How to create art: Easy art journal ideas for beginners

What is an art journal?

An art journal isn’t like a regular journal. You don’t necessarily need to work on it every day and it doesn’t need to look neat and tidy – this is a space for you to play around with ideas without any judgement. But sometimes we are nervous of just ‘playing’ and creating, which is why we have written this blog post on art journal ideas for beginners.

An art journal is a creative space to record your thoughts and feelings in image format within the confines of a physical book. As a visual description of your life experience you can use abstract or representative imagery with or without text to create a pictorial expression of your chosen theme.

Sarah Banks

Art journals are used to explore ideas, collect pictures that inspire you, make notes to record your ideas and much more. You can use your art journal as a diary, to plan your next art project or as a sketch pad when you’re out and about. If you’re a visual person (as most artists are!) then keeping an art journal can help you to stay creative, record your thoughts and try out new techniques.

An art journal can be a simple exploration of ideas or it can be something between a sketchpad and a diary – it’s up to you. For many people, keeping an art journal is about creating time for themselves in their day. It can be a time for reflection or a brief distraction from the worries of the day, providing a chance to lose yourself in your artwork.

A paint pallette, paint board, water colour boxes and paint brushes. Accompanies the blog post on art journal ideas for beginners

There are other art journal based blog posts on the Wardrobe Journaling site which you may also like. For example:

65 easy art journal ideas to spark creativity

How to release your inner creativity with creative journal ideas

how to be creative with visual journal prompts

Remember that an art journal is not a sketch book, it is so much more than that. It is a creative act of marking your experience in the world, not just a collection of sketches. So each time you embark on a new layout, think about how you are feeling and what you want to say, as much as being creative with the imagery.

Art journal – getting started, the practicalities

Apart from having ideas about what to put in your art journal you may also be wondering how to get started. Don’t complicate matters. Just follow this short step-by-step guide to starting to create an art journal page:

6 steps to getting started

Decide what media you are going to use: paper, journal, paints, pens, pencils etc.

Also maybe decide where you are going to sit. Find somewhere that you feel comfortable and relaxed and where you don’t feel ‘watched’

Start by creating a background: paint a background with a wash, or use a picture as a background, or create a pattern, or print a pattern

Main image: This is the focus of the layout, lay it down centrally on the page and create smaller images around it. Make sure it is something that you love and which inspires you because everything else on the page will lead out from this image.

Significant additions: Put quotes, your own writing, collage pieces around the layout. Whatever you think ‘goes’ with the layout. Don’t try and justify it in your head, just do it because it feels right.

Finally: add illustrations and/or abstract markings – doodle away to your heart’s content! You can create small pattern shapes, paint hearts, print flowers onto the paper’s surface.

Now you’ve got an idea of how to lay your pages out and how to get start, here are some theme ideas for your art journal. Pick one and get going today:

Abstract painting in blues. Accompanies the blog post on art journal ideas for beginners

Art journal theme ideas

Botanicals – paint from life or from pictures

Architecture – the built landscape is very inspirational to many people

Dreams – I never seem to remember my dreams, but you may dream vividly in which case try and capture a dream on paper

Loved ones – immortalise your loved ones in your art journal

Recipes – it doesn’t have to be a whole recipe, it could be a portion of the recipe, where you made it and who you ate the food with

Positive affirmations – Paint them, print them, remember them

Travel – This is essentially like the travel journal

Furry friends – what’s not to be inspired by your furry pals

Mental health – use words, feelings, thoughts, get them on paper

What to wear, your ideal clothes – my all time favourite. Create a layout of clothes you’d love to wear, or people wearing clothes really well that you would like to emulate.

Don’t be daunted!

It can seem daunting to get going, but remember there are no rules and there is no right and wrong. You are not trying to recreate someone else’s journal, you are trying to create your own. And more than that you are becoming more you as you do it. So be courageous.

The practice or art is itself an exploration. You don’t know how it will end up, you don’t know what it will look like at the end. Don’t worry about that. Try not to have a fixed idea of ‘doing it well’ or ‘perfectly’. Accept, before you start, that it won’t be perfect, that there will be elements you want to improve but that it is good.

This list is just for you if you’d like a few more prompts to help you just get going.

Triggers and tips for just getting going:

Read the list below and just go with one that sparks an idea or a positive feeling…..

Start small

It doesn’t have to be large, you don’t have to fill multiple pages. Just aim to create one page of your art journal and don’t think about any more than that.


Experiment with all the tools that you have: pens, paints, paper, prints, stickers. The more you experiment, the better you will get. You won’t know what you are capable of until you give it a go … and then keep going!

Paint a self-portrait

This will slay two dragons at once: avoiding yourself; and avoiding the paper. Go on, sit in front of a mirror, and get drawing.

Go for a nature walk

My favourite. Take yourself off for a walk. Breathe. Think your own thoughts. Gather up seeds, nuts, grasses, take photos, think, don’t think. Bring it all back and write it all down.

Fill the space

Make it your aim to fill the space. Keep going until the space is completely filled.

Creative collages

Love this one. Gather up images, small bits and pieces that you love but don’t know what to do with and make a collage. You can theme it by subject, or by colour, or by image. Totally up to you!

Ink and paint combinations

Paint first, let it dry, then ink on top. Such an easy way to create a great result.

Choose your colour

Creating your own colour palette is a great way to get start. Decide how you want your layout to look, bright and primary, muted and pastel, dramatic and monochromatic, natural in all browns.

Draw onto a coloured background

Use white chalk or paint onto a black background, or black paint on a red background. Give yourself some freedom of expression. Bin the beige!

Give yourself a time limit

Give yourself a time frame to get your layout done. Then you won’t have time to worry about whether you are doing it ‘right’ or not, you’ll be too busy getting on with it and having a great time.

Colourful quotations

Illustrate a quote, illustrate your favourite quote

Trace your hand

Then colour it in

Open art journal on a table. Accompanies the blog post on art journal ideas for beginners

Are you ready to start?

How are you feeling now? Are you ready to get going? Which prompt(s) have you chosen?

Why not give yourself a 7 day challenge to create art each day? Or a 30 day challenge if you are feeling bold!

Remember, the act of creating art is intended to liberate you. Yes, it will also stretch you and frustrate you. But let those frustrations out and keep on going until you feel liberated. Find yourself in your art. Discover more about yourself. You matter and when you create art, you have brought something into the world that did not exist before. And that is an amazing thing to do.

We hope you have enjoyed this post. For more on creativity posts you may also like:

Quotes to inspire you

How to inspire your life

Using journaling to track your self improvement goals

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