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Art Journaling: A Low-Stress Creative Outlet

Art Journaling: A Low-Stress Creative Outlet

Simply put, art journaling is creating a journal with pictures. Starting with your thoughts or an image, you create the pages using simple artistic techniques. It’s a cousin of scrap-booking, and no formal art or drawing experience is required. Anyone of any age can do this.

We journal because we don’t want to forget something, or we want to organize our thoughts, or we need to be creative, and this is a quick and easy way to do all that. A travel journal, for example, keeps all those travel keepsakes in one place. Filling a book with photos of a family reunion together with some personal thoughts on the event is an example of a journal with just one theme, not to mention a cool way to document family history.

To start, work in layers and begin with the backgrounds. Work with the same media and do a bunch of backgrounds all at the same time so you’ll have spare pages to work on later.

Begin with a personal photo or cut image from a magazine or junk mail that inspires you. Use found materials, ephemera or photos as a starting point, as in collage, or just drip paint onto a page and move it around to create swirls and puddles. Stamp over your page with purchased stamps or those you make from recycled materials like bubble wrap. Add texture by overlaying tissue paper or thick paint. There is no wrong way to do this and don’t stress whether or not your pages are artistic or good enough.

Here are some suggested materials:

  • Glues. Experiment with a range of glues. Not all are suitable for all grades of paper.
  • ModPodge (registered trademark). This is a decoupage glue and is good when using heavier pieces like fabric or cardboard. It also seals the surface.
  • Acrylic Gesso. This gives tooth to a slick surface so that paint can adhere. Gesso can be used for adding texture. Thickly apply the gesso and spread around on the paper surface. Once dry it can be incised with sharp tool.
  • Pens. Use permanent ink felt tip pens gel pens, and ballpoint pens.
  • Pencils. Also try colored pencils and watercolor pencils for variety.
  • Paints. Use acrylic or watercolor paints. You may need to prime your paper with gesso first.
  • Other materials such as stamps, stencils, and sponges.
  • Recyclables. For example, vegetable netting or candy wrappers, but they must be clean!

Note: Some of your kitchen tools make good stamps, though once you use them for art, do not use them for food use. Get used tools from garage sales for art use.

Your journal pages

I generally use both sides of the paper, obviously waiting for one side to dry first before using the other side. You can use old books (please not antique!) and gesso the pages first, or draw and paint directly on the pages.

If you’re using larger sizes of paper feel free to cut them to whatever size you want, keeping in mind smaller pages are easier to fill and to handle. Especially when traveling.

The edges of your pages can be trimmed using scissors that give a fancy edge, or use a hole punch to create patterns along the edges. You can use a sponge and just touch the page edges with dark paint.

Finished pages can be bound with strong thread, look online for pamphlet binding demos, or punch holes along one edge and tie together with yarn, ribbon or binder rings found in your local office supply store.

This is one of those crafts that can be done anywhere, anytime. Have a go box or bag filled with inexpensive supplies, the kind you find in the school supply section of your local department store. You can work on your journal while waiting in a doctor’s office, waiting for a child to get out of soccer practice, and after everyone else has gone to bed and you can’t sleep.

Making your own journals doesn’t have to cost you a lot of time or money. Just buy your basic supplies and get started!