Art Journaling Basics {Try Something New}


As I mentioned earlier this month, I’m trying to incorporate some different crafts into my routine this year. I get so into knitting sometimes that I neglect other creative pursuits, and knitting isn’t always that fun for me because it’s also my job.

So each month I want to look a little deeper at some kind of craft or creative activity and share those explorations with you. First up is art journaling.

What is an Art Journal?

art journal explore
A page I did last year with paint, pens, paper and tape.

First off, I should probably say I’m new at this, too, so I don’t have all the answers, and I’m sure there are people out there who will disagree with what I say.

That said, I consider an art journal to be some combination of doodling, journaling with words, collage and mixed media all rolled into a bound object. Some people call it art journaling when they use these methods on a single sheet of paper or piece of cardboard, but to me it’s a journal if it’s bound, otherwise it’s just a mixed media piece or collage.

How Do You Get Started?

art journal make
Here’s a page made just with paper scraps and a couple colors of pen.

This probably sounds like a hobby that’s going to cost you a lot in terms of supplies, but really you don’t need a lot to get started. First you’ll need some kind of book — I’m new to this, so I’m just using a SMASH book I got at Target — and some basic supplies for making your pages, such as:

  • pens or markers of various colors
  • scrapbook paper or found paper and other items for collage
  • glue
  • tape and/or stickers

In time you’ll probably also want to play with adding paint to your pages. All sorts of found objects can be handy for art journaling, too, whether to create texture on a page (bubble wrap, old credit cards) or to stick to a page (fabric scraps, beads).

But you can start out really simply and build in supplies as you go. My sister in law in particular has picked up on my enjoyment of fun markers, pens and stickers and she has goodies for me on my birthday and at Christmas. Start adding things to your Amazon wish list or drop hints to loved ones around the holidays.

What Do I Do?

art journal fan
This one was done completely with pen on a bold photo base.

It’s so easy to get started art journaling, but you may be facing a blank page and wondering what to do with it. That’s why I like the SMASH book for beginners, because some of the pages have words or pictures on them already so you’re not truly facing a blank page.

I did this one the other day to show that you could have fun just with different pens, so I doodled over the image of the fan and wrote my text around the edges.

Here are a few ways to start:

  • doodle
  • write down a word or phrase you want to play with
  • write a list
  • start with random papers and build a collage, then draw on it
  • put some paint down randomly, let it dry, then work with it
  • grab some washi tape or stickers and put them down as a base
  • build a frame out of tape, then decide what goes inside
  • start with a fabric or paper scrap
  • draw random lines in different colors
  • just start

The point is there is no right and wrong with art journaling. It’s just a place to play, explore, dream, think. Whatever you need it to be.

Have you ever done art journaling before? I’d love to hear any tips you have and see your pages! (You can share here or on my Facebook page.)

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