Sandy Allnock, author of Bible Journaling Made Simple and the Bible Journaling Made Simple Creative Workbook, introduces us to bible journaling and discusses how this creative worship can be an enriching and powerfully inspiring way of expressing yourself and your spirituality. Enjoy!
Creative Worship in the Margins — and Beyond
Faith has always been a source of inspiration for artists, and the pages of the Bible itself are a re-discovered canvas for expression. Bible journaling may seem like a new-found art trend, but it is in fact ancient. Until the 1400s, Scriptures were copied by hand with calligraphy and illustrations to make the Bible accessible to a mostly-illiterate public. The illustrations today serve instead to amplify the Scriptures, helping the artist to internalize truths and document their spiritual experiences in a creative way.
Bible journalers are documenting in words and pictures the messages they hear from God, testimonies in their lives, and creative worship of the Lord they love.
No Right or Wrong Way
Approaches to Bible journaling are as varied as artists themselves. Full-page illustrations and simple backgrounds, scrapbooking supplies and simple art supplies — the combinations and possibilities are endless! Some pages focus on a verse in the margins, or add a simple stick-figure doodle; other pages can be complex paintings or drawings representing ideas studied in verses on the page. None is right or wrong — Bible journaling is all about the Bible journaler deepening their relationship with God.
The Art Is Secondary
The effectiveness of Bible Journaling is in the heart not the art: when at its best, Bible journalers set aside artistic perfection and comparisons with others — this is one art form that is most effective inside the heart of the artist. The Scriptures are primary, not the art: time spent reading and meditating precedes creating and continues through it, the culmination of inner processing of thoughts about and conversations with God.
In keeping the focus on the heart, it’s helpful to save space to add personal journaling—notes about the passage, stories, and the “why” behind the page. Consider that one day the Bible may be passed on to another generation; stories lived by an ancestor would be an instructive blessing!
If shared on social media, the artist often chooses to take photographs before the writing to keep their journaling private, sharing what they’re comfortable with in a caption instead.
Bible Journaling Topics
What topics do journalers cover, and how often? Individuals each approach their process differently, and it should work with a daily devotional schedule.
For some, reading and praying in the morning leads to a day full of meditation on the verse until a creative visual comes to mind to journal in the evening. Others will read and study at night, and journal the next morning or a day or two later.
Keep a list of ideas in a notebook or a text list in your phone, writing down a verse and a possible visual approach, While inspiration to create those pages right away may not result in a Bible page right away…it serves as an excellent resource to review when faced with some time to make art!
Some journalers create daily, others weekly, others randomly as they are inspired; online challenges can offer prompts with verses or concepts that can motivate an artist to focus their energies. A few ideas to consider for bible journaling topics:
- Capture a new understanding that was eye-opening during study time.
Journal a word study in the Bible (the names of God, fruits of the Spirit, etc).
- Document moments in your life when God acted in big ways—write out the stories of your testimony.
- Join one of many online Bible Journaling Groups and follow their challenges and prompts.
- Journal an impactful sermon so it’s not quickly forgotten.
- Use the lyrics of an inspirational song.
- Include God’s promises, as well as prayers and their answers.
What Kinds of Bibles Are Good for Journaling?
Various styles of provide the canvas for artists; most all are printed on “regular” Bible paper—some cream, some white, but almost all feel much like Bibles people are familiar with. Choosing a journaling Bible is a very personal decision, and the artist must decide which is most important:
- the translation version (choose your favorite, OR a different one to aid in study)
- one- or two-columns for Scripture text (two is often easier to read) and font size (7-7.5pt is regular Bible print, 9pt is “large print”)
- cover design and material
- the format:
- a 2″ margin with toned lines (or no lines) in which to create;
- interleaved Bibles with a full blank page between each printed page;
- pre-printed Bibles with hundreds of drawings to color printed in the margins;
- a “non-journaling” Bible can also be used – creating art in any available space.
The thin paper Bibles are printed on offers both challenges and opportunities for exploration. Preparing pages with gesso or transparent watercolor grounds keeps strong mediums from bleeding through and pages from wrinkling, though lends a rough texture to pages. However, no page-prep is needed for most brands of watercolor, watercolor pencil, and colored pencil.
These mediums are often preferred by artists wishing to maintain the “feel” of Bible paper. Testing is always recommended for brands and colors, as no medium or Bible paper can be guaranteed to work together 100%.
How Does One Get Started?
There’s no license to apply for…just begin! Choose a Bible, choose one simple medium, and start. Two great options for your first page: the title page of your Bible (no stress over messing up other pages, and an opportunity to test mediums) or your favorite verse (which likely has your personal testimony to illuminate your imagery).
Test your medium on one of the intro pages or index pages at the end, to be sure you’re satisfied with its performance. (Some inexpensive or highly pigmented brands of a variety of mediums bleed through the paper and require preparing the page with a transparent watercolor ground first.) Most good watercolors, watercolor pencils, and colored pencils work just fine without preparing the page ahead of time.
Ask around at your church if others wish to join you in the Bible journaling venture, and meet weekly. Share learnings with each other about mediums, but more importantly – fellowship over the meanings of the Scriptures you’re illustrating!
Above all, remember that Bible journaling is not about the quality of the art, it’s all about your heart for God.
If your spirituality and faith are powerful forces in your life, why not couple them with your creative spirit as well through bible journaling?