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    « Art Journaling 102: Materials | Main | Art Journaling 101 for Kids, Teens + Beginners »

    Art Journaling 101

    How do you start an art journal? 

     "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 March 2014

    Welcome to Art Journaling 101

    If you are just starting to bring art into your life, or wish to introduce kids & teens to art journaling, check out Art Journaling 101 for Kids, Teens & Beginners

    I'll begin with a note that the type of art journaling that I talk about is very loose and free and unencumbered by rules.

    1. Get creative books for inspiration and motivation

    1,000 Artist Journal Pages by Dawn DeVries Sokol
    Spilling Open: The Art of Becoming Yourself by Sabrina Ward Harrison
    The Journal Junkies Workshop, by Scott and Modler 
    Good Mail Day by Jennie Hinchcliff
    Journal Spilling by Diana Trout
    Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists by Katherine Dunn
    Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmakingby Jill K. Berry
    The Creative License and An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory
    Print & Stamp Lab by Traci Bunkers
    Bird by Bird: Some Instructions on Writing and Life by Annie Lamott
    The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunkers

    2. Gather some art materials

    Art journaling does not have to be in an actual journal. ♥︎ 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.

    ➸ Note! All of the information about art materials - advice and recommendations - has been moved to Art Journaling 102: Materials because this post was getting too big!

    3. Collect ephemera, gather "found" items and make stuff to put in your art journal

    Find stuff. Ephemera is a fancy word for stuff you put in your journal. Here are some examples: pages from old textbooks, maps, receipts, recycled stuff from other art projects, product packaging, clothing labels, old photographs, scrapbook paper, lyrics, lottery tickets, polaroid photos, postage stamps, raffle tickets, grocery lists, lists of any type, subway maps, airline tickets, event announcements, advertisements, ribbon, fabric.

    Make stuff. You can make things to use on your art journal pages. Things like abstract paintings, notes on a particular subject, stencils that you cut, photos taken specifically for your journal, doodles, your own handwriting. See Step #574: Create Journal Fodder and Psychedelic Batik Cardstock.

    4. Learn the basic techniques

    Start with the Daily Paper Prompt. 61 techniques-based prompts to get started in art journaling.

    4. Find a space to work

    You do not need a dedicated studio space to art journal. Sometimes I dream about an art studio with twinkly lights. 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 use my breakfast table to work on journal pages. If I am using acrylics, I place a large piece of cardboard under my journal to protect the table. If your workspace is temporary, keep your materials for journaling in a basket, box or zip-lok baggies for easy access while you work. 

    I categorize and organize my art materials in baskets, grouped by how they are used. For example, stuff for embroidery is in the embroidery basket. Stuff for watercolor is in another basket. Brushes are kept upright in cups. I take out the baskets I need and spread stuff out on the table. Most nights, I clean everything up! If you lack workspace, I bet you can figure out a way to make it happen. You could use a tiny rolling cart, a table at the side of your kitchen, a folding card-table, the floor, your kitchen counter... or take your things to a coffee shop. 


    5. Follow creative prompts

  • Every issue of the Daisy Yellow Zine includes ideas for jumping through creative blocks and getting your art down on the page, with overflowing inspiration in each issue.
  • Index to the Daisy Yellow Kick-Start Art Journal Prompts
  • The Unofficial Guide to Creative Prompts | Challenges | Inspiration
  • Creative Every Day, a challenge to create something every day
  • 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 huge hit and super fun. Read the ICAD FAQ and get ready for the next challenge in June 2014.
  • 6. Art Journaling is About the Process

    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. All of the possibilities have not yet been explored!

    If you look at examples, you'll often find words + images + color on each page. These are lots of fun.... but not required elements! Art journal pages are usually not structured or formulaic. Art journaling is a type of journaling that focuses on words + color + imagery. It is about the process, not the end result. It is your personal work. 


    7. More Inspiration

    ➸ Get a Daisy Yellow Zine... overflowing with creative ideas + colorful artwork.
    ➸ Join The Daisy Yellow Group at Facebook.


    ➸ I'm teaching two online abstract watercolor workshops.

    Watercolor Playground is an introduction to watercolor painting.

    Painted Paper Paradise focuses on abstract watercolor and gouache painting techniques.

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    Reader Comments (55)

    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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