How to start an art journal: I love keeping a visual art journal and think you will too! It’s not as difficult as you’d think. Here’s what I do.
Several years ago I was introduced to the idea of keeping an art journal. The one I started at the time combined my sketches with ideas I had for upcoming projects, snippets of quotes I liked, and many, many bits of paper that I had accumulated that inspired me. (In other words, I finally had a place to put that beautifully designed card, the ad that made me laugh, and the drawing from my mom!)
The part I like most about keeping an art journal is having a hand-held catalog of the things I love. I often flip through my old art journals for inspiration (and admittedly, to be reminded of the projects I have on the back burner!) They reflect different pieces in my life in a way my regular (hand-written) journals cannot capture.
Even looking through the images above take me down memory lane. There was the time I was experimenting with bleach pens and the cover of my journal was tested by drawing a pigeon. At one point, I participated in a creative project where there were prompts for several days, so I added those sketches and doodles to a journal. (That’s the “How to Make Coffee” page pictured above.) I also enjoy playing around with different mediums and trying them out on a smaller journal page is somehow easier for me than committing to a canvas.
Keeping an art journal is an intuitive process so it’s a little difficult to explain exactly how to do it. And there are many, many books out there that showcase different artists’ journals. Still, here are a few tips if you’d like to get started with art journaling.
- To start, I usually use a mixed media sketchbook for my art journals. The slightly heavier paper allows me to use watercolor, markers, and gesso (as well as many other things!) to decorate the pages without completely warping them. The above-pictured “pigeon” journal was not a mixed media sketchbook so the pages did warp a bit. Oh well.
- If you’re not into writing out your thoughts in the traditional journaling sense, this might be a way to chronicle your life (or the life of your family) in a way that is more fun to you. Gather photos, tickets to places you’ve visited, and other memorabilia and tape (or glue) them into your art journal. Add some thoughts with a pen as you go along.
- Gather ads, bits of packaging that you like, and other graphic design pieces to create a graphic design inspiration gallery. I know you can easily do this on Pinterest as well, but if you want something more tactile, an art journal is the way to go.
- Use your art journal as a sketchbook and visually chronicle your life (i.e. draw out what happened to you today rather than writing it.)
- You can even gather your supplies and go on an art-journaling retreat. (Here’s a post where I share what I painted in my journal while on a mini-retreat.)
- Visit my Journaling Pinterest board for ideas as to how other artists fill up their journals. I include posts that share prompts as well.
- You can also sign up for my journaling online course. It covers all types of journaling ideas, including art journaling. 🙂
One of the rules I have about journaling (if it’s a rule) is I don’t make myself write every day. And I don’t make myself add to my art journals every day (or even every week) either. Letting go of the “I have to do this” mentality frees me to be creative and allows me to do more. (Must be reverse psychology at work there!)
There have been seasons in my life where my art journals overflowed, and I made them by hand. And seasons like now where I haven’t been as prolific in keeping them but I still add to them here and there as I have time. (Usually I work on them on a mini-retreat!)
Overall, I love how they’re a visual way of chronicling and cataloguing my life. And it’s actually really interesting and fun to go back and look through them—sometimes I do just that in order to get inspiration for new projects as they’re the place I sketch out ideas.