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Art Journaling 101

➸ Prompt60 is a new series of 60+ art journaling prompts
➸ Zine #13 is now available

How to start an art journal? 

The type of art journaling that I talk about in Art Journaling 101 is very loose and free and unencumbered by rules. Art journaling is simply doing art in a journal. The good news? To make an art journal, 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.

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

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

Original post 2008 * Updated January 2015

1. Get inspired & learn techniques 

  • Art Journaling 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.
  • Each issue of the Daisy Yellow Zine includes in-depth articles and 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. Follow creative prompts & challenges

  • Prompt60 is a growing series that will build to 60 art journaling & writing prompts by late February 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. I'll open a new Facebook group for the next challenge in May 2015. 

3. Focus on the process, not the end result

It is easy to get caught up in photos of art journal pages and wind up down a rabbit hole and not spend time working in your own journal. The idea is not to emulate the style of any other artist. Let your pages be YOURS. 


4. Gather art materials

I've developed a detailed post about the materials used in art journaling. Art journalists use an array of materials to create journal pages. 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 material info ➸ Art Journaling 102Art 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. 

5. Collect ephemera & journal fodder

Journalists use these terms to refer to the stuff you put in your journal. You'll also see stuff 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. 

6. 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. 

7. Paint papers to cut up for your journal

Grab a piece of watercolor paper or a page from a book and a set of watercolors. You can use watercolor, gouache or acrylic paint to make marks on your journal pages. Paint shapes like stripes, polka dots, swirls, boxes & paisleys. Create repeating patterns. You can also use a thin brush to words that inspire you! Those papers can then be cut up into various shapes and glued, stapled or stitched into your journal.

8. Play in your journal

Grab a journal or piece of heavy paper. Use an adhesive to add anything you wish in any way you wish. It's about the EXPERIENCE and JOY of playing in your journal rather than any perfectly composed end result. 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. 

The idea is to relax, get out of your to-do list driven analytical mind for a few minutes and physically explore with color and imagery. 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. 

9. 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.

10. Get creative books for inspiration and motivation

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

11. Keep your art supplies somewhat organized

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, materials that are typically used at the same time are stored together in wooden baskets. My goal is to pull out as few baskets as needed to work on my journal pages.

Here are some examples.

Art journaling & collage. A few rolls of washi tape, matte medium, 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. 

Acrylics. Heavy body acrylics are stored with mark-making and texture-making tools like palette knives, sandpaper & chopsticks.

Large paper ephemera. Full pages, brochures, maps, pages pulled from magazines, pages from books.

Small ephemera. Smaller stuff like ticket stubs, images cut from magazines, words, scraps of patterned papers, index cards, postage stamps. Stuff that would get "lost" amidst larger papers.

Hand-painted paper. This basket contains abstract papers I've painted or printed with a gelatin printing plate.

Cutting/shaping tools. Scissors, x-acto knives, curved paper cutters, hole punches, paper trimmers.

Book-binding stuff. Linen thread, awl, mallet, beeswax, bookbinding needles, papers cut to size, boards.

Art journal pages are usually not structured or formulaic like you would see in scrapbooking or greeting card making. The focus is on words + color + imagery. All of the possibilities have not yet been explored!

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Reader Comments (61)

This is a great article to introduce people to art journaling. I have posted a link on my blog for anyone interested.

04.11.2009 | Unregistered CommenterZom

I'm fairly new to art journaling and I love this tutorial. So many great ideas. Thanks so much for putting this together.

04.11.2009 | Unregistered CommenterJanet

What a great inspirational spark! I've found great links on your site, and as a journaler myself, finding great links is like finding a vein of gold in a big rock mountain.

04.21.2009 | Unregistered CommenterQuinnCreative

I am just beginning to explore art journalling, and much of the material out there, both in print and on the web, seems to be aimed at those with more art experience than I have. Thanks so much for this great introduction, and for all the links and reading recommendations. It is so helpful for this true beginner.

05.26.2009 | Unregistered CommenterLisa

You inspire me SO much. Thank you.

Great inspiration! Thanks!

05.25.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffani

Thank you! Great post! After reading about art journaling and looking at others' work, I'm itching to try some more (I've dabbled a bit).

07.27.2010 | Unregistered CommenterTiffani

very inspiring! I'm writing morning pages from The Artist's Way, and am thinking of making them a little more interesting... Good idea of keeping more than one journal - duh! Thanks for the suggestion of materials - you're in my evernote! {:-Deb

08.1.2010 | Unregistered Commenterstorybeader

This great, thank you, I have found my new thing : )

09.14.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSunari

Thanks putting together all this info. It's been a great read and I'm saving it in favorites, to refer back to and also to send to other people who I think will be interested. Thanks again for all your great ideas, wonderful inspiration and beautiful art work.

10.13.2010 | Unregistered CommenterSu Ward

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