How to Start an Art Journal

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Many of us have tried to keep a journal at some point in our lives.

But have you ever considered taking it up a notch and starting an art journal instead?

what is art journaling

Most of us started in the phase where a journal was still called a diary. It had a tiny lock and you’d hide it in your room, because somewhere in those pages you’d confessed your undying love for a classmate.

Adult journaling is pretty much the same thing, even if the subject matter has changed somewhat.

In an average journal, you’ll write about your day, future plans, worries… it’s a place to organize your mind.

But sometimes just plain writing gets a little dull — especially if you’re a creative. If that’s you, it might be time to express yourself in an art journal instead…

What is Art Journaling?

Art journaling might be just the thing to add some spice to your daily journal.

Don’t worry; nobody is expecting you to write down the various techniques of the old art masters.

Although, you can glance at the work of artists like da Vinci for inspiration, since technically, they kept art journals.

Making an art journal is like writing a normal journal, except you add art.

How you do this is entirely up to you.

You can draw pictures for each day, add some scrapbooking, use paint or dried flowers… even intermixing all of these is entirely allowed, because just like other journals, this one is entirely yours.

This means you don’t need to feel pressured to make ‘good’ art, since nobody else has to see what you’ve been doing.

Art journaling is a wonderful way of winding down after a hard day and getting some order in your mind by letting it out on paper.

Making a Mixed Media Art Journal

Gather Your Materials

Step one and two are very simple and can be done without even leaving the house.

Step one is finding something to journal in: a notebook or journal you’ve already been writing in works well. If you don’t have something suitable, and are feeling uncertain about buying a new book for this, a few sheets of paper are good for practice.

If you plan on using a lot of wet materials, make sure to choose appropriate paper.

The second step isn’t a trip to the art shop, unless you want it to be. Odds are you’ll already have a lot of supplies lying around.

Gather up your old markers, glue, glitter, and other things you feel are useful.

Old painting supplies also come in handy, as well as a pair of scissors.

Find Your Favorite Material

Maybe you already have a favored material you can never give up.

Or maybe you’re just getting start with art in general, and you still need to find your favorite material.

Part of the fun in art journaling is messing around and experimenting, so take the time to mess up your first few pages.

Art journals can be as messy as you want, and there’s no need to feel bad about when you don’t get it perfect.

These first try-out pages let you find something comfortable, a material you can fall back on for those days when you’re not feeling the artistic flow.

art journalling

By Doug Beckers (CC BY-SA 2.0 licence)

Get Creative and Inspired

We have our materials, and we’ve gotten some practice done.

The fun part about being creative and keeping an art journal is that you can try new things without having to stick with them if you don’t like it.

You can try varying materials that are connected to your favorite material – if you like drawing with pencils, give charcoal a try – or think completely out of the box.

Painters can try working with scrapbook material, and adding glitter or even yarn to your journal makes things more colorful.

A lot of people like sharing their favorite materials and methods online, and a quick search is sure to give you a ton of new ideas that will get you excited.

The fun part about having a few pages filled is that you can leaf through them and get inspired. If you’re in a funk and could use a quick pick-me-up, seeing the things you’ve had fun with in the past could be just the thing you need to get you back in the game. By dating your entries, you can get a feel of how much you’ve improved since then.

Art Journal Ideas

So we have the necessary ingredients to get started, but what are we going to actually put in the journal?

As said before, an art journal is basically a journal, which means it’s going to be used to suit your needs. And your needs only.

art journal prompts

By Constanza (CC BY 2.0 licence)

Putting in your name is a good idea, and if you plan on taking your book outside with you, a phone number or address. But that’s the basics, and doesn’t really require creativity on your part.

If you’re not feeling inspired yet, here’s a short list of helpful art journal prompts that can get you started.

  • Write your name/address in calligraphy
  • Choose a theme; this doesn’t need to be a diary. Record your nature walks, favorite dog breeds, recipes…
  • Title your newest entry with your favorite word, and use yarn to write it on the page
  • Write about an event in your day and illustrate it
  • Choose a color that feels important to you now, and decorate a page with it
  • Draw a comic about something that made you happy
  • Pick a quote, and draw it in various colors on one page
  • Start doodling, and see where it takes you
  • Try writing in new letter styles
  • Make art of a show you love, or write a scene you wanted to see
  • Draw a map that doesn’t make sense. Fill it with dragons, fairies and your best friends.
  • Write down a list of things. Choose a theme like red, big, favorites…
  • Make a record of your favorite jokes, and try depicting them in different ways like text, doodles, abstract painting…

Here’s a great YouTube video full of art journal ideas as well:

Whether you’re a pro artist or just discovering your talents, keeping a journal is a fun way to see how you’ve evolved. By practicing your art every day, you’ll get better bit by bit.

And yes, writing is an art too, so it can only benefit from this kind of thing. Leafing back through your journal lets you see the way you’ve come.

Here’s a few art journal prompts that we like to use:

art journal ideas

So don’t be afraid to add a splash of color to your usual blue ink.

Trying new things keeps you stimulated and breaks the daily grind, and this gives you an excuse to mess around with new art forms.

It doesn’t matter you haven’t mastered them; all that matters is that you liven up your journal and make writing more fun.

What does your art journal look like?


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