Gayle Dowell is a dedicated art journaler. She started journaling as a means to create art every day.
Art Journal Ideas
I started my art journal or visual journal journey as a means to create art every day. I need the scheduled time to do some stress-free creative work. Playing brings about creative ideas that I can use later in my finished work.
To do this, I need a set schedule and a journal small enough to work out ideas without feeling like I have to cover a big piece of paper. The next most important thing I need is a list of ideas or prompts to keep me inspired as I journal daily. This page is my collection of ideas to use in my art journal adventure with links to other creative prompt sites. I hope that you will feel free to add your thoughts as well.
Art Journal or Visual Journal Themes
There are many different types of art journals: ones revealing travel adventures, ones for writing and drawing about everyday life, ones that mark certain life events or struggles. Here is a list of ideas for themes.
- Looking Inward: Who am I as an artist, citizen of my country, mother, father, etc?
- My Favorite Things: Paint or draw all of your favorite things like whiskers on kittens, warm woolen mittens, etc.
- My Favorite Quotes: Paint your favorite quote, poem, or Bible verse and use some of the words in the art.
- All Things Blue, Red, Green, Yellow, etc.: Make a color-themed journal.
- Seasonal Journals: Pick a season and journal all things of that time of year.
- Emotions Journal: I grab a specific journal to express my emotions through art. Whether I'm excited about a new opportunity or sad about a lost loved one, I grab this journal to express those deep feelings. I feel free to express my thoughts here.
This is the sketchbook that I'll use most often for my art journaling. It has nice thick paper that will take all different kinds of media, including watercolor.
Word Associations and Symbolism
I love symbolism, and many times I will sit and think of a physical thing that can represent a concept. The idea is to come up with associations that are not common ones. Sometimes taking two words that have little in common will force you to look at them closer to find ways they can be linked together.
Birth - Renewal
Sunsets - Closure
Light - Truth
Tree - Life
Bloom - Beginning
Rain - Cleansing
Open Door - Opportunity
Storms - Hardship
Darkness - Life Struggles
Seed - Growth, Birth, Life
Rot - Lies
Death - Endings, Grief
Prompts of Contradiction
Sometimes thinking of opposites will spark ideas for art journaling. These prompts can be used to express concrete or abstract ideas. In other words, take cold/hot. You can create the physical extremes in weather, or use this to create a work that uses cold and hot colors. There are many different ways that these can be interpreted. Let the mind brainstorm more ideas.
Small / Large
Light / Dark
Rain / Sunshine
Positive / Negative
Safe / Dangerous
Strength / Weakness
Silence / Noise
Happy / Sad
Old / New
Lost / Found
Birth / Death
Blockage / Opening
Courage / Cowardice
Rough / Smooth
Slavery / Freedom
United / Divided
Cold / Hot
Rough / Soft
One-Word Prompts for Art Journals
Many times I will take one word as a prompt to inspire my thoughts. I ask myself how I would manifest that word in a painting or drawing. Words are great inspiration starters. Some say a picture paints a thousand words, but I say that a word can also paint a thousand pictures. Anyone taking a word will come up with any number of interpretations of that word. No two pieces will be the same.
Here are a few words I'll be using as prompts for my art journaling work.
Great Websites for More Prompts
I'm going to participate in several art journal or creative prompt sites this year to keep me on my creative journey. I've already participated in some of these sites, but on a limited basis. Some I've not tried before and want to do. I love that these sites bring artists together to share their work. I think that creativity can be contagious when you view or read others' work.
- Creative Every Day
I've participated in this site by Leah Piken Kolidas. Excellent for sharing your work with a community of creatives. Leah gives a monthly prompt with a check-in every Monday so that you can link your work to her site and see what others have done. It
- The Sketchbook Challenge
Although I've signed up for the e-mails, I've not had a chance to participate in this challenge. I will definitely be looking into this one further.
- Daisy Yellow
A lot of art journal ideas with great pictures.
Sometimes ideas for prompts can be simple everyday activities or objects that often get overlooked. Drawing these simple events or things in a creative way can launch many ideas for future art journal pages. Here are a few.
- Run a lot of errands today? Create a map of the places you traveled. No need for your map to be to scale, just have fun drawing out your route on paper and add lots of color. This makes running all those errands seem so much more fun!
- Draw the items around you but place them in an odd imaginary setting. Draw your breakfast plate, but place it on a raft in the middle of an ocean. See what you can come up with!
