I have been messing around with journals since I can remember. I’m guessing my personal art journal process started with my first sketchbook when I broke the rules and wrote on the pages intended to be used for painting and drawing.  I remember being told I was “wasting” art paper. Well of course! This was an ART book! We all know that writing and drawing are not the same thing. The paper they give us for doing these things is different. And it made perfect sense to me that this must be for a very good reason.


So I spent many years putting my “art” in one book (the one with no lines) and my writing in another (the book filled with lined paper). Until one day it hit me: that was a ridiculous rule! I still remember the first time I wrote in a sketchbook. I was 15, the perfect time in life to stage an art journaling coup. I announced to my mom that for my birthday I wanted some sketchbooks I could use for journals. She worried this would be an expensive waste of sketchbook paper. I promised her she would not be disappointed with how I filled the books.


And I have never looked back. Much of my creative process flows and pools and meanders through a series of various styles of sketchbooks. Big ones, little ones, fat ones, spiral bound ones, and ones with glued and bound edges. Mine is a journey of following clues that come to me in pictures and words, which I capture like shimmering fireflies and tuck into my journals, before they disappear.


I have a simple but trusted process that I have been following in every art journal I have ever kept that has served me well. See if any of this resonates for you. Please use the stuff that sounds like fun and ignore the rest. This is the best advice I can give you about how to keep an art journal!


1)    Collage or otherwise embellish the cover to capture something that is important to you right now in this moment. This will capture your imagination every time you pick up the journal.

2)    Write a beginning blessing. What will be taking place in your life in the time it takes you to fill the pages of this book? Capture this in words and images.

3)    Each day spend twenty minutes with your journal. Do whatever you want with this art journal time. Make the appointment and keep it.

4)    Keep your book somewhere safe. If you are worried about other people looking at your journal you won’t use it.

5)    Everything goes in here. It doesn’t have to be polished or even good. Crappy sketches and bad ideas belong here. They are the seeds for better work. The art journal is a place where ideas grow. Try not to edit anything out.

6)    Share your journal only with people you trust. This is a private space. It is precious. To open it up to the eyes and opinions of others can be hazardous. It can stop you from following your process.

7)    Try different kinds of sketchbooks and journals. It is amazing what a change of pace does for the creative process. I have learned that I prefer spiral bound books because they expand better than ones that have a glued and bound edge. I learned this after exploding he bindings of many sketchbooks!

8)    Close each art journal with a wrap up entry. Summarize the big aha moments that took place during the time you created this journal. It makes re-reading much easier and it helps you to see the “big picture” in your personal story.

9)    Date the book even if you don’t want to date the individual pages. Over time this becomes important when you are tracing the steps through your creative evolution. When did you first get the idea to create the painting of the old lift bridge? What was happening that lead to the way you framed the picture in your imagination? A journal holds the answers to these kinds of questions.

10) Store your journals in a cool dark place. This keeps them safe for the long haul. I put mine on shelves and in large waterproof containers.


Over the coming months Meg and I will be posting bits and pieces of our art journals to share with fellow art journalers. Our goal is to give you some ideas for ways you can use this tool to deepen your creative experience. Let us know what you think and what you are doing with your art journals. We are so excited to get this conversation going!

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Replies to This Discussion

Meg is right - this is so very inspirational. I love the quote on the page you posted; I'm copying it into my "Book of Ideas". Thanks!!
Thank you so much! I can't wait to see what we do with this opportunity!
I am looking forward to seeing what happens next - this can become an awesome community!!


One of the reasons among many that I signed up with the Art Colony was to let you know that your post, Art Journaling, The Perfect Way to Play with an idea, was the #JournalChat Pick of the Day for all things journaling, a chat on Twitter which I host. I post links on the web for journal writing and art journaling Monday through Friday. I picked your post on Tuesday, 10/25/11 and it is linked in my weekly Refresh Journal. 

Here's a link to it: http://myemail.constantcontact.com/The-Investigation.html?soid=1105...


Just wanted to let you know!

Be refreshed,


Dawn, Thank you so much for sharing this with your community! Keep an eye on The Art Colony...more really cool art journal material (and so much more!) is coming soon. Alos, please share any requests you have for ideas we can cover to give you more material for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day. We would love to keep you and your followers inspired! ; > Su


I'd be delighted to post more info from the Art Colony. #JournalChat Pick of the Day, which your post was last week, is reserved for the VERY best link out of all of the links for that day of what I post for the Links Edition for #JournalChat. It's the one I think that has the best content and take away value and even the possibility for a topic to discuss on the Live Chat (which takes place every Thursday at 4 CST/2 PST), which is called the Pick of the Week. 

Of course I post many other links that I don't specifically label that are great as well, like workshops, book reviews, interviews, and news. You're welcome to check out the links on my @JournalChat account on Twitter if you'd like. I also post them on my blog: http://www.refreshwithdawnherring.blogspot.com/ if you'd like a taste of what I post.


I love promoting and posting good info for art and journal writing for those on my Twitter list. It's my passion. It's all good!


I appreciate your enthusiasm!! :)

Thank you so much for sharing the link to your blog Dawn. This is exactly the kind of thing I love!

I would like to give you the link to my blog as well. There may be a post in there that would be appropriate for your #JournalChatPick of the Day. I just moved my hosted blog to this new wordpress.com blog in September so I am a little behind on posting! (Big changes at my "day job"!) There is a wealth of material there from my first year of blogging. I will be diving back into creating new content in two weeks. So take a look around!

My blog: http://reinventplay.com/


I am so honored to have had one of my posts selected as the VERY best link for the day. You made my day Dawn! I am new to blogging so this was such a fabulous gift.


I love promoting and posting good info for art and journal writing too, and sharing this with my art students. I look forward to  visiting your blog! ; >




thnk you everyone! 

i'm new to journaling but i have many sketchbooks, journls, smashbooks. note books too!

some are finished, some aren;t. but you have inspired me to do something on the cover of my art journal - my first BIG one i like to wok large-ish. that is, a3 or a4.

cool directions and links to blogs. i'm headed there now.

shell xx (my friends call me shell)

I'm going to start mine right away I've been inspired x



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