Illuminations: Visual Journaling Inspirations

Starting an art journal is a powerful way to move beyond words in your daily writing practice. Not only does working with images access a different part of our brains than words, making art is a source of playfulness and creative joy.

When we make pictures in our journals, we often come to deeper insights about ourselves and the world around us than we can when we carefully shape our thoughts and write them on paper. By adding color and form to the pages of our journals we illuminate them and in the process we illuminate ourselves.

  • creativityTry working with a symbol for an abstract idea that is a significant part of your life. Some interesting concepts to work with could be creativity, grace, competition, prayer, forgiveness or gratitude. Make a drawing that symbolizes what you’ve chosen to work with. When you finish making your symbol, write about it.
  • Begin collecting interesting images from old magazines and keep them in a large envelope or a flat box. When you’ve gathered a good collection, every once in a while randomly select an image. Paste it in your journal and write about it. Why do you think you drew the image to yourself at this particular time? What message does the image have for you? What other images does this one call to mind? What memories does it evoke?
  • journalDecorate a blank artist’s sketchbook by making borders on the edges of pages and small pictures in their corners, leaving plenty of room for writing later. Don’t plan how you will embellish the blank pages. Just pick up paints or colored pens or pencils and let yourself go. After you finish decorating the journal, flip through the pages and pick one that fits your mood each day rather than making sequential entries from start to finish.
  • Use your journal entries as triggers to inspire art. Review what you’ve written over the past week or month and find word images you can translate into drawings or paintings.
  • If you stop yourself from keeping a visual journal because you think you’ll make a mess in your journal, try drawing or painting on separate pieces of paper. Cut and paste the work that best expresses what you felt into the pages of your regular journal.
  • Cover inexpensive spiral notebooks with your own drawings, an image from a magazine or a paper or fabric collage. Protect your work by covering it with a self-adhesive sheet of laminating plastic.

Websites on Visual Journaling

Art of the Journal provides visitors with a peek inside Elizabeth Badurina’s art journals. She writes, “My visual journals are more raw than my journals with words ever hoped to be. There’s something about art that gets to the heart of a matter with a minimum of effort.” Her site also contains information on altered books.

Somerset Studio’s Art Journal 2003 calendar has photos of 70 original journal pages and contains comments by the artists as well as journaling suggestions. Somerset Studio publishes Somerset Studio Magazine and Legacy Magazine. Both provide inspiration for paper artists. You can buy art and crafting essentials on their site too.

How to Keep an Art Journal posted on the Scribbles Kids’ Art site provides non-intimidating information and inspiration for adult beginners too.

Play Magazine – the Art of Visual Journals, an article by artist Teesha Moore. is a full color quarterly dedicated to visual journaling. Her website site contains knockout sample pages from her journals.

Keeping an Art Journal, an article on the Artistic Enhancements site, created by collage artist Kari Quinto is full of great pictures and tips. Kari sells collage grab bags and has a section on collage techniques and ideas.

How to Collage in Your Art Journal by Aisling D’Art is posted on her Wild Artistic Visions site provides practical and basic information. She’s also posted her online art diary and artistic journals for inspiration.

Image Cards/Visual Journaling by Luna Jaffee contains good instructions on how to make visual cards to use as journaling prompts. Luna has her own site where you can sign up for her free newsletter on visual journaling.

Visual Journaling Discussion Group

artistsjournals2 provides a discussion, resource and idea sharing community for over 900 artists who utilize visual or written journaling as part of their creative process. It is hosted by Yahoo Groups. To become a member visit

Books about Visual Journaling

pageThe Decorated Page by Gwen Diehn, a North Carolina teacher, covers a number of materials and techniques in this how-to book that inspires and informs. Her ideas range from color washed pages to custom made pockets, windows and collages.

Making & Keeping Creative Journals by Suzanne J. E. Tourtillott is a unique, photo-filled book that not only contains tips on the basic art of bookbinding, but also provides great suggestions for how to keep an art journal. Tourtillott gives 15 examples of themed collaborations between book artists and journalers. The emphasis here is on craft rather than words.

A Life in Hand: Creating the Illuminated Journal by Hannah Hinchman is a well-illustrated book that leads readers to discover new ways of seeing the world by combining words and drawings.

Crafting Beautiful Journals & Albums:How to Personalize, Embellish & Make Diaries & Scrapbooks by Anna Morgan is filled with practical suggestions on how to decorate journal pages, embellish ready-made blank journal covers and bind your own simple journals.