An art journal is a window into your mind or heart that incorporates both text and imagery. Sometimes images alone convey more than we can put into words. This economy of effort and freedom of format have inspired countless artists throughout history, and up to the present day, to keep a daily art journal.

In this article, we offer five reasons why you should try art journaling yourself and provide some ideas to get help you get started, regardless of your level of talent or experience.

Art Journals, Then and Now

Throughout history, many famous artists kept art journals. Perhaps the best-known among these were the journals of Leonardo da Vinci. The images in these journals reveal his marvelous intellect and inventiveness, and the texts, which were written in reverse so that they can be read only with a mirror, have fascinated researchers to this day.

More recently, other famous artists like Frida Kahlo and even musicians like Brian Eno have also maintained art journals.

Of course, countless other artists, writers and everyday people record visual documentation of their daily lives through any combination of sketches, collage, text, and other media, including digital media.

The limits are only your inspiration, and since the main “audience” is yourself, there’s no requirement of artistic talent or experience. This brings us to the first reason to get started right now…

1. You Can Do It…Now

Grab a notebook, sketchbook, or even a single scrap of paper. You already have a searchable mental library of experiences which expand and accumulate every day. These memories present you with unlimited topics to choose from and document in your art journal.

Art is a form of communication, and it can inform, persuade or entertain just like writing or speaking. In fact, it often does so more efficiently than the spoken or written word can alone, as attested by phrases like “picture this,” or “don’t just tell me, show me.”

But communication need not always be outward. One of the greatest fears is glossophobia, the fear of public communication. It affects up to 75% of the population. Thankfully, your art journal is a private affair. It can house your own private gallery.

As we live, work, relate, emote and perhaps even fight, there is a level of stress which builds up. For many people, art serves as a pressure valve (read safety valve) for this pent-up energy. Art journals constructively redirect this energy by providing a judgement-free space.

2. Art is Therapeutic

In addition to the anxiety management benefits mentioned above, art journaling provides a potentially quick shorthand for organizing the issues on your mind into graphic representations, such as diagrams, flow charts or mind maps. While these entries may not look like traditional “art”, they certainly fit into your personal oeuvre. When your art helps you feel better, that’s art therapy.

3. A Picture is Worth 1,000 Words

To demonstrate the unique expressive potential of art journaling, look no further than your favorite memes.  Some of the artistic insights which can be gleaned this way include how:

  • Images are capable of conveying more than words alone
  • Imagery and text can fuse to create a uniquely powerful effect
  • No amount of idiosyncratic quirkiness is too weird to set upon one’s page

These insights are all relevant to art journaling, as it too embodies the wedding of text with imagery to make your point with greater ease, clarity or force.

4. Your Blueprint Factory

Art journals are also the perfect place to plan out and sketch for prospective, finished artworks. Variations on themes, color schemes, proportions and compositional strategies can all be worked out and cataloged in one space for convenient perusal. If your art involves pastiche, or appropriation, the references can be pasted right on the opposite page from your workspace in the journal.

Apart from mere preparation, these sketches can be so delightful to look at, you might not want to keep them to yourself, in which case…

5. It’s “Art,” Too!

Although an art journal is by no means always a public document, there are plenty of communities and events wherein art journaling is shared, discussed, appraised and so forth. The amount of sharing can be indirect, in which the contents of the journals are kept private, and the discussion is more around the processes, benefits and challenges of art journaling, or in other cases, there may also be a more direct exchange of participants’ journals.  Even formal gallery-style exhibits featuring art journals are not unheard of.

Art journaling can even be a way to make new friends. There are many groups around the U.S. that regularly meet to share and discuss their work.

The art of bookmaking is also a close cousin to art journaling, and the two art forms are highly combinable.

In Closing

Of course, these five reasons only scratch the surface of why art journaling may be right for you. There is no restriction on which direction you can take your art journal, nor on where it can take you.

Journaling is usually a deeply personal practice, and so the reasons and methods utilized for journaling will be as diverse as the journalers themselves. In all, an art journal is a window, and it is the view within that makes each one unique.

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