- Draw your favorite people together as one person. Aunt Jackie's bouffant hairdo on Uncle John's head with Grandpa's favorite hat on top. You get the picture!
- Create a new style of handwriting and record your activities of the day.
- Have a to-do list or grocery list on hand? Record your list in your journal and add small pictures of the chores or grocery items to your list.
- Paint the lyrics of your favorite song!
- Change your perspective. Draw the tree outside your window, but instead of a tree full of leaves, come up with some other objects to use as the leaves. Do this with different things you see around you where you exchange parts of the object for other objects.
- Paint or draw old sayings such as:
- Do not be like the cat who wanted a fish but was afraid to get his paws wet. ~William Shakespeare
- Fear makes the wolf bigger than he is. ~German Proverb
- Fine feathers don't make fine birds. ~Aesop
- Seize the day. ~unknown
- Sing away sorrow, cast away care. ~Miguel de Cervantes
- Stick to your guns. ~unknown
- We boil at different degrees. ~Ralph Waldo Emerson
- What goes up must come down. ~unknown
- What's good for the goose is good for the gander. ~John Ray
Questions & Answers
Question: How do you use the fibers in your art journal?
Answer: I usually embed them in acrylic paint or a clear gesso after I've glued them down to the page.
Question: Can you suggest some art journal prompts for college students?
Answer: I would use anything about college life in general. Use some of your favorite class content as a springboard for ideas; take a subject and explore it through art. Consider school activities that you enjoy then journal about those activities.
© 2012 Gayle Dowell
Do You Keep an Art Journal?
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on February 29, 2020:
Thank you Ceri for sharing the link to your page. You have some great tips for art journaling! An everyday habit with art is great to have.
Ceri on February 26, 2020:
This is a really helpful article. I love that you have all those prompts and links to other sites with prompts. I do keep an art journal, well several, and I love them. I have some tips for art journaling every day - https://24steps-art-and-design.co.uk/challenges-of... It's a lot about breaking the page down into small elements you can complete each day. Hugs xx
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on February 15, 2017:
Thanks for dropping me a comment and it is nice to meet you. I've not tried Bible journaling, but would love to be able to incorporate it into my reading. Enjoy the watercolor experience, it is one of my favorite medium for painting.
Leona J Atkinson from Oregon, USA on January 04, 2017:
I love your Hub! Thanks for all the creative ideas! I can't wait to try some of them! I am new to Art Journaling and have just begun Bible Journaling. Last year I took 3 classes in beginning Watercolors and loved painting with watercolor, so I am pursuing a lot of the same interests as you and am looking forward to learning more! I have been a Hubber here on Hubpages for 10 years and love writing also.
Jonas Rodrigo on July 28, 2015:
Interesting combinations. Great hub!
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on April 07, 2015:
Thanks for the vote. I appreciate your visit.
Lynsey Hart from Lanarkshire on March 31, 2015:
Voted up and useful. Great hub with some lovely ideas. I keep saying to myself that I will start one page a day. Still to decide on the medium for this, but I will definitely use your tips! Thanks
MrsColbert the2nd on January 30, 2015:
Beautiful and inspiring, thank you!
pennyovenden on June 12, 2014:
Fantastic. Has inspired me to journal more. Thanks
BodyHairRemoval on June 03, 2014:
I am going to pass this along to a friend I know who is an inspiring artist. Thank you for this.
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on June 02, 2014:
Wonderful ideas... my art journal is used for my daily warm-ups if I am working on my art that day, and if I am not, then I use it to do a short daily drawing. This keeps my skills going, and allows me to practice different basic techniques of drawing. Lately, I have been working on a character for a children's book, and I use th journal to do quick sketches to practice drawing her and getting to know her better. Art journals are a great outlet for many uses.
RoadMonkey on May 05, 2014:
I love creativity but I am not an artist. I like the ideas of prompts for creating things, even for inventions or different ways of looking at things.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on March 26, 2014:
@ChaoticRamblings: You are so right about it being cathartic. I also like to use my journals as a story of my life, mess and all. There is really no wrong way to do an art journal.
