What is Art Journaling? Ideas for Middle School Students

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? @EvaVarga.net

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 ?

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About Eva Varga

Eva is passionate about education. She has extensive experience in both formal and informal settings. She presently homeschools her two young children, teaches professional development courses through the Heritage Institute, and writes a middle level secular science curriculum called Science Logic. In addition to her work in education, she is an athlete, competing in Masters swimming events and marathons. In her spare time she enjoys reading, traveling, learning new languages, and above all spending time with her family. ♥