10 Art Journaling Ideas To Get You Started!

What is art journaling?

Art journaling is basically a visual journal that combines written reflections with imagery.

Art journals can take on many forms. They can really be anything you want them to be. I have seen some that are more focused on written reflections with a few doodles in the margins. Others are more planned out, finished works of art that may or may not contain much written reflection. Some people begin with a prompt that they then interpret either visually or in combination with written reflection, while other people work more intuitively following their curiosity as it unfolds. 

For me art journaling has become part of a creative mindfulness practice that has helped me to reconnect with a part of myself that had been dormant for a long time. It helped to reconnect me with my creativity and learn how to release judgement while embracing the process of creating. It allowed me to find an outlet to process my thoughts and feelings and became an important part of my personal self care.

Art Journaling is a practice that helps to calm and quiet my anxiety and release my stress in a productive way. It blends so beautifully with mindfulness by helping me to focus on the present moment and tune into the sensations of my body and breath as I create. When I first began my practice several years ago, art journaling provided me with an accessible link to meditation at a time in my life when standard meditation practices seemed too far out of my reach. In my practice I like to use a combination of written reflection and visual reflection. I enjoy exploring a wide variety of techniques and styles.  

Below are 10 ideas to incorporate art journaling into your life. Some people stick to one or two types/styles of journaling and others, like myself, enjoy exploring several. Do what works best for you and leave the rest behind. Your journal is for you and there is no right or wrong way to go about it. Just begin and see where it takes you. I know that you will discover many benefits to your practice just as I have.

10 Art Journaling styles to get you started

  1. Prep pages ahead for future reflection. Sometimes I enjoy just creating a bunch of process art pages, scattered throughout my journal that I can come back to at a later time and layer with either more art or with written reflections. These pages can be prepped in many different ways including:
    • Paint pages a solid color using gesso or acrylic paint. This technique gives both a nice background plus it gives you a thicker more durable page.
    • Painting a color wash with watercolor or inks can give a soft translucent background, you can try blending colors for more depth.
    • Adding Texture with collage papers or painting techniques such as sponge painting.
    • Altering the edges of certain pages. You can cut or tear edges to add visual interest.
    • Paint/ink spills. Spills create interesting shapes you can work back into later.
  2. Explore a specific topic such as “Texture” both visually and with written reflection. For instance, I might create a variety of textures on a page or two and then journal over them, reflecting on what the word “texture” means in my life. The texture of emotions, for example. 
  3. Drawing or painting meditations. One thing I particularly enjoy doing in my art journal is to use my drawing/painting as a focal point for meditation. I find that repetitive shapes and lines work well for this type of journaling because it offers a basic movement to focus my attention on. Matching your breath to your movements as you draw or paint can really help bring you into the moment and create a meditative state.
  4. Tarot or Oracle card reflections. I love to use my cards as reflective prompts to help me work through whatever might be going on in my life at any given time. The cards are very visual so they flow nicely into an art journal. Simply write your thoughts on one of your prepped pages, or perhaps the cards suggest a visual image you could explore further. 
  5. Intuitive Art. Connecting with your intuition and letting it guide your creative process as you work can be a great wat to connect more fully with your inner self. You might even want to jot down a few observations regarding the process you went through or any feelings or thoughts that you noticed as you were creating.
  6. Planning a larger art piece. When I have an idea for a larger more finished piece of art or an illustration, I will often do a trial run or two in my art journal first. I might even attach written notes of ideas or thoughts that come up as I plan. You art journal is perfect for this type of planning because it allows you to keep a visual record of your ideas as they develop.
  7. Creative play. Just exploring or playing with a specific thought or idea can be a ton of fun. You may wish to explore a variety of different art mediums. Play is a very important part of a creative practice and your art journal is the perfect place to go about it. It can take a lot of pressure off and allow you to release harsh judgements because, who do you have to impress? If you don’t like it simply paint over it or use it as a background later.
  8. Swatching new colors or art supplies. Your art journal is a great place to sample your new art supplies and see how they look on paper. Swatching new colors or playing with new shades you mixed can be fun and helpful later on as a reference. Plus, they look so beautiful when laid out all together. It can help you discover color pallets you might want to incorporate into other work. Tip: If you create a new shade that you just love, be sure to jot down a little note of what you used to mix it so you can recreate it later on. 
  9. Art Challenges. There are so many artists online who issue art challenges of all kinds. “10 days of inchies” or “Recreate this picture in your style” etc.. Your art journal is the perfect spot to play along! You might just discover a new love!
  10. Mixed media layering. Art journals are the perfect place to explore mixed media art and layering. Try various collage techniques, maybe sponge paint a texture over top. Add a pocket or a flap. Try sewing on the paper. Use bits of fabric or even natural items such as leaves or flowers… There are so many options to explore. Have fun!

The most important thing to keep in mind is that there is no right or wrong. It does not need to look any particular way, so allow yourself to let go of judgement as you embrace the process of creating!

One of the amazing ladies at a women’s retreat I co-led. Creating Mindfulness

Happy Creating,

Published by Art-Breaks presented by J. MacIsaac Studios

Art Breaks are for everyone! They are moments of creativity big or small for infants, kids, and adults. They offer a connection to mindfulness that can enrich your life. A practice in creative mindfulness is perfect for anyone looking to establish a richer connection to themselves. You do not even need to be an artist to explore creative mindfulness practices. We are all born to create.

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