art journaling is not about a specific style of art

When I first found the art journaling movement I was naive to the process and labels. I had no idea it even existed and so I sat transfixed at my computer scrolling through site after site and gathering name upon name in awe and amazement. 

I was besotted. I was moved. I was inspired and bought in full-stop and bought every product, every type of paper and tool and device and anything I could find or saw in any video on Youtube. 

I believed that I had to have at least 7 layers on a page to be even a novice and that the more mixed media I piled up on a piece the better and more cool it would be. I researched "muddy" and "moody" and "grungy" styles and I gravitated ever back towards the sweet artsy girl pages and styles every time. You know the ones I'm talking about, we all do. 

And I worked on everyone else's styles and I pinned the heck out of inspirational pieces until I had so many pins that Pinterest wouldn't even let me scroll down to the first ones I'd found anymore. 

I got into trading ATCs as a means of practicing other people's styles and trading their particular styles as my own and at the same time my own style was emerging and I traded those cards as well as I tried new techniques and colors and textures. In the first three months of trading ATCs I had a collection greater than 200 cards. I believe it is safe to say that I was absolutely addicted. I was also gathering life lessons about my addiction at a sonic speed.

One morning scrolling through Pinterest it became clear to me that a wide majority of the pins I enjoyed were made with someone else's products and designs born from their own art styles and that the cool patterns and textures and a lot of the doodles weren't being created by the artists who had originally drawn them. Stamps and stencils and printed papers were being used so that much of what I saw was actually just pieced together from other sources. I found videos with step by step instructions including brand, color and links to buy the specific pieces. I went to the ATC trading sites I belonged to and looked around and found the same evidence of utilizing other artists original designs along with stamps and pre-made or pre-existing media and tools.

And that got me thinking and I started reading more and following links and researching just what it was that I was doing and what it was that I liked and didn't like about this obsession I found myself neck-deep and wallet-open-at-all-times in.

Here is what I found.

I liked the original message more than anything else. The idea that I could accomplish this thing and that I was already an artist and that I just needed to believe in myself and that I just needed to practice and explore and enjoy what I was doing to set that artist free after being locked away somewhere deep inside of me behind the bars of my own self doubts and flagging self esteem.

I liked color and texture and playing with them together sometimes on a flat page and sometimes in a page an inch thick in spots. I liked color. Married smoothly in waxy oily pastels and gellatos and unevenly in watercolor and acrylic and crayola and sharpie markers all on a page. I liked abstract shapes born accidentally and sexy smooth shapes carefully crafted. Surreal landscapes and silly faces and paint blots turned into monsters and creatures. And always... color. Color. COLOR!

I love the whimsical look of the Zetti art created by Teesha Moore... I love the grungy colorful textures and delightfully silly and sometimes touching artwork style that Jennibellie uses to tell her story. The dramatic little cartoon girls that remind me of my childhood and the fun and funky layers of stencil art under hand drawn pieces. I'm drawn towards the mathematical and linear works of the more simple art styles and to the in-your-face textures and bold colors of some of the abstracts and jewelry being created in mixed media and "boho" art studios around the world, and at the same time I create multi-layered "backgrounds" worthy of being left as they are all the time. 

In short, I like anything that has it's own flavor and texture and feel... things that break the rules and are only for themselves. I like the original pieces and find that the copies and stenciled and carefully crafted from a list of tools pieces fall flat on me. Seth Apter's gorgeous pieces of art cannot be duplicated! You must take his tools and create your own masterpiece! Dyan Reaveley's particular style belongs to herself and no one else. You can duplicate it or you can become inspired by it and move to another place. No one loves her bold colorful and grungy style more than I do, well, besides Dyan herself, perhaps.

Unwavering Imagination is a site maintained by a gorgeously creative and wonderful lady named Melissa that I met through trading ATCs. I'm using her artwork as an example because I am drawn to her art journal pages, and not because they are replicas of someone else's style. She doesn't use anyone else's style, really, and from the pages you can clearly define her own style in the ways that colors come together (or don't, in some cases) and in the clever and very personal way that she allows the image and written media to tell a story without telling too much.

