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Art Journal Prompts: Get Inspired in Your Artistic Journey

Gayle Dowell is a dedicated art journaler. She started journaling as a means to create art every day.

My art journal

My art journal

Art Journal Inspiration and 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 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, 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.

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.

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.

Symbolism Prompts

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 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.

Contradiction Prompts

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.

One-Word Prompts































Art Journal Project

Art Journal Project

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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.

  • 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.
  • Joy Journal Project
    A free monthly on-site or online creative art journal class. Great prompt assigned each month.
  • Daisy Yellow
    A lot of art journal ideas with great pictures.

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

Questions & Answers

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.

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.

© 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 - 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!