I haven’t been posting my art journal pages, but that doesn’t mean that I haven’t been doing them. To be honest, I’m not going to complete an art journal page every day — despite the fact that journal means daily. Most likely I’ll do my journaling only during the week, skipping weekends, holidays, and days when my husband is home because of appointments or vacation. My art time is always a private time. I don’t work well with others around. I choose not to do my morning pages — those 3 hand-written pages of thoughts — on days when my husband is home, so I won’t be doing art journal pages either.
One reason why starting — and continuing — an art journal has always been problematic for me was because I couldn’t fully grasp the idea behind them. An art journal, we’re told, can be anything we want it to be. Great, but what would I personally want from an art journal, and why would I want it?
To help others who may stumble a bit over that same block, I’ve done a bit of online research. I’ve talked to other journal artists, and I’ve come up with a list of good ideas regarding the art journaling process.
You can create and use an art journal:
- To explore a single prompt, idea, subject, or exercise each day. Just as I drew trees each day during last year’s Inktober challenge, an art journalist can choose a single subject — faces, food, animals, anything — and practice it as an art journal entry.
- To hold memories of a single special day or event, such as a holiday celebration, a family reunion, a trip to a specific place.
- To try experimental art. Maybe you want to do an entire journal with your non-dominant hand. Or maybe you want to play with a new medium. Maybe you want to focus on collage. A journal is a great place for things you normally don’t do!
- To record things. Much like a written journal, an art journal can hold important information. What’s blooming in the garden each day? What’s the weather like? What are you reading? You can collect your favorite poems complete with illustrations, or maybe you’d rather build a journal around music you love, or favorite quotes. Art journals can save lots of memories.
- To work with a specific color or color scheme. Love green? Create an art journal around it, adding new illustrations in varying shades and tones of green. Or go for complementary colors, or play with fauvism. Why not?
- To serve as a dream journal. Keep it close to your bed, record your dreams when you wake each day, and have fun completing the illustrations.
- To honor something or someplace you love. Maybe your journal will be all about the ocean, or maybe your illustrations will all have a space-related theme. If it’s something you’re passionate about, it can become a starting point for an art journal.
- To document on-going projects. Building a new house? Traveling across country? Learning French cooking? An art journal can become a fun place to keep all the thoughts, images, and ideas related to your project. Think how much you’ll enjoy looking back at it!
- To ask yourself questions. Journals, you see, don’t have to be done day-after-day. They can be a “do-when-necessary” part of your art life. When a question arises, you can pick up your journal and express your thoughts with lines, colors, drawings, whatever.
- To come up with your own personalized experience.
Many artists, I’ve learned, have multiple journals or notebooks. I can relate to this idea because I typically have different sketchbooks for different types of drawing. I have a landscape sketchbook. I have a figure-drawing sketchbook. I have a bird sketchbook. While there are certain differences between sketchbooks and art journals, maybe the difference is largely one of semantics. Again, the idea of journaling as a day-after-day process may be a hindrance. You don’t have to create a journal page each day.
For me, my art journal is mostly a fun way to learn more about mixed media, a place where I can keep little bits and pieces of my life, and a great way to warm-up each morning before I begin my drawing and painting art projects.
I have one page created around our weekly menu. I have another page based on dialogue from Anna Karenina — the classic novel I’m currently reading. I splatter watercolors on my pages; I cut and paste quotes and pictures. I’ve done a bit of sketching, and I’ve grabbed a few stickers to add. Mixed media is all new to me, so the results don’t really matter. It’s just me finding new ways to use old things — at least during the month of August — while I become familiar with mixed media techniques.
Now that I’m beginning to understand the why of art journaling, I’m having fun figuring out the how-to. There are many tutorials on watercolor doodling that can be useful, as well as tutorials for mixed media. There are, of course, many articles and tutorials online that deal specifically with art journals.
I’m discovering that each new page is an adventure as I pick a topic and find ways to put bits and pieces together in a meaningful way. Some pages I like; some pages make me laugh. But every page has its place as a part of my life and as an expressive part of my art.