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What is Art Journaling?

I could go on for days about what art journaling is, and the benefits of using an art journal. I always come back to the analogy that art journals are:

Sketchbooks on Steroids

Before I explain that, let me give you a little background on me, and my tumultuous relationship with sketchbooks:

Basically, I’m intimidated by the idea of sketching. 

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve tried and have given up because of the fear of “getting it wrong,” and not being able to draw what I want. It gives me big time anxiety and I always end up feeling like a total failure.

Does that sound silly? Because it feels really really silly. I mean, it goes against everything I teach about art being a process, and a journey, and enjoy every minute along the way!

Sketchbooks, in my opinion, are supposed to be a place where one can work out ideas for projects, or work out feelings, or a place to just relax and draw ideas for later reference.

The thing is, I’ve never been able to draw realistically, and haven’t taken the time to learn. I’ve never figured out how to get what is in my head onto a blank sketchbook page, and comparing my attempts to some of the cool-looking sketchbook pages I see on the internet sure doesn’t help.

sketchbook drawing comparison

Because I’ve not succeeded at being a good sketcher I get paralyzed every time I look at the blank page. All I can see is the future of another messed up page. And another thing… I don’t like to waste paper/pages and materials. 

I can feel the anxiety starting in my chest just thinking about it.

Art Journaling is MY work-around to this whole, “I can’t draw, I’m a total failure, wah wah wah, thing.” 

So silly! I feel like such a hypocrite because I pride myself on telling people they can do anything, and that creativity can be learned! Right?

Well, sometimes the whole “you can do anything” truth comes in the form of working around your blocks, and finding new ways to fulfill your desires without actually being able to do the actual thing you want to do. In my instance, that would be working around actual sketching.

Does that make any sense?

That is where art journaling comes in. 

And they're freaking MAGIC!

So, what exactly is an art journal and art journaling?

It is similar to a sketchbook in that you create, on pages, inside a cover. But one of the things that makes it an art journal instead of just a sketchbook is that you use whatever media you want. Pens, pencils, acrylic paint, watercolors, collage, pastels, colored pencils, oil pastels, stickers, fabric, decorative tapes, crayons, and on and on.

painting in art journal

Beyond the art you can make ON the pages of an art journal, it is also common to build and bind your own art journals, from scratch, then create pockets, fold-outs, inserts, cut-outs, and various other methods of altering pages. 

Art journals end up being pieces of art in themselves.

I consider the building of the journal, it’s pages, and it’s components, as two dimensional sculpting and it satisfies a totally different part of my creative hankerings that a plain ‘ole sketchbook just can’t.

Remember that phobia of wasting and messing up I mentioned? One of the beautiful parts of building your own art journals is that you can make them from all recycled material. So, not only can you satisfy any fear of wasting materials, but you can feel good that you are using items that would otherwise end up in the landfill.

And, if you’re using recycled, repurposed, and reclaimed materials for your pages, you might be less worried about messing up because, what are you “messing up?” Stuff that would normally be trash!

I know that it totally frees me to do things that normally I wouldn’t because I can always get more recycled paper, and quickly build another journal!

Brilliant, yes?!

Art journals are the perfect place to:

  • Play
  • Work out ideas
  • Diary write
  • Bullet Journal
  • Keep your lists and calendar
  • You name it! Just for fun!

NOTE: I’m showing some of my more completed journal spreads here. DO NOT DO WHAT I DO in comparing my idea of sketching to others! Anyone can art journal, and it’s really easy!

I have multiple art journals started with different themes and focuses, and one that is my Warm-up Journal where I doodle and scribble, and try little things out before I jump in with my others. You know…just in case I mess up. 😆

Truly, anyone can do it.

And I’m making it my mission to show as many people as possible how amazingly fun and satisfying it is.

If you’re interested, you can check out my free guide to see what it’s all about:

Need Help Getting Started?

The FREE
Jumble Journal Roadmap
will show you how!

👇 Help me spread the word! Pin it! 👇

How I Went from Stuck to Inspired in 30 Days

Not too long ago I was in a bad place. 

I’d taken time off from being a working artist to raise my children and to work on some volunteer opportunities. While I was away the whole world seemed to have changed on me! 

I tried to get back into daily art-making and it wasn’t as easy as it should have been. I did not take that well and spiraled into a creative block that lasted three years.

The good news is that I got unstuck and I’m feeling more creative than I ever have.

