If you can’t draw, your handwriting is awful and you think creativity is an ability you completely lack, then art journal is for you.
Picasso dedicated his whole adult life relearning to paint as a child. Paint freely and with feelings, not just eyes. Non-artist have a unique ability of drawing with feelings, because they can’t really do it any other way.
In this post you will learn what is an art journal (for non-artists) and why you should keep it.
You will also find plenty of creative ideas to keep you going and never run out of inspiration.
It’s easy to say ‘express yourself’, but how do you actually go about expressing yourself, you’ll soon find out.
What is an art journal?
Art journal actually started off as an artist’s journal. A book made by an artist to practice techniques, styles, media, etc.
But keeping an art journal has benefits far beyond just honing one’s artistic skills. And it would be such a waste if non-artist would miss on the opportunity to journal with art.
For all of us non-artists, art journal is a visual collection of thoughts, feelings and ideas. It is a creative and unique way of recording your life and experiences, exploring ourselves, our feelings and thoughts or planning future and setting goals.
Why keep an art journal?
Working on an art journal can be an incredibly motivating and inspiring activity. If you feel stuck in a rut, this just might be your way out. Novelty is a strong motivator.
Use an art journal to unload the day and relax, to generate new ideas or find creative solutions to the problems you are currently having.
Get insight and better understanding of yourself, your actions and feelings.
Picture truly does say a thousand words. And using art to journal your life experiences opens up new possibilities and ways of expressing your thoughts, feelings and ideas.
But one of the most important aspects of art journaling is creativity. Saying I’m not creative is like saying I’m not human. Creativity is an innate ability we all have. Only problem is we lose it if we don’t use it. And art journaling is perfect exercise for strengthening creativity. Once you start regularly practicing creativity, through art journaling, you will see improvements in all areas of your life.
Art journal is a place where you can gain self-awareness as well as explore and expand your creativity.
Art journal ideas
When it comes to art journaling there are no rules. And because there are no rules it is sometimes hard to start.
Looking at a blank page and not knowing where to start or how to express yourself is terribly demotivating. Unless you have an inspiring list of ideas to give you direction when you feel stuck.
Your art can be abstract (shapes, forms, strokes, smudges) or concrete (objects or a scene). It really doesn’t matter how the finished work looks or how good or bad you draw. What matters is the activity itself and the feelings it evokes in you.
Listed below are ideas for entries you can make and suggestions how to make them.
Thoughts and feelings
How am I feeling right now?
What made me happy today?
What were my thoughts throughout the day?
Which thoughts repeat every day?
What are my accomplishments I’m proud of?
What scares me?
What makes me feel happy/sad/excited/anxious/angry/hopeful?
These are some of the questions you can ask yourself.
For this type of entry you can start by painting colored blocks with acrylic paint. Then fill out the blocks with thoughts and feelings you have, or with answers to the questions mentioned above. Blocks create spaces for you to let out all your thoughts and feelings.
To finish doodle around the blocks with gel pens or markers.
On good days you can dare to explore uncomfortable feelings. But on bad days focus only on positive feelings and thoughts.
We all have those beautiful days we wish could last forever. Use your art journal to document one such day.
Glue on the pages every paper trace from that day like tickets, napkin, receipt, brochure, food wrapper, photo or anything else you have from the day.
Spaces between fill out with little descriptions of moments. With feelings you felt and thoughts you had.
Use markers in colors you think best represent that day.
Document little moments that make you smile by drawing a picture and writing a few words. Don’t worry about the quality of the drawing, draw like a child, free and unburdened.
Document and create art around the wisdom you gained.
Lists are always fun to do. There are countless ideas for lists like bucket list, favorite things, to do, to try, to cook, travel, books, movies, songs, quotes, advice, in my bag, hobbies, interests, rainy day and many, many others. Use watercolors for the base and markers and gel pens to write.
Affirmations and quotes
Affirmations and positive quotes make great art journal entries. Write your affirmation or quote across the page using different fonts and sizes. Then paint, draw, doodle around it. Repeat the affirmation over and over in your head while you create art around the sentence.
There are two ways to make a personal affirmation:
- Define your struggle and write a positive statement in a present tense as if your struggle is already solved.
- Become aware of your negative thoughts. Now change negative thought into positive one and write it in the present tense.
