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How to Unleash Your Creativity by Starting an Art Journal

by Jacki Andre October 23, 2018

How to Unleash Your Creativity by Starting an Art Journal

Dear Sparkly Unicorn Friends,

Oops, I did it again.

I read a bunch of blog posts about art journals and now I’m feeling inspired.

If you’ve been following along on my journaling adventures, you may remember that the last time I felt inspired, I ran out and bought 36 markers, 27 rolls of washi tape, 12 plastic stencils, 10 fine liner pens, 2 new lined journals, and a photo printer. Because. Shopping.

Art journals are certainly brimming with shopping potential too. (Unless you’re more frugal than I am which, frankly, wouldn’t take much.) I mean you need supplies to make art, right? But, to be honest, I’m feeling dissuaded from running out to stock up on (more) art supplies. Here’s why:

Art journals are essentially visual diaries where both images and words are used to express the diarist’s thoughts. In an excellent piece at My Modern Met, Sara Barnes explains that art journals can be used to document “your everyday life, as well as your bigger hopes, dreams, and fears. A single page will often fuse words and illustrations to offer a look at what’s going on inside your head.”

There are no real rules in art journaling. As Lisa Vollrath points out over at Mixed Media Club, “every imaginable style, media and technique is used by art journalists.” Painting, drawing, doodling, printmaking, stamping, collages, mixed media, you name it. If you can compose it on paper inside a journal, it’s all good.

I’m not artistic by any stretch of the imagination, but I love crafting. I have a ton of supplies that would be perfect for mixed media projects in an art journal. It turns out that it’s actually a great idea to start off with supplies you already have on hand. One of the best things about art journaling is that it allows you to experiment with art, without fear of judgment. In an interview at Shutterstock, Dawn Sokol says:

Art journalers like to journal because it’sfor them. It’s not going to be up for display. You don’t really worry about what other people are thinking of your art, you can experiment and play, and do whatever you want.” That’s a valuable space for any artist or designer to have. “It’s about no judgment, no fear,” says Sokol. “It’s perfect.

You may want to splurge on a journal (more on that below). But, otherwise, go ahead and dive in with whatever supplies you have on hand. As you experiment and find what works for you -- and what works for you in an art journal format -- you can start thinking about other supplies to invest in. (Because. Shopping.)

What do you think, cool cats? Does this sound like fun or what? As someone who typically works and plays with text, the idea of translating my thoughts into a visual format intrigues me. And breaking out paints and glue and craft supplies to mess around and experiment with sounds a lot like play. I don’t know about you, but I could always use a break from adulting. If you’re intrigued too, read on for a few more tips.

How to Pick a Notebook for Art Journaling

Choosing a notebook to use as an art journal is a little different than choosing a notebook to use as a Bullet Journal or writing journal.

Check out Torrie’s piece at Fox + Hazel for an in-depth look at the different options available.The nutshell take-away from her piece is: paints and glue will make your pages wet; thin pages may be prone to wrinkling as they dry.  Thin pages may also bleed more. A journal with heavier paper is ideal for use as an art journal, and there are some books out there marketed specifically as art journals.

That said, there are a few other options that don’t require purchasing a new journal. (Rats.) First, it’s possible to use ANY notebook or book as an art journal, even a repurposed/altered hardcover book. The trick is simply to strengthen the pages by gluing them together and letting them dry before beginning your artwork. Second, you can create artwork on loose cardstock, and then hand bind those pages together into a unique book of your own.

How to Start Creating in Your Art Journal

A number of different bloggers point out that blank pages can be intimidating. (If you’re having trouble getting started, begin by creating a background on your pages. Random paper collages, tissue paper and gesso, tissue paper painting, watercolor, and messy acrylics are just some of the suggestions out there. If you’re not familiar with these techniques or if you’re looking for more inspiration, google it up!

Once you have backgrounds to play with, the next step is figuring out what to document. If you’re stuck, there are lots of sites with art journaling prompts. Some suggestions include:

  • Illustrate a lyric from a favorite song.
  • Imagine yourself as a god(dess) or superhero and draw yourself.
  • Make a page about someone who inspires you.
  • Illustrate your best moment from today.
  • What made you laugh out loud today?
  • What are you grateful for today?

And then all that’s left to do is to layer on images and text.

I think I’m gonna give it a whirl. How about you?

Photo by Tim Arterbury on Unsplash
Jacki Andre
Jacki Andre

Jacki Andre has been journaling for over 30 years and still has her jam-packed Judy Blume Diary to prove it. Somewhere along the way, she started writing for reals, and is now a published author and Huffington Post blogger. In her spare time, Jacki supports dog rescue, advocates for disability rights, and educates other drivers via hand gestures about the importance of using turn signals. She keeps in shape by chasing joy (and her ‘80s teen idols) in earnest.


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