CraftsDrawingPaintingPhotographySculptureTextiles & Sewing

Art Journal Prompts

Updated on November 2, 2016
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 everyday. 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.

Come back as I add more themes and prompts to my list.

All photos by Gayle Dowell

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

Stable
Calm
Drudgery
Play
Perspective
Distant
Dream
Drift
Hope
Heart
Shadows
Silence
Struggle
Fear
Distress
Confusion
Search
Gift
Solitude
Grace
Mercy
Forgiveness
Solace
Rain
Peace
Wisdom
Knowledge
Adventure
Passion
Beauty

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

Everyday Art Journal Prompts

Journal Fodder 365: Daily Doses of Inspiration for the Art Addict
Journal Fodder 365: Daily Doses of Inspiration for the Art Addict

Just received my copy in the mail. Full of great writing prompts and how-to techniques for art. Can't wait to try these!

 

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!

Do You Keep an Art Journal?

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • Gayle Dowell profile image
      Author

      Gayle Dowell 4 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 5 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 23 months ago

      Interesting combinations. Great hub!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image
      Author

      Gayle Dowell 2 years ago from Kansas

      Thanks for the vote. I appreciate your visit.

    • sparkleyfinger profile image

      Lynsey Harte 2 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

    Click to Rate This Article