Art Journaling Archives - Eva Varga

August 22, 2015

An art journal is a journal in which you combine art and words to express yourself. That’s it. It’s not complex, and there really aren’t any rules for art journaling. It’s all about self-expression.

Art journaling has a long-standing artistic tradition. Artists through the centuries have kept notebooks in which they sketched, practiced, experimented, and recorded themselves. Vincent vanGogh kept notebooks (and he used moleskins!). Picasso and DaVinci were two other prolific sketchbook keepers. You are in good company! If you feel like exploring famous and not-so-famous artists’ sketchbooks, go to Artists’ Sketchbooks Online.

Today, artist’s journals are illustrated journals on any theme or combination thereof. It can be a record of your daily thoughts, a travel journal, an exercise or diet diary, a dream journal, a place where you jot down your goals, a to-do lists, or almost any record that you’d like to keep.What is Art Journaling?

Art Journal Themes

There are many different types of art journals. Ones revealing travel adventures, ones for writing and drawing about everyday life, ones that mark certain life events or struggles. The following are just a few ideas for themes.

  • Looking Inward – who am I as an artist, citizen of my country, student, sister, brother, etc.
  • My Favorite Things – paint or draw all of your favorite things like a warm cup of cocoa, jumping in the lake on a hot day, etc.
  • My Favorite Quotes – paint your favorite quote, poem, Bible verse and use some of the words in the art.
  • Seasonal Journals – pick a season and journal all things of that time of year.
  • Gratitude Journal – a simple expression of what you are grateful for each day coupled with a quick sketch
  • Emotions Journal – a specific journal to express ones emotions through art.
  • Reading Journal – record impressions of thoughts or short reviews of books that you have recently read.
  • Today I Know – coupling lots of journaling with doodling, sketching, and collage, this journal format is fabulous for reflecting on what you’ve learned or discovered each day.

Journaling, as part of a school curriculum, strengthens and refines students’ cognitive skills by teaching them to observe, to become aware of what they have observed with all of their senses, and, to exercise their imaginations and critical skills through developing hypotheses to explain what has been observed. Using a journal allows students a place to record and preserve what has been seen, done, and thought in the course of her work.

What is Art Journaling? @EvaVarga.netIntegrated Curriculum

Art journaling is also a great way to integrate art into your language arts and science curriculum. The journals can become a place for creative writing and personal reflections. If you encourage students to write personal material in the journals as in a diary, you can give them the option of folding a page over on itself to indicate that the contents underneath are something that they are not yet ready to share. If they later decide that they do want you to look at the page, they can unfold it and let you know.

In our homeschool, we predominately use our art journals as a method of trying new art techniques or media. However, we also use it as a reading journal, creating a visual or artistic impression of books we’ve read.

Art & Writing Prompts

Student writing will often naturally lend itself to creative expressions of art. Here a just a few ideas to get you started.

  • What do the characters in the book we just read look like in your mind?
  • Imagine a future in which we each have a personalized robot servant. What would yours be like? What would it do? What features would it have? Use both words and pictures to describe your robot.
  • What road-trip would you take if you suddenly could? Write about it. Sketch a picture of what you might see.
  • Choose a favorite quote. What images does it bring to mind?
  • Write a description of something very dark (like a crow) in a very light place (like a field of snow).  Make the dark thing seem innocent and the light thing seem ominous.
  • Pick two characters from different books you’ve read this year. What would they say to each other? What would they do – go for a walk, enjoy a meal, or ?

Follow Michelle Cannon’s board Art Journaling on Pinterest.

January 30, 20152

Art Journaling has been a huge hit in our weekly Writer’s Workshop. An art journal is much like a diary. Anyone can make an art journal. The only difference is how you use it. You can use it like a diary every day, like a comic book of your life, things that happened to you, or just do sketches of interesting or memorable moments from your day or week.

In Writer’s Workshop, we have been using it as a means to express ourselves with words as well as with art. We create lists, include excerpts from books, and collages of words that have meaning to us as individuals. They become “art journals” when we add any kind of illustration or embellishment to the pages.

GIAmAs we were first getting started with art journaling a few weeks ago, I selected the prompt “A few things about yourself” as our first assignment for the new year.

I first asked the students to create a watercolor wash as the background. In the center, they were asked to write in bold lettering, “I Am”.  Thereafter they were instructed to glue down words they cut from a newspaper or magazine that they felt described them as individuals to create something of a collage. I love the artistic details of the page pictured above.

We don’t always have time during workshop to complete the art journal page. I thereby instruct them to finish them at home as homework.

Some students didn’t have access to print material that they could cut apart at home so they chose to write out descriptive words in pen. I just love how she has her words going around in a circle.


