First You Have to Decide What You Want Out of Art Journaling
I can definitely attest the power of art journaling is in doing it. And that power only intensifies when you create your own custom journals.
Whether you are looking to discover something about yourself or understand your art (or yourself as an artist) better, keeping an art journal is a foray into a special place where memory, observation, sketchbook and diary collide.
Before you set out to create any customer journals, ask yourself these three questions Cathy Johnson poses in Artist’s Journal Workshop. Why? They will help you realize what you are really looking for.
I included my own answers, below. But I encourage you to ask yourself these same questions, too, and replace my responses with your own.
- What do you want from your journal? A place to explore visually without editing myself, lol. I want color, words, collage, and pen marks. I want to play.
- What goes into your journal? For me, it is mostly pen, marker, collage, stickers, photos, lists, napkin doodles, written words, and even sketches from elsewhere glued in.
- When or how do you see yourself journaling? I see myself doing it both spur of the moment — when there is a thought I want to capture — as well as something I do on a Sunday morning, going over the week’s entries and adding color or sketches to build out the feelings or thoughts I express.
Then Go After What You Want in Your Custom Journals
I usually start by spending hours of fruitless searching ready-made journals for ones that have all the characteristics I want:
- A soft, breakable spine so the book, open, lays flat
- A pocket or envelope for slips of paper, mementos, collage pieces, photos, or lists
- A size that allows me to work standing up while holding the journal in my hand or in my lap, and covers that offer enough support that I can really apply pressure to the page and not fear that the journal will buckle under my hand
Those are just three characteristics I look for but I could go on about the paper quality and color, the covers themselves, and the number of pages. Why do I do this to myself?
The fact is, I almost always end up creating custom journals for myself. It is a lot easier, and I can theme the journal and adapt the number of pages I want (a small booklet for a week-long trip vs. a thicker stack of pages for a collaborative food journal that my friends and I contribute to together).
No Place for Mistakes
Think about how you would use each of your custom journals and what aspects of an art journal appeal most to you. And remember, you don’t have to be afraid to “make mistakes.” Whatever that means!
Mistakes for the average person are golden opportunities for artists. If that’s what is keeping you from starting your art journal right now, remember:
- Collage rules. Patches too. Paste an image or another sketch over anything you want to disappear.
- Add color, text, pen marks, watercolor washes to camouflage any false starts.
- Blur your writing if you want to rework it. Go over and over it, use another pen to layer, and soon you’ll find a design element that couldn’t exist without your “mistake.”
Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson has me brimming over with enthusiasm to get started on my next art journal. She shows dozens of artful ways to make journals and how to keep the art journaling process invigorating, relevant, and meaningful.
This book might be your saving grace if you want to create an artist’s journal and are looking for a way “in.” This is it! Enjoy!