I'm Tammy. 


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    Main | Art Journaling 102: Materials »

    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 September 2014

    The type of art journaling that I talk about is very loose and free and unencumbered by rules. Art journaling is simply doing art in a journal. To make an art journal, you do not need a kit, a coach, a lesson or a guidebook.

    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
    Artist's Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson
    Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking by Jill K. Berry
    The Creative License and An Illustrated Life by Danny Gregory
    The Art Journal Workshop by Traci Bunkers

    2. Gather 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.

    ➸ Info about art materials for art journaling can now be found in Art Journaling 102: Materials.

    3. Collect + make stuff for your 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. 

    4. Find a space to work

    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 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 & participate in challenges


    6. It's about 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. All of the possibilities have not yet been explored!

    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.

    ➸ I'm teaching two 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 (58)

    I love your blog! I consider myself a "watercolor journalist" - I have even been giving workshops in watercolor journaling" but I am very inspired by your type of "art Journal" - it looks so spontaneous and free form. Thank you for all the links and tips. I plan to check them out!

    10.24.2010 | Unregistered CommenterRosemary

    I'm just starting to art journal and thanks to you, I have a better idea of what to use to create my journal! Thank you!

    10.25.2010 | Unregistered Commentersamos

    Very helpful art tutorial for the beginner

    11.28.2010 | Unregistered CommenterPaint Basket

    What an excellent resource - thank you!
    I have kept a doodle journal for years and find it a fascinating way to track the changes in my life. I will be adding to it with all your great suggestions.

    I'm very new to paper but seeing your work has really made me want to experiment more with colour, at the moment I'm very much scared to colour outside the lines figuratively speaking.

    01.5.2011 | Unregistered Commenterruby murray

    Wonderful SIte- will be back for more inspiration..

    02.8.2011 | Unregistered CommenterMargaret Iddon

    you are my new best e-friend

    02.14.2011 | Unregistered Commenterhal lilburn

    This is a wonderful guide to art journaling! I am relatively new to this and was so inspired to read where you said that 3 years ago, making art wasn't even on your list and now it is something you feel is crucial to your happiness. I can so relate to that sentiment! I have discovered how much I love being creative and have now set up a room to use exclusively for making art. Every day I feel I must get in there for at least a few minutes. A couple of years ago, this would have been a totally foreign concept to me. I am still amazed at this change in my life. Your article has inspired me very much. Thanks for pulling all of this together and sharing. It is a real blessing to me.


    04.10.2011 | Unregistered CommenterTricia

    I knew I could incorporate this essential resource some where ... Just linked it in a blog post about getting started with baby steps! ;)

    04.13.2011 | Unregistered Commenterstargardener

    Terrific post and thanks so much for the mention and link!! :)

    05.23.2011 | Unregistered Commenterroben-marie

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