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    Main | Daisy Yellow Zine {Issue #12} »

    Art Journaling 101

    How do you start an art journal? 

     "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 October 2014

    The type of art journaling that I talk about is very loose and free and unencumbered by rules. Art journaling is simply doing art in a journal. To make an art journal, you do not need a kit, a coach, a lesson or a guidebook.

    1. 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

    2. Gather art materials

    Art journaling does not have to be in an actual journal. ♥︎ 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.

    ➸ Info about art materials for art journaling can now be found in Art Journaling 102: Materials.

    3. Collect + make stuff for your journal

    Find stuff. Ephemera is a fancy word for stuff you put in your journal. Here are some examples: pages from old textbooks, maps, receipts, recycled stuff from other art projects, product packaging, clothing labels, old photographs, scrapbook paper, lyrics, lottery tickets, polaroid photos, postage stamps, raffle tickets, grocery lists, lists of any type, subway maps, airline tickets, event announcements, advertisements, ribbon, fabric.

    Make stuff. You can make things to use on your art journal pages. You can paint papers, take notes on various subjects, cut stencils, take photographs, write poetry, collect quotations and practice your drawing skills. 

    4. Find a space to work

    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.  

    5. Stay a tiny bit 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, I organize my materials differently than most people! I keep my art materials in lidded baskets and the materials that are typically used "together" are kept together. My goal is to pull out as few baskets as needed to accomplish my journal pages, mixed media art or whatever I'm working on. I think this differs from the way most people organize their art materials. For example, I don't keep tools in one spot but rather with the related mediums. I do have a few pairs of scissors so that I can find them when I need them.

    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, mark-making and texture-making tools. Heavy body acrylics are stored with the stuff I use with them such as a palette knife, 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" in a basket of large papers.

    Hand-painted paper ephemera. This basket contains papers I've painted and saved for my art journal pages. This includes stuff I make with a homemade gelatin printing plate, abstract watercolors, etc. 

    Cutting/shaping tools. X-acto knives, curved paper cutter, hole punch, scissors, paper trimmers.

    Book-binding stuff. Linen thread, awl, mallet, beeswax, bookbinding needles, papers cut to size, boards.

    6. Open up your journal and play!

    Open your journal or pull out a 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 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. 

    7. Get inspired & learn techniques 

    • Art Journaling Tangents & Tactics is a growing series of {free} video tutorials designed to inspire ideas & creativity for you to use in your art journal process. There are over 12 tutorials appropriate for beginners to experienced artists.
    • Each issue of the Daisy Yellow Zine includes ideas for jumping through creative blocks and getting your art down on the page, with 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.



    8. Follow creative prompts & challenges

    • The Daily Paper Prompt is a series of > 60 open-ended techniques-based prompts appropriate for beginners to experienced artists. 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 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. 

    9. 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. All of the possibilities have not yet been explored!

    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.

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    Reader Comments (59)

    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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