The Paper Kind

Creative living.

A Beginner’s Guide To Keeping An Art Journal 

Art journalling can be a fantastic form of creative expression. Art journals tend to take the form of part-written and part-visual journal. You could think of the bullet journal as a sort of art journal; the more visual ones at least. But others choose to have a separate art journal.

I love using a sketchbook, it’s an integral part of my creative process where I can save my thoughts and ideas and work on my skills. Though I use this art journal as part of my process, you don’t need to be a professional artist to have an art journal. You don’t even need to be good at art. You’ll find as you begin to use an art journal your artistic skills will begin to improve.

Art journaling in sketchbook with collage pieces and paint.

Why Should You Keep An Art Journal

Art journals are a fantastic way to express your creativity and work through thoughts and ideas. It can be a place just for yourself, so you can try out new techniques and learn new skills. It’s your place where you can make mistakes and hopefully discover new ways of making art. 

Most artists keep some form of sketchbook, indeed, keeping a sketchbook was something I had to do through college and university. It was how I showed my thought process and proved that the work I did was genuinely mine. But you don’t need to be an artist or work in a creative field to benefit from using an art journal. You don’t even need to be particularly good at art, all you need is a desire to create. 

How To Keep An Art Journal

The first thing to do when starting an art journal is gather some basic supplies. You don’t need to begin by buying large amounts of art supplies. As a first step, assess what you already have to hand. Some basics are essential, you’ll need mark-making tools; pens, pencils or paint. And something to create art in; a sketchbook or notebook. 

Sketchbook page.

The exact art supplies you need will depend on what it is you want to make in your art journal. If you use a bullet journal you might decide to use this same notebook as an art journal. I work as a calligrapher so I prefer notebooks over sketchbooks as they work better for me. If you think you will be working with lots of heavy media such as paints you might decide you want to art journal in a sketchbook instead. 

Other Art Supplies To Try:

Pens & Markers: No matter what type of art you want to create, there will be a pen, marker or otherwise which will work for you. Paint markers are a great way to add colour without all the mess of traditional paints. Dip pens or other brush markers are a simple way of creating calligraphy in your art journal. 

Don’t forget about regular writing pens, these can also be used in your art journal. You just need to consider what you will be writing on, as this will help you decide on the best type of pen to use. 

Art supplies which can be used for art journaling.

Coloured Pencils: These are a great way of adding colour to your art journaling pages. Especially if you use specific types of paint (gouache and watercolour work well for this), where you can go back in with coloured pencils and add more detail. This adds a whole new level to your artwork where the paint colour will show through the pencil. 

Glue: No matter how you use your art journal, you’re probably going to need some way to stick things in it. The exact form you choose is up to you. I’m a fan of double-sided tape. One roll will last you a long time and it’s not as messy as some other options. But you could always go with the classic glue stick. PVA glue is also an option but be aware that the glue can warp the pages of your art journal if you’re not careful. 

Stamps: If you’re just getting started with art journalling and not sure of your creative abilities stamps are a great way to add visual interest to your pages. Most large craft stores will have a range of stamps for you to choose from, along with inks and other powders you can use with the stamps. 

Where To Begin With Art Journalling

There is no wrong way to make art, one of the best things to do when starting an art journal is to have fun and make a mess. 

When I was in college we would spend our first weeks going back to the very basics of making art. We would practice colour theory and basic mark-making. You can do this too in your art journal. 

Art journaling with collage pieces in a sketchbook.
MORE LIKE THIS: My Must Have Art and Design Supplies

Pick an object and find out how many different ways you can draw that object. How many different types of marks can you make using that object? Can you start bringing in colour? The important part is to do something, so long as you’re making you can’t be doing it wrong. 

You can try making marks in your art journal, but also try working on other sheets of paper, especially if you have coloured paper. This way you can start collaging those sheets together in your art journal to create new compositions. 

And remember, you can’t do something “wrong” at this stage. 

What To Make In Your Art Journal

What to do, or what to make in your art journal is probably the hardest part of your journalling process. What you do exactly might depend on what you do. If you’re a professional artist (or aspiring to be one), the art journal is a fantastic way to work through ideas and try new things. 

If you’re a designer or illustrator you can use your art journal as part of your creative process. If you’re working on a big project the art journal might be the first stage in that process. 

A beginners guide to art journaling in sketchbooks.
MORE LIKE THIS: Inside My Graphic Design Sketchbooks

But what if you’re just a regular person using your art journal as a form of relaxation? Again you might decide to work on a specific project, or if there’s an art style you’ve been wanting to try you could use your art journal to do that. It could even be a form of travel journaling, where you draw the places and collage things you’ve collected on your travels.  

But if you’re stuck you could try finding some prompts to jumpstart your art journalling hobby. 

6 Art Journalling Prompts To Try:

Art journaling can be a tricky thing to do when you don’t know what to create. So I’ve collected a few prompts which could inspire a page in your art journal.

  • Draw a portrait.
  • Draw your workspace. 
  • Draw your typical day. 
  • Draw a quote from your favourite book. 
  • Draw a repeating pattern. 
  • Draw a classic painting in your style. 

If you’re still having problems finding inspiration one great hack is to try taking short art courses. You can find free tutorials on YouTube but if you’re looking for something more in-depth Skillshare is great. They have hundreds of courses to choose from, on a variety of art subjects and it’s a fantastic way to learn new skills. 

Finally

There’s one very important thing you need to remember about art journaling. The result is not the important part. It’s the process you go through to get there which is the real benefit of keeping a journal. All that thinking and learning you put into that object. To steal a phrase, it’s the journey, not the destination. 

Art journaling should be something you enjoy doing, don’t think of it as a chore. Don’t feel like you need to share it with the whole world. Make art, good or bad, because it’s something you like doing. 

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