Art journaling my way
My art journal is where I leave my thoughts, my worries and fears. It’s also somewhere I can test new ideas and experiment with colour and drawing. I work through tough days and celebrate my achievements. The act of sitting down to journal creates a safe place for me to rest, reflect or just take time for myself. In more than 10 years of journals, they have proved their worth.
One of the things I love about journaling is being able to look back at them. I see how far I’ve come. They are records of my art but also visual diaries that I have come to treasure. Here I’ll explain a bit about my art journal process but know that journals are so personal that there is no right or wrong. If my way doesn’t suit you, there are many resources online so you can search for something that resonates with you.
What is an art journal?
An art journal is a book, either bought, handmade or upcycled, that is used to create a record of and with visual art. It can be a place to play and reflect, a sketchbook, a diary or even a showcase of your art work.
An art journal is really what you want it to be but it usually fits the following:
- A paper journal which can be handmade, purchased or upcycled
- A combination of art mediums to create images, sketches, drawings and abstract art
- Likely to include text as well as images
- Uses colour, pattern, mark making, collage and other techniques with words for self expression
Why do it?
The benefits of art journaling are many and well documented. I personally find art journaling to be therapeutic for my mind and a way to feed my soul. My journal is somewhere to test new ideas and experiment with colours but it’s also where I leave my thoughts, my worries and fears. I work through tough days but also celebrate my achievements! Working fast and loose is good for me, it keeps me authentic because I can’t plan too much or censor myself either! I love to look back at them and see how far I’ve come. They are visual diaries that I have come to treasure.
How do I art journal?
The easy answer is this. Grab a journal and some art supplies. Sit down somewhere quiet. Your mission is to just use those art supplies in your journal. Whether it’s half a page of pen doodles or 10 pages of paint splatters, it doesn’t matter. Your mission is to just to put something on the paper. You don’t need to be “good at art”, whatever you think that is. You don’t need to have expensive supplies. It’s just you and the journal. The journal is your friend and it’s not going to judge you. You shouldn’t either!
Art supplies are so varied and are available for every budget. Choose whatever appeals to you. If you have felt tip pens, crayons or ball point pens at home then you can art journal. Use your favourite supplies. If you’re just starting, I suggest you try inexpensive paper, an art supply that adds colour and something you can write with as a minimum. The only guidance is that lighter, thinner paper is not the best friend of lots of paint or water. If you’ve got some gorgeous mixed media supplies you’ve been afraid to use, a journal can help you to get familiar with these. I will write more about the supplies I use and why in another post.
A note about paper and journals
You can art journal on any paper, make your own journals from scraps or junk mail or buy beautifully bound watercolor sketchbooks. Do what works for you. A little advice though, if you think you’re going to use a lot of paint or wet art supplies, heavier paper is better for you, such as watercolor paper. Thinner papers do not hold much water and can quickly fall apart. I like to use cheaper journals with cartridge paper. They can’t take much paint but they don’t feel so precious that I’m afraid to use them.
What do I journal about? Am I supposed to draw something?
The answer really is anything you like but having so much freedom can be quite paralysing! Journals can be messy, abstract, full of doodles or of finely detailed drawings. One of my favourite techniques is to scribble down my thoughts and then create an abstract paint and ink image over the top, hiding my more personal thoughts. Daily journaling often reflects on the day or on immediate feelings.
Some people like to draw faces in their journals. Self portraits are common as a way of processing or expressing feelings but these do not need to be realistic. They can also be idealized or fantastical such as goddesses or fictional characters. Art journals are a great place to practice drawing faces as your progress can be followed easily.
If you don’t want to draw that’s great. Try making patterns, splattering paint or sticking in cut outs. Keep reading for some more ideas for getting started.
Am I supposed to share my journals?
Not unless you want to. Many art journals are very private and sharing them does not feel comfortable. However, some journal pages can be a brilliant way to communicate how you feel to someone when you can’t find the words yourself. If you want to share them, there are many art journaling groups online to inspire you, guide you and support you.
Are my pages supposed to mean something?
Many of my art journals contain very meaningful pages and very emotional memories. However, they are also used for testing art supplies, practicing techniques, experimenting with ideas and even scribbling down notes and thoughts. I like to keep all of this in one current journal. Some people like to have different journals for different things. Your art journal has to be for you before anything else, so make it your way. You can choose a different way at any time.
I have first page/new journal fear
Oh yes, fear of the blank page. Even professional artists experience this! The fear of making a mess, doing the wrong thing, not being good enough or even “I’m not an artist”? There are things you can do to make it easier.
Themed journals can be a fun way to get started. It gives a boundary to work to and can reduce the overwhelm. Try themes such as daily reflections, favourite quotes or lyrics, a colour scheme or use your journal to learn to draw something specific. Whatever your “thing” is, start your journal with that. I’ll have another post about journal themes and prompts later.
If you have first page nerves try starting in the middle! Open your journal half way and start. Scribble something, splatter some colour, glue something in, just do it.
If you don’t like what you do, it’s ok, you just learned something you don’t like. You can paint over it or leave it as a reminder of the day you were brave enough to try! Remember, your journal is not supposed to be perfect. It’s your story, your journey, your progress. Learn to love the imperfect pages for what they teach you. If you must, paint over them but never throw them away. Keep going!
Final tips for art journaling
- Know that you will make pages you don’t like or even finish. That’s really ok.
- If you feel overwhelmed or stuck give yourself boundaries e.g 5 minutes with a black marker, a turquoise watercolor and some paper scraps and glue.
- Take the pressure off, if you don’t want to or can’t journal today that’s ok.
- Let go of your expectations and enjoy the process, your journaling will change and grow.
I’ll be posting more about my art journaling process and how I’ve refined it to work for me. If there’s something here you’d like to know more about, contact me and let me know. I’d love to help.