Thursday, January 7, 2016

Art Journal Basics - What is art journaling?

Happy New Year readers. I am starting the new year by sharing what I have learned about about journals and mediums. I know I have covered some of this before but I thought beginners may find some of these tips helpful if they are all together.

What is art journaling? Anything you want it to be. I think of it as Art in a Journal. Some people will say you must include writing in your journal but that is not so. Others will say you need to draw or paint. Again that is not so. I started by using stamps for my images and sometimes still do. It is your book so add whatever you want. Glue in things if you like. Add typed lists if you don't want to handwrite. It is okay to change things you don't like. Add emotions or things important to you or just make pretty pictures. It doesn't matter to anybody else what you choose to do with your journal.


Just be happy with your own creation and share or not (I don't share all that I do). It is not an art form to compare with others because we are all starting this journey at different times in our lives with different skill levels and interests. Think of it as a journey of discovery and have fun.

What type of journal should I use? I have used many different types of books over the years. When I first started I used thick (300 gsm or higher) watercolor paper stitched together to make a small journal.

This is still one of my favorite types of paper to use. It holds up well to mixed media and usually dries flat. This is a picture of my first journal. The pages were worked on separately then put into a book later.

If you are unsure about stitching a book with loose pages then use these rings from stationery stores to hold your completed pages together. When you use loose pages there is no fear of your paints and dyes ruining a whole book of work like there is with a bound book. Punch your holes in the paper before you paint them so you don't end up putting a hole in the middle of a beloved image or sentence.

 This journal is watercolor paper held together with a string in the middle that is tied into a simple bow on the outside. It is a simple 8 page book but still a journal. It has a plastic cover that is edged with fabric that protects the paper. You can find cheap plastic school book covers at the stationers (or newsagents in Australia).

Altered books are used by some people for journals. I have found the best sort of book to use are the older ones (from the 50s or earlier) and they are stitched together. They seem to have thicker paper that stands up to mixed media better than newer books. You will need to remove some of the pages for this type of journal because each layer of paint or paper you add later makes the book too thick for the tight binding that most novels have. I usually remove at least one third of the pages. The pages are coated with gesso to help hide the writing.

I used some scrapbook papers glued in with matte medium to add strength to the pages of this journal. I also put tape down the center to stop the paints bleeding through but I don't do that any more. It makes the book too thick in the middle and is sometimes very hard to cover with paint. I prefer now to work on one side of the page at a time and only do a few double page spreads so there is less chance the paints will spread through the center of the book.

The Strathmore spiral bound mixed media books are my favorite store bought journal these days. The paper is quite thick and stands up to a lot of techniques. That cover begs to be decorated as well. 

You can see how thick these textures have been applied and the pages are still flat.

When you are just starting I would choose a book that doesn't have too many pages. That is why I like to make my own with watercolor paper. It is great to be able to hold a filled journal of 8 pages and start something new. A book with 50 pages takes a long time to fill!

The size you choose to work in will probably change too as you go along. I started with small books but now find it easier to draw big so I like A4 or letter size pages.

I have previously listed a bunch of supplies that I consider to be basic for my journaling. It can be found here:

The next basics lesson on Tuesday will cover gesso and other mediums. In the meantime I will share more of my completed pages.


  1. You just put my purging of old books on hold! I'm going to have to find a place for storing the older ones for future journals. Thanks for sharing.

    1. Thanks Toni. Look for the books with the thickest paper, they seem to work best.