Art journaling: how can it help?

“Visual journaling is a creative way to express and record life’s experiences, feelings, emotional reactions, or our inner world – visually and verbally. Essentially, visual journaling can become a potential key to the artmaking process.” – Michael Bell

Visual or art journaling is the process of using words and pictures to explore our creativity and process things from life, in a sketchbook or diary, over time.

But why do it? How does to help?

Speaking from my own experience and from the experiences described by others in art networks I’m involved with, it can be a powerful and pleasurable way to process feelings and explore what is meaningful in our lives. It is a practical tool we can take with us (in the car, in a handbag, on holidays) and access when we need it. Having our hands actively involved can help shift our focus from those thoughts that go around and around in our heads, and instead by getting involved in the creative process we come up with new ways of seeing things.

Visual journaling can help us focus, calm us down, and create a relaxation response in our bodies. This, along with the curiosity and joy that can come from a creative practice gives enormous benefits to our wellbeing. Visual journaling is also a safe place where we can express and explore our emotions – through colour, symbol and words – getting them out so they no longer weigh us down.

“Visual journals are essentially “art diaries.” They often contain both images [usually drawings] and words… And like an actual diary, they are meant to document day-to-day experiences, activities, and emotions and are often autobiographical in nature. Although they are defined as an art form, visual journals have been used for centuries as records of ideas and imagination. Da Vinci’s drawing journals of flying machines and physicist Stephen Hawking’s diagrams of the space-time continuum are just a couple of well-known examples.” – Cathy Malchiodi

When we approach our art making mindfully there is an opportunity for wisdom to emerge from deep inside ourselves and for us to discover personal meaning. We slow down and in our journaling we might ‘work through’ the layers of feeling in a conflict, until at the end of our image making we feel more peaceful and calm than we did to begin with. Our images provide a record for us of this transformation.

Over time using visual/art journaling we may start to develop a personal visual language – we may find we are attracted to certain colours, textures, shapes, symbols or types of art materials, and that these express how we are feeling, or how we see the world. As each person is unique, so will each person’s visual language be unique as well.

One of the final benefits I have noticed is that because visual journaling is often a mixed-media process that involves a lot of experimentation, it can help create in us a more open mind about trying new things in our lives generally, and confidence about trying new approaches. We begin to learn that a striking image is built layer by layer, with experimentation. One layer we don’t like much, or an unexpected addition to the image is not the end of the world. We grow our faith and patience, trusting our own quiet inner aesthetic tuning fork, and keep working it until we are satisfied it is done.





If you would like some support in developing a regular creative practice you might like my next 6 week Women’s Creative Wellbeing group beginning on the 2nd September and an evening group on the 7th September 2016, face to face mode in Sydney Australia.


Untitled design


If journaling is something you’d like to try but haven’t, you might like to check out my free downloadable guide to journaling – 25 easy ideas for expressing yourself and making sense of things on paper using words and pictures.





About the author:

Jade runs a variety of creative workshops and offers individuals art therapy or coaching, both face to face and remotely. Her work integrates the principles of client centered counseling and group facilitation with art therapy and her own experience of creative practice. Coaching can help with getting started on a creative practice or project, balancing work and creative practice, or developing self care while working towards making a difference in the world. Contact Jade here to find out more about sessions or packages.

3 thoughts on “Art journaling: how can it help?”

  1. What I like about this, is that it gives me a way on on the days the words just run out. This is a really good time to be reminded of this because my brain is way too frazzled during the first work week to write properly.

    1. Thanks Doret, I know that feeling! Maybe a scribble, doodle, or some play with lush thick paint will help X

  2. I’ve always been too intimidated by my lack of artistic talent to consider this, but after reading your post, I’m inspired. Just playing with color sounds liberating. Thanks for describing it all so well.

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