Journal spotlight: Art journal

I’m going to start simply by saying that an art journal can be anything you want it to be, really.

In its most simple sense, an art journal is any kind of journal where you express yourself visually. Often art journals are mixed media – that is, a combination of elements such as collage, acrylic or watercolour paint, gouache, pencil, crayon, stamps, inks, etc.

I’ve spent the past two years trying to figure out exactly what an art journal is, at least for me. I’ve seen the beautiful works of people like Tamara Laport, the simple but touching pieces by Nicole Rae, the messy and inspiring sketchbooks of Lisa Sonora, and the gorgeous and striking works by people like Alena Hennessy and Hali Karla.

I’ve worked in sketchbooks, gluebooks, journals, binders, altered books… I’ve collaged, stamped, painted, drawn, written, sprayed, taped, watercoloured, lettered… and still I have struggled to define exactly what art journaling is.

I’ve struggled to find my own style and really claim my own art journaling approach.

Then, a dear friend of mine pointed out that I do have my own style – I just wasn’t acknowledging it.

You see, I had always thought that art journaling was not the same thing as visual journaling. In fact, here is an awesome video that discusses this point quite nicely.

So while I’ve been journaling visually for some time – in a similar sketchbook style to Lisa Sonora (if I may be so bold as to suggest that), I haven’t felt as though I have been art journaling, really, at all. Sure I was incorporating art techniques into my visual journaling, but it certainly wasn’t art.

Perhaps it’s the word ‘art’ in the name art journal – I mean, no pressure, right?!

I much prefer the term visual journal, or creative journal.

For a while, I saw an ‘art journal’ as more focused on particular techniques and creating a specific, visually pleasing outcome, and the term ‘visual journal’ as more about the process and self expression. Now… I’m not so sure.

When I saw Lisa Sonora had blown up images from her sketchbooks to put up onto the walls of her studio, a little thought crept into my head: maybe, just maybe, this could also be art? She says,

They’re not art…but they are artifacts of a creative journey. It’s like meditation, but with art supplies.

I don’t know. Seeing them up on the wall like that, they sure look like art to me. Surely they can be both?

As for my own messy journals – I may not have found a style that looks anything like the work of Tamara, or Alena, but I’ve got my own visual approach. Who’s to say it’s not art, in some form? And it will continue to evolve over time, as I do. I figure as long as I’m expressing myself visually, well, that’s all that matters.

My advice to anyone who wants to start an art journal: grab some art supplies you like (acrylic paint is a good one, as are stamps) and play. That’s it. I was going to give some lengthy list of instructions but really, you don’t need them and they would only serve to confuse or intimidate someone starting out. Find an artist you love and copy their style for a bit, then copy the work of someone else. Do this many times over and you will start to find your own style. Give yourself permission, try to get past the fear of creating, and practice being imperfect. You don’t have to show anyone, or you can join 15 Facebook groups and show the world. There is no right or wrong way.

Do you keep an art journal? How do you define art journal? Do you see art journaling and visual journaling as different things? I’d love to hear your ideas in the comments.


Art journal Wednesday

Each week I share a page from my art journal. I love to peek into the art journals of others, and hope to inspire someone else by sharing my own work.

Just a simple page this week. It uses alphabet stamps and a Buddha stamp that I hand carved.











Welcome to art journal Wednesdays

I have decided to share more of my art journaling here.

I’m always inspired when I can look into the art journals of others, and I hope that by sharing my own work I can do the same for someone else. I also have a goal of creating at least one art journal page a week, so this will help me to stay motivated and on track!

I have no specific or particular style – I simply explore how I feel and what interests me at the time. Sometimes my pages are more arty, other times they are more messy. I am still finding my art journaling feet.

So each Wednesday I will share a page from my art journal. Feel free to ask any questions in the comments below.

Welcome to Art Journal Wednesdays!







5 inexpensive journaling-themed Christmas gift ideas

As Christmas rapidly approaches I feel inspired to include a post that is both Christmas and journaling themed. So here it is: my five inexpensive or homemade Christmas gift ideas that allow you to spread some journaling joy!

My partner and I are in the process of saving money to build our tiny house so we don’t have a lot to spend on Christmas gifts. I know we aren’t the only ones who will be coming up with creative gift ideas this year!

If you’ve got the money and the energy to face the shopping malls, then by all means do that. But if you’re a bit strapped for cash, or you want to give something a bit more unique, then these ideas might help.

You might be thinking, I can’t possibly give something home-made for Christmas. Why not? Would you be thinking differently if this was you receiving a scarf someone had carefully knitted, or a box of home-made cookies baked by a close friend? How would you feel to receive something lovingly made just for you from someone else?

People love handmade gifts because they show you have put thought, care, and time into making them. They receive something totally unique that they wouldn’t be able to buy for themselves.

