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Art Journaling Part II: Getting Started

by Lauren Fallat, MA LPC ATR-BC

Now that we know what an art journal is and how it can be beneficial to our mental health and well-being, let’s get started. There is no right or wrong way to start an art journal and there is not just one type of journal to use. Some may find it helpful to think about your intentions for the journal- how many pages would you like the journal to contain? Will you want a journal that is a particular shape or size? (a square format will allow for symmetrical drawings, while elongated journals can allow for more landscape type drawings and paintings). Think about what intrigues you about art journaling and answer the following as a way to help set your goals:

  1. What do you want out of your experience with art journaling? What can this process offer you?

  2. What will go into your journal? Will you include memories, photos, drawings, paintings, collages, plans, sketches? Will you have a certain theme?

  3. When do you see yourself journaling? Are you able to commit to a certain time each day, each week, each month?

Considerations for the purpose of your art journal:

  • A way to document your daily life and what you experience, notice, sense, think about, witness or discover

  • Emotion journal- images, words, poems that represent how you are feeling in a given moment

  • Themes: Growth, change, observing, patience, self-awareness, gratitude, colors, movement, shapes, inspiration, discovery, beauty, etc.

  • Gratitude- a way to express and highlight what you are grateful for through images and words

  • Focus on nature- your art journal might be a space for you to focus on natural elements in your environment or imagination

  • Inspiration art journal- words, images, thoughts and ideas that are encouraging, motivating and inspiring

  • Playing with different art processes- layering, texturing, adding borders, painting color mixing, overlapping, collaging, adding value and depth, abstract lines, shapes, forms

  • Still life and contoured line drawings- hone in on your mindfulness skills by really paying attention to what is in front of you and how to translate what you see onto the page

Here are some options for the journal structure:

  • A pre-made sketchbook that is already bound and ready for you to draw or paint can be an easy way to get started with your journaling process. Please note that some sketchbooks are primarily for drawing and others have thicker pages that you can also paint in. It may be recommended to get a sketchbook that contains ‘mixed media’ paper so that you have the option to draw or paint.

  • Paper Folding and Glued Binding- you may be interested in exploring online the different ways to fold paper to create unique folders and pages for your art journal. To create a seamless journal in which you can continuously add pages, you may want to try folding 18 x 24” mixed media paper in half and then taking two folded pages and gluing the outside flaps together so that the creases touch each other. With this type of binding process, please note that the outside of the folded pages will not be seen, only the inside.

  • Page Binding- There are additional paper binding techniques that you can search for online, in which you take all of the pages that you have created, folded pages or loose, and sew them together using string, twine or any other fabric material. The options are endless!

Depending on your goals for the art journal, it may be helpful to remember that no matter what there are no mistakes that you can make as you move forward. Each mark, line, shape and smudge is reflective of just that and nothing more. You can alter your intention for a page and adapt to any unexpected splatters or unexpected dashes. Challenge yourself to be creative and adaptive rather than reactive.

In future blog posts we will explore different topics and themes that may be interesting to explore on your own or in an art therapy session.

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