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Recently, as part of my healing from betrayal trauma, I have started an art journal. Now I don’t work in it nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life as a mom of young children. It has definitely been a hugely therapeutic thing for me. I’ve shed tears more than once while creating. I also consider a lot of my digital art therapeutic journaling as well. Added bonus no messy supplies to get out and put away! There’s just something about working with actual medium on paper that is just so healing for me though. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less in control and there’s no undo button.
What is Art Journaling
Art journaling is simply putting words and images together to express yourself. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There are no grades. There are no rules. Oh wait there is one rule: there are no mistakes, just happy accidents (yes, I love Bob Ross). Simply use whatever speaks to you to give a visual aspect to the thoughts and feelings inside. Put aside any thoughts of what is right in art. Forget about focal points, color harmonies, balance, unity, or any other “rule” you’ve been taught. Just get your feelings out on paper!
Art journaling has been around since the dawn of time. In fact many of the great artists in history kept these visual journals. The British Library has actually digitized one of DaVinci’s journals and made it available to the public. It is quite fascinating!
Therapists have also found the value in using art to unlock suppressed memories and feelings. It can also help to heal trauma as you process through those feelings in a creative way. By processing using your physical body and incorporating both words and images you use your entire brain. The more of your brain that is activated during therapy the more thoroughly traumatic experiences can be processed. You don’t need a therapist to guide you through art journaling. All you need is a willingness to dig deep and be honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a prompt and other times it’s best to jsut start makign a mess and see what happens.
Art Journaling Supplies
All you need to get started is a writing implement of some sort and a piece of paper. Don’t let a lack of art supplies hold you back! It is far better to do a simple pencil sketch than nothing at all. Of course art journaling is a lot more fun with some color, so here are a few of my favorite things to use.
For starters let’s talk about paper. You can use a basic notebook, but you’re going to be a bit restricted on what you can do with the flimsy paper without destroying it. If you just want to use dry media (pencils, crayons, chalk, pastels, etc) you’ll be fine with a simple sketchbook. If you want to use more paints, glues, and other embellishments you’re going to need a heavier duty paper. A mixed media book is a great choice. If you really love to work with watercolors then it’s even better to get a book with watercolor paper pages.
Colored pencils are my go to for sketching. I really like that they are hard to erase. It forces me to accept imperfections and mistakes, and allows me to just think about creation rather than perfection. Your basic Crayola pencils that you can get at any grocery store will do just fine. I have also recently discovered and am loving Arteza. They’re a bit higher quality and still a very reasonable price. If you really want to splurge then Prismacolor is the way to go. Their pencils are super soft with vibrant colors that get great coverage and blend beautifully.
Watercolors are another fun medium to use. When you think watercolor you’re probably remembering those cheap pan sets from grade school that gave you pale washed out paintings on wrinkly paper. Watercolor is so much more amazing when you have good paints on good paper. For a decent starter set The Artist Loft pan sets are a bit better than the grade school stuff and still very budget friendly. If you want to step up your quality a bit then Sakura Koi, Arteza, Prima, or Kuretake are a great choice. Jane Davenport is another middle of the road brand price wise and I am totally in love with them! The neutrals pallet is perfect if you want to paint a lot of skin and hair tones. If you really want to get the top of the line watercolors Holbein, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith are all highly recommended. If you want to start out with the higher quality, but still on a small budget you can get individual pans or tubes of the three primary colors along with white and black then mix your own colors. For painting on the go water brushes are awesome! If you really want a good brush at a great price I also really like my Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes.
In addition to the traditional pan or liquid watercolors you can also play around with watercolor crayons, markers, brush pens, or pencils. There are so many fun and creative ways to use these that would be an entire blog post in itself! Some recommendations for pencils are Derwent, Arteza, or Faber-Castell. For crayons check out Neocolor, or Ranger ink. Sakura Koi and Tombow both make a great felt tip watercolor marker, and I LOVE my Arteza real brush pens.
If you prefer more control and opacity then Acrylic paints are the way to go. For a simple art journal I haven’t seen a need for anything fancier than the bottled craft paints that you can get at any craft store or Walmart. If you want to do a finished piece to hang you may want to get something a bit nicer and more professional because of their light fastness.
Washi tape is so much fun! It is easy to reposition and you can get so many fun prints. I may have a slight addiction to washi lol. I like to go to Michaels craft store and check out their bin of individual rolls that are around 3 for $1. Here are a few of my favorite patterns on Amazon as well.
There are so many other paints, pens, markers, etc. that this post would get WAY too long if I listed them all. Instead I’ll just link you to my Amazon List.
In the future I’m planning to do more detailed posts on each medium that I use as well as some great art journaling prompts. What other products are you interested in learning about? What are your favorite products for art journaling? Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook and lets chat about it! I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for Art Journaling if you’d like to see more tips and inspiration.