Keeping a visual journal is just that and nothing more. Da Vinci did it. Scientists and explorers and artists have done it for a very long time. Our kids do it before they can write and many folks do it without realizing they are doing it... doodling on the edge of a page while taking notes and sketching ideas for decorating or laying out a room before they do it.

The folks putting regulations and requirements on art journaling or visual journaling or listing specific tools and processes and procedures are looking for your money or personal validation of a sort and nothing else. 

There are MANY types of art journals... many types and styles of artwork and of journaling... dream journals and gypsy journals and all of them have this thing in common... they are someone else's style of visual journaling.

I'm not saying that you should not admire and be inspired by them. 

To the contrary, so many of them are so beautiful and bold and inspiring that you should absolutely be moved by them and inspired to create beauty and thought in the same ways. 

What I'm saying is that Teesha Moore speaks in a very specific style... and Ingrid Dijkers in another. Suzi Blu and Jennibellie and RachO113 all have their own quite distinct likes and dislikes and joyously fun and inspiring art styles. 

What sets them apart from the rest of the crowd is that they are doing what they love in a style and in a way that they love to do it. Suzi offers incredible classes and, as I discussed in my first post on this blog, if you want to learn the secrets of the whimsical and beautiful girls she creates she will teach you and give you the tips and pointers, and I mention her by name because she also encourages you to learn your own style within her tools and not just to duplicate hers. Jennibellie also teaches all the time, sometimes as many as two video tutorials a week are posted to her different sites. She also encourages you to develop your own style and use her tips and tools only as a guideline or suggestion in the creation of your own pages and projects.

The most seductive part of the art journaling movement is the one message singularly ignored or tuned out by the vast majority of the folks coming into it.


There are no rules, there is no set style or method or process that is necessary outside of creating the pages as you see them and want them. Da Vinci didn't layer 7 layers in his journal... and in fact, many of his journals weren't even bound, they were loose pages tucked into books, piled and crammed into files or rolled and tied and stuffed in tubes. 


Smash books, art journals, mixed media journals, diaries, pocket folders... there are no limits to what or how you can journal.

One really clever woman in London actually doodles on a map of the city as she goes to different places. It is enough for her and she is happy in it. The map is so full in some areas that she's running out of room and is working on a way to layer experiences without changing maps. Another really gifted man sculpts little discs with a pertinent phrase or idea or image from places he's been and glazes them and fires them and keeps them in a box on a shelf. I know of a family who has collected little flat rocks on walks together and writes the date on them with a permanent marker and keeps them in a can on the porch to be reflected on later. I heard about another fun lady who is quilting squares after major events in her life out of all manner of different textures and fabrics so that she can make a life quilt when she is all done and however large it is is how big it is when she's done. Her secret goal is to have made so many squares that it is too large for any reasonable bed so that she has to make more than one, a symbol to her of a life so well lived that it has spilled into another life.

Creation and art are about you and about your exploration of yourself and your abilities. They are your emotions made physical and they are your wants and desires given literal faces and lines. Whether you create with cloth or pencil and paper the process is always personal and has nothing to do with what anyone else thinks or wants or has created before you.

YOU CAN DO THIS! And from here on out, let me show us both some ways how!

peace... and if not peaceful then always inventive and personal. You're worth the experience regardless of the outcome.


  1. Great post! Thank you for mentioning me!

    I agree art journaling isn't about a specific style of art. When I looked into it a couple of years ago I was put off from it because most of the sites I had found stated it had to be done a certain way and certain rules needed to be followed. I didn't like that. I don't think art should have rules. I feel you should be able to express yourself however you like. I looked into it again at the beginning of this year and found that really only a small group believe there are rules but the majority don't. I'm having fun doing things my way even if they don't always work out. My first journals are basically trying things out, figuring out what I like doing and don't like doing and trying my hardest not to be a perfectionist which is hard but is something that doesn't go well with art so I am learning to not be one. That is why I post everything I create even if I don't like the finished piece.


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