Keeping a journal is a great way to record your thoughts, document your experiences, reflect on your life, and understand your emotions. In the past, journals most often involved only writing — but for those of us who are more visually inclined, art journaling has evolved as a great creative alternative and a way to integrate visual and verbal modes of expression.

Art journals are a form of visual and verbal diary. You do not need to be a professional artist to create an art journal, art journals are works in progress that provide a way for you to respond to your life in an artistic way.

Art journals are mixed media creations that combine elements of writing, drawing, painting, collage, and even photography to express yourself. Art journal entries can include content from your everyday life, as well as expressions of your bigger ideas, hopes, and dreams. A single page will often fuse words and illustrations to provide a look at what you are thinking and feeling.

Emily Neuburger, an avid art journaler and author of Journal Sparks: Fire Up Your Creativity with Spontaneous Art, Wild Lettering, and Inventive Thinking, has said that her journal pages are the closest she can get to “taking a photo of what is going on” in her brain.

And art journals do just that. They provide a way for us to view our thoughts and feelings in an outward expression. The point of art journaling is not to make every page a masterpiece. Art journaling is at its best when you can enjoy the act of creating something just for yourself without worrying about who is going to see it. Your art journal is just for you unless of course, you choose to share parts of it with someone else.

So, how to get started?

Art journaling is a completely individualized activity. There are no rules or requirements. There are, however, some guidelines and considerations to help get you started. The most important thing when beginning your art journal is selecting the right book for you.

1. Consider the size of your art journal. You’ll want to consider size – Do you want the journal to be portable in a bag or backpack, or do you want the journal to be large to accommodate big drawings and collages?

2. Consider the weight of the paper. To accommodate mixed media, glues, and paints, you’ll want a heavyweight paper that won’t bleed through or show through when you’ve worked on multiple pages.

3. Consider the format of the book. Do you want a blank book or perhaps a book with graph paper or a dot grid for guidelines?

4. Consider the materials you want to use. It’s a good idea to gather a variety of pens – including black for outlining and writing and white for writing over dark papers or photos. You might also incorporate a variety of other colors, and you might want to incorporate some of the following items, too.

• Watercolor paints or pencils
• Acrylic paints
• Glue sticks or rollers
• Magazines
• Interesting papers – varied colors, textures, and patterns

And how to keep going?

Having a routine may help. Perhaps there is a time of day that works best for you – over morning coffee, before bed, on the bus, or after dinner. But, it’s important to realize that if you haven’t created in your journal for a few days, all is not lost. Just pick it up again. Remember… no rules. It’s also important to be flexible and that might just mean finding small pockets of time at various times during your day to create. And, I hope you do.

Ideas for Art Journaling

1. Mess it up! Really. Perhaps you will want to create a wash of watercolor on the page as a background or start by collaging interesting papers on a page.

2. Doodle while you sit in your favorite coffee shop.

3. Write – and illustrate – five favorite things from your day.

4. Observe your surroundings and doodle/write about them.

5. Create a page around a theme or concept you want to explore: love, friendship, poetry, nature, architecture, travel, pets, quotes that inspire you, etc. Incorporate photos or images from magazines.

6. Explore art journal pages on the internet. Start with Pinterest. There’s so much variety in individual expression out there!!  

Recommended Reading






Internet Resources


1. is a great source for getting information on how to start keeping an art journal as well ideas and inspiration for continuing the ongoing habit of creating your art journal. The following two pages are particularly good resources for helping you to get started.


2. Pinterest also has oodles of examples of art journals.

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