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Creative Journaling For Artists

Updated on November 27, 2014

How To Use An Artist Journal For Exploration Of Your Artwork Ideas

An artist journal is really just an illustrated sketchbook that is filled with ideas, drawings and whaetever else the artist sees fit to include.

I'm one those artists who for the most part creates while in process of the actual work of art. However, when I have a really big idea or project, generally along the lines of a new artwork series, I get myself a shiny new artist journal to keep track of my ideas.

My journals are not only my idea sketch diaries as well as a place to put anything that I find inspiring or simply that I want to remember to maybe put it in the series at sometime. I glue things like magazine pages, thumbnails sketches I've done elsewhere, random thoughts or interesting quotes and color stories for my art.

Keeping an artist journal to chronicle a series has become a valuable tool in bringing my ideas to fruition. A journal is a good place to explore and "try ideas on" without committing serious time that I would if I were to explore the same idea as finished art. Also certain times of the year the running of my gallery and participating in art events completely dominates my life. By keeping an artist journal I can quickly sketch my ideas out so many months later when I have the time to create again they are not lost.

Things I keep in my journals.

* Thumbnail and practice sketches

* Inspirational quotes

* Reference photos

* Magazine or newspaper clippings

* Anything that I think I may want, need or use sometime in the future in regards to this project.

copyright protected by copyscape
copyright protected by copyscape

All copyrights are retained by the artist,

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery.

The artwork or content in this lens may not be used or reproduced, either

in part or in whole, without the express written consent from the artist.

About The Author Of Creative Journaling

Mona Majorowicz of Wild Faces Gallery

My name is Mona Majorowicz I am a professional artist who has been making my living selling my work for some time now. I am an animal artist, (meaning I paint critters) who works primarily in Oil Pastel or Water Soluble Pencil.

I own and operate Wild Faces Gallery with my husband Mike in a small rural town in Iowa. There we sell my original artwork and prints, as well as do quality custom framing and offer Giclee printing for other artists as well as for ourselves. I have over 20 years in ate art and framing industry both as a business owner and as a working artist.

I maintain a blog called Fur In The Paint, as well as write a regular column for the equestrian magazine Apples 'N Oats about painting horses.

Animals are my passion and art is how I chose to express it.

Do You Keep A Journal Or Diary

See results

It All Begins With A Little Black Book - 2 Things To Consider When Buying Your Artist Sketch Journals

As a matter of personal preference I like the spiral bound blank journals best.

* They lay open flat which is often a handy thing.

* They can be folded over upon itself for easier sketching.

* Removal of pages is quick and clean

The other important consideration when buying your artist journal would be the size.

* I am not a woman who sketches small so the smallest size journal I get is 8 1/2 x 11. Often I shoot for a little larger.

* On the flip side of that is that if they are too large it may make sketching in them a bit more difficult.

* Be sure that it's big enough to accommodate all the stuff you're likely to add such as magazine clippings and such.

Pages From My Zen Horse Series Artist Journal

The following two images are from my artist journal created for The Zen Horse series. These pages reflect my playing around with the creation of my series logo which I later liked so much it became my business logo.

The image above shows my original pencil drawing as well as a few images where I was playing with logo placement.

The image below shows the original ink drawing as well as my color chart for selecting the red I wanted to use and the final logo design (bottom left corner.)

Occasionally I Use My Artist Journal To Work Out A Color Story

Working out a color story for a certain painting is rarely done in my journals. That being said in regards to my Totem Animal Series where I'm using bright and primary color schemes I do kinda like to lay down a bit of color to get an idea of what shades I'll be using for a certain image.

Again in order to keep an easy childlike manner I tend to use supplies like colored pencils, markers or even sometimes crayons. I am prone to taking myself to seriously in regards to my art. By keeping the materials childlike in nature, I free that inner creative force more easily.

My Zebra Page From My Artist Journal
My Zebra Page From My Artist Journal

Reasons To Keep An Artist Journal

And why I do.