Whew.

Lori Greenberg making glass beads at torch 2016
Making Glass Beads 2016

It took me a long time to find the magic potion that got me out of that slump, but once I found it, my transformation happened fast. I’d like to show you how to overcome creative block, or stuckness, too.

But first, let me tell you all it all happened.

How things went downhill...

Glass beadmaking was my jam! From 2000 to 2008, everything I made sold as soon as I put it up for sale. I traveled the country selling at shows, and making great friends at conventions.

What could possibly go wrong?

Anyone remember that U.S. housing bubble thing?

Yeah.

Countless people lost homes, incomes, and their businesses, and pricey glass beads were not exactly a high priority anymore.

Just like me, the jewelry makers and stores who had previously bought my beads were struggling, which led to people using less expensive materials like copper and resin, and more imported components. Customers adjusted their buying habits and just like that, glass beads were not on top of jewerly makers’ shopping lists anymore.

image of glass bead production work
glass bead production work

I, and a lot of my friends held on, thinking we could weather it, and figure it out. We’d done it before when we’d come up against cheap imports flooding the market, we could do it again.

Alas, it wasn’t meant to be, at least not for me. I’d grown weary of trying to climb that hill and I was fortunate enough that I was able to make the decision to take some time off to raise my kids and focus on some volunteer projects.

While it wasn’t ideally what I wanted to do I also knew that my kids would only be young once, and work would always be there.

Or so I thought.

I had gone into a creative funk...

Time went by and as my kids entered high school I was ready to get back at it. I lit up my torch and got to work. I signed up for my studio tour show again, and spiffed my web site back up. There was only one thing missing…

My creative juju had disappeared.

I could still make great stuff because my skills hadn’t gone anywhere but I just didn’t have the new ideas like I used to. And it kept going on this way. The longer I couldn’t snap out of my stuckness, the more concerned I became.

In an effort to find my muse I tried distracting myself from being blocked with different types of media. Maybe it was time to reinvent myself again?

I tried different kinds arts to snap me out of it.

  • 2012/2013 – I tried fused glass micro-mosaics:
  • 2014 – I tried glass murrine making.
  • 2015 – I tried writing fiction, and published 12 coloring books for adults.
mandala coloring books for adults

While all of those creative endeavors kept my mental health afloat, I was beginning to think that something was seriously wrong with me. It all felt like just going through the motions. I had no zest, or motivation, or drive. 

Nothing was rekindling my spark.

THEN, 

  • 2016 – Someone posted on facebook about an art journaling workshop.
    I had no idea what that was but it looked bright and colorful, and I needed a getaway. So, I signed up and went without expectation. I just needed a break.
Art journaling turned it all around...

That long weekend, when I found art journaling, things started to change. It’s funny because I have always been afraid of painting, drawing, and basically any type of what I call “flat art.”

It had always bothered me that I couldn’t draw realistically, and I envied those with great looking sketchbooks. And here I was, with the things that always scared me on the verge of giving me one of the biggest gifts of my life.

When I got home I was inspired, but I also knew that workshop inspiration fades. I made a commitment to art journal a little bit every day for 30 days.

I found that the more I worked in my art journals the easier it was to access my creativity.  At the end of the 30 days I noticed that other areas of my life, and my attitude, had started to shift, too.

I was excited about my day job of jewelry-making again and I’d started to grow a following of customers at a rapid pace.

image of hand holding pen and journaling
The Jumble Journal Method...

I continued working in my journals and eventually realized that I hadn’t been stuck at all for a long while. I’d been putting out unique collection after collection of my silver jewelry, and had so many ideas that I couldn’t wait to get to. And I was really having fun with my flat art creations and the journals I’d been making.

I started to pay attention to what I was doing and how I was doing it and that’s when I started to take note of what I now call my Jumble Journal Method.

It’s a way of creating art journals where the techniques address all kinds of blocks that we, as creative-maker-artist-crafters come up against, and the more you do it, the freer you feel. 

I’d love to show you how you can overcome your own blocks, and how to stay in that creative frame of mind. You can get my free Jumble Journal Roadmap below that shows you the exact steps I took to go from stuck to inspired.

Need Help Getting Started?

The FREE
Jumble Journal Roadmap
will show you how!

4 Big Myths about Art Journaling

Art journaling sounds like a big fancy thing that only people ‘blessed with talent’ should take on. I can’t believe how many times I’ve heard that.

