Art Journaling? What for?

I ended 2019 scratching my head wondering what’s this art journal craziness? The main question I had was why do they do it?

Don’t go looking for answers on Youtube. You’ll get bombarded with videos that take 20 minutes to finally get to the point of what they want to say and then they forget what they wanted to say. Or those that never get to the point. I wish Youtube had a noise meter with each video…

I continued hearing this buzz on social media with journal this, journal that images; everyone seemed to have one. Some were actually quite nice, but then I ran into junk journals…why would someone call their art junk?

Purposeful Journaling

I use a journal now and then to try out color palettes, like a recipe book of combinations I liked and those I wanted to forget. At least I had a record! I like my journals “dedicated” to one thought, concept, exploration…a way to categorize and find stuff (you know, like with a purpose). Using a square journal, I test pigment combinations with an inspiration photo on one side and then draw and paint using those colors on the other side.

inspired by one of my fav artists Charles Dwyer


This type of journaling has a defined purpose; learn something. But other people were having fun with no purpose at all. To me it looked like going in circles. What’s wrong with just creating something for no reason at all? I was about to find out.

When in Doubt, Learn

When in doubt about the value of something, dive deeper into it. Now I needed to find a course. Wanderlust 2020 on the Kasia Avery network, is a year long, weekly challenge in art journals. Weekly seemed plenty fast enough for me so I joined.

Two months into the course, it’s amazing! Not that I’m pumping out great art, but that the nasty critic in my head has finally quit screaming at me to produce a pretty and perfect piece of art. Now I can really just PLAY!

Ok, it is not that easy or simple, although it should be. I’m not there yet, but I’ve collected a bunch of attempts. But I’m learning that it’s okay to collect failures. I’m challenged by wonderful teachers with all sorts of new ways to make art and be creative. And isn’t that really the bottom line? We just need to create, no matter what it looks like? Don’t we learn something every time, even if the paper goes in the basket? I do, I learn what I like and what I don’t like. And I take a piece of every lesson to my next piece of “pretty” art.

When One Door Opens

Now here’s the funny thing. When you open one door, yep, another door opens. I hear about a class called The Down Deep with Fonda Clark Haight on the Art is Magic site. Here’s the hook line: “Mining your truths on the creative journey”. Is it calling you? It did me.

In this month long class, we created art in search of our “true” art calling…digging deep down there…in our internal psyches to find authenticity. Scary? It was kind of…at first… but Fonda provides such a wonderful, safe place to share it was never scary. We learned to create animals, creatures, people and stories from what she describes as ugly backgrounds. We shared those stories and it was inviting to do so. I don’t want to give away any more lest I get in trouble, but it was a game changer for me! I was now mining something out of a blank page that I’d never even considered before.

here’s my ugly background and finding something…

…here’s my finished piece “The Third Eye Door”


In the final project for the month there’s a challenge to create a piece connecting with our shadow sides. The course really was perfect for me…just the right instruction just when I needed it. This work was my favorite.

“Embrace the Shadow” by Lynne Furrer

What’s Journaling for? For anything! Make a background and just leave it for something you don’t even know you’re going to do yet. Try new things, new artists, new instructions, explore, test and fail with abandon. Remove intentions, rewrite how you create art. Keep it categorized in separate journal books or just mess it all up into 50, it doesn’t matter. What matters is that you show up and do it. This is the way art thrives. Go for it!

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4 responses to “Art Journaling? What for?”

  1. I just did a weekend with Tracy Verdugo who is also on Wanderlust. Can’t wait for your class next year. But I still have a trouble with mixed media covering all that was good sometimes. Tracy showed me a 30 day challenge to do different works on the one canvas. TO learn to let go. I don’t need that I would have stopped at day 1 of hers it was so lovely. And junk journals, I love odd shapes etc but surely if you go to all that trouble I dont know I just want it to feel lovely. For me, and it is a personal journey, I have enough horror in my life, my journals are a happy place and I want it to make me happy. Jane Davenport’s journals always make me happy. But I don’t want to do faces all the time. i would like to do more abstract but mine looks no good because the palette is wrong. I like another artist who does more free sketching but it still looks beautiful like yours. Your art is so beautiful. Juna Biagioni is her name if you are interested she is on LifeBook with Tamara next year.


    1. Of the many, many classes I’ve taken, Juna is my fav instructor. Her class is where I learned to draw and paint faces. Can’t remember the title, but it’s an intensive class and worth every penny. Highly recommend when you’re ready for an intensive study that really pays off. For abstracts, I enjoyed Deborah L. Stewart and her pastels. Mine were a mess, but I learned I really don’t excel with pastels. We don’t know what we’re good at until we try and then keep what we like and admit the ones we don’t are just not our style. All that discarding is not wasted, it defines our art style, which everyone craves, but many don’t want to do the work needed to find it. And, don’t say you don’t like it for the end of time…I’ve come back to using pastels on top of watercolor and mixed media. So, it’s all worth something.Thanks for your comments on my art, it keeps me going!


      1. Thanks for this. I’ve done a session of hers in LifeBook tasters this year and also loved it


  2. Carol Biallas Avatar
    Carol Biallas

    Great thoughts! I think I understand art journaling more.


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