And besides, a gift that encourages more journaling will be rewarding in many ways!

As a side note: Obviously, these types of gifts won’t be suitable for everyone – for example, I don’t see my dad jumping with joy if he was to receive a jar of journaling prompts from me, or my partner getting excited about homemade stamps.

But, I do have friends and other relatives who would love to receive something that is unique and creative. For example, my mum would love to receive art work from me, my bestie would love to receive homemade stickers and stamps, and my sister would enjoy journal prompts or a personalised journal. I have another friend who wants to do more journaling but isn’t sure how to start, so a combination of a few of these things might be good for her.

christmas gift ideas

1. Personalise a journal: buy a basic Moleskine journal or a less expensive notebook or spiral-bound visual journal and cover it with images. You could choose photographs of you and your gift recipient, or just inspirational/beautiful images. Create a collage from magazine images or print out pictures from online. Include some inspiring words and washi tape in bright colours. Finish the cover with Mod Podge or an acrylic binding medium to seal it. Write a small heartfelt message on the inside cover.

2. Carve your own stamps: I use so many stamps in my journals! Buy a few basic pink erasers (I’m told these are the best for carving) and using either a hobby knife or a basic carving set, carve some unique stamp designs. It’s actually quite straight-forward to carve basic designs (think interesting shapes like clouds, trees, stars or arrows). They don’t have to be perfect and they make interesting tools for journaling and art journaling that can’t be bought anywhere! Wrap them in a gorgeous gift box and tissue paper. For an easy-to-follow tutorial, watch this video.

3. Journal prompts: create a jar or box of journal prompts written on tags or plain journal cards. I’ve used plain Project Life journaling cards with a simple watercolour border and stamp on one side, and then more detail for the prompt on the other side. Look online for journal prompts, or use some from our archives.

4. Take your art journaling off the page: take a favourite art journal spread of yours and either tear it out or copy it (scan it or reproduce it) and frame it as a gift for someone. Or, if you feel your art journal is a bit too personal to share you could browse Pinterest or Instagram for art journal inspiration and create something new as a gift.

5. Make your own stickers: I love using stickers in my journals. They brighten up the pages and can add inspirational messages. Buy sheets of printable sticky paper from your local stationery store. Then, go online and find images that inspire you, including lovely inspirational messages. Or, scan some of your own work into the computer. Print these out onto the sticky sheets and cut out each sticker. Place into a little gift box tied up with string.

It’s all in the wrapping

Creating gorgeous wrapping can make a gift feel even more luxurious and extravagant. Here are some ideas to make your lovely journal-themed gift even more beautiful:

  • Create or buy a beautiful gift box to hold your treasures.
  • Nestle your gift in beautiful tissue paper.
  • Create your own gift wrap with a roll of kraft paper and some Christmas themed stamps.
  • Secure with a big gold bow.
  • Create your own labels/gift tags using stamps and washi tape.
  • Choose a simple, plain gift wrap but use washi tape instead of clear tape to wrap.
  • Add a bit of gold glitter or confetti inside your wrapping.
  • Wrap your present the old-fashioned way: brown kraft paper and brown string – add a handmade label and a little shape cut out of felt or card to embellish (e.g. a heart, tree, star, etc).

Hopefully this has given you a few ideas for how you can share your love of journaling with others this Christmas. And if not, at least put aside some time with just you, a cup of tea and your journal in the midst of all the Christmas chaos.

Happy journaling!


Overcoming my creative wall: Peek inside my new journal

I’ll be honest – I haven’t been feeling all that creative lately. I’ve been in a bit of a creativity rut.

As the school year wraps up and I’m slowing down, the tiredness from three and a half full terms has hit.

I’m still journaling most days, but creatively, I’ve hit a bit of a wall.

But you see, I want to create. I keep browsing instagram and looking at all these amazing art journals (I’m always inspired when looking at work by Samie Harding, Lisa Sonora, Mary Wangerin and Nichole Rae, to name a few) but I can’t bring myself to pick up my paintbrush.

The solution? Create a new journal (this seems to be a pattern with me…)

space for creativityBut this journal is all about using magazine images with words I find, and words I add, to create my own images. A kind of visioning/collage process. It takes away my inertia because there are ready-made images to work with.

I love looking through magazines to find images that inspire me. I’m careful about what I read, and I tend to be drawn to the same sorts of images time and again:

  • Landscapes, trees, gardens, nature – green
  • Water, sky – blue
  • Beds and pillows
  • Cups or tea or coffee, teapots
  • Books, handwriting, journals
  • Deskscapes
  • Bright colours
  • Crafty things like knitting, sewing, painting
  • Images of families
  • Simple, rustic houses – wood, stone, exposed beams, cosy fireplaces etc

At first I felt like this didn’t count as ‘creativity’ – but then I had a wee chuckle. Creativity is anything really. And besides, I’m taking images and arranging them in unique ways, with my own words and ideas. The images are really just a building block.