ChaoticRamblings on March 26, 2014:
@susan369: The wonderful thing about art journaling is that you can completely redo a page if you don't like it. You can just Gesso over it. But there is no real idea of perfection with which to measure your journaling. It is for you! Paint, write, draw, paste pictures... whatever makes you happy. Start with an 'exploration' type journal where you explore your different art tools and different techniques. That gives you permission to mess up that scary white page and begin. It's so cathartic!
teelover on February 14, 2014:
Great lens for inspiration! Thanks!
susan369 on January 21, 2014:
I love the idea of art journalling but I lack the courage (or talent?) to start one. I have several empty notebooks lying around but I'm reluctant to draw in them in case I mess up! I'm more comfortable with digital design - you can always delete a layer if you don't like it. But I'd love to try more tangible arts as well one day. Thanks for the inspiration!
Joy Neasley from Nashville, TN on December 10, 2013:
I love this lens. I keep journals for everything, some on paper, and others through blogging.
girlfriendfactory on September 20, 2013:
I don't really keep one that's this specific, but I keep various notebooks and sketchbooks about...I so need to do this! Love it!
mel-kav on August 22, 2013:
This is a great! I never thought of starting an art journal - but I am going to start one this evening. Love it - Thanks for the idea.
anonymous on August 12, 2013:
i didnt know that prompts work well with art too
Melissa Miotke from Arizona on August 07, 2013:
I don't keep an art journal. I probably would if I were more artistic...
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on July 09, 2013:
@hmommers: Thanks for commenting. My goal is to art journal everyday or at least be creative, but sadly, this doesn't always work as planned. :)
hmommers on July 09, 2013:
I have an art journal, but I am not as meticulous as you, posting every day
Chris1970 on May 18, 2013:
Very good lens.I am going to use your ideas,as I often have trouble coming up with ideas.Thank you!
LorLinda from Denver Colorado on May 17, 2013:
I like that quote " a word is worth a thousand pictures" that really makes you think. This is a great lens very well done my dear.
Elyn MacInnis from Shanghai, China on April 06, 2013:
I wish I had time to keep an art journal. I like the idea of creating my breakfast plate on a raft in the middle of an ocean. Maybe I will try that. thanks for all the fun inspiration!
mattcut on March 28, 2013:
This lens contains many keys containing trillions of new ideas. I feel a new potential just from the quote "a word is worth a thousand pictures." Thank you dearly for the recharge !
Aunt-Mollie on March 23, 2013:
So many fabulous ideas. I think most of things apply to creative writers, as well.
dingbat1932 on March 17, 2013:
Just love the lens, well done.
anonymous on March 14, 2013:
Nice lens !
PinkstonePictures from Miami Beach, FL on February 23, 2013:
Yes and no but I want to focus on that more or I lose my ideas
Margaret Schindel from Massachusetts on February 14, 2013:
Not sure how I missed this before, Gayle! It's wonderful. Valentine's Day cupid blessings! :)
CoolFool83 on January 26, 2013:
Really beautiful lense!
FancyThatUK on January 26, 2013:
I don't art journal at the moment although I did do a 52 weeks 52 question journal challenge with a few blogger a few years ago, These days I like smash booking, less organisation needed, more sticking random stuff in with little journaling notes. I have 4 holidays to journal now that I bought a new book especially for them, just need the time to sit down and sort them all out!
Some great prompts there, might try them for an ATC challenge one day, i like ATC's too!
fugeecat lm on January 22, 2013:
I just started putting together an art journal so I was so glad to see your lens. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.
LaPikas on January 19, 2013:
Defenitively this is a project I will share with my kids, they will be so excited! Great ideas!! No doubt why you won the purple star for this lens, CONGRATULATIONS!
NibsyNell on January 15, 2013:
Great ideas! Love the prompts.
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on December 26, 2012:
I enjoyed reading this lens, thanks for sharing. Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie.
Gloria Freeman from Alabama USA on December 26, 2012:
I have been taking drawing and writing classes and our teachers give us prompts to help us in our writing and drawing journal.
Mellithorpe on November 17, 2012:
I enjoyed reading your lens. I used to use scrapbooking supplies on my journaling pages; stickers, stamps, colored pencils. I really had a great time doing that and thinking about starting it again. Thank you for the reminders and prompts.
Darcie French from Abbotsford, BC on November 17, 2012:
I try not to do too much art - I am so addicted that I can forget about pretty much everything else for weeks at a time <3
anonymous on November 12, 2012:
I've bookmarked this site because I love the ideas you presented here. Right now photography and graphic design are my main interest along with writing. But I also love to paint and draw and journal and blog, so this gave me some great ideas. Thanks.