I primarily keep an artist journal for the formation of ideas. There are many ways in which artists can use journal to better explore their art, but for me it's simple a place to keep and store everything I think I may or may not use in regards to a certain project. Each project generally gets it's own journal though occasionally I do keep an extra journal (most while traveling) available for catching ideas when I don't have access to a specific art journal.

For the most part I only keep artist journals for the creation of an artwork series. A project that is to big to keep all those messy little tidbits of information and whispy unformed thoughts from being forgotten.

Reasons I Keep An Artist Journal:

* To scribble down random wispy thoughts that are not fully formed ideas.

* To explore potential painting composition

* Storage for idea makers like photos, magazine clippings which I think "may" be useful sometime in the future.

* A place to keep relevant quotes that may inspire or be a part of the series.

My Coyote Page From My Totem Series Artist Journal
My Coyote Page From My Totem Series Artist Journal

It's Important To Not Over Think Or Overwork Your Ideas In An Artist Journal

Journaling is about you, no one else need see it.

I find one of the biggest benefits to artistic journaling is that it frees me from the running diatribe in my head when I create art. I know that what I'm doing in my journal is not intended to be finished art and therefor all the usual voices in my head instructing me to do this or that to make it "more accurate" are completely silenced. This alone makes the whole journaling experience take on a child like fun attitude. And yet at other times it can be a truly meditative experience.

Keeping a journal is place for you to express yourself in any way you see fit.

You can be yourself.

You can make whatever insane notes you like, you can experiment with a drawing idea and have no fear of messing it up or worrying what others may think of it.

It's yours to do with as you please.

What's more freeing than that?

This image is the Coyote page from my Totem Series Journal

Concept Drawing For My 2010 Christmas Card - Reasons For Keeping An Artist Journal

Concept for Fleece Navidad Xmas Card
Concept for Fleece Navidad Xmas Card
Bell redesign for Fleece Navidad - Ram Concept drawing
Bell redesign for Fleece Navidad - Ram Concept drawing

Working Out The Details With A Concept Drawing

Last year's Christmas card was a vertical image ewe against a starry night called Fleece On Earth. So this year I kinda wanted to play with concept again only this time using a ram. I was pondering it for weeks. Initially I was think 3 sheep, a ram and two ewes but then has the holiday draws near I simplified with one. I knew I wanted a horizontal ram to complement my vertical ewe.

A quick 15 minutes sketching later and I was happy with everything but the bell. I have seen this type of bell used for livestock before but it screamed a little to "Holly Jolly Christmas" and yet I wanted something a little different from last year's image.

Since this is just a concept drawing, rather than erase out the first bell I figured I'd sketch a few around the borders. Turns out I liked my second try to so my concept drawing is now complete. From here I begin the finished drawing for the eventual painting.

I'd love to hear your thoughts. Please leave a comment.

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    • Morgannafay profile image


      6 years ago

      I totally want to do this! I have many sketch books, but you've inspired me to create an art journal just for ideas! I have more of those than I have time. LOL Wonderful read!

    • Gayle Dowell profile image

      Gayle Dowell 

      6 years ago from Kansas

      I love journals and have several for different media. I have one specifically for my jewelry designs, one for my watercolor and other paintings, and a small one I take when I travel.

    • dotpattern profile image

      Pat Moire 

      6 years ago from West Village, New York City

      Thanks for sharing your experience and actual photos of your journal. Beautiful.

    • John Dyhouse profile image

      John Dyhouse 

      7 years ago from UK

      Reading this I realise that I am totally unorganised in what for me so far has been a hobby. I intend to push this a little when I retire from my day job in a few months time and will have to cultivate the habit of keeping an art journal.

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thank you for this inspiring look into your "artistic journal". I am always amazed how individual and unique these journals are. There is always something new and surprising to see...

    • profile image


      8 years ago

      Thanks so much for featuring a few of my lenses. Much appreciation headed in your direction! I love your journal and looking forward to seeing more.


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