What on earth is art journaling?

You can keep an art journal without in-depth knowledge of composition or color theory or formal study of art. 

Art journaling is play, exploration & experimentation wrapped into one. It's about doing an unstructured form of art in a bound journal, on loose paper, even a cardboard box. Even leather-bound planners with darling Miss Kitty stickers. 

The term art journaling means something different to each artist.

Art journals, artist's books, illustrated journals, urban sketchbooks, visual journals... and altered books! What do you call your journal?

An art journal page created with paper ephemera and Neocolor wax crayons. 

An art journal page created with paper ephemera and Neocolor wax crayons. 

What drives your art? For me, the answer is curiosity. 

Art journaling is not all about the art

Journalists love to pull together collage elements, words & images on paper, whether that’s loose paper, a bound journal or even a cardboard cereal box. The goal is to do the work, to follow the path, no matter where it winds up. When you open your art journal, you get to play like a little kid again, using paint, imagery, typography, even some invisible pixie dust. 

"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

Focus on the process rather than the end result

Mixed media art journaling typically includes words, imagery & color. But, and this is important, there are no rules that you must follow. So you can do a page with any combination thereof. Just paint,  just imagery, even just words. Or skip the words, incorporate words as texture or write your deepest thoughts. That's up to you. 

The journal itself is not precious 

An art journal {the freestyle kind of journal that I share and talk about ad infinitim here at Daisy Yellow} is the result of your creative immersion, your experiments, your play-time. If anything is precious it should be the ACT of making art.

If limiting yourself to one journal works for you, that's cool! And if actively working in 17 journals works for you, that's cool too! If you start one, then get frustrated, then start another, then get frustrated, that's not the idea. Notice that. Try to figure out what is happening. Maybe switch to loose paper or index cards for awhile until you get your groove back? When I started art journaling I made art journal pages on loose watercolor paper and I also worked on altering some books. It was very freeing to have a few projects going because I didn't focus on what I did on the previous page or what I would do on the next one. It was a really good way to start.

There is no art journaling rule book

Remember, there's no rule book. Only the one your write for yourself. And if your rule book is outdated, write a new one. More essays on art journaling.

What kind of journal should you keep?

You can set up a fresh journal for any reason whatsoever.  I have a bunch of journals in process at all times! Keeping just one would be stifling to me. I love the freedom of having multiple journals. Journals are used for testing art materials, documenting color palettes or paint swatches, practicing techniques, sketching architecture, the human body or nature, doodling, designing patterns and repeats, making collages, painting, designing fonts, tracking via bullet journaling, constructing daily diaries and writing about our adventures. Can you have too many journals? I don't think so!

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 fun! It's not magic, really. 

I don't even know how many journals I have in progress at this point. And they are not unfinished as in melodramatically gathering dust in the attic but rather unfinished as in active works-in-process. A few of my journals wind up perpetually unfinished, or I think I'll get back to them but I lose the thread. And that is OK! The more you work, the more ideas you will have, and the more fuel for your creativity.

Gather art materials

Through 9 years of research, experimentation and a good dose of trial & error, I've narrowed down my materials to a set of go-to items that I use consistently.To learn about the paint, paper, brushes, adhesives, scissors & tools used in art journaling, go to Art Journaling 102.

Collect quirky papers, ephemera & journal fodder

Think of this as "all of those quirky papers that you find intensely fascinating." Art journalists collect papers found in everyday life and then use them as fodder {ingredients} in their journals. Ephemera can be taped, stitched, clipped, glued, stapled, tucked, folded and otherwise attached to your journal pages. 

Things to collect for your journal: Ticket stubs, museum maps, pages from old textbooks, receipts, product packaging, clothing labels, 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, tarot cards and images cut from magazines. 

Explore creative prompts

Prompts can be used literally, figuratively, specifically, sarcastically, intelligently, paradoxically, ridiculously, logically, magically or any other adverbish manner. 

Creative prompts can be integral to the creative process - especially when you need an extra nudge to get on track - they change the way that we approach our work. Prompts are starting points, a way to break through hesitation & fear of the blank page. 


Read Books About Art Journaling & Creativity

A World of Artist Journal Pages, Sokol
1,000 Artist Journal Pages, Sokol
The Journal Junkies Workshop, Scott/Modler
The Creative License and An Illustrated Life, Gregory
The Collage Workbook, Plowman
Good Mail Day, Hinchcliff
Journal Spilling, Trout
Creative Illustration Workshop for Mixed-Media Artists, Dunn
Personal Geographies: Explorations in Mixed-Media Mapmaking, Berry
The Art Journal Workshop, Bunkers


Take a workshop

Daisy Yellow Groovy Grunge Workshop
75.00 95.00

Workshop Sale Ends June 26, 2017
Explore the groovy world of mixed media art journaling in a hardback book, creatively combining those yummy collage papers you have in your stash with heavy body acrylics. Discover a fresh, playful approach!!!
➸ 30+ sections. 4+ hours of video tutorials + ideas galore.
➸ Taught via video tutorials on a private workshop website.
➸ FB discussion group.
➸ Students at any experience level welcome!
Workshop access thru 12/31/19.

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Original post 2008, updated April 2017. The Amazon links are affiliate links; if you purchase through these links Daisy Yellow may receive a tiny percentage of the purchase in certain situations. This helps support the free content at Daisy Yellow.