Don’t believe the hype!

I’m going to debunk that, and some other common art-based myths once and for all.

If you're ready to get started, check it out:

The FREE
Jumble Journal Roadmap
will show you how!

Myth One: Not Everyone is Creative

I will fight this myth to my grave!

Everyone absolutely is creative–you’ve just either forgotten what it looks like, or you’ve suppressed it.

Don’t believe me?

This is how you can tell that you're creative:

  • When was the last time you had to come up with a way to make dinner with just four ingredients because you forgot to grocery shop?
  • Have you ever come up with a solution that made your baby or toddler stop crying? Or to get them to eat their vegetables? Or anything to get any kid to do something that they didn’t want to?
  • What about at work? Have you ever had to persuade a boss, but have them believe it was their idea?
  • Ever plan a fun event or a surprise for someone?
  • Have you ever negotiated, and felt like you came out on top?

I could go on, but you get the point.

All of those things require creativity. 

Making art is the same way. It’s really just making one decision after another. It’s problem solving, and solution finding, and as soon as you start to recognize that, the world looks a whole lot different. You start believing you can, rather than saying you can’t.

If you can relate to any of those things above, or similar instances, you can rest assured that you are creative.

Image of a jumble journal in progress
Start of a Jumble Journal

How to start rediscovering your creativity:

If you’re someone who has lost touch with your natural state of being creative, here are two things you can do to start to get it back:

1.  OBSERVE:
Pay more attention to what you see in your everyday life. Be deliberate and use all five of your senses.

Have you ever wondered how painters make such inspiring works, or how photographers capture such great images? Their eyes are trained to see the world differently, and that is what you need to do.

You can do this exercise anywhere, anytime. Do it as often as you can remember.

  • When you look at something notice the color. Go even deeper to see if you can see more than one color. Is it more blue-purple, red-purple?
  • When you hear something take a moment to really hear it. Is it high pitched and shrill, or deep and booming. Is it pulsating, or smooth?
  • When you feel something, what are you really feeling? Is the soap just slippery, or is it creamy? Astringent? Does it feel soothing?
  • When eating, try to distinguish individual spices (beyond salty, sweet, etc.)
  • And smelling…notice smells around you on a different level. If it’s a bad smell, is it sour? Weirdly sweet? Pungent?

We use all five senses every day, but rarely do we really examine them. The more in touch with this type of perception you are, the more in touch with your creativity you will become.

2.  NOTE:

Take some time to write (maybe even in an art journal) about what that experience is like for you. Take notice of how you feel, and any awarenesses that arise because of it.

  • Does it make you feel anxious, or calm?
  • Is it hard? Does it get easier? Does it come to you naturally?
  • How distracted do you get? Can you come back to it?
  • Did you notice any changes in your thoughts or actions?
  • Note anything else.
  • Do mindful exercises like noticing how your bare feet feel as you walk, or how the pen feels as it drags across the paper.

Do this for at least a week. Longer is better, until you start noticing yourself doing it without having to think about it. Ideally, you will start to see the world this way all the time, effortlessly.

Myth Two: You Need Expensive Supplies

Nope. Totally a myth.

Have you ever heard of junk journaling? It’s where you take all kinds of stuff that would normally end up in the landfill and turn it into a cool book that you can either use for a daily journal, or just as an art piece to work on.

When my great-aunt died we found stacks of old wallpaper sample books stacked in her farmhouse attic. She had used them to collage in newspaper clippings, photos, and foldouts of detailed family trees that she’d maintained, that dated back to the 1800s. Even though that was all she had to work with, ohmygosh, they were amazing! Art journaling can be done the same way.

Here are examples of free materials and supplies you can use:
  • Old books, as with the wallpaper sample books, can be used as art journals. Just work on top of the pages.
  • Discarded paper grocery bags or paper shopping bags can be used for inner pages.
  • Coffee, tea, dirt, or any other colored liquid can be used as a stain for aging, weathering, and colorizing pages or portions of pages.
  • Discarded food boxes, like cereal boxes can be used as the base for covers.
  • Any tape or glue you already have on hand can work for attaching collage.
  • Old magazines, catalogs, greeting cards, business cards, postcards, junk mail, etc, can be used in various ways for collage or other elements.
  • Any supplies you already have on hand from previous projects, including school and office supplies. You’d be amazed at what you can do with pencils, pens, and markers that you have lying around.