This way of journaling is for when you have something heavy on your heart or for when you’re keeping anger inside. Write it all out on the journal pages and then paint over your words. Take acrylic paint and start making strokes in every direction. Use colors depending on how you feel about what’s written. Determine colors for your feelings with the help of Plutchik’s wheel of emotions.
Keep track of the dreams you had. Our dreams are insights into our unconscious. Make a drawing or a painting of the most significant moment of the dream and write a short description.
For the days when you feel low and like nothing can move you. Make a motivational page. Find motivating quotes. Write them all over the page without a particular order. Then paint, draw, doodle around them.
Being aware of your true self, your abilities and your flaws is the not-so-secret secret to a healthy, happy and successful life.
Choose one of the following themes:
- Virtues. What are your virtues?
- Flaws. What are your flaws?
- Gratitude. What are you grateful for?
- Abilities and skills. What are you good at?
- Attract. What do you want more of in your life?
- Let go. What are grudges, angers and bad feelings you are holding on to?
Open your journal with both pages empty. Put your left hand with fingers spread apart on a left page and trace it with a pen. And do the same with your right hand on the right page.
Now it’s time to fill out the fingers. In every finger write in a word or a short sentence that answers the question of the theme you’ve chosen.
Color your hands and the space around it while contemplating what’s written.
Books you read
If you love to read, make a beautiful art journal entry about the books you read. Paint/draw a scene from the book. Write excerpts and quotes you want to remember, your opinions and impressions.
Goals and plans
Set goals, develop strategies to achieve them and make plans with art.
For this you can choose a theme like mountain, or hanging stars and planets or light bulbs, or maybe candle flames.
For example if you choose the mountain theme you can start by drawing a sketch of the mountain. Then write your goal on the top of the mountain, steps to reach the goal would go on the slopes and needed skills would be at the foot of the mountain.
Maybe you don’t have a big goal or a passion yet, in that case use your art journal to try and figure out what it might be.
Ask yourself these questions:
- What is something I want to do but I’m afraid of?
- If I could do anything in the world, what would I do?
- If I could have any skill, what skills would I have?
- What motivates and excites me?
For this you can draw hanging stars/light bulbs or candles with flames and fill them out with answers to the questions above.
Create an artistic mind-map with possible solutions to the problem you are currently facing.
Travel entry can be the memory of the travel you had, but also a plan for the travel you would like to have.
Use maps, photos of places and monuments, tickets, brochures, stamps, postcards, receipts, pressed plants and other memorabilia from your travel. Glue it all and then write around them notes and doodles with markers or ball pens.
For more ideas check out 101 travel journal ideas.
Use your other hobbies as an inspiration. Write about them, draw and paint ideas for them, document your progress and make plans.
Sometimes you can journal without words, or with just one or two essential words. This is when you get to explore and work on your creativity.
Try crayon and watercolor technique.
With crayons draw, doodle or write on a page. Then paint over it with watercolors.
Once the page is dry use gel pens or markers to create accents in crayon drawings.
TIP! Use white and light color crayons with darker watercolors. And opposite, use dark and bold color crayons with light watercolors. Or combine contrasting colors and play with other combinations.
Awaken your creative genius. Explore different media, paint, draw, doodle like you did when you were a child.
Create a tribute to important people and relationships in your life. Paint their portrait, write what you love about them. Write about moments you shared together, include pictures and memories.
More ideas for art journal entries:
- Create mandalas
- Line art drawings
- Practice calligraphy
- Paint landscape
- Make a collage
These are just some of the ideas for art journal entries. Possibilities and variations are endless. Draw and paint as you did when you were a child, without reservations and just for the fun of it. Explore and have fun.
Basic art journal supplies
To get started with an art journal you don’t need much, just a couple of basics.
Choose with which medium you feel most comfortable and start from there, expand as you progress.
- Notebook with heavy duty paper
- Gel pens
- Colored pencils
- Crayons or pastels
- Acrylic colors
Remember, art journal is not about creating a masterpiece or even a pretty art. It’s about exploration of the self, free creation without rules and fear of judgement. Activity itself is what matters, not the finished product.
Think of your art journal entries as a journey into the unknown. Feel free to explore and expand, try out different techniques and supplies. And don’t forget to have fun!
Are you new to art journaling?
I started my first art journal a few months ago and was primarily drawn to it because I wanted to work on my creativity. What was it that attracted you to art journal?