The Evolution of Art Journals

Instead of a choosing a word for 2018, I am adopting a phrase: What’s old is new again. This phrase has been echoing through my head for a couple of months, to the point where it was begging to be explored. The phrase applies to several aspects of my life, but with art, it is specific to revisited ideas and techniques, with a special focus on my art journals.

art journals

My art journals are one area of my art making that have evolved dramatically through the years. I recently had an opportunity to review a big stack of my older journals, and even watched a video that demonstrated how I addressed the journal page back in the day. It was fun to consider these options with fresh eyes.

art journals

I made a “note to self” about many of the things I saw in my older art journals; certain techniques I wanted to try again and incorporate into my present style. I even took photos of some pages and made comparisons across the years and tried to analyze how I had achieved certain results.

art journals

Looking back and thoughtfully considering older work is something that can benefit artists at any level. It’s often quite helpful, especially when you’re working to develop your own voice or move to the next level with your art, to compare and contrast your work over the years. You might be surprised at how consistent you have been, be it with a color palette or compositional choices. You might notice that a certain type of mark making appears over and over in your work. Noticing these similarities can help develop a language and symbolism that is all our own. Through this language we can truly develop our own voice.

art journals

Revisiting older pieces in my art journals feels like spending time with an old friend. In my case, this has prompted me to circle back to themes that I don’t believe were finished for me, themes that are worthy of further journaling. I also want to consider some of my previous color palettes, especially within the context of my newer work. There are even supplies I was using that I had forgotten about—oh, perish the thought!

art journals

I encourage you to gather older work, or even unfinished pieces, and see them with new eyes. I feel sure you’ll learn about your own art making in the process and perhaps even agree that what’s old is new again.

Mary Beth Shaw worked in the insurance industry for 18 years before she quit her job in 2000 to re-ignite a childhood love of art. She is now a full-time painter and internationally known workshop instructor. Her creative process is largely self-taught, spontaneous and joyful. She is author of Flavor for Mixed Media and Stencil Girl, both published by North Light Books, and is a columnist for Somerset Studio magazine. In 2010, Mary Beth recognized a need for artist designed stencils and created StencilGirl Products, which has quickly grown into a respected supplier of high-quality stencils for all media. Living with her husband and three cats, Mary Beth is passionate about every moment of life. See more of Mary Beth’s work at

There’s so much to explore in art journaling! These 10 awesome art journaling tips are sure to improve your next creative adventure!

This great Art Journaling with Mary Beth Shaw download includes two instructional videos by Mary Beth Shaw, a bonus pdf, and a recording of an online event with Mary Beth. If you art journal or want to journal, this download is tailor made for you!


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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