange the pumpkins. Scatter the acorns. Keep it simple.

Here are some closeups of my tablescape. Adding personal touches to the tablescape not only gives you the opportunity to express your creativity but also makes it extra-special for those who join you at the table.

Gratitude is not just for a season. It is a practice of a lifetime. If you are overwhelmed and don’t know where to start, it might help you to watch my class Gratitude Art Journal: A Daily Practice on Creativebug where I offer thirty prompts to use daily. You are not limited to these prompts or my creative techniques, but they will give you a starting point and you can revisit any and all of the prompts as often as you wish.

With that, I thank you for joining me on this journey of practicing gratitude and Creativebug for bringing us together. Happy Thanksgiving if you celebrate and happy gratitude art journaling to all!