Treasures By Brenda from Canada on November 01, 2012:
Great prompts. I'm sure someone looking for inspiration will love them.
Linda Jo Martin from Post Falls, Idaho, USA on October 22, 2012:
Thanks for the inspirations! Yes, I have a sketchbook.
Gayle Dowell (author) from Kansas on October 14, 2012:
@anonymous: I was glad to do it, Amanda. I love the project and the motivation that it gives me. You are an inspiration!
anonymous on October 14, 2012:
Thanks so much for including the Joy Journal Project in your sharing. That was so kind. You know I love art journaling. :)
ideadesigns on October 03, 2012:
Ah, you had me at Art Journal... good insight here that I shall take with me!
JoshK47 on October 03, 2012:
Quite a fascinating read - thanks for sharing, blessed by a SquidAngel!
KimGiancaterino on September 24, 2012:
I don't keep journals, but can see the value in organizing creative ideas in a visual way.
Delia on September 24, 2012:
I don't journal, but I have all my personal art ideas in sketch books from many years back.
Great lens and artwork!
~d-artist Squid Angel Blessing!
rawwwwwws lm on September 23, 2012:
Great ideas, great lens :). I do keep several art journals, it is fun, and I love it!
dahlia369 on September 19, 2012:
Love the images, very creative!! :)
shahedashaikh on September 18, 2012:
Great tips on journalling.
sociopath-free on September 15, 2012:
Great ideas. Makes me want to be creative instantly.
justmelucy on September 14, 2012:
Great Lens. I plan to use some of your ideas in my journaling.
ismeedee on September 14, 2012:
wonderfully inspiring!!! Bravo!
RoadMonkey on September 14, 2012:
That's a great idea. I have to write for my studies and prompts, as proposed in varioius writing books, have helped. Never thought of art prompts before - really interesting. And love the art prompt generator.
anonymous on September 13, 2012:
What a beautiful experience you present of art journaling, so very inviting and beautifully presented!
Barbara02 on September 13, 2012:
I love this lens! :)
miaponzo on September 12, 2012:
I don't keep one, but this is really an interesting idea! Blessed!
espada2005 lm on September 12, 2012:
i like XD
anonymous on September 12, 2012:
I love anything arty and think this is a fantastic idea!
eternisemoi on September 11, 2012:
I don't have an art journal, but I'll come back to this page when I start one.
Beverly Lemley from Raleigh, NC on September 11, 2012:
I have one, but not as greatly organized as this ~ this is wonderful and very inspiring! I find art very fascinating ~ it's all beautiful and speaks from the heart ~ creativity is such a lovely thing! Thank you for the directions you've suggested; I can see this will be fun and inspiring ~ and thanks for the great links, too! SquidAngel blessed! B : )
anonymous on September 10, 2012:
What a fun subject - I love all of your ideas! I've been keeping art journals since 1992 and still have most of them (some disappeared, sadly) but it's fun to look back at those pages and remember exactly what i was thinking & feeling when I wrote, drew and painted them :D
Virginia Allain from Central Florida on September 10, 2012:
I'm intrigued by art journals but keep stalling on keeping one myself.
Mary Norton from Ontario, Canada on September 10, 2012:
No, I haven't but I had been wanting to do so.
Leah J. Hileman from East Berlin, PA, USA on September 09, 2012:
I keep a written journal; not very visually artistic, but I can see how this style would be very inspiring and/or cathartic for people who enjoy creating visual art. I love the concept.
floppypoppygift1 on September 08, 2012:
Very cool ideas here! Cheers~cb
LouisaDembul on August 27, 2012:
I like the idea of creating art out of simple things, like your shopping route!
SteveKaye on August 10, 2012:
I write in a journal - in this case I capture ideas and find solutions. It's very helpful. Thank you for sharing the art side of journaling.
Mandy Stradley from Riverton, Utah on August 02, 2012:
I'm not an artist, but I love looking at art journals!
cmadden on July 04, 2012:
I've never had one, but may have to try it. Very nice lens!
TheManInTheHat on June 19, 2012:
Very nice work and great lens! As an illustrator, I do have a sketch book, but I'm afraind it looks too messy, I don't think I could keep a proper Art Journal, although I love the idea! Enjoyed your lens, big thumbs up!
maraga on June 10, 2012:
creative work. thank you