What’s an Art Journal and Why Do I Need One?

So what’s an art journal, anyway? An art journal is simply a place where you can empty your brain in a visual way. It doesn’t have to look “good”. You could make a whole page of solid blue, or three pages of little triangles. It’s your brain, and your space to dump it out. There are no rules, art teachers, or critics in your art journal. Go ahead and throw stuff on the proverbial floor.

And, you’re the only person who needs to see it. Maybe show it to your cat, or fish. Or post every page on Facebook if you want. Do whatever feels right for this point in your creative life.

What's an Art Journal

Why do I need to do this?

Do you ever get up from your work and stretch? Or maybe go for a walk when you’re stressed? Art journaling isΒ  another way to stretch, exercise, and free up your brain.

Here’s some science explained by actual scientists and not me (a humble blogger):

Summary: Science seems to agree that making art is pretty good for you. You can use this as a perfectly valid reason to cloister yourself away and make stuff. Because science.

What’s the difference between an art journal and sketchbook?

This answer will be different for everyone. They may be the exact same thing for you. Or you might alternate between sketching and journaling in the same book. There are no rules. πŸ™‚

For me, an art journal is more of a brain dump. I’m not trying to practice or refine anything, and I’m not thinking ahead to a larger piece. I’m just tossing down whatever my brain wants to in that moment.

In my sketchbook, I am usually trying to hone a skill; like anatomy. Or, I’m sketching for a larger project. I might sketch the same thing over and over again. I’m focused on my technique if I’m practicing, and I’m focused on layout and shapes if it’s a thumbnail for something bigger.

Does it have to look a certain way? I’ve noticed a particular style is popular in art journals.

If you search “intuitive painting,” that style is very similar to many classic art journal pages. That makes a lot of sense, since we’re putting down whatever comes to mind – intuitively.

Maybe you don’t like the style of typical intuitive painting. Maybe you’re more of a minimalist. Or you might be somewhere in between. Those are all fine, because your art journal doesn’t have to look any certain way.

Your pages can be monotone or rainbow. You can use a single pen or 10 different products and stickers.


Art Journal Tools

What do I need to start art journaling?

If you have any means of making marks, you can art journal. It can be with scrap paper and a pen. It can be with your finger in a drawing app. You just need:

  • Your brain
  • A way to record what’s in your brain, visually.

That’s really it. But here are some of the tools I use for art journaling:

  • Art markers
    • Faber-Castell, Copic, Prismacolor
  • India ink pens
    • Sakura Micron, Faber-Castell
  • Pencils
  • Kneaded eraser
    • If you have never tried one, I highly recommend
  • Strathmore Visual Journal in 140lb Watercolor
  • Canson XL Mix Media pads
    • These say they can take watercolor but I have not found that to be so
    • Great for pencil & ink, and dryer paint like acrylic is okay too
  • Tayasui Sketches app for iPhone/Android

Do you art journal? Has it helped you make more time for art, or helped you think about something differently?

Feel free to share this with someone you think would benefit from an art journal. πŸ™‚

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What's an Art Journal