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Art Journaling Part I: What is it and Who Can Benefit?

by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC

Art journaling is a wonderful way to engage your creativity as you develop a collection of your ideas, inspirations, drawings, paintings, mixed media collages and writings. Just like a personal journal that we write in, we might use our art journal to contain or represent our thoughts on the day, to process our emotions about a recent event or interaction, or to plan ahead and set goals for our future selves.

Images, pictures, shapes, lines and colors often convey what is difficult for us to express from our internal experiences. An art journal can be a useful tool for those of us who have difficulty identifying how we are feeling, regulating our emotions in the moment, and navigating our thoughts. It can also be a useful way to engage in the creative art making process without requiring too much space or materials, often one may only need a pencil to get started and additional materials can be used as needed.

For children, an art journal can be a great way to redirect strong emotions into something constructive and grounding- the pages of the art journal become the surfaces in which these large emotions can be contained, organized and put away when ready. Art journaling can also be a great way for children to create narratives and stories in which they can play out their own challenges and problems through their characters and engage in problem solving resolutions for their stories. In an art therapy session, the art therapist can encourage a child to explore options to their stories and develop new narratives that may reflect a healthier way to cope with a problem or to learn problem solving skills.

For teens, an art journal is a great way to develop a set of pages that reflect their own identities. Teens experience a large amount of pressure and stress to determine their life paths and long-term goals. In order to consider these existential challenges, it is important that teens be able to reflect on what is important to them, what they value and what they believe in as both an individual and as a community member. An art journal can contain writings, poems, thoughts and ideas that target these tensions and states of ambiguity in trying to make sense of the world, while also containing images, dreams and hopes for a future. This is also a great way for teens to build connections with their peers and with other caregivers, teachers and authority figures. Images invite the viewer to ask questions, to learn more and to be curious about their purpose and meaning. Often teens struggle with feeling as though they are not heard. Through the relational process of showing their images on their terms, they are empowering themselves to set boundaries as well as assert a part of themselves that desires to be seen and heard.

For adults, art journaling can be a great way to practice mindful engagement with a creative practice. Some individuals may take the opportunity to practice their drawing skills by practicing still life drawings, or drawings of objects that they see in front of them. Others may create images that reflect how they are feeling that day, what they are looking forward to or what they believe to be an obstacle in their life right now. Some individuals may take the opportunity to create an art journal that has a particular theme, such as parenthood, grief and loss, flowers, nature, doorways, cars, or mood. For older adults, this can be a great way to depict one’s life in an autobiographical sequence. Some may choose to incorporate photos and process different memories and have the art journal serve as a living memory of one’s lived experience. This can be a great way to combat loneliness by inviting others to see what you have experienced in your life and open conversations.

Each page in the art journal serves to create one more addition to the narrative that is being created. All of the images are stored together and often this can be powerful to have an image or collage or painting that is representational of one’s thoughts, feelings and desires at a point in time. The art journaling allows you to be engaged in a self-exploration practice, while also providing you with the ability to witness your progress along the way, to look back and to reflect on the changes, the ebbs and flows in your work.

In the next blog, we will explore how to get started with your art journal and supplies you might need.


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