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Main | Daisy Yellow Zine {Issue #12} »

Art Journaling 101

Note ➸ Prompt60 is a new series of 60+ art journaling prompts
that runs January 1 - February 28, 2015. 

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. Available in my Etsy Shop.
  • Join the free Daisy Yellow Group at Facebook, a supportive space to share your art journal pages.


2. Follow creative prompts & challenges

  • Prompt60 runs from January 1 - February 28, 2015 with 60 art journaling & writing prompts.
  • 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

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 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 Strathmore watercolor journal or a stack of heavy card stock. 

➸ Details about art journaling materials: Art Journaling 102.


5. Collect ephemera & journal fodder {also known as paper!}

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 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

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)

I am so glad I found your site! I've added you to my links on my new blog. Every time I've started teaching myself art in the past and worked on projects or even played around, I've been so self-judgmental and perfectionistic that I give up or get stuck. Visiting here reminds me that the best way to learn is sometimes just to play, keep going, and hush up that inner critic. You are an inspiration. Thanks so much! I'll be back often.

02.4.2012 | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

thanks for your inspiration -- I am new to art journaling/altered books and love your ideas -- I found you on the bod website which I am watching and plan to start my bod on march 1

02.21.2012 | Unregistered Commenterjoanne

Thank you so much for your time and effort in putting this blog together! I am teaching a voluntary class for at-risk teen girls, and I am doing the first class on Creative Journals/Sketchbooks to open creative process and thoughts. Your blog has given me some great ideas to add to the class, and I am giving them some of your 'journal prompts' to take home for homework!

02.23.2012 | Unregistered CommenterBri

Can't wait to try some of your ideas - beautiful!

03.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterCarol Cook

Thanks for sharing all this!

03.13.2012 | Unregistered CommenterK-Sue

This is such an awesome post! Thank you so much for the thorough advice on how to start an art journal. I am starting right away and cant wait to see all your other resources as I go! Thank you again for sharing!

03.28.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLauren

I am glad I found your site. I am new to art journaling and didn't quite know where to start. I did not Flickr was for art and never heard of Ning. This will all help me a lot. Thanks.

05.1.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaggie

I found your blog whilst trawling the net to find a good guide to visual journaling. Thank you so much for your little 101 list. I learnt visual journaling a couple of years back at an Art Therapy course and hadn't really thought about it much until today. You inspired me to get back into it. I have linked your site on my blog so that others can see your amazing work.

05.20.2012 | Unregistered CommenterLindsay

Are you talking about the paper for the art journal or do you use loose sheets of paper? - just wondering 'cuz I think sheets of paper would get all over my workspace! But this article helped with art journaling a lot. Thanks!! :D

{Tammy}: Maria, The paper refers to any paper that you want to use as a surface for art journaling. Hope that helps!

06.20.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

This is a good idea for your art journal:
Take the dictionary and open it to a random page, then, copy that page onto tracing paper. Next, take your art journal and paint/color your next page, once that's done, take double sided tape and tape your dictionary page in your art journal. This is a great backround for drawings.

06.24.2012 | Unregistered CommenterMaria

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