what art journaling has taught me…so far


(acrylics, found images, watercolor, marker)

 In all the years that I have been involved in making art & my extensive training as an art teacher, I never heard of art journaling until about a year ago! I have been art journaling for just a little bit over a year now  & I have learned  a lot:  about the process, about myself, about my creative practice.  Lots of thoughts have been swirling around in my brain lately, thinking about my greatest takeaways from the practice of art journaling, so far.

The Blank Page: Is no big deal.  I used to stare at it, scared to “ruin” a perfectly good page. Then I would plan & think & kick around ideas in my head & guess what? I did NOTHING on that page. Now? Oh my gosh, I relish the thought of a new page that I can slap some paint down or use some stamps or stencils or markers or whatever is on hand.  This also goes for pretty blank journals – I had so many that were untouched & pristine, again, I didn’t want to ruin them. No longer – I feel that whatever I create in them only makes them “mine”.

image  (16 minute sketch; watercolor wash background; pencil; notice the adjacent page smudged onto the scissors…& it doesn’t matter! [Daisy Yellow prompt] )

Mistakes: as in errant drips, drops, splotches, used to make me so upset, thinking I “ruined” the work. No longer…they are what they are & it just.doesn’t.matter. As far as the work on a page, I NEVER view anything as a “mistake” as it really is all part of my learning process & creative process. I may not “like” something, but I no longer cover it up…it is what it is. In the very first photo above, when I was working on that particular page, I felt that nothing was turning out the way I envisioned it (that was my first mistake: having an expectation).  I worked that page over & over, pulled off already glued down bits, scrubbed it with a baby wipe (awesome art tool!), painted, repainted until I felt it expressed what I was feeling. Had I just trashed that page, I would have lost the feeling, the message, all of it. Part of my expression was working the page…the PROCESS, yes, that’s what matters!

Journals: At first I started working chronologically, so careful to go from one page to the next filling up one journal before starting a new one. Now I am currently working in at least 4 bound journals & I have some loose pages that I  will eventually  bind in some way. Speaking of journals, I started out with a hard bound journal (Stilman & Birn Beta series – LOVE for mixed media) & could never find another one so I settled for a spiral bound one & really didn’t like the way the spirals “interrupted” the flow of a 2 page spread. Since then, I found another hard bound one again & realized now how much easier it is to work in the spiral one! Ah well, live & learn!


(pen & Neo Color II’s; done in a 3.5 x 5″ Moleskine journal that I take everywhere I go; this was done on vacation a few months ago)

Art on the Go: I never leave home without a few gelly roll pens, my mini moleskine sketch  book & some index cards. There is always an opportunity to draw something, somewhere…at the playground, waiting in a dr.’s office, on the subway or bus, waiting for anything! I can always make up a pattern, design, draw from observation or even make a list of books I want to read & decorate the list. I learned so much on this subject from Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow.

image  (acrylics, oil pastel, found images from magazines; this one I left out on my table & worked on it here & there).

Creative Process: There is nothing I love more than to leave an unfinished page on my table & then add a few things here & there while I walk past it. Sometimes my best ideas come to me when I am not 100% focused on the page.  There is so much more to say about creative process that it deserves its own dedicated post, so I will leave it until the next time.

And last but not least in any way:  The more you do, the better you get, the more ideas you have, the more you want to try new things, which leads to your own unique style. It’s the process of creating that opens me up & leads my mind on all different paths.

In the past I have spent so much time on teaching art,  that I totally neglected my own work.  Now? I cannot go one day without drawing, painting, cutting, pasting, creating SOMETHING ! It is essential to my emotional well being! Art is my happy place.

What is your biggest takeaway from art journaling?




18 thoughts on “what art journaling has taught me…so far

  1. Oh, friend! I love these “lessons” and I definitely love your creative style! My takeaway: my journals tell me all I need to know — including prompts about what to learn more about! 🙂

    1. Teresa, Thank you for your kind words! I haven’t even begun to address my Right Brain Planning! Be on the lookout for an entire post dedicated to that wonderful process 🙂

  2. i first found “art journaling” quite a few years ago, but it didn’t really speak to me — try as i might, it felt really clunky and un-natural — i’m a word-girl so the idea of journaling in pictures clashed somewhere in my head!

    then i had the slow revelation that it could be *anything* i wanted it to be — that there are no Rules and no Style that needed to be followed – i could let it be as untidy and messy and UGLY as it needed to be….;) And that cracked my world wide open.

    I still shy away from ‘art journal’ and call it a ‘visual journal’ instead — just semantics, i know…but necessary to stop that bizarre spiral into What Art Journals Are Supposed To Be…;)

    which is my long-winded way of telling you my takeaway — surrender. since i let go of the Should’s and How-To’s, things flow much more happily.

    so glad i stopped by!

    mel xo

  3. A wonderful post for me to read over breakfast . . . and now I’m feeling slightly guilty for putting my blog on the back-burner. When it comes to choosing between making art, or messing around with it, and writing about it, well you can tell what wins!

    Someone wrote about the blank page or the new journal, turn a couple of pages and begin . . . the story of my life, always leaping in at the deep end! If there are no rules in art journalling then doing it is bound to lead toward knowing yourself better.

  4. I seem to keep a hybrid sketchbook /art journal… I find I am better at experimenting on pages and putting aside my training, but still like it to be drawing based… Not a fan of the paint slapping, but that is ok too… Because art journaling means you can do either… I live the permission it gives me … Great post and love the way the new blog looks and feels…xx

  5. My biggest takeaway is that it can be anything I want it to be. And i am a nicer person when i am art journaling to when I am not. I have a few going as well. All concurrently but i like that.

    Just as I am writing i think one of the biggest takeaways is the art journaling community. Most people are so supportive and filled with advice and good ideas when you are stuck. I love being a part of something and feeling like their are others out there a bit weird like me. So much less lonely to share the weirdness…like how great an art tool a wet wipe is!

  6. Art journaling is at the core of my days, even if I am not actually working in my journal! The freedom that I’ve found in art impacts everything else in my life. It makes me happy. And I agree that finding this community of people has changed my life for the better.

  7. Art journaling is an essential part of my well-being and creative arts practice. It’s the one medium/practice out of the ones I’ve worked in that deeply speaks to me and excites me — in such a way that I feel artistically and emotionally and spiritually satisfied when I’m doing it.

    When I art journal, it’s an all-encompassing feeling and experience. I listen to music while art journaling (always) and try to find that zone that I usually get in where I have no sense of time or space and I’m just there with the paint and whatever and the pages.

    My takeaway from art journaling is a sense of emotional, psychological, artistic, and spiritual freedom. Art journaling is my safe place.

    Great post, thanks! I found it via Twitter.

    PS – I also work in several art journals at once and art journal on the go…at the beach, doctor’s office, park, work, school, etc. It’s nice to be reminded that I’m not the only one who carries an art journal around. Sometimes I feel self-conscious when I pull out my art journal and pens, but then I try to remind myself that it’s for me, not the people around me. 🙂

  8. Took my time getting here, and glad I did. Interesting how much you have learned about the process too. We seem to be charting a similar journey but in not art trained. Must be even more of a heart/head challenge when you “know what you were taught” but now “know where you prefer to go” on this arting journey! Denyse x

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