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What Are Art Journals?

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Art journals

Art journals

Utilitarian Resources or Works of Art?

Well, they can be both. An art journal can be a humble notebook containing hurried sketches or a beautiful object. Or it can be a cross between the two. When I was young, I used to attempt to keep a diary at the beginning of every year.

After about three days, the diary would be consigned to a drawer and eventually thrown away. However, over the last few years, I have kept a journal. These journals have taken various forms: books, online blogs and even just writing on my laptop. My favourite kind of journal is an art journal, and on this page, I'd like to share some of them with you.

Recording memories

Recording memories

Instant Recall

Looking back on my old journals, one of the things which stands out is how the circumstances that were around me when I wrote the entry are immediately recreated. I often take my journal to the beach and I love how the sights and sounds of summer become so real to me even though it may be the middle of winter.

It's a good idea to prepare a few pages by painting and collaging them. In that way, all you need to take with you is a pen and maybe a camera to record your impressions of the day.

Remember that your journal is always personal - no one else can feel what you felt or experience what you experienced at that particular time.

Art journals are like personal playgrounds.

Art journals are like personal playgrounds.

Have Fun in Your Art Journal

I treat my art journals as my personal playground. Splashing around with paint and glue and scraps of paper and pictures, I revert to childhood. I love to play with colour and image combinations. Every page, for me, is an experiment; sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't. It doesn't matter; every mistake can be disguised or covered up.

The text I add varies according to my mood - occasionally I'll add inspirational quotes, but most often I write about things I care about, or realisations, or new understanding, or I might even have a moan. I just write whatever I feel like writing at the time.

These pages used recycled paper from a different journal.

These pages used recycled paper from a different journal.


A Simple Journal

An art journal need not be complicated. The one pictured here already had black pages so all I did was add some collage then text and doodles with a white pen. The collaged borders on these pages are actually chopped-up photocopied pages from another art journal. Recycling your images in this way ensures a kind of consistency and helps you to develop a certain style

You don't need a huge amount of supplies for art journals, though buying art supplies is one of life's greatest pleasures. Well, it is for me. Mostly I stick with a few basics such as water-soluble crayons, scrapbook papers, a selection of pens, old magazines for collage and a glue stick. However, it is also nice to have soft pastels, oil pastels, watercolour paints, gel medium and glitter pens. Oh, and I always work on good paper - my favourite is Fabriano Artistico.

You don't need to be a skilled artist to be creative.

You don't need to be a skilled artist to be creative.

You Don't Have to Be Artistic to Be Creative

It's true. You don't have to be good at drawing or painting... or be artistic in any way. You just need the urge to be creative. You can draw stick figures if you want to. Doodling is great fun and anyone can do it, so embellish your pages with squiggles and flowers and smiley faces. Cut out images of people from magazines; give them silly hats, feet and wings. Give them stripy stockings and clumpy shoes. Make them your own.

It is actually quite important to alter any images substantially if you are going to publish your work, in order to avoid any copyright issues.

Beach page

Beach page

Reuse and Recycle

I often reuse failed pieces of art. For example, on this page, I stuck in part of an old watercolour painting. It hadn't really worked, but I liked the little house, so I simply glued it straight into my journal. You can also see that I've stuck on some buttons - these are one of my favourite embellishments. I don't really go in for lots of embellishment, as I find these things tend to come off eventually or get in the way when storing my journals, so I prefer to use flat objects such as buttons, tickets and collages.

April journal page

April journal page

Use a Beautiful Blank Book or Make Your Own

I am an inveterate collector of blank books. I can't resist them... I have leather journals, themed journals, watercolour notebooks, Moleskine notebooks, recycled paper notebooks and many more. However, my favourite journals are those which I have made from scratch. I love Teesha Moore's videos where she shows how to create a journal out of a 22 x 30" sheet of paper. They are quick and easy and lend themselves well to my fabric journal covers.

You can make your own journal or use a blank book.

You can make your own journal or use a blank book.

Junk Journals

I've recently started keeping a junk journal. These journals are completely new to me, and I discovered them accidentally whilst surfing the web. Junk journals are essentially places to store bits of paper, photographs, thoughts and anything else. They are not meant to be pretty and they are not meant to take a long time to do. For my junk journal I used a simple spiral-bound notebook and plenty of scrap-booking paper. as the pages are rather thin, I simply laminate them with scrapbooking paper. I add more pieces of paper to make pockets and in those, I keep photographs and other scraps. I also use old collage pieces, images and anything else which I find lying around.

The photo shows the cover of my junk journal.

Artistic photo journal

Artistic photo journal

Go Start Your Journal

Art journalling has become one of my greatest pleasures. I can't imagine life without it. My art journals have become my friends, my play space, somewhere to vent, somewhere to celebrate, a place to create and, most importantly, a record of my life and my feelings.

Begin creating your journal today.

Leave a Comment in My Journal

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on November 26, 2013:

Thanks, Rae :)

Rae Saylor from Australia on November 25, 2013:

SO CREATIVE!!!! And I'm sooooo excited to try all these!!! Cheers for writing this hub, pal :) Voted up!

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on August 03, 2012:

Aw... thank you. Just start one, add some doodles and you'll be away. x

Judi Brown from UK on August 03, 2012:

Oh, I am so jealous! I have a journal, but it's just words - and a sketch book, but it's just sketches. Now I want a beautiful art journal like yours! Thanks for another very beautiful and inspiring hub.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 15, 2012:

Pleasure. It's lovely to interact with someone with the same interests!

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on January 14, 2012:

I hadn't even thought of double stick tape. I have some handy so I'll try that. I hate when glue makes the pages wrinkly. Thanks for the tips.

Bev G (author) from Wales, UK on January 13, 2012:

Hi there, Moonmaiden, thanks so much for your visit.

Yes, just using whatever you have to hand to strengthen the flimsy pages of a commercial notebook. I mostly use a double-sided tape applicator so I can get them done quickly and then there's no waiting for glue to dry. I often add a second piece of scrapbook or art paper to make a pocket. Have a look here:

Nice to meet you & Green Art above!

Fayme Zelena Harper from Lucerne Valley, CA on January 13, 2012:

Great idea. Quick question. When you are laminating a notebook with scrapbook paper does that mean you are just gluing the new paper over the old? With a glue stick or with ModPodge or what? I just bought a notebook with a hot pink cover and I'd like to try it. Thanks.

Laura Ross on July 01, 2011:

This is a BEAUTIFUL HUB! You are so creative with the images, colors and your writing combined. Each page is a fresh work of art that begs to be looked at over and over.

I enjoy writing and drawing in journals as well. Its such a great outlet for getting thoughts and creative ideas on paper. Keep on doing what your doing. It's AWESOME!