Art Journaling 101

"Art journaling is about the {creative process} of pulling together color, words and images as you wish on a page. Unlike many other forms of art, it is not about the outcome."
Tammy Garcia

How to start an art journal? 

Art journaling  is loose and free, unencumbered by rules about what we "should" do. It is simply doing art in a journal. Or maybe a piece of heavy paper. The good news? You do not need a kit, a coach, a lesson or a guidebook. But you do need to discover {or rediscover} your sense of play.

The focus is on words + color + imagery. 

Art journaling is about play & experimentation. Not magic, but about loosening up and going wherever you wind up. It's a bunch of little steps and then you have a page that speaks to you.  

Ready to roll up your sleeves and dig into your art materials?

Original post 2008 * Updated February 2015

1. Get inspired & learn techniques

  • Art Journal Tangents & Tactics is a series of {free} video tutorials to inspire ideas & creativity for your art journal process. There are 14+ tutorials appropriate for beginners to experienced artists.
  • The Daisy Yellow Zine includes in-depth articles & ideas for facing the blank page, jumping through creative blocks and getting your art down on the page, with special guests and tons of creative inspiration.
  • Join the free Daisy Yellow Group at Facebook, a supportive space to share your art journal pages.

2. Focus on the process, not the end result

The idea is not to emulate the style of any other artist. Let your pages be YOUR pages. 

You have your entire life to experiment with techniques, the first step is to DO ONE PAGE. Any page. Anything. Tell yourself it's just for fun and get to it. Art journal pages are not structured or formulaic as in scrapbooking or greeting card making. Take a deep breath, relax, let go of perfectionism or expectations for a few minutes and physically explore with color and imagery.

Grab a journal or piece of heavy paper. Use glue, tape or staples to add anything you wish in any way you wish. Pay attention and enjoy the process. Use images, words, doodles & quotes! And drips of paint! And magic markers! Dip a brush in acrylic paint and swirl and swoosh paint around the page. Let that dry for a few minutes, and then adhere papers or a photograph.

3. Follow a creative prompts or participate in a challenge

If you aren't sure where to start, you could try one of the series of prompts I've developed  to help you experiment & play in your journal. You are welcome to work through the prompts and interpret them literally, figuratively and definitely imaginatively! There are 67 Daily Paper Prompts and over 30 Prompt60 Prompts.

  • Prompt60 is a growing series that will build to 60 art journaling & writing prompts by late March 2015.
  • The Daily Paper Prompt is a series of 67 open-ended prompts appropriate for beginners to experienced artists. The prompts focus on techniques used by art journalists. Start with DPP #1: Paint a Rainbow and keep going!!! 
  • Every June + July I facilitate index-card-a-day {ICAD}, a challenge to create one index card per day for 61 days. It's a creative spark, a huge hit & super fun. Read the ICAD FAQ and get ready for the next challenge June 2015. 

4. Draw, paint, ink, doodle & otherwise create stuff to use in your journal

You can make things to use on your art journal pages. Those tidbits can be used to add uniqueness and a bit of you to your journals. For example, take notes on various subjects, carve handmade eraser stamps, make stencils, write poetry, collect quotations and practice your drawing skills. 

Grab a piece of scrap paper, mixed media paper, watercolor paper or a page from a book and any mark-making medium. Things like watercolor, gouache, ink, colored pencils, markers & acrylic paint. Draw or paint shapes like stripes, polka dots, swirls, boxes & paisleys. Whatever floats into your mind. Create repeating patterns or symbols. You now have an assortment of papers to cut up and use in your art journal. Attach them with glue, tape, staples or stitches.

5. Find a small workspace, like your breakfast table

You do not need a dedicated studio space to art journal.An art studio is a luxury but you don't need a dedicated art play space to be an art journalist. Just a part of a table is enough space to work. You'll need a bit of space to handle your art materials, a space that might expand the more involved you get. I work on art journal pages at my breakfast table or on a rolling cart in my kitchen. I promise that you do not need a lot of space. 

6. Gather art materials

Each art journalist uses a different set of materials. You can learn more about the materials that I use in my art journals. Art journaling is a flexible form of art. Collect as many free things as you can find, and keep your eye out for paper treasures like maps, ticket stubs, notes, receipts and handwritten lists. Art journaling does not have to be in an actual journal! Consider a blank journal, an old hardback book with a solid spine and strong paper, cardboard, a wirebound watercolor journal or a stack of heavy card stock. Almost any book dedicated to art journaling will have a detailed materials list at the front. Art material info ➸ Art Journaling 102

7. Collect ephemera & journal fodder

Journalists use these terms to refer to the stuff you put in your journal. You'll also see phrases like "found paper" or "found text" or something like that.Examples include ticket stubs, museum maps, pages from old textbooks, receipts, product packaging, clothing labels, old photographs, vintage postcards, lottery tickets, polaroid photos, postage stamps, raffle tickets, hand-written lists, old greeting cards, subway maps, airline tickets, event announcements, advertisements, maps, ribbon, fabric, images cut from magazines, Consider large items like full page brochures, maps, pages pulled from magazines and pages from books. It's nice to have a separate space for smaller items that might get lost otherwise - things like ticket stubs, images cut from magazines, words, scraps of patterned papers, index cards, postage stamps. 

8. Get creative books for inspiration and motivation

[Each year I also share a list of books I plan to read
including my favs - here's the 2015 Book List]

1,000 Artist Journal Pages, Sokol

Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself, Harrison

The Journal Junkies Workshop, Scott/Modler 

Good Mail Day, Hinchcliff

Journal Spilling, Trout

Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists, Dunn

Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking, Berry

The Creative License and An Illustrated Life, Gregory

The Art Journal Workshop, Bunkers

9. Keep art supplies handy

To organize your art materials for art journaling, develop a system that works for the way YOU work. Because I have limited storage and work space, I keep materials that are typically used at the same time together in wooden baskets. My goal is to pull out as few baskets as needed to work on my journal pagesHere are some examples. In my art journaling & collage basket, I keep a few rolls of washi tape, matte medium {this is an adhesive}, an old brush, scissors, a few favorite rubber stamps, one set of alphabet stamps and a few ink pads. I rotate the stuff that goes in this basket. I have another basket with heavy body acrylics that also contains tools that are used to add texture to my paint... things like palette knives, sandpaper & chopsticks.

Art Journaling 102: Materials

Art Journaling 102: Materials
Paper + Journals

Loose paper vs. Bound Journal. You can work on loose paper and bind it together later using book-binding techniques {fun to learn} or simply store in a large box. I started art journaling and doodling in a Strathmore wire-bound pad. Loose paper is a wonderful way to start because you can play without committing to any particular journal. If you adore the idea of working in a journal, there are a lot of great bound journals available. A standard writing journal will have thin paper which will NOT hold up to mixed media work or even wet media like watercolor or acrylics. So you'll want paper made for art. Or go the other direction and use an old book and prepare the surface for your art!

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