I want to get back into painting and I will when I’m rested and open to it. For now, playing with these words and images is soothing my creative urges.

How do you break out of a creativity rut?

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I share a few of the pages and posts that have inspired me the most… lame rhyme intended! Feel free to share anything that has inspired you in the comments.


I came across this really cool course that runs throughout all of 2015 and I think I might do it!

I know I often share posts from Courtney’s page, but that’s because she inspires me so much! I loved this post about how to get up early and make the most of your mornings

This gorgeous poem by Cynthia made me smile and think more about my own big dreams

I love this practice of Jessica’s to write out ten things you accomplish each day in order to remind yourself of what you’ve achieved, no matter how small

As a washi tape addict I really enjoyed the eye candy in this post! Be sure to click on the links inside the post to see more gorgeous pics. Just when I thought my washi tape collection was complete… I think I feel a tape spend coming on!


Back from a weekend break: Art journal peeks

I’ve just come back from a lovely weekend away with my best friend. We spent the entire weekend talking about our exciting new business venture, drinking wine, art journaling, walking on the beach and resting. Not to mention (she is an avid journaler too) we stole a few quiet hours away alone each day to journal.

I am finally starting to feel like myself again after what has possibly been the most difficult term of my teaching career.

Journaling in my lined written journal has been great, just getting back to basics. As I had the time this weekend to just write as much as I wanted to, I found myself exploring issues that have been bubbling away below the surface for a while now. unsurprisingly, solutions came to me as I wrote.

All in all, a very healing weekend.

I worked quite a lot with my paints in my altered book, too. Below are a few peeks of my favourite bits.

altered book 03

altered book 05

altered book 06

altered book 04

I didn’t really realise quite how much blue and turquoise I had used until I looked back through these pictures! I guess I was using those lovely colours to invoke a sense of calm and peace after a hectic few months at work.

I also notice now that the theme of travel, journeys and freedom came up a few times. I think I’m feeling the need to go out into the world and take a break from stress!

I’m lucky to now have two weeks away from work to unwind. People always joke that teachers have it so easy with ‘all the holidays’ but boy, do we need them.

I hope you all had a lovely weekend and took some time out to journal.

What Inspires Me

Weekly inspiration

Each week I publish a series of the most inspiring links and posts I’ve enjoyed. Feel free to share any of your own in the comments!


I love, love, LOVE seeing into other people’s journals and hearing about how they use their journal, so I really enjoyed this post by Nairobi Nicole

I love this idea for a daily affirmations project by Nicole

I have only just discovered Cynthia’s blog (it’s awesome!), and I love the look of these journals she creates. But she is going to stop making them soon! She has a really good offer on them here

As my partner and I begin preparing for our tiny house build, we are starting a very slow and steady downsizing process. I really loved Courtney’s post about downsizing

I am getting back into written journaling at the moment, and yesterday posted about using simple prompts to help you journal when you’re short on time. I came across this great post which uses a list style prompt to get to know yourself a little better. Will definitely be using these as writing prompts when I take some time out for myself over the next couple weeks.


Back to basics

I’m not someone who does things by halves. If I become interested in something new, I don’t tend to just dip my toe in. I dive straight into the deep end, head-first. I buy all the books, sign up for all the courses, join all the groups.

Journaling is no exception.

In the past six months I must have bought at least 10 journaling books, signed up for at least 5 online courses, not including the free ones, and of course started a blog on all things journaling.

Then I jumped on the art journaling bandwagon. written-journalingI gathered as many supplies as I could, got the books, joined the courses. I have at least 4 art journals on the go right now.

In fact, I got so into creative journaling and art journaling that I drifted away from my roots – written journaling. The thing that I’ve been doing for years – the thing that started it all.

I got so inspired by art journalers and their magic that I all but abandoned my written journaling in order to play with colour and images.

But I miss just using my words.

I’m a writer, at my core. This new foray into the world of art journaling is fascinating, and exciting, and is challenging my preconceived ideas of who I am. Apparently I have an artistic side! How very exciting.

But I do miss just writing, for hours, letting the words pour out of me onto the page: not fussing with washi tape or gesso or colours or stamps.

I began with words, and I will always return to words.

Art journaling has its place – I love playing with colour and stamps and collage and just having fun. But sometimes I just need to go ‘blah’ and do a brain dump onto the page: get all the tangled thoughts out so I can see them, rather than have them swirling in my head.

So despite the fact that I declared I would stick to just two journals (who was I kidding?) I have now started a new journal. This journal is lined, so I’m not tempted to start getting art-farty in there (besides the occasional stamp or sticker…). Instead, the focus is just getting my thoughts down onto the page.

A return to where I began: written journaling. Going back to basics.