13 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Art Journaling


Hi, I’m Laure Ferlita! As I’ll be teaching an Introduction to Art Journaling class at Keeton’s soon. I thought a discussion on what exactly Art Journaling really is might help. You may also be wondering what the “rules” are.

Here’s the short answer—Art Journaling is a combination of art and words on the same page. After that, it’s all up to you to decide! There really are no rules as you can use any medium, any materials, any combination of art and words. It can be full color or black and white. It’s really about what motivated you to create a page in your journal. Whether you add a lot of art and a few words or add a few doodles to your words, that’s Art Journaling.

Even the most intrepid journal keeper can be slow to start or get bogged down by some of the challenges of keeping a journal. Below are some of the thoughts that immediately bubbled up when I started thinking back to my beginning days as I learned to keep an Art Journal.

13 Things I Wish I’d Known When I Started Art Journaling

1. Begin. Today. Now.
All you really need to begin is a pen or pencil and a piece of paper. An open mind is very helpful as well as an eagerness to learn. Do not over think. Do not make this complicated. It’s not. It doesn’t have to be fancy or colorful. It just has to be on the page.

What are you waiting for? Go! Get busy!

2. The more you sketch the more you’ll learn, the faster you’ll sketch, the less fearful you’ll become and the result of this continued practice will be a much more enjoyable experience.
Bottom line—you have to learn the skills first and the only way to do that is to begin and to keep pushing through every so-called failure. Perhaps you’re the rare individual who enjoys the learning process. Most of us don’t. We want to be an expert the first time we make a mark on the page.

3. A blank page isn’t something to fear.
Chances are good you have at least 25 more chances. These chances are known as pages. If you don’t get it right on the first one, you still have 24 more chances.

Bengal tiger on the loose, a rabid raccoon…now those are something to fear!

4. Accept that you will make mistakes.
It’s how we learn and usually, it’s the lessons we make from mistakes that stick with us far longer than the lessons we learn from succeeding.

And the good news? Journaling mistakes are seldom fatal!

5. Don’t let the fear of making mistakes paralyze you.
Everybody makes mistakes, even so called experts or pros. No matter how long you sketch, no matter how many journals you fill, no matter how good you get, there will be mistakes. Rather than fear them, embrace mistakes for the learning opportunities they are.

Don’t sulk about making them either. It’s not pretty.

6. It’s okay to turn the page and holler out, “Next!” when the page has gone too far south.
It happens to all of us. There are gonna be days when every line goes wonky, every pigment turns to mud, perspective leaves the building and proportions just don’t work. Finish the page anyway (you might just surprise yourself!) and then begin again. See number 4.

7. Make art journaling fun.
If it’s not fun, why would we continue doing it? Art journaling is suppose to be fun and if it’s not, evaluate why it’s not. Chances are good it will have something to do with unrealistic expectations. Hmmm, what could those be? See Number 11. Remember, we learn quicker when it’s fun.

As my brother says, “If it ain’t fun, we ain’t doing it!”

8. Never, ever, Ever, EVER, NEVER compare your work to someone else’s work!
This is a biggie. There are few things more demotivating than comparing your work to someone else’s and to think your work coming up lacking. And no matter how long you sketch, if you look around long enough you will always be able to find someone else with work you like better than your own.

9. If you must compare, compare the sketch you created today with the one you did yesterday, last week or last month.
Use comparison to see how much you’ve grown, how your skills have strengthened, and what still needs strengthening.

10. Everyone started at the same place—the beginning.
No one got a free pass from learning the skills and techniques of how to sketch. No one came out of the womb with a pencil in one hand and paper in the other. So every time you’re tempted to use the excuse, “I’ll never be as good as so-and-so,” sit yourself back down and start sketching again. And no, you’ll never be as good as so-and-so, but you will be as good as you can be…and that’s even better!

11. Sketching is an evolution of skills but seldom a revolution.
Yes, I know, you want to know how to do it TODAY and you want to do it PERFECTLY. Ain’t gonna happen. This is another biggie—give yourself permission to make mistakes, learn, fail, and to not like every page. We create so-so sketches. Sometimes, they’re down right awful (to us). It’s okay, that’s what the next page is for. And the one after that. And the next.

12. Not every page is gonna be “all that.” They can’t all be masterpieces.
Is every endeavor you undertake marvelously, brilliantly done? No? Mine either. Don’t put this kind of pressure on yourself, it will kill the fun. See number 7. And if your inner critic opens his or her mouth, kindly tell them it’s not their day to complain and next month’s not looking good either.

It’s okay to have an off day…or month. See number 6 and 11.

13. Challenge yourself…to sketch something you think is beyond your current skills.
Even if you think you can’t, you may just surprise yourself. And it’s how we learn, how we get better. And if you fail (gasp!), count it as a success anyway—because you had the courage to try.

This is in no way an exhaustive list, however, I hope it gives you courage (to try), comfort (if you’ve suffered from mistakes) and inspiration (to get out of your comfort zone) to try something new and fun. Art Journaling is an immediate way to add art to our lives while we capture the moments of our lives that sometimes go by unnoticed.

I hope you’ll join me on Friday, October 24th for An Introduction To Art Journaling: An Imaginary Visit To The Bakery! We’ll be learning about drawing, page layouts, lettering and as an added bonus, we’ll get to eat our subject matter afterwards. Yum!

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