What is Art Journaling and Is It Right for You?

Art journaling is an incredibly versatile outlet for creativity. It also has several benefits

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Journaling is a very therapeutic and personal activity. But it could be a real challenge finding the right words to express our feelings, which sometimes seem too complex for language.

That’s why art journals are popular. They let us create positive affirmations with tools less intimidating than adjectives and adverbs.

In this concise post, you’ll get a clear idea of what art journaling is and whether or not it’s the right fit for you.

What Is an Art Journal?

An art journal is a personal record where your thoughts and feelings are expressed prominently through visual media. That’s it. Think of it as a diary with pages filled with your creativity – made using whatever artistic devices that you prefer.

So, art journaling is a broad term for keeping any type of visual journal, including

  • scrapbooks
  • collages
  • gluebooks
  • junk journals
  • mixed media journals (watercolor, acrylic, charcoal, etc.)
  • altered books

The list goes on and on!

Successful art journalists are often mavericks who like to create anything but the traditional. That’s because they approach each journal entry in light of why and how, and not do or don’t. Possibilities rather than rules. You’ll see what I mean in the examples below.

What Art Journaling is NOT

An art journaling practice is different for each person. But there’s a popular misconception that it’s nothing more than some sketches and paintings. Or that these should be your best work for the world to see. These aren’t true!

As an ONGOING habit, your art journal should function just like a regular diary. You should give it the opportunity to help YOU find peace, clarity, and inspiration as you go through its pages. It’s a problem-solving tool, not some museum display.

Try to use it as an outlet for exploring different artistic techniques without having to worry about the final product. Whereas a canvassed painting or a sketchbook portfolio might often be about the result, an art journal is solely about the process.

In short, be reflective, but don’t give yourself any pressure. Your art journal is meant for you alone.

Great Examples of Art Journaling

Check out what some talented art journalists have been able to do within the pages of their visual diary:

Painting With Striking Colors

Traditional media, such as acrylic paint used to produce this stunning spread, are perfect for any art diary. The artist decided to use a bold, contrasting palette to reinforce an inspirational quote.

Credit: @miraczone

Filling a Journal With Ephemera

In this charming junk journal, Yvon skillfully layered paper ephemera and fabrics to channel her feelings. No words? No issue here!

Art supplies for junk journaling such as this often come in vintage undertones. You can buy them from specialty vendors or craft them from personal items.

Credit: @memory_journals_by_yvon

Beautifying Everyday Life

For this nifty diary entry, there are plenty of words. And yet, the eclectic stickers that form the border pleasantly add to the overall expression. Maya’s notebook is a perfect example of how art journals are still, well, journals!

Credit: @mayabjournals

Altering an Old Book

Who says you have to start with a blank journal? Many people love to transform cheap vintage books into art journals, such as what this artist did here.

You could either completely cover the original text or repurpose it to your ends. I personally love the concept of reusing loose papers from an old book – torn, crumpled, distressed, full of character.

Credit: @stillsejal

Thinking Outside of the Box

Who says you have to use a conventionally bound book? Natasa designs the most aesthetic art journals, including this cute accordion book. It’s made of thicker paper from envelopes and is perfect for storing special notes.

Credit: @treasurebooks03

Is Art Journaling Right for You?

If you’re right-brained, then perhaps starting an art journal would be a no-brainer. But what if you’re not artistically inclined? Should you even bother?

Actually, art journaling is a great hobby for EVERYONE, even those who are creatively timid. There’s no need to be good at drawing, painting, or scrapbooking to get the full benefits of this practice. As mentioned before, there are many different types of art journals. So you get to decide what medium or tools you’re comfortable with using. And you get to decide the ratio between writing and visuals.

The key is to view your visual diary as a way to explore your innermost thoughts and feelings. Then, you’ll find that it can build self-awareness, reduce stress, and help manage anxiety.

The Pros

More creative freedom. Keeping a visual journal is an excellent way to express yourself beyond the written language. Your pen is now merely a backup tool rather than the go-to.

More accurate and detailed entries. Words can evoke strong emotions, but pictures all the more so. Yet, art journaling combines the two elements, preserving so much more of life’s context.

Heightens introspection. Art journaling engages both the analytical AND creative sides of your brain, giving you greater intuition into self, situations, and others. As a result, you might be able to find unexpected solutions for stressors.

More fun than traditional journaling. Let’s be real here. We all enjoyed art class more than language arts (even for those of us who aren’t artistically gifted).

More Specific Questions You Might Have

As an aspiring artist, should I keep an art journal?

Yes. An art journal and a portfolio are not the same things. While many enjoy exhibiting the contents of their art journal, it’s technically supposed to be private.

So, an art journal is a perfect outlet for experimenting with – and getting a feel for – your medium of choice without having to face the judgment of others. This is a healthy way to hone your skills!

Is it OK to turn my Moleskine notebook into an art journal?

Moleskine notebooks are known for their thinner paper. So if you plan on using wet media, such as watercolors, acrylics, or inks, these will wrinkle the pages and/or bleed through.

Of course, the same can be said for other containers, such as old books, which many journaling junkies love to alter. If this will be an issue for you, consider looking up some innovative techniques to hide or mitigate the problem.


The Health Benefits of Journaling – communityofmindfulparenting.com

Leo Cai

Leo Cai

Leo Cai, the one solely responsible for the inception of this Mickey Mouse operation, has at least garnered the acceptance of Casey Cai - his wife. He used to view himself as an avid writer back in high school, with grandiose dreams of making a living using words. That never culminated because, as he himself puts it, "It's more practical to stock bakery shelves while striving to become a professional photographer".

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About Us

We’re Leo & Casey Cai, and Journaling Diaries is our outlet for sharing what we’re learning from the lightweight, nearly disaster-proof hobby of journaling. So far, we’ve found that journaling isn’t merely a shameful tool for hard times or a poor memory. It’s enriching & fun. Whatever, whichever, however – as long as it involves journaling – we’ll be covering it all here. Thanks for stopping by!

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