Art journaling – also known as visual journaling – is a combination of written word and visual art. It’s a creative marriage made in heaven as far as I’m concerned. After all, it combines two of my favorite things in the world: art and writing. And though there are guidelines and suggestions for this practice, there aren’t any rules. Everyone one seems to do it a little differently, which is part of the magic: it’s exactly what you want it and need it to be.
Not only is art journaling an incredible form of self-expression, it’s also a snapshot of your life that develops one page at a time. It’s a great creative exercise, and also a respite – a safe, constructive way to process feelings and experiences in an often-chaotic world.
I talk about my art journaling classes for at-risk children fairly often, but haven’t shared my own journals yet – this post is a bit overdue! Here’s a peek at some of what I do with my journals – both inside and out. Some of the journal customizations are similar to those I make to my travel journals, and some are unique to my regular art journals.
My Journaling History & Influences
I’ve been keeping diaries and journals since I was a young girl, but my first “official” art journal was created in college for one of my art classes. I picked up art journaling again in 2002 when I accepted a job in the art and craft publishing industry. Surrounded by massive amounts of incredible practices, techniques, and artwork I quickly adopted some as my own. Art journaling and collage soon became two of my creative staples, and I’ve created/completed 13 art journals since 2002.
Many of the creative elements I’ve incorporated into my journals were learned from the late Janice Lowry, artist and journalist extraordinaire. I’ve also been fortunate enough to take classes from wonderful teachers like Kelly Kilmer, Juliana Coles, and Quinn McDonald. I’m a lucky girl!
My Favorite “F Word” – Frugal
One of the best things about art journaling, aside from it being very portable and easy to do, is that it’s a low-cost option. Art can be pricey, but art journaling is an affordable option for nearly everyone. If you have a simple journal, a writing implement and a glue stick you’re good to go.
Sure, there are many other things you can use to add visual interest and excitement, but those are all icing on the cake. And while scissors are certainly recommended, even those are optional if you’re open to tearing paper.
The more of a scavenger you are, the more interesting your journal will be. Candy wrappers, fortune cookie “fortunes”, aluminum foil, and paper doilies from the bakery can all be repurposed and re-used in your journal.
The Journal Itself
I prefer to work in a large hardcover journal with unlined white pages. Because everyone is different it may take some experimentation to find the size and type of journal you like best.
Though I’ve tried fancier, decorative journals, I generally opt to cover the entire front and back of a plain journal with my own decorative elements instead. Most often I collage a variety of things onto the cover, and then seal it all in with multiple coats of water-soluble Polycrylic.
Some of my journals have a rectangular piece of fabric on the book’s spine. Sealed in with the polycrylic, the fabric is both decorative and functional since the fabric adds extra stability to a book that’s frequently handled.
It’s important to include your name and phone number on the inside cover, just in case you misplace your journal. (Hopefully a good Samaritan will return it if it’s found!) I also usually glue an envelope on the right side of the inside cover. I tuck movie tickets, fortune cookie “fortunes” and other tidbits in the envelope.
Another practice that’s just for fun is including the start and finish date of the journal on the inside flap. It’s interesting to see (at a glance) how long it took me to complete a particular journal.
Because I do a fair amount of collage or gluing of memorabilia in my journal I remove some of the blank pages before starting to work in the book. This allows the book to close properly even though materials are added. I usually remove every third or fourth page. I save the blank pages I remove for later – they make great scratch paper!
Materials – The Bits and Pieces of your Life
When it comes to the materials that can be used, I like to keep my options wide open. Traditional art supplies are used along side candy wrappers, pieces of aged newspaper I’ve picked up off the ground, pictures cut from magazines, emails and news stories I’ve printed, and more. If it appeals to me, or is somehow relevant to my entry, it’s fair game. I do try to keep my materials as “thin” as possible, so my journals close and lie flat, but I don’t shy away from layering.
As for actual journal entries, the sky’s the limit! You can write a typical “Dear Diary” type of entry, draw, doodle, write a list of things that make you happy, write about something that pisses you off, create a collage page from pages ripped out of old magazines, do a bullet point list of your daily activities while on vacation, create a self-portrait, set goals, sketch out/list ideas for an upcoming project, and more. Whatever you find fun, helpful, cathartic, and inspiring – that’s what your journal should include.
India ink doodles on top of a loose grid of masking tape.
Self-Portrait materials include a photo-copied photograph, paper, wire, thread, printed ribbon, staples, glassine envelope, foreign postage stamp, label, gold paper frame, and a lock of hair.
A magazine images, black gesso, and silver pen.
Caran d’ache water-soluble crayons, black ink pen, cork stamp, black ink pad, metallic gel pens.
Magazine images, black gesso, gold wings, feather, copper foil tape, copper pen.
Watercolor paper, black marker, caran d’ache water-soluble crayons, black writing pen.
Pencil, black pen, gray card stock, pastels.
Watercolors, black pen.
Magazine images, decorative paper, black pen.
Metallic gray textured paint, color copy of first self-portrait’s heart, Sharpie marker, sunflower images, silver gel pen.
Do you art journal? Are you interested in taking it up? Please let me know if you have any questions or comments – I’d love to hear from you…