Five Ways to Set Your Art Journaling Free

Can I let you in on a not-so-secret secret? Art journaling does not come naturally to me. I grew up writing in journals and, truth be told, I have only recently acquiesced to using the word “journal” as a verb.

Creating a one-page art journal in Joanne Sharp’s CREATE class.

But, I love the concept of visual journaling and I adore looking at other people’s handmade art journals. So when I was at the CREATE Mixed-Media Art Retreat in New Jersey last month, I peeked into as many art journaling classes as I could. In each one, I asked the participants for a tip or a comment on what they were learning about how to make an art journal.

Here are some of the art journaling tips I learned.

1. More is more. Your journal page can be neat or it can be messy, organized or spontaneous. But it is almost impossible to overdo it. Layered backgrounds, drawn or stenciled images, collagejust keep adding and experimenting. You’ll know when it’s “enough.”

2. Explore new products and materials. All those lovely supplies inspire art journal ideas! Experiment with found objects, graffiti-style stencils and writing, inks, stamps, and art journaling techniques. Make notes on what you tried and how you liked it right in the journal. No money for new supplies? Try using old ones in a new way or invite some artsy friends over and have a journaling party.


Box of Dreams art “journal” from
Seth Apter’s CREATE class.

3. Sometimes, you need to go inside the box.

Who says a visual journal has to be in book form? In Seth Apter’s Box of Dreams class, students journaled on the outside of a pre-made box. Then they made pages to put inside. In Joanne Sharpe’s One-Page Wonder class, the students create one big, fabulous page, then made it into a book.

4. Let yourself go. Don’t judge. Don’t overthink. Just be like a kid and play. Those people I observed in the art journaling classes? They were having FUN.

5. Borrow tricks from others. You don’t want to copy what others are doing, but, you can use tips and tricks from teachers and other artists. One of Jane Davies’ tricks for stamping on backgrounds: use the bottom of a paint or ink bottle as a stamp.

The most important lesson I learned about art journaling is that there is not just one way to do it. While you may use tips, tricks, and art journaling techniques from others, your own visual journal is just for you. It’s a way to discover yourself as an artist and a person.

For art journaling inspiration, take a class, have an art date with another artist, or download one of our many popular Cloth Paper Scissors Workshop videos on art journaling techniques. Then, just let yourself play!

P.S. Do you have a visual journal (or more than one)? How do you use it? As a tool or as an end in itself? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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