What Is An Art Journal? | Why You Need To Start One | Good Art Journal Ideas
Living the past two years in a pandemic has been stressful, to say the least. So if you're looking for a way to cope with the stress and often overwhelming feelings, why not start journaling?
Today, the art journal has become a popular and accessible form of therapy. The benefits are boundless-read more about it in our guide to art journal therapy.
The best part? Even though the art journal relies on visuals and words, you don't need to be a capital C creative to keep one. Just do what works for you, and create without judgment!
Keep on reading for creative art journal ideas you can try next!
What is an art journal and what do I need to start one?
An art journal is, well, a journal in which you express yourself creatively. This list will give you a bunch of art journal ideas that combine writing with art.
Of course, to start you'll need a journal. Most people prefer to use bound blank journals for their art journals. But you're free to use loose-leaf paper and bind it yourself! After that, just gather the writing, sketching, and coloring implements of your preference. Make sure your journal can handle the art medium as well. So if you're using a water-based medium like watercolor or gouache, use an art journal with thicker pages.
Try to approach these art journal ideas without putting pressure on yourself to get everything perfect. The goal isn't to make a gallery-worthy piece, rather it's to have fun and express yourself!
What are some good art journal ideas?
Always remember: the blank page isn't here to judge you. We get it, though. Sometimes the blank page can be terrifying. Creative block is a real struggle, and boy is it real! So if you're thinking "I have zero ideas to get me started," don't worry! Here are a few art journal ideas for beginners and artists alike.
Art journal cover ideas so people know it's yours
The art journal is your safe and private space. And what better way to say "My Journal; Keep Away!" than by decorating your art journal cover? Use acrylic paint or paint markers to customize your art journal with a unique design. You can also write your favorite quote on the cover. Or plaster it with stickers. Let your journal cover show off your personality! This dotted journal in a calming blue is a good blank canvas to start on!
Art journal cover ideas aren't limited to what binds your journal-you can decorate the first page as well.
Introduce yourself to your art journal
Use the first page to speak to your new art journal. Tell your journal a little bit about yourself. Hand letter your name. Use your favorite colors. Draw or paint a self-portrait! Start on the right page with one of your favorite quotes.
When you start a new journal, you might feel some resistance or shyness. Your inner critic may say "I don't want to ruin this brand-spankin' new journal with a bad art piece." or "This first piece needs to be a masterpiece so I start on the right note." Instead, use the first page to begin a healthy relationship with the blank page.
Explore and experiment with different art mediums
Use your art journal to discover the joy of creativity and allow your inner child to play on the page. Play with your favorite art mediums-or explore new ones. When meeting new mediums on the page for the first time, start small and simple. Create some color wheel swatches. Draw and paint what's right in front of you. What's on your desk or in your bag? What's in your fridge? How about your go-to caf'e order? Which books are on your to-read list?
With new paints, discover how they blend and layer with each other. Do basic shapes and shading techniques. Here's a beginner-friendly and vegan brush set that's perfect for a wide range of mediums like gouache, watercolor, and even acrylic paint!
Mix and match art mediums with ephemera
Not sure which art materials to use? Then use them all! Combine different coloring materials on a single spread and express yourself through a mixed media piece. There are so many mixed media art journal ideas to try.
Think of things you can cut, press, and paste into your journal. If you've got magazines lying around and gathering dust at home, cut them up and create a collage over a painting. Found a quote that resonates with you? Do some hand-lettering on scrap paper. Use up that stamp collection. You can even add pressed flowers and leaves, mementos like tickets and postcards, even cutouts from old books. For mixed media art journal pages, your options are limitless.
Go for a walk and paint en plein air
Something about nature makes for beautiful art. And getting some sun is always a healthy endeavor! Many great artists like Claude Monet were known to draw inspiration from nature. So if you can, take a long walk in nature or take a trip down to the beach. Bring your journal and art stuff with you. A good travel-sized palette is your best bet, so try our best-selling 24-pan watercolor palette that comes with a flat brush and water brush!
Find a spot where you can paint and write about what you see. Take this time to immerse yourself in the beautiful outdoors. Observe your surroundings. You can even collect fallen leaves and petals to sketch or press in the pages of your art journal.
Use your hands
By this we mean, use only your hands and some paint. Finger painting is an easy activity that'll take you straight back to your childhood. As children, finger painting helps us discover our senses through creativity. But somewhere down the line, something shut down our imagination. So as adults, finger painting lets us rediscover our inner child and our innate creativity.
Picasso says it best: "Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up." So this is just one of many art journal ideas for beginners looking to reawaken their inner creative spirit!
Try out meditative painting or drawing
Stressed? Take a deep breath, and add some art-making into the mix. Seriously, meditation works and it'll work more wonders if you combine it with art journaling. There's even a whole new art therapy modality around this, called mindfulness-based art therapy.
Simply put, just use the blank page to relax and to let go of stress. When meditating with art, anything goes. And we go with the flow. So don't focus so much on the image you're creating. Rather, focus on your breathing and the movement of your pen or brush. Try to synchronize each stroke with every inhale and exhale. If you want to take your practice further, we've got a whole guide to meditative painting with watercolor!
Go people-watching with your art journal
Stepping out for a coffee break? Don't leave your art journal behind. You never know when inspiration will strike. Alternatively, you can use said break to get creative. Seat yourself in a comfortable place at a caf'e or outdoor restaurant and start drawing what you see.
Make portraits of interesting-looking people. Imagine their stories and conversations and make a comic. Sketch out an outfit you like. Don't worry about how realistic the sketch is. Don't even worry about finishing the drawing in one sitting. Think of this as an exercise in building your skills of observation and perspective.
More creative art journal ideas that combine writing and drawing
Again, the blank page is not there to judge you. Express yourself freely. This is a safe space. You can rant if you need to. Turn off your inner editor and just write what comes to mind-this is called the brain dump. Of course, we understand that words can't fully express how we feel the same way drawing can, and vice versa. So here are some art journal page ideas and prompts that combine writing with drawing or painting:
- Visualize where you want to be in 5 years. Write down what advice you think they would give you.
- Just woke up from a vivid dream? Write down as many details as you can recall first, then paint it later.
- Start your day with a positive affirmation and pair it with an uplifting image!
- Write a poem and paint a wash of color over it. Choose colors that match the mood of your poem.
- Grab a magazine. Cut out words that resonate with you. Use those words to prompt your artwork.
Start your journey into art journaling with ZenArt
Especially in times like these, the art journal helps us freely express ourselves and make sense of what we're currently experiencing. And the beauty of having an art journal is that there's no right or wrong way to go about it. Similarly, there's no right or wrong time to start. Do what works for you, and most of all, have fun!
We hope you found some inspiration from these art journal ideas. We'd love to hear from you, too! How do you approach your art journals? Where do you draw inspiration for art journaling? Let us know in the comments below! Join our friendly art community Painting Inspiration Daily on Facebook. You can share your art and ideas, watch LIVE tutorials, and be inspired to paint!
- MEET THE AUTHOR-
Belle O. Mapa is a writer and artist based in Manila, Philippines. She believes that everyone is born with an inner creative spirit—we just need to nurture and discover it on the blank page. Currently, she lives out her passion: writing stories, hosting journaling workshops, and advocating for mental health awareness.