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How to Combine Drawing and Writing Into Deeply Personal Art Journals

Art Journal Ideas

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You might have heard that keeping a journal is a great way to record your thoughts and understand your emotions. Typical journaling involves only writing—but for those who are more visually inclined, an art journal is a great alternative. And because there are so many ways to express yourself in an art journal, it's a wonderful creative outlet for both beginners and more experienced creatives.

What is an art journal?

An art journal is a visual diary; it combines elements of writing, drawing, painting, collage, and even printmaking to express yourself. This includes your everyday life, as well as your bigger hopes, dreams, and fears. A single page will often fuse words and illustrations to offer a look at what's going on inside your head.


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The focus on self-expression is where an art journal differs from a sketchbook. A sketchbook can have elements of art journaling, particularly when it comes to drawing or painting. But a sketchbook doesn't have to include imagery that corresponds to your inner thoughts.


Why keep an art journal?

If you are someone who journals, you already understand the benefits of getting your thoughts on paper. Doing so offers a way to de-stress and to sort through complicated emotions. As a result, you gain self-awareness and feel empowered.

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Above all, art journaling is a way to practice self-care. It encourages you to take a little time for yourself—even if it’s just for 15 minutes a day. When you look back at what you’ve written, drawn, or stamped, you can gain valuable insight into the challenges in your life.

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The point of creating a visual journal is not to make every page a masterpiece. You’re simply supposed to enjoy the act of creating something without worrying about who is going to see it—or if it even looks good. Remember, it’s just for you!


How to Start an Art Journal

Art journaling is completely customizable depending on your skills and interests. Many people choose to use mixed media and adorn their pages with drawing and painting materials, creating different textures on the page. Others prefer sticking with a single medium that they're comfortable with. The most important thing when beginning your art journal, however, is selecting the right book.


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There are many considerations when it comes to picking your journal. Size is one. If you enjoy making large drawings, for instance, then a bigger book might be best. Art journals look great when you fill the page, so whatever size you choose, make sure it complements the way you like to work. Another characteristic to think about is the type of pages that are in the book. Since it’s a good chance you’ll be using mixed media, select a journal whose paper can handle both drawing and painting—and lots of it.


Supplies for Art Journaling


Art Journal Ideas

Creating an art journal is all about you, but sometimes you need some help to get started.

  • Introduce yourself! Draw or paint a self-portrait.
  • Draw some of the items you bought recently.
  • Create a map of your favorite place, real or imagined.
  • Draw a favorite childhood memory.
  • Go for a nature walk and collect flowers or leaves. Write about your walk and why you gathered these items.
  • Paste old photos and doodle on top of them using marker.
  • Fill a page with geometric shapes.
  • Illustrate what’s in your bag.
  • Illustrate your daily routine.
  • Draw your favorite pet.
  • Create a self-portrait.
  • Fill a page with doodles.
  • Create a collage about your favorite travel experience.
  • Use mixed media to illustrate your favorite foods or a recipe.
  • Hand letter an inspiring quote or personal mantra.

Looking for more? Pinterest is also full of great art journal prompts.


Online Classes for Art Journaling

Take your art journal techniques further with online art classes.

Art Journal Ideas

Introduction to Art Journaling, CreativeLive: If you’re looking for a crash course in art journaling, Andrea Chebeleu will educate you on the basics on composition and design elements.

Art Journal Part 1: Unlock Your Creative Intuition, Skillshare: Bookbinder and mixed media artist Christen McGee will teach you the techniques to start an art journaling practice.


Art Journal Inspiration

Check out the beautiful pages that others have produced through art journaling.


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A post shared by Nicole (@nicolesartjournal)


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A post shared by Sharon Tan • 美莲 (@ronnycakes)


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A post shared by Noor Unnahar (@noor_unnahar)


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A post shared by Noor Unnahar (@noor_unnahar)


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A post shared by Marie (@craic_and_create)


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A post shared by Putri U. Suseno (@myreminderjournal)


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This article has been edited and updated.

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Sara Barnes

Sara Barnes is a Staff Editor at My Modern Met, Manager of My Modern Met Store, and co-host of the My Modern Met Top Artist Podcast. As an illustrator and writer living in Seattle, she chronicles illustration, embroidery, and beyond through her blog Brown Paper Bag and Instagram @brwnpaperbag. She wrote a book about embroidery artist Sarah K. Benning titled 'Embroidered Life' that was published by Chronicle Books in 2019. Sara is a graduate of the Maryland Institute College of Art. She earned her BFA in Illustration in 2008 and MFA in Illustration Practice in 2013.
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