The kids have really enjoyed the art journaling lessons and writing explorations. Here are few of the lessons we have completed previously.

There are dozens of articles about artists’ journals and how to create and keep your own art journal. As I find ideas and inspiration, I pin them to a collaborative Pinterest board that Michelle Cannon recently started, Art Journaling. You will also find tips for success pinned here as well as links to mixed media journals and other useful supplies.

Follow Michelle Cannon’s board Art Journaling on Pinterest.

January 23, 20152

Sometimes coming up with topics and things to write about can be difficult. In Writer’s Workshop this month, we talked about where our writing ideas come from.

When you put your thoughts, feelings, and ideas on paper you are opening yourself up to whoever reads your writing. You are letting readers see into your heart. That is where a lot of your ideas can come from – your heart. Real authors also use their hearts to help them decide what they want to write about as well. Authors think about special people, places, and things that are close to their hearts to help them write their own stories.
A heart map is a visual representation of your heart, displaying topics that live there; these topics are ones we show passion for and find interesting if we are reading or writing about them.

Your heart map is for you, to help you discover your inner vision and your own unique voice that derives from your unique experiences and passions.

Begin by asking students to think about the things and people that are important to them. Go around the circle and allow each student to share one thing that is in their heart – one thing that is special or important to them.

Share samples of student heart mapping you’ve found online or demonstrate the process of creating your own heart map.

Use these guiding questions to help students uncover what is in their heart. The questions are to help students think about what is important to them and what they may want to include.

  • What has stayed in your heart?
  • What has really affected your heart?
  • What people have been important to you? Are they friends, siblings, parents, grandparents, teachers, and other people?
  • What are some experiences or central events that you will never forget?
  • What special moments stand out to you?
  • What happy or sad memories do you have?
  • What secrets have you kept in your heart?
  • What small things or objects are important to you – a tree in your backyard, a trophy, a stuffed animal… ?
  • What places, books, fears, scars, journeys, dreams, relationships, animals, comforts, and learning experiences do you hold in your heart?
  • Should some things be outside of the heart and some inside of it?
  • Do you want to draw more than one heart – good and bad; happy and sad; secret and open – and include different things inside each heart?
  • Do different colors represent different emotions, events, relationships?
  • What’s at the center of your heart? around the edges?

heartmapjOnce you have considered these questions, encourage students to begin their own heart map.  They may wish to draw a rough draft and then a final copy into their art journal after they have made any revisions.

Draw a large heart on your paper. In the center of your heart, place the most important person, place, or thing. Then, work your way out using specific words in each section. Verbalize each section as you’re placing it on your map (e.g., “My brother and I go to heritage camp in the summer. I’m going to write ‘Heritage Camp’ in my heart since I have so many memories of camp.”)

Tips: Take your time – possibly taking a break to give your long-term memory time to do its work. Do not worry too much about the illustrations, but do take care with the contents of your heart, filling your heart map with as much personal meaning as you can.

Encourage students to color in sections of their heart (e.g., they might want to color code it: purple for people, green for places, blue for things, yellow for ideas) once they’ve filled in all of the sections.

When a student runs out of ideas for his next story, he can re-visit his heart map to find an appropriate topic. The heart map has become the single best idea I’ve ever seen for keeping students from saying, “I don’t know what to write about.”

December 19, 20141

Last month in my post Cultivating Passions with Art Workshops, I shared with you that my daughter and I were looking forward to a mixed media art class this winter. The class is now underway and we are delighted in the format and all that we are learning.

This post contains affiliate links.


We were given free access to “Winter Wonderland” in exchange for our honest insights about how this course is working for our family.

 One of the first things Alisha shared was how to use an old book to create an art journal. Alisha slowly walks through each step of the creative process and we quickly fell in love with this process.

In fact, we have adapted many of the projects she later shared specifically for our art journal. We also began using art journals in our Writer’s Workshop and I’ll be sharing more details in later posts.

Our favorite project thus far has been the Birch Forest – a simple project that was quick and easy. It captures the stark beauty of a birch tree forest in the winter time. My son had shared a poem by Robert Frost in book club and I was thereby inspired to include it on my page.

The Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop is a 4-week e-course which means classes are taught via videos in a private, password-protected site. Though the course began the first week of December, enrollment is still open and you will have access to the video tutorials for a full year.

Through the Winter Wonderland Mixed Media Workshop, participants learn to integrate a variety of art techniques and create 20 beautiful projects. You can watch them on your own time and adjust them to fit your family’s schedule.

The projects are a fun and creative way to express the spirit of the holiday season. I hope you’ll join us. 🙂