The Basics of Art Journaling

My girlfriend has been seeing a doctor of traditional Chinese medicine to help with stress and muscle tension. Besides routine acupuncture, the prescription the doctor gave her was to “do something creative”.

Like me, my girlfriend wouldn’t necessarily label herself as an “artist”. She can draw stick figures and likes quilting and scrapbooking, but according to the doctor, this wasn’t “creative” enough.

I suggested that she try art journaling.

What Is An Art Journal?

An art journal is a place for you to experiment with images and words; it’s a personal space for self-expression. It pushes your creative thinking in the name of “play” while examining your inner world – no art experience or innate “talent” required. All you need is a willingness to experiment and be open to yourself.  And the best part?  There aren’t any rules!

My art journal includes:

  •  A diary: what’s going on in my life and how I feel about it
  •  A ‘bucket list’: a place where I examine and set goals for myself
  •  A collection: I keep favorite quotations, interesting conversations or other poignant ideas I don’t want to forget

How To Get Started

Here are some suggestions for basic supplies to use in an art journal:

  •  A journal, preferably one with sturdy, thick paper. You want paper that will withstand whatever stuff you throw on it.
  •  Art supplies: paints, paintbrushes, watercolor pencils, etc. Of course, these are all optional – it all depends on what you would like to play with. However, white gesso is considered a staple. It’s used to coat your pages, like building a foundation.
  •  Mixed media objects: I often scour magazines for phrases, great titles, or other interesting images.
  •  Adhesive: to add these objects you’ll need to find a way to stick them down. Gluesticks, tape runners, and glue sealer (think Mod Podge) are all excellent choices.
  •  Assorted pens. The ink colors are endless.
  •  Newspaper. I use it to cover my desk and protect it from the mess I’m bound to create.
  •  Paper towel and/or baby wipes: necessary for clean up.

The benefits of art journaling are increased self-awareness and healthy self-expression. Adding the experimentation of painting, collage, or mixed media just adds another layer of fun.

Doodling, daydreaming, and engaging with your imagination are not only activities for the brain, they are food for the soul. When I am journaling, it is a safe place to spend time just with myself. One of my goals for 2013 is to participate in activities that encourage personal reflection and expression. Through my art journaling, I am learning so much more about myself, even though I’m in my mid-thirties. What excites me most about curating an art journal is looking back and seeing how I’ve grown.

As soon as my girlfriend saw my art journal, she wanted to start.

Take a look.  Maybe you will want to as well.

by Teri Harman


Here are some online resources to help you begin.

Happy journaling!