What’s an art journal? What should you include in it? Can you keep an art journal even if you don’t know how to draw?
These are questions we’ve been hearing a lot, especially now that Bent Tuba Studio is offering a monthly workshop on Art Journaling 101. (See below for details.)
The beautiful thing about art journals is this: Your journal is your totally personal, unique expression of what you’re seeing, thinking, or feeling. In short (stop me if you’ve heard this one before): there’s no way to do it wrong.
But sometimes it’s so much easier to get started if you have a few guidelines to go by, so here are a few tips and tricks to help you out.
What is an art journal, anyway?
An art journal is a private, no-rules space where you can express yourself in both words and pictures. The images in your journal can be glued in, painted, drawn, or stamped. You can add words using alphabet stamps or magazine letters or your own handwriting.
It’s up to you whether to make a journal page very personal and detailed, like a diary, or just to express yourself with things that are meaningful to you. You can work on your pages in no particular order, skipping to the middle or end of your journal and back again. And you don’t have to finish a page at one sitting! It’s okay to add one or two things to a page, put the journal away, and come back to the page later to add more.
You might enjoy keeping an art journal if:
• You always wanted to have a written diary or journal, but it seemed too time-consuming or too personal.
• You’d like to experiment with art materials but can’t find the time to complete a big project.
• You need a fun way to relax and give your brain a rest.
What you need for art journaling
• A journal to work in. You’ll want a journal that is made with thick paper, so that your pages won’t ripple or tear when they come into contact with glue or paint. (Note: you don’t even have to work in a book format. You could also work on individual sheets that you store in a box or folder.)
• A few art supplies—but nothing fancy. Start with whatever you have available (kids’ markers or crayons, Elmer’s glue and magazine pictures, sticky notes and sharpies). There’s a whole world of fun and colorful supplies at your local craft store, but you don’t need anything special to get started. My own art journaling supplies are pretty basic: a pan of watercolors, a glue stick, a stack of magazines, and whatever miscellaneous bits of recycled paper I can find (like tissue paper, used envelopes, and old grocery lists).
• A bit of time and space to play in—but not much. Start with five minutes and your kitchen table (or just your lap). The art journal process is so relaxing and inspiring that you might find yourself building it into your daily routine. Five minutes of journal play while you have your morning coffee can be an awfully nice way to start your day.
How to create an art journal page
The possibilities are endless! Here are a few examples of pages I’ve done. You can experiment with these options and see where it leads you. (Remember, it’s okay to do a page one step at a time and let it evolve slowly.)
• Make a background by gluing down random bits of printed text (from magazine pages, a newspaper, or whatever’s in your recycling bin). When the glue is dry, use a bit of gesso or white paint (or even white-out liquid) to cover some of the text, which will make the uncovered parts pop out. Add a few splashes of color with watercolors, markers, or whatever is handy. Finally, glue on a magazine picture of a person, animal, or object that you find interesting.
• Glue down a printed page that has numbers or text on it. Outline big letters or shapes in black. Then use color to fill in the spaces between the letters or shapes. (I used oil pastels on this page, but you could try Sharpies, crayons, or any kind of markers.)
• Start with a messy, colorful background using watercolors, any kind of paint, or anything you can scribble with (markers, colored pencils, crayons). Glue in a small, interesting image. (I cut this one from a housepaint brochure!) Draw lines that radiate outward from the image. If you’re using watercolors, you can add a second layer of color in some sections. Then add words with stamps or Sharpie.
Our workshop series called Art Journaling 101 starts July 7 with a focus on using collage layers. The workshop fee includes a handmade coptic-bound blank journal for you to keep. (Got your own journal? There’s also a workshop-only option.) Space is limited, so register here before July 2 to reserve your spot!
Registration is also open for upcoming workshops on composition (August 4) and color (September 1).
Is there a specific art journaling technique or topic you’d like to learn more about? Tell us about it! Send email to firstname.lastname@example.org.