Tag Lady in Red, on Van Gogh-inspired painted background. everyday art journaling, junk journal, reasons to start an art journal
art journaling,  blog

7 Reasons to Start an Art Journal

Free Yourself, painted collage art journal page.
Abstract Collage: acrylic paint, stencils, stamps, magazine image and words, washi tape.

If you’re looking for a creative hobby that allows you to express yourself through simple art materials and easy to learn techniques, then read on to learn just 7 of the many reasons to start an art journal!

While it’s easy to get started with simply dabbling in your private journal, you can quickly pick up new skills from others and soon be proudly sharing your work with the art journal community.

I’ve been creating in art journals for over 6 years so far, and with all the versatility and new things to learn with this hobby, I feel like I’m just getting started! I could list many reasons for jumping headfirst into this creative pastime, but for today, let’s take a look at just 7 reasons why you should start an art journal.

1. Explore your creativity.

Whether you were born with an artistic knack, took a few art classes or feel like you don’t have a creative bone in your body, art journaling is a place to experiment. We all have a creative “muscle”, we just need to exercise it!

White paint "bubbles" on bubble wrap printed blue background, art journal page.
Abstract Collage painting: magazine image, mark making using acrylic paint and recycled materials: bubble wrap, toilet paper roll, wine cork.

From simple beginner collages and doodling to more advanced techniques you can learn along the way, having an art journal to practice in is a great way to document your creative journey. You’ll be surprised at the beautiful pages you will create with just a little instruction found online, or by just using your imagination!

2. Communicate your personal aspirations in a visual format.

A great way to face that first blank art journal page is to collage a “vision board” sort of spread, using cut-out images that inspire you to reach certain goals in your life. (See the post, Basic Art Journaling: Inspirational Collage, Here:)

Inspirational collage, surfing, boxing, on a painted background, Art Journaling as Self Care

You may have many great aspirations and goals for yourself in your mind, but there’s something about putting them done in a visual format that really makes the connection from your mind to your heart!

All the supplies you need for this art journal spread are a bunch of old magazines, a scissors, and a glue stick! Just start clipping images and words that resonate with you and your goals, arrange them in a way that feels right, and glue them down! Of course you can add extra bits of color with paint or markers, if you wish, no rules here.

Your “personal aspiration journal” will be a popular destination any time you need some extra motivation for reaching your goals.

3. Practice mindfulness for calming and focusing your mind.

While adult coloring books are great for relaxing your mind as you focus on the simple act of coloring, you may want to expand this practice into an art journal. Simply doodling onto a blank page without any set goal in mind can be freeing; yet in case you’re still wondering how to start, here’s a few suggestions:

Doodle shapes: draw bubbles, triangles, waves, leaf shapes, simple flowers, spirals, squares, straight lines, curvy lines, waves, dots and ovals. Once you’ve made a group of closed shapes, pull out your colored pencils or markers and enjoy coloring them in. Or, highlight your marks by going over the lines in bright markers or white paint pens.

art journal background, bright paint colors, bleeding tissue paper, mark making, abstract collage
Art journal background: acrylic paint, bleeding tissue paper, mark making.

Hand lettering: Nothing fancy here, just play with different styles of handwriting, block lettering, crazy ransom note writing, or try copying computer-generated fonts, if you like.

Sketch something nearby: your hand, your cup, a chair, a building outside your window, or a rapid figure sketch of people walking by. Try abstract scribble drawings of people in motion, it’s fun!

Blind contour drawing: Same idea as the simple sketching above, but this time, focus only on your subject, the thing you’re drawing. Do not look at your paper, keep your pencil on the paper without lifting it up at all. Focus on drawing what you see in one continuous line on your paper. Your drawing may look crazy and out of proportion, but it’s a great practice for loosening up and just drawing what you see! When you’re done, try jazzing it up with some colored marks to fill in the spaces: dots, lines and grids, just play around!

*For more ideas on art journaling for mindfulness, read the post, “Art as Self Care In Uncertain Times,” here.

4. Work through difficult emotions, express yourself visually in a private place.

First of all, I’d like to say that if you are experiencing serious, debilitating or life-threatening emotional pain, please contact a mental health professional immediately. Drilling deep into these emotions and negative thought, even through art, can be risky without the guidance of a trained, compassionate, professional counselor.

That said, I can personally attest to how expressing myself in an art journal has helped me work through my own difficult emotions. I saw a counselor for five years while processing relationship changes and the emotional pain that accompanied them. My counselor was also an artist, and she encouraged me to keep an art journal to help me to “see” the positive changes I aspired to in my journey, through art.

At first, there were some dark places to delve into, and I didn’t hold back from expressing some of that in my art journal. I then shared these pages with my counselor, and we talked about how I felt while creating the dark images, and how I could safely come out of those feelings and engage in positive self-care.

Soul, Deep, Blue art journal page

Sometimes it is recommended that these darker art journal pages should be destroyed, or better yet, painted over and covered with something more positive. I decided to leave some of my original, raw depictions of darkness in my journal, just as a record of where I’d been, as a comparison to the brighter times that lay ahead.

