Art Journaling FAQ
This art journaling FAQ is for beginners getting stuck. The following questions have come up in my journaling class so I’m sharing them here in the hope that they help someone else. If you have another question about journaling, leave me a comment or get in touch.
How do I choose my journal?
There are three things I consider when choosing a journal. Journal size, paper weight and choice of art supplies. You might have other requirements too.
Do you want to carry your journal around? Do you want to use flat double spreads? Would a spiral binding be an advantage or an obstacle? Does it need a hardback? Think about what size will work for you, there are many types available in a range of prices.
What are your favourite art supplies or think about what you might use in your art journal. Do you prefer collage, watercolour or maybe coloured pencils? Mix up your media as much as you like but look if any of them need to use a lot of water. Using wet media such as paint, collage or water spray needs particular paper.
Heavier paper takes water better. It’s thicker and sturdier but also heavier to carry around. You usually get fewer sheets for your money too. Lighter paper such as cartridge paper or thinner, doesn’t take water well but can be enough for pencil, charcoal, ink and light collage. Choose paper to match your supplies if you can. Lighter papers can disintegrate or warp and wrinkle with heavy use.
My journal is so clean I don’t want to spoil it!
Common among artists everywhere, fear and self doubt. Thankfully there are things you can try to reduce the pressure of that first page. Try these ideas until you find what works for you.
- Start in the middle of your journal
- Draw on loose paper and glue that into your journal
- Use a theme such as quotes, nature or a colour palette to guide you
- Make random scribbles and marks and use them to create a background
- Paint a page your favourite colour
- Write your intentions for the journal on the first page
- Remember, your journal is not supposed to be perfect, so just play!
Should my journals be a set style?
Many artists use journals to find or develop their style rather than have a style before they start. Start how you like and develop as you go. Although a set style can be a rewarding way to practice your skills. Either way you will have a beautiful journal when you’re done.
Are my pages supposed to mean something?
Really no. Many of my art journals contain meaningful pages and emotional memories. However, they are also used for testing art supplies, practicing techniques, sketching, doodling and scribbling down ideas. There’s the odd shopping list in there too! I like to keep all of this in one place. Some people like to have different journals for different things. Some journals are purely a safe place to play! Your art journal is whatever you want it to be, so if you want rules, make your own!
I’m not an artist, how can I journal?
If you can make marks with a pencil or art supply then you can art journal. You don’t have to draw realistically, understand colour theory or anything else when you start. Just start. Drip colour, make marks, play like a child would. Go with the flow and get ready because this art ride is full of surprises!
I see a lot of journal artists drawing faces but I can’t draw.
Some people like to draw faces or figures in their journals. Using portraits is common but these do not need to be realistic. They can also be simple, idealized or fantastical. Art journals are a great place to practice drawing faces BUT faces are not necessary to create your pages.
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 pages can be a brilliant way to communicate how you feel. Art communities can be a safe place for sharing too if you have one.
I don’t like my page, how do I paint over it?
Honestly, I don’t recommend painting over anything but I understand this works for some. I believe that painting over pages we don’t like denies us the opportunity to see our improvements. Ugly pages let us learn from our art mistakes, remind us how far we’ve come and give us perspective on our art. Nobody creates perfect art all the time no matter what social media might have you believe. I once read somewhere that for every 50 paintings created, one will be any good!
However, if you are determined, there’s always Gesso. It’s mostly used to prime canvas and board but it’s useful in covering up the parts or pages you want to hide.
I’ve learned that there are no wrongs with journaling but there are plenty of lessons in finding your own way. Part of my journey involved looking at other artist’s journals, copying their styles or following their tutorials. This is a good way to learn but it’s easy to get stuck making pages that don’t feel personal or authentic. The biggest lesson is to try things and experiment and then take the parts that feel the most satisfying and use those to make your own style.
Most important of all, keep going!