How to Start An Art Journal Right Now

*this post contains affiliate links*

I've always been fascinated with the idea of keeping an art journal, but the perfectionist in me was hesitant to start one. What if I totally mess up a page? What if I can't keep up with it regularly? What if I can't find a way to write down what I did that day in a way that's totally cute and cool and Instagram-worthy?

These fears come from the fact that I've never been one to keep a diary or a journal, or even a PLANNER. Even though I love to buy them all (mostly for the pretty covers) I just can't keep one very consistently. I'm also not a bullet journaler, either. Basically, guys, I can't keep a daily practice well at all, and it has taken me almost 3 years in the art community to realize that IT'S OKAY. I simply don't get enjoyment out of planning and/or writing out my day-to-day activities. (Except when it comes to my business, where I keep a very tidy Trello board!) But, when it comes to art journaling, it seems as if a lot more possibilities open up, and consistency isn't as necessary as simply 'creating,' And that, I can get on board with. 

A few of my inspirations for some 'non-restrictive' art journaling are:
Mint and Maple
Megan Wells 
and Eugenia Clara

Following these three artists has really opened my eyes to the possibility that art "journaling" is what I make of it. And that's why I decided to give it a try.

My approach to art journaling is more about experimentation and setting myself free of limits and boundaries than it is keeping a 'journal' of my day-to-day activities. Sure, if I had an especially memorable day for some reason, I will document it. But, otherwise, I'm probably just going to make some art. And try my darndest not to care if it doesn't come out perfectly. Above, you can see a few spreads I've done in my journal. The one on the right was created while sitting at a picnic table at a local park. 

Most days, I'm not drawing or painting anything relevant to that specific day. To me, my art journal is an excuse to use a lot of the products I'm either A) not totally comfortable with B) just sitting on the shelf (like my Crayola colored pencils) or C) I don't love, but I need to use up anyway (my cheap watercolor palette)

The best part about using these items in my art journal is that no one (but me) is going to see it anyway....well, except for anyone that reads this blog post! There is a freedom that comes with knowing that. 

I also like to experiment with using different mediums together (you'll see that in this post), as well as adding layers upon layers. I used to be so scared of creating art that required a lot of layers. Art journaling has taken a lot of the fear out of layering, as I am getting more comfortable with 'continuing' until a piece feels finished. There's also MAJOR freedom in knowing that I call the shots on when a piece is finished. 

As I'm writing this, it seems as if art journaling has helped me overcome a lot of FEARS I had about creating art. Who knew? I didn't. Not until just now!

Let's go ahead and dive in to my mini-tutorial, where I break down my process for creating a page in my art journal. No limitations. No perfection. Just pure fun.


This is my art journal. I picked this one up from Hobby Lobby--linked below---because I wanted to get one with watercolor-friendly paper. This specific journal is for mixed media, so it holds watercolor, acrylics, markers, decoupage, and more! The pages aren't nearly as heavy-duty as I would like, but it's just a small journal, afterall. I've learned to love and accept the way the paper furls up after a few coats of watercolor. 

Here are some of my favorite products to use in my art journal:


Beginning with a blank page is scary! 

First, I pick a color, and lay down a light layer. I usually begin with watercolor, but you could start with any medium you want.


I also like to complete two pages at a time, so I went ahead and laid down a light layer of watercolor on the next page as well.

Like I said, art journaling is an excuse to use the supplies gathering dust on the shelf. One of those supplies is my set of Crayola colored pencils. I like to use the pencils to sketch on top of the watercolor and to add details/interest later on in the piece.


Right now, I'm really feeling florals, so that's what immediately comes to mind for a blank page. I used the black colored pencil to quickly sketch out some florals.

Next, I added a first layer of color to the florals using more watercolor. In the right-side photo, you can see that I added more color to the base layer to create some more detail. I also added black dots to the right hand side. There's no rhyme or reason behind this, except wanting to create!

On the left, I'm continuing to add layers to the florals to bring them to life (layers!!!) with the dual brush pens. I also continue to add some more random shapes and splashes of color to the background, just for interest. On the right, I used a blue Micron Brush Pen (linked above) to outline the florals. This really set them off!


To finish this piece, I added more details to the background using my Dual Brush Pens (the bullet tip side, so I don't ruin my brush nibs), and I'm calling it done!

For the next page, I basically did the same method of creating using layers and adding details to the background. But this time, I used white acrylic paint and a green acrylic paint (on the insides of the leaves) to make the colors pop. 


And this is what this specific two page spread looks like!

I really try not to dwell on what I could have or should have done differently, or whether or not I should 'make something' out of each page. That's another thing art journaling has brought to my attention: I often care too much about the 'utility' of each thing I create. Not everything has to have a purpose or be made into a product. It's helpful to remind myself that I will be so happy to have these journals one day far, far in the future. Whether my children love to look at them, or simply because I might draw some new inspiration from them one day. Who knows? I sure don't.

Are you going to try art journaling? Would you like me to share more about my process in the future? Let me know by leaving a comment below!