Moving on from the expression of dark emotions, keeping an art journal is a great way to put forward positive images and words that promote a greater sense of well-being and emotional health.

"Keeping an art journal is a great way to put forward positive images and words that promote a greater sense of well-being and emotional health." Click To Tweet

For more, I again point you to my post, “Art as Self Care in Difficult Times”.

5. Connect with other art journalers.

If you’re looking for a creative hobby where you can easily connect to a sharing community online, you’ve found it in art journaling! Simply do a quick search in some of the major social media outlets and you’ll find a giganormous vat of inspiration, connection and comaraderie with art journalers worldwide:

  • Facebook: Facebook Groups are a great place for art journaling beginners! Type in “art journal” in the search bar, click on “groups” at the top, and you’ll be shown a slew of art journaling groups to browse. Take a look inside them before joining; make sure the group has the quantity of posts and quality of topics to keep you inspired. Some of the largest, most popular groups will include different challenges to participate in, with plenty of member uploads of art to keep you engaged.
  • Instagram: Once you have your account set up, search for other art journalers, using hashtags, such as #artjournal, #mixedmedia, #artjournaling, etc. Click on art images that resonate with you most, and check out the artist’s profile. Begin to “follow” a handful of your favorite artists, be consistent in “liking” others’ work, and soon you’ll begin building up your own followers and creative community!

  • Pinterest: I cannot stress enough how much this visual search engine has led to my self-taught knowledge and practice of art journaling and mixed media art! We creatives are naturally drawn to images, so this site uses our intuitive thought process to quickly direct us to the sources online we love the most! Just sign up, search for anything, and start “pinning” your favorite tutorials, videos, articles, journal ideas and more to the “boards” you set up. If you already go, you know!!

Connecting with other like-minded creatives is great for the soul, and our #5 reason to start an art journal!

6. Keep a visual diary of everyday life.

Another reason to start an art journal is to keep a visual diary of everyday life. I’m old enough to remember when a “scrapbook” was literally a book of scraps, not photos, but pieces of meaningful ephemera pasted on the pages as a keepsake of days gone by. Why not bring back this tradition, while adding your own creative flourishes to the pages, using paint and mixed media to scratch that artist’s itch!

Your scraps don’t all have to be super meaningful or special, either. Instead of flattening your dried up prom corsage like in the days of old, use literally everyday JUNK to create a Junk Journal! I’m a hoarder of those fancy or odd looking garment tags that are attached to new clothing. Soon they will be pasted into my ongoing project of a junk journal, with drawing and painting around them to meld them into some eclectic collages, even landscapes.

Tag Lady in Red, on Van Gogh-inspired painted background. everyday art journaling, junk journal, reasons to start an art journal
“Tag Lady in Red”.
Collage painting on recycled cereal box, text scrap collage, painted Van Gogh-inspired background, magazine images, garment tag, stamps, acrylic paint.

One day it will be fun to look back on even the ordinary scraps of life, so make some fun of those recycled scraps as you indulge in your creativity.

7. Travel Journal.

In the age of early exploration, before cameras were even dreamed of, naval officers were trained in drawing and cartography, so they could not only map out the routes they took across the seas, but to record their observations of landscapes, flora and fauna, and new cultures they came upon.

In the same way, a travel journal can be an extension of the usual photo album that often results after a vacation. But instead of waiting to get home and get the photos printed, you can record your visual observations in “real time”, while on your trip!

A travel journal can be just a small notebook that will easily fit in your suitcase, along with a few simple art tools in a zippered pouch. I like to include the following art supplies in my travel pack:

Traveling Art Pack:

With these simple tools, you can use your art journal to:

  • collage ephemera from tourist attractions visited (ticket stubs, postcards, pamphlets, resort wrist bands, etc.)
  • collage small dried leaves or grasses found in natural areas
  • paint a landscape or seascape in watercolors
  • scribble a rapid figure drawing in pen while watching an event in action
  • sketch an interesting landmark, an unusual bird, or the frosty beverage in your hand!
the brave and the free, painted bird art journal page,

The fun of a travel journal is just to record the little details of your trip, right then and there. If you wish, you could take the inspiration from your sketches and complete them into a more polished, finished work. But if not, it’s still just as wonderful to reminisce your special memories by looking back at your raw sketches.

Sharing Your Art Journal

I hope you have been inspired to try your hand at art journaling in one of the ways suggested, or in something entirely different and personal to you!

Whether you share your journal with others or keep it private is entirely up to you. To give you an idea of how I started my own art journaling journey, I made a video recording my own flip-through of my very first journal. I didn’t really know what I was doing at first, but loved having a place to express myself and to practice new techniques. Without further ado, here it is; enjoy!

Thanks for letting me share my love of art journaling with you. These are just 7 good reasons to start an art journal; if you try it yourself, I’m sure you’ll find many more! If you are motivated to get started and curious about what basic supplies you’ll need, be sure to check out my post, “What You Need to Start an Art Journal”.

Till next time, bye for now!

Jennifer

Joy in the Making, icon and photo