Art Journal Prompts

Updated on March 8, 2018
Gayle Dowell profile image

Gayle Dowell is a jewelry and watercolor artist. She currently teaches art to a homeschool co-op highschool class.

Need Some Help with Ideas for Art Journaling?

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 in creative ideas 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?
  • My Favorite Quotes - paint your favorite quote, poem, Bible verse and use some of the words in the art.
  • All things Blue, Red, Green, Yellow...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.

My Sketchbook for Art Journaling

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.

Strathmore 460-15 500 Series Visual Mixed Media Journal, 5.5"x8" Vellum, Wire Bound, 34 Sheets
Strathmore 460-15 500 Series Visual Mixed Media Journal, 5.5"x8" Vellum, Wire Bound, 34 Sheets

This sketchbook has nice thick paper that accepts most media. I sometimes do watercolor or collage. This will be great for that. It also comes in 140# watercolor paper. I like the spiral binding so that I can work easily without the sketchbook closing. Oh and it does have a nice brown cover instead of the Visual Journal logo cover page.


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

Prompts of Contradiction for Art journaling

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

Art Journal One Word Prompts

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.


I combine art with my journaling because just as a picture is worth a thousand words, a word is worth a thousand pictures.

Art Journal Project
Art Journal Project

Great Websites for Art 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.

Art Journal Prompt
Art Journal Prompt

Simple Ideas

Sometimes ideas for prompts can be simple every day 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.

  1. 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!
  2. 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!
  3. 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!
  4. Create a new style of handwriting and record your activities of the day.
  5. 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.
  6. Paint the lyrics of your favorite song!
  7. 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.
  8. 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

Art Prompt Generator

I ran across this art prompt generator that I thought I would share. Choose from a simple art prompt or a more elaborate one. It's fun to see what comes up and it forces you to think creatively!

Questions & Answers

    © 2012 Gayle Dowell

    Do You Keep an Art Journal?

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      • Gayle Dowell profile image

        Gayle Dowell 15 months ago from Kansas

        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.

      • retired06 profile image

        Leona J Atkinson 16 months ago from Oregon, USA

        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 profile image

        Jonas Rodrigo 2 years ago

        Interesting combinations. Great hub!

      • Gayle Dowell profile image

        Gayle Dowell 3 years ago from Kansas

        Thanks for the vote. I appreciate your visit.

      • sparkleyfinger profile image

        Lynsey Harte 3 years ago from Glasgow

        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 profile image

        MrsColbert the2nd 3 years ago

        Beautiful and inspiring, thank you!

      • profile image

        pennyovenden 3 years ago

        Fantastic. Has inspired me to journal more. Thanks

      • BodyHairRemoval profile image

        BodyHairRemoval 3 years ago

        I am going to pass this along to a friend I know who is an inspiring artist. Thank you for this.

      • Joy Neasley profile image

        Joy Neasley 3 years ago from Nashville, TN

        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 profile image

        RoadMonkey 4 years ago

        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 profile image

        Gayle Dowell 4 years ago from Kansas

        @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.

      • Joy Neasley profile image

        Joy Neasley 4 years ago from Nashville, TN

        I love this lens. I keep journals for everything, some on paper, and others through blogging.

      • profile image

        ChaoticRamblings 4 years ago

        @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 profile image

        teelover 4 years ago

        Great lens for inspiration! Thanks!

      • profile image

        susan369 4 years ago

        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!

      • girlfriendfactory profile image

        girlfriendfactory 4 years ago

        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 profile image

        mel-kav 4 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        anonymous 4 years ago

        i didnt know that prompts work well with art too

      • Melissa Miotke profile image

        Melissa Miotke 4 years ago from Arizona

        I don't keep an art journal. I probably would if I were more artistic...

      • Gayle Dowell profile image

        Gayle Dowell 4 years ago from Kansas

        @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. :)

      • profile image

        hmommers 4 years ago

        I have an art journal, but I am not as meticulous as you, posting every day

      • profile image

        Chris1970 5 years ago

        Very good lens.I am going to use your ideas,as I often have trouble coming up with ideas.Thank you!

      • lisln profile image

        LorLinda 5 years ago from Denver Colorado

        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 profile image

        Elyn MacInnis 5 years ago from Shanghai, China

        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 profile image

        mattcut 5 years ago

        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 !

      • profile image

        Aunt-Mollie 5 years ago

        So many fabulous ideas. I think most of things apply to creative writers, as well.

      • dingbat1932 profile image

        dingbat1932 5 years ago

        Just love the lens, well done.

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        Nice lens !

