Sarah is a certified Hatha, Vinyasa, & Kundalini yoga teacher. She is an artist who believes in the importance of living a creative life.
Art Journaling: Getting Started
In order to begin your adventure in art journaling you don't need as many materials as you may think. In fact the most basic thing you will require is a composition book, sketchbook, or any other books that you feel comfortable altering. Apart from that a few writing implements is all you need to get started. Other materials that I recommend are gesso, cheap paint brushes, paint, and any scraps of paper or semi-flat objects that you find interesting-for whatever reason! You will soon discover that your art journal is a diary, sketchbook, and scrapbook all rolled into one.
The art journal is a place of exploration. It allows you to examine your thoughts and put ideas fearlessly onto paper without judgment. The nice thing about an art journal is if you really don't like a page you can simply rip it out or layer on top of it. Nothing in permanent and nothing has to be perfect. When you go about creating your pages I suggest pretending that no one will ever see them. This lifts off a bit of the pressure you may be feeling. This journal is for you and no one else unless you choose to share it. It can be as lighthearted or serious as you want it to be. The important thing to remember is that it is yours.
Choosing a Format That Is Right for You
When you choose what kind of journal you wish to have, there are a few things to consider. If you want to do a lot of writing a lined composition book may be the solution for you. Perhaps you want more visual elements or a freer form a writing in which case a blank sketchbook would be perfect. For those who fear blank white pages staring them in the face, an old hardback book may be just the right fit. Use gesso to block out unwanted text or lines. Apply thinly if you wish some of the underlying images to show through or more thickly for a blank start.
The First Step Is Always the Hardest
After you have chosen and prepared your journal of choice it is time to jump right in! For some this may be the hardest part. There are several ways in which you can overcome this fear of beginning. First I would recommend making several background pages in your journal. There are many techniques you can use such as stamping, stenciling, or simply laying out blocks of color on the page. Getting some paint on the page is a great way to remove the scary white page that often stares us in the face.
One technique that I like to use for starting out a journal is making miniature boxes. Each day choose a box and fill it with content of your choice. This could be random doodles or a serious portrait. The idea is that you are using you creative juices to create something new every day. After some time has passed you will have a full spread of intriguing designs that document each day you worked in your journal. You may wish to date each piece for future reference.
Another way to get jump started into art journaling is to simply create your own or choose from a plenitude of online journaling prompts. These would include things such as make a list or illustrate what made you happy today, paint the morning sky, or write a letter to your future self. You can have as much or as little text as you want in your journal. Experiment, explore, and investigate, by using your journal as a tool.
Getting inspired isn't always easy. I suggest that you look at other artwork and collect images that strike a chord within yourself. You don't have to understand why you like a piece, just print it out and paste it into a notebook. Look over the images you have assembled and try to find a common thread or what you specifically find appealing about each piece. Use these findings in your own artwork. Other places you can find inspiration could be within nature, literature, or even your own home. Carry a tiny notebook around and jot down anything that makes your heart beat faster. This will give you clues as to what you can do to make your own work do the same thing.
Why Keep an Art Journal?
Why should one keep an art journal instead of just a diary or a sketchbook? Here are some of the benefits to combining both!
- provides visual documentation of your journeys from day to day
- allows for a creative outlet in both visual and literary ways
- exercises your creative muscles
- gives yourself a voice and allows images to speak for you when words seem to fail
- allows for a fun playtime and learning experience with different mediums
- you can create in a safe space without fear of failure
Sarah O'Brien (author) from Pennsylvania on January 11, 2021:
Thank you for sharing your process! What an inspiring and fun way to write. It is interesting how our ways change as we change.
LaZeric Freeman from Hammond on October 01, 2020:
I think that I approach my writing in this fashion. Cutting out pictures from magazines to help me "see" the character better. Especially when I start the story in a earlier timeline -- to have an example of clothing choices or cars or food or clips from a Columbia Music Club .... Its like having a time capsule within my stories. And sometimes trying to find the right image to coincide with the movement on the page, makes the process of filling up a 3 subject or 5 subject spiral a much longer one. And now as move from spirals to leather look hardcover journals and hardcover decorative journals from Walmart/Big Lots/Sam's Club ... The pictures will need to be chosen carefully in order to be able to close the books. So maybe I'll use less photos and more doodling. Anyway, great article.
Sarah O'Brien (author) from Pennsylvania on April 08, 2020:
I am so glad that you are inspired to pick up art journaling again! I hope that you have lots of fun creating and discovering.
Grayson Davis from Amarillo, TX on April 08, 2020:
This is so cool. When I was younger I used to journal like this!!! I'm going to start again!!
Andrew Spacey from Sheffield, UK on May 05, 2014:
Keeping a journal of any sort can be beneficial - your art journal is a special treat and will inspire others to start their own visually creative work.
I've kept notebooks for many years, writing up poems and stories and experiences out walking and on trips to various places. I hope your art journaling continues for many years!
jtrader on April 16, 2014:
This is a good idea.
dearabbysmom from Indiana on April 16, 2014:
I've never even heard of the concept of art journaling, so really enjoyed this! Love the idea of using colors and shapes to show thoughts and feelings. And I like how the artists went back and assigned meaningful sayings to the art. Thank you for sharing!
RTalloni on April 15, 2014:
Thanks for this useful and interesting look at art journaling. You've inspired an idea for my grandchildren that I am now anxious to start. I'm leaning toward lined pages so I can easily write little notes to them, but then again, designing spaces on the pages for that would be great fun…hmmm.