When I use my Jumble Journal Method I regularly turn to these free materials. I feel satisfaction that I’m saving a little bit from the landfill, and saving money that I can use on other things that can’t be found free.

If you start looking at things around you differently (as suggested in myth number one) you’ll see all kinds of  things around you that can be incorporated into your journaling.

photo of different recycled materials for art journaling
Myth Three: It Has to Be Perfect

Now, you know where I’m going to go with this myth, right? 

There is no such thing as perfect when it comes to journaling, or art. Or anything, for that matter.

Think about it: Art JOURNALING.

Journaling is meant to be a personal process to write out your thoughts–a diary. I don’t know many people that would say that a diary needs to be perfect. WE are not perfect, so the expression of ourselves therefore, should not be perfect.

The problem comes in when we add that dirty little word, “art” to the journaling process. Those three letters throw us right back to Myth Number One, where we start judging our product, and ourselves, and our abilities.

Remember: art journaling is a place to explore and experiment.

To try new things, and to express yourself. No one needs to see it. Heck, you don’t ever have to go back and look if you don’t want to.

What to do if you find yourself overwhelmed by perfectionism:

  • Just say no.
    Seriously. Have a literal conversation with your inner critic and tell it to hit the road. Maybe even write it out in your journal. I totally do that in my warm-up journal.  You can let it come back later, but there is no room for it while you’re in your journal.
  • Just do it.
    Remind yourself that you have every other minute of the day to be perfect. Dip your toe into the pool of uncertainty and push yourself to break through the desire, even just a little bit, in this moment, right now.
  • Think different. 
    Do the opposite of what you’re feeling compelled to do. You may not like the outcome at first, but the more you practice stepping outside of your box, the sooner you will start to feel more free Once you get comfortable with that, precision will be a choice, and not as much of a compulsion.
  •  So easy a caveman can do it.
    Simplify. Stop trying to be so fancy and comphrehensive, having to know and do all the things. Go back to basics. Sometimes we make things more complicated that they need to be. Rather than looking too far ahead at what you want it to be, take a step back and focus on what is in front of you…the next line or small section. 
photo of colorful art journal
Warm up journal. I work on small sections over many months.

Myth Four: You Must Finish Before Starting a New One

Do you fret that you have so many projects going but never seem to finish any?

Not finishing is totally OK when it comes to art journaling. In fact, it’s encouraged.

If you feel like you have to finish one journal before starting a new one you will inevitably come up against a wall where you feel like you’re forcing yourself to do something that you don’t want to.

Ask yourself why something unfinished is so uncomfortable for you. Then take some time to drill deeper into that belief. 

  • Was it a family value you learned?
  • Do you feel inadequate in some way if you leave something open-ended?
  • Does this belief help to serve or hinder you, or both?
  • What would your life look like if you could leave an art project on-going and unfinished indefinitely?

As my fourth grader teacher used to say, “P-shaw!”

Life’s too short to keep yourself in limiting boxes! Jump around and have all the journals you want going at the same time. They look pretty cool when they’re all stacked up, and fun to flip through while you decide which one to work in next.

Benefits of multiple ongoing, unfinished journals:

  • You always have something ready to work on.
  • You don’t have to plan and start a new project.
  • You can work for a small amount of time and not feel like you have to finish an entire project.
  • Pressure to get to a certain state of doneness is removed because you know you can come back to it at any time.
  • You can move from journal to journal depending on your mood.
  • You can have different journals for different reasons, such as:
    • Warm-up journal, where it’s just jotting small things or trying out things that you might not want in your “good” journal.
    • Travel-based journal.
    • Pet themed journal.
    • Inspiration and affirmation journal, etc.
  • By keeping open ended journals you continually go back and flip through the work you’ve done previously. Looking at art makes you happy, especially when it’s yours.

I could so go on with reasons why not finishing while art journaling holds benefit.

illustration of journaling supplies
So, there you go...

Everyone is creative, you don’t need a lot of expensive, fancy, tools or supplies, you absolutely do NOT need to be even close to perfect and, you do not have to complete what you start.

What’s stopping you from giving it a try?

I’d love you show you how, and you can get my FREE Jumble Journal Roadmap that shows you my favorite way of art journaling. I have about six of them going right now, and I could probably do with a few more.

Wanna try?

Need help getting started?

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