If you’ve ever wonder how to start an art journal, this is the blog post for you. Learn more about what art journaling is, why you should do it and how to get started on your own art journal with the supplies you have at home.
Towards the end of last year, I sent a survey out to the lovely people who receive my weekly emails. (If you want to get those emails too, you can sign up here and also get access to 31 free creative prompts.)
One of the questions related to my blog content, and what my readers would like to see more of. One thing that popped up a lot was stuff relating to art journaling.
So here we are – the first post in a new series on art journaling. And I thought what better place to start than at the beginning…
First things first, let me be clear – you don’t need to be an artist to keep an art journal. You don’t even need to feel like a particularly creative person. If you can make marks with a pen, pencil or paintbrush, you can keep an art journal.
You’ll also notice that none of the questions below has a definitive answer. This is because art journaling is such a personal thing, and people do it in many different ways and for many different reasons. I’ve given you some of the basics, but you really need to give it a go to discover what it means to you.
We’ll get to the kinds of supplies you might need later, but there’s one thing I want to mention now. Depending on how picky you are, you might find it easier to make your own journal than search for ages for the perfect one to buy.
Personally speaking, I have very specific requirements as to the kind of binding and the thickness of paper, etc, so I really like to make my own journals.
Now let’s get into what art journaling is, and how you can start an art journal today.
What is an art journal?
I’m going right back to basics with this blog post, so it seemed appropriate to start off by answering the question: what is an art journal?
Personally, I think that if you asked a few different people this question, they’d all say slightly different things.
In its simplest terms, an art journal is a kind of expressive visual journal or diary that focuses more on colour and shape.
It’s not like writing a traditional diary entry, where you describe events or situations in detail. (Although saying that, words and quotes can feature heavily in art journal spreads.) An art journal captures a feeling or mood at a given moment.
Basically, if you work on your art journal every day, you’ll be able to look back at a later date and get a sense of how you were feeling or what might have been going on in your life at the time you created the various pages.
Why start art journaling?
This is one of those questions that has several answers, and not all of the answers may be applicable to you.
There are so many reasons to start an art journal, including:
- To keep a daily visual diary
- As a way to relax and unwind at the end of the day
- To practise and develop your artistic skills
- To experiment with another creative skill
- Just because you want to try art journaling!
All of these are perfectly valid reasons. Basically, if you want to keep an art journal, for any reason whatsoever, you should do it. That’s it, pure and simple!
How often should I art journal?
This is completely up to you. Daily is good, if that suits you. But that doesn’t mean you have to complete a whole spread in a day.
You could just spend a few minutes a day working on your art journal, or you could devote an entire hour or more to it. It has to fit in with your life and current obligations.
You could complete a page over a week – on Monday you do the background, on Tuesday you might add a hand lettered quote, on Wednesday you could add some embellishments, on Thursday you might add some doodles…
(Side note: that’s not to say every page has to have all those elements. You may start by creating a really expressive background, and then come back to it the next day and decide you like it just as it is, which is just fine!)
What supplies do you need to start an art journal?
If you’ve been around these parts for a while, you’ll know I’m a big fan of the “use what you have” school of arts, crafts and creativity.
So it should come as no surprise whatsoever when I tell you there’s nothing specific you need to start art journaling. If you have paper, and you have something to write or colour on it with, you’re good to go.
If you want to be more specific, there are a number of supplies that can be helpful when you’re art journaling. These include:
- A sketchbook or art journal with nice thick paper that can take paint, otherwise a regular notebook would do. You can even make your own, like this upcycled art journal and this mini book made from scrap card!
- Paint (acrylic and watercolour both work in different ways for art journaling, but any craft paint will do. You could even borrow your kids’ paints if that’s all you have in the house.)
- Your favourite pen to write with
- Coloured pencils
- Patterned/coloured paper
- Other embellishments like sequins, stickers, paper shapes/words, fabric, ribbon, yarn/string
- Gesso is great for turning any surface into something you can paint on (and now your art journaling possibilities have just opened way up, right?)
You’ll soon learn what you like to use in your art journal, so keep experimenting until you get into the swing of it.
Most importantly, though, don’t go out and buy a load of new supplies just to try art journaling (unless you really want to, of course!). Start off using what you have.
Art journal prompts
If you’re sitting with a blank page in front of you feeling slightly daunted, with no idea where to start, these prompts might help.
Firstly, bear in mind there is no right or wrong in your art journal. Secondly, all mistakes can be painted over… (that’s another way the gesso I mentioned above comes in handy!)
If you’re really stuck, I have some ideas to get you started. I’ve deliberately kept the prompts quite general and vague so you can work with them in multiple ways. Try:
- Your favourite colour
- A meaningful quote
- Your family
- Your favourite season
- How you feel at that moment
- Things you’re grateful for
- A memory or meaningful photo
- Plans/goals for the future
- Places you’ve been/want to visit
- Favourite books/films/music
You can get more ideas from my blog post 15 Winter Art Journal Prompts (although if you come to this post in summer you might want to bookmark it for later in the year!).
I hope this post has given you a helpful overview of how to start an art journal. Do you have any questions or tips you want to add in the comments?
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I’m Stacey and I help busy people feel inspired and get more creative with tutorials, hints and tips.