Why Everyone Should Have an Art Journal

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Art journals have been a part of my life for the better part of a year now. Here is why I think everyone should keep one.

It all started with a closet full of art supplies and a very small apartment. “Do you really need all of this stuff?”, my boyfriend asked. And when I protested that of course I did, he doubtfully said, “But you haven’t used any of it since we moved here.”

He was right, of course. Not only had I barely touched a paint brush since we moved. In fact, it had been years since I had followed any sort of creative routine. I had all these beautiful paints, brushes, stamps, scrapbooking papers, washi tapes and markers. Yet I wasn’t doing anything with them. I knew I wanted to make art. I just had no idea where to start. Did I want to paint? Use acrylics or watercolours? Collage? Scrapbook? Create gorgeous typography, intricate drawings or vibrant abstract paintings?

Experiments

More or less by accident, I stumbled onto the idea of keeping an art journal. The concept’s biggest selling point: I did not have to decide. I could draw, paint, and collage. I could experiment with different styles, use barely-there pastels on one page, bold red on the next, and only my pencil on the third. My art journal was like a playground. I could change my style from one day to the next. If I came across an interesting technique, I could try it without fear of failure. After all, if I didn’t love the result, I could simply turn the page and do something completely different on the next. My journal was for my eyes only. In this private, forgiving setting I could shake off my fear of failure and my perfectionism.

Growing as an Artist

An art journal was the perfect way for me to get back into a creative habit. I strongly believe it can do this for anyone who wants to give creativity and artistic expression a more permanent place in their life. As being creative slowly becomes a habit, the number of “failed” pages in your art journal will start to be outnumbered by the pages you actually like.

Maybe, like me, you know you are a creative person but you just aren’t sure what it is you would be especially good at: Watercolours? Hand lettering? Abstract painting? Your art journal will give you a chance to try your hand at all of these, improve your skills and grow as an artist.

I also noticed that the creative habit spills over into other areas of life: I started to develop an interest in photography, I took on more DIY and upcycling projects than ever before. I even began to dabble in sewing. Each successfully completed page and project taught me something, and each of them said to me, “Yes, you are an artist”.

The therapeutic value of keeping an art journal

It is not necessary to be a therapist or even a psychologist to recognize the therapeutic value in “getting things out of your system”. One of the main reasons for journal-keeping is that it allows people to structure their thoughts. Writing it all out is a way of calming the mind. An art journal takes this to the next level. It allows self-expression through colour, shapes, structures and symbols in addition to words. Many of the artists I know value the therapeutic effect of art journaling most of all.

If you are still on the fence about whether an art journal is right for you, give this a go the next time you find yourself struggling with something: Grab a pen and paper. Write out what it is that you are scared of or battling with. Then try painting over it, or ripping up the page, collaging the pieces back together and creating something new out of them. You will be surprised at how liberating and calming the process can be!

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