Art Journaling Exercises: Sojourn #1

Welcome to our interactive classes, Spilling Life’s Sojourns.

The definition of SOJOURN: a short stopover, vacation… “a sojourn in France”. That’s what I wanted these classes to be, a brief, relaxing excursion into journaling. Have fun!

Five years ago I set off on a journey… to learn about journaling. I wanted to play, discover and experiment. I searched the web, took classes, read books. After filling an entire journal (a first for me) and a half of another, I just had to share what I have learned!

Yeah, yeah. A journal is just a glorified diary.

It certainly can be. But it can be much more… diary, travel log, place to write reminders, a place to spill your very soul, a datebook, an art canvas, a record of your being on this planet, a literary masterpiece, just scratches on a page.

You decide. What do you want your journal to be?

When I started, I had journaled off and on for ages. I would write a bit about whatever angst was going on in my life. Often I would write pages and pages one day and none the next. I had read Julia Cameron’s book Artist’s Way. I was doing what Cameron calls “Morning Pages”. I ended up having ten partially filled journals on my shelf after the years past. Which led me to wonder, would I EVER be able to fill an entire book? (More on Julia Cameron and her books later).

What started me down this new path into the Journaling Jungle was that I looked at my pages and pages of writing and said to myself, “Yuck.” I am sure my journal spilling was good, cathartic and all that jazz. But it reminded me of sludge. Where was the good stuff? The fun stuff? The pretty stuff? That’s what I wanted. I wanted something I could look at and be pleased.

Example of one of my journal pages:


One way I thought of was to combine my journaling with art. An art journal? But I wasn’t an artist. I use to make rubber stamp cards years ago but it certainly didn’t make me an artist. I didn’t really draw but I doodled a bit. I had never used acrylic paints or pastels or watercolors. So I how could I do that.

Then I chanced upon an article in a magazine that talked about how to use stamp pad ink to make backgrounds. (I wish I could find that article now… but I have no idea what happened to it). Stamp pads, now I might be able to do that. So I embarked on a new quest into the Journaling Jungle.

That’s my story.

My question to you is do you want to journal?

If your answer is, I don’t know… I am not a writer… I am not an artist… I am not creative… I can’t do anything consistently… Please read on. If your answer is no, read on, you might change your mind and give journaling a chance. And if your answer is yes, please read on!

Which leads me to the next question: What is journaling? How can you decide if you want to do it if you don’t know what it is? But you can and I did. I certainly don’t know all that it is but I can describe many things it can be and what it has been for me.

A journal is a place to spill your thoughts, record your day, save memorabilia, doodle a picture, write down an acquaintance’s phone number. It is a place to paint, collage, smear pastels, keep your calendar, paste in photos. For me it is a journey. Its not so much what I do but that I do it. It is a practice. The act of doing it has its own unique reward. For five minutes, ten minutes… an hour. Once a day, twice a week, once a month. Journaling brings me peace after I do it… sometimes it is joyful… sometimes it is just makes me smile.

That can be more than reward enough. Then a filled journal brings a different kind of joy, of lessons learned, of practice done. Time just for you. To vent, learn, grow, experiment, discover, play.

Sounds fun? Are you dubious? Excited? Not sure?

The key is to start.


Pick a journal. Then start.

Sounds easy. It can be. Or you can make it so hard that you give up before you start.

I want you to start. So first things first. Get a journal. What kind of fancy leather bound or spiral kid’s notebook should I get? I suggest you think about how you want to journal, then decide.

Do you want a mainly written journal, a mainly art journal, both, or one you might be able to use for both?

Do you want to carry your journal around with you or would you rather keep it at home? For me, I want a journal I can carry with me so that I can add to it whenever I have a spare moment. My written journal (I have a written journal and an art journal now but a week ago I used one for both) is beside my bed.

I do make a suggestion, not to get a journal that is too FABULOUS to write in. I have one of those. A large yellow leather bound book with gold trim. I was only able to write in a few of its pages after years of looking at it and thinking I would never be able to write anything good enough. I was right, when I did force myself to write in it I didn’t think it was good enough. Lesson learned. I never bought another intimidating absolutly FANTABALSTIC journal.

A spiral notebook? It is cheap and easy. Which is fine if you don’t care. If you can take it seriously and use it. I found that I used it but it was easy to just stop writing, it was just a spiral notebook. It was no big deal.

Its true that journaling isn’t a big deal but it helped me to find a medium. I found a line of fabric covered 5×7 journals at the bookstore that were lined or unlined. They had a nifty print on them. They felt like a book and gave a little extra weight to my endeavor. It was a psychological thing for me but it helped and I actually filled it. Also it fit in my purse so I could take it with me if I decided (and I did!)

Do you want to use a blank book style journal? Or would you rather use a datebook or something along those lines? The structure of the datebook doesn’t have to adhere to just dates and appointments. Make it into a journal. Ignore the structure of it. Make it what you want.

If you are “art” journaling decide if a spiral bound or a bound book will be more useful. Spiral will lie flat as you are working with it but your will have to deal with the spiral if you want to do a two page spread. A bound book will be less likely to lay flat unless you manhandle it (which I do) when you work with it but it is easier to use the full two page layout (no spiral) if you are drawing, collaging or even writing (which is why I prefer the bound).

You could even take an old book and use white gesso (a type of acrylic covering paint) to cover over the pages to a certain extend so you can write your own prose in it. Or you could glue blank pages over top of the written pages. Art Journalist do this. You can too. It seems like a lot of work to me but lots of people do it and love the results.

My advise is to pick something transportable. If you decide to take it with you, you can.

Now go and get it… and start.

Some of you will easily be able to start. Some won’t. It’s okay. I’ll help a bit to get you going.

If you want a “word only” journal use the next week to take two minutes (you can write more if you want) a day to write about the weather. That’s it. The weather. If you choose to write about your crummy boss and what he said at the meeting, or your darling daughter who tied the Snicker’s bar to the next door neighbor’s mutt’s tail, or the traffic jam you were caught in for two hours, please do!! Before each entry date your page.

If you want to start an “art” journal use next week to collect junk. You heard me right, collect junk. Candy wrappers, receipts, ticket stubs… anything you want and can paste, tape, or otherwise adhere inside your journal. It will be up to you as to whether you want your journal to lie flat when closed. If you do you will be more limited as to what you will be able to add to your journal pages. Take two minutes. Date your page, glue your bits. Done.

If you are really bold and want to really have fun do both. Date the page, write a journal entry about the weather, etc. then add some junk (artists call it fodder) too.

It doesn’t sound like it will look too pretty… you say? If you want it to be pretty, do it. Add pretty pictures. Cut out magazine pictures, photos, anything you want. Tape them, paste them, glue them in. Its an easy way to make your journal visually appealing. Have fun!!

Okay, I can hear you naysayers already. Write about the weather…. boring. Tape in junk and pictures… that is so Elementary School. I am an adult… a grown-up. Why would I even bother doing that.

Please bear with me and just try for a week. Try to loosen up and have fun. Try not to make it hard, like adults do. It really isn’t.

Start on your journey. Then check back with me next week. Remember keep it simple and easy.


2 thoughts on “Art Journaling Exercises: Sojourn #1

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