      • PinkstonePictures profile image

        PinkstonePictures 5 years ago from Miami Beach, FL

        Yes and no but I want to focus on that more or I lose my ideas

      • Margaret Schindel profile image

        Margaret Schindel 5 years ago from Massachusetts

        Not sure how I missed this before, Gayle! It's wonderful. Valentine's Day cupid blessings! :)

      • CoolFool83 profile image

        CoolFool83 5 years ago

        Really beautiful lense!

      • FancyThatUK profile image

        FancyThatUK 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        fugeecat lm 5 years ago

        I just started putting together an art journal so I was so glad to see your lens. Thanks for the wonderful ideas.

      • LaPikas profile image

        LaPikas 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        NibsyNell 5 years ago

        Great ideas! Love the prompts.

      • flinnie lm profile image

        Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

        I enjoyed reading this lens, thanks for sharing. Blessed by Squid Angel flinnie.

      • flinnie lm profile image

        Gloria Freeman 5 years ago from Alabama USA

        I have been taking drawing and writing classes and our teachers give us prompts to help us in our writing and drawing journal.

      • Mellithorpe profile image

        Mellithorpe 5 years ago

        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.

      • squidoopets profile image

        Darcie French 5 years ago from Abbotsford, BC

        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

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        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.

      • TreasuresBrenda profile image

        Treasures By Brenda 5 years ago from Canada

        Great prompts. I'm sure someone looking for inspiration will love them.

      • Linda BookLady profile image

        Linda Jo Martin 5 years ago from Post Falls, Idaho, USA

        Thanks for the inspirations! Yes, I have a sketchbook.

      • Gayle Dowell profile image

        Gayle Dowell 5 years ago from Kansas

        @anonymous: I was glad to do it, Amanda. I love the project and the motivation that it gives me. You are an inspiration!

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        Thanks so much for including the Joy Journal Project in your sharing. That was so kind. You know I love art journaling. :)


      • profile image

        ideadesigns 5 years ago

        Ah, you had me at Art Journal... good insight here that I shall take with me!

      • profile image

        JoshK47 5 years ago

        Quite a fascinating read - thanks for sharing, blessed by a SquidAngel!

      • KimGiancaterino profile image

        KimGiancaterino 5 years ago

        I don't keep journals, but can see the value in organizing creative ideas in a visual way.

      • delia-delia profile image

        Delia 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        rawwwwwws lm 5 years ago

        Great ideas, great lens :). I do keep several art journals, it is fun, and I love it!

      • dahlia369 profile image

        dahlia369 5 years ago

        Love the images, very creative!! :)

      • shahedashaikh profile image

        shahedashaikh 5 years ago

        Great tips on journalling.

      • sociopath-free profile image

        sociopath-free 5 years ago

        Great ideas. Makes me want to be creative instantly.

      • justmelucy profile image

        justmelucy 5 years ago

        Great Lens. I plan to use some of your ideas in my journaling.

      • ismeedee profile image

        ismeedee 5 years ago

        wonderfully inspiring!!! Bravo!

      • RoadMonkey profile image

        RoadMonkey 5 years ago

        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.

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        What a beautiful experience you present of art journaling, so very inviting and beautifully presented!

      • profile image

        Barbara02 5 years ago

        I love this lens! :)

      • profile image

        miaponzo 5 years ago

        I don't keep one, but this is really an interesting idea! Blessed!

      • espada2005 lm profile image

        espada2005 lm 5 years ago

        i like XD

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        I love anything arty and think this is a fantastic idea!

      • eternisemoi profile image

        eternisemoi 5 years ago

        I don't have an art journal, but I'll come back to this page when I start one.

      • BLemley profile image

        Beverly Lemley 5 years ago from Raleigh, NC

        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 : )

      • profile image

        anonymous 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        Virginia Allain 5 years ago from Central Florida

        I'm intrigued by art journals but keep stalling on keeping one myself.

      • aesta1 profile image

        Mary Norton 5 years ago from Ontario, Canada

        No, I haven't but I had been wanting to do so.

      • captainj88 profile image

        Leah J. Hileman 5 years ago from East Berlin, PA, USA

        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 profile image

        floppypoppygift1 5 years ago

        Very cool ideas here! Cheers~cb

      • LouisaDembul profile image

        LouisaDembul 5 years ago

        I like the idea of creating art out of simple things, like your shopping route!

      • profile image

        SteveKaye 5 years ago

        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 profile image

        Mandy Stradley 5 years ago

        I'm not an artist, but I love looking at art journals!

      • profile image

        cmadden 5 years ago

        I've never had one, but may have to try it. Very nice lens!

      • TheManInTheHat profile image

        TheManInTheHat 5 years ago

        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!

      • profile image

        maraga 5 years ago

        creative work. thank you