Don’t let the word ‘art’ deter you from reading this blog! I am not what I consider to be artistic but I love art journaling. (In fact, I was so absolutely not artistic that my 4th grade teacher actually encouraged me to skip art class and write instead.)

It sounds contradictory- art journaling not being about art. And I suppose it can be artistic but it doesn’t have to be. Mostly it’s about tapping into our creative side. I think we all have the capacity to be creative, it’s just a matter of allowing ourselves to be vulnerable and cultivating our curiosity into some creative form.

So here are 4 reasons why you need to start art journaling:

  1. It allows you to express yourself

I find writing is usually the most coherent way I am able to express myself but sometimes even words can’t describe what goes on in my head. I have found that making collages out of magazine pictures and words are a great way to organize my inner world and discover connections between my thoughts, feelings, and reactions. Which leads to…

  1. You learn more about yourself

There have been times where I was walking around completely unmindful to my surroundings and even to my own thoughts and feelings. Art journaling allows you to get in touch with what’s going on. As an example, one exercise that I regularly do when I’m feeling strong emotions that are hard to handle is draw a wheel and illustrate visually what is going on in each emotion. The results are often surprising and can give you great satisfaction in figuring out what is going on in that head of yours- and you may get some new ideas on how to handle the situation.

  1. It can be therapeutic

Art journaling derives from art therapy and is what I consider to be a form of art therapy minus the therapist. Like the saying goes, ‘It’s not the destination that matters, it’s the journey’. It’s similar with art journaling: it’s not the final results that matter, it’s the process of creating. As you think about the situation or prompt, your mind is working to figure out what is truly going on and how to represent it in words and images, and this reflection time is often the most therapeutic part. For example, if I was to art journal on being angry about something, I might ask myself questions like, ‘what colour is my anger? what does it remind me of? how does this anger connect to the rest of the situation?’ and so on. I never would have thought that emotions have a distinctive colour or shape, and it might not be consistent every time I art journal, but it is surprising how intuitively we are drawn to certain colours and shapes when in different mood states.

  1. Finally…It can bring you back to being a kid

What did you love as a kid that you forgot about? Finger painting was probably on that list. So often our creativity is stunted early in life; it’s okay to be lost in your own imaginary world at age 4 but by age 11 it’s time for a reality check- which is unfortunate because your creative mind never stops churning out new ideas. Just because you’re an adult doesn’t mean that you have to push away these “wacky” and “childish” ideas that your mind generates continually. Nurture your inner child’s curiosity and let the ideas flow without censoring. Who knows what you will come up with! (You could be the next Dr. Suess!)

But how to art journal, you may be asking.

This process is yours to discover but I can give you a couple of ideas to get you started:

First, experiment with different mediums like collaging, drawing, water colours, pastels, paint- whatever- that will allow you to explore your creative side. Just because you’ve never used water colours before doesn’t mean that you can’t test it out and see how it goes. You don’t have to like everything that you create but noticing the process is the most crucial aspect of art journaling.

Second, it’s helpful to use prompts to help you find a place to start. I like the following:

  • Use your favourite quote
  • Reflect on your day
  • Depict what you’re grateful for
  • What are you feeling?
  • If you could do anything, what would it be?
  • Doodle
  • Using art therapy techniques like drawing your imaginary safe place

Remember, you don’t have to be Picasso to art journal, you just need to be curious and open to whatever you’re creating. And, have fun!

About the Author

Tara Richardson is a Peer Support Specialist at Ontario Shores Centre for Mental Health Sciences in Whitby, Ontario. Her own personal journey through mental illness has led her to be a passionate and dedicated advocate for mental health recovery. Tara is an aspiring author who is in the (long) process of writing and editing her memoir compiled from journal entries beginning at age 11. Tara has a B.A. in Psychology, a diploma in Social Service Work, and a certificate in Cognitive Behavior Therapy. Tara can be contacted at: tara_richardson913@hotmail.com Non-creepy fan mail gladly welcomed.