People often ask “What is art journaling?” Good question! I do my best to explain, but sometimes it’s easier to show you.
First you need a journal
Let’s start with the journal. You can use anything! This pile represents a fraction of the sketchbooks and journals I have accumulated – collecting journals and art supplies is my guilty pleasure! An assortment of paper types, sizes, page counts and constructions, there’s something I love about each of them. My favourites though will lie flat on the bench when opened to work in, and have a weighty paper that can withstand wet media (like watercolour, spray inks and paint). Other features that rate high for appeal are pockets in the covers – you never know what bits of flotsam and jetsam you might find to keep for addition to your journal ‘later’ – page marker ribbons, and elastic bands to keep the book from flying open as it expands from the inevitable addition of collage and tape and ephemera.
What goes in the journal?
The real fun begins when you start to do stuff in the journals! What goes into them? Anything at all! I tend to describe art journaling as the intersection of keeping a written diary with keeping a sketchbook. There are journals like this one with a bit of writing and reflection for each day, and some colour and sketching or scribbling – playing, really. This particular spread is in a cheap visual art diary. The paper is pretty flimsy, so there’s a coat of gesso on the paper to give it a bit more substance, followed by collaged papers, washi tape hand carved stamps, water soluble pencil and watercolour paint.
Then there are the more ‘traditional’ artist sketchbooks where reference sketches are made, and ideas are given a trial run before the detail is worked into a final piece. These snazzy arrows to mark North were explorations before committing the compass direction to a map created in a collaborative artists book.
My favourite art journal is one where I experiment with ideas and media. Sometimes these pages end up a muddy mess, and that’s OK, because the purpose of it is to explore, to see what works and what doesn’t, and it’s this absence of pressure to produce something ‘worthy’ that is the best part of all. My brain knows I’m just mucking around, so it’s low stakes and no expectation.
The spread above is a great example. I’d been mucking around with spray inks and stencils, and the page was pretty ‘blah’. I had been reading about using indian ink in an aqua brush, and this ugly page was a very safe place to try that out – it couldn’t get any worse! The face happened with the inky brush, a bit of extra colour popped into the eyes, mouth and hair with coloured pencil and a white Sharpie marker, and although she has a somewhat alien complexion, there’s something kinda cool about it.
That sense of freedom to play and explore because there is no pressure for a dazzling outcome is what makes me believe that art journaling is a wonderful way for anyone to begin to dabble in something creative, to learn a few techniques, to follow your imagination and let the hidden parts of yourself surface and come up for air in safety. Don’t ask me what hidden part of myself came up for air with a green eyed, green faced martian lady… reminds me a little of Salvador Dali’s Mum who said after looking at his paintings “I don’t know what what in his head, but I’m glad he got it out”!
Right now, I’m exploring and experimenting in a different format again – the Disc A Day journal. Which is my own promise to myself that I’ll do something small every day (well, ok… I can’t honestly say that I’ve added to it every day, but I have added to it most days, and right now, I’m happy with that). This little journal is made from a large sheet of hot pressed watercolour paper, cut into three sheets and folded and stitched together, which is great for the wet media I mentioned earlier. What I love most about this little disc, is what the washi tape beside it says: “Make Time”. We’ve talked before about how important it is to make time for creativity, rather than wait till you find time.
That awesome tape, by the way, is designed by Kal Barteski and came from You Are Awesome Co, who are sadly wrapping up trading at the end of September, but they have some great bargains going on there for the next couple days.
So, there you have it. Art Journaling 101. Art journaling is my favourite thing to teach – if you’d like to know a little more about classes, check out my Art Journaling Workshop page.