I Create; Therefore I Am – The Positive Practice of Art Journaling

I signed up for an art journaling workshop at Tranquil Space last summer, and almost didn’t go because I feared “wasting my time.”  I’ll never forget when the wonderful instructor, Kimberly said, “Write down what you want by this time next year, July 23, 2012.”

My whole body clenched up. Somewhere along the way, I’d forgotten that I had the right “to want things.” Sometimes I feel like I lack control over my destiny. Art journaling helped me re-take the reigns. Boldly stating my dreams was the important first step towards realizing them.

What is art journaling? It is combining art, words, and colors to express oneself. Too “new age?” Artists and scientists have been visual journaling for ages, including Leonardo DaVinci, Vincent Van Gogh and Stephen Hawkings.

Traditional journaling/scrapbooking focuses on the past. Art journaling is about the present and future (like vision boards). My pages are celebrations of what I love about me now and visions of a more peaceful, fulfilled self in the future.

Seeing is believing. The words and images from my art journal have popped into my head during difficult moments. This year, I’ve kept up with my art journal and even made art journaling friends! 

Psychology Today reports, “According to Elizabeth Warson, professor at George Washington University’s art therapy program, the regular practice of creating via an art journal can reduce your heart rate, increase serotonin flow and immune cells, and decrease stress responses.”

In reviewing my art journal for this post, I timidly opened to the page “By July 23, 2012.” I knew I hadn’t transformed my life as much as I’d hoped. Surprisingly, I achieved about 2/3rds of my goals!  

Start today with:
1. a simple spiral notebook (I got mine at Barnes and Noble
2. a glue stick 
3. old magazines 
4. pens/markers/crayons/pencils

Simple Prompts:
1. What do I want by this time next year?
2. What are my three goals for the week?
3. What images inspire me?

(There are many fancy techniques – DO NOT BE INTIMIDATED. Everyone has their own style; mine involves crayons and I’m okay with that!)

More resources:
Psychology Today, “Cool Art Therapy Intervention #4: Visual Journaling,” by Cathy Malchiodi


  1. Laura on July 8, 2012 at 2:14 am

    This is great! I’ve kept a written journal since about age 11. I was a shy and reserved teen, so my journal was a really, really important outlet for me. I wrote pages and pages a day. I’ve been much less faithful a journal-writer since my late 20’s… but it’s corresponded with me finding my “outside voice,” if you will–being bolder about speaking up and letting myself be heard and throwing my opinions out into the world. I love the idea of adding visuals–I’ll have to give it a try sometime!

    • julie on July 8, 2012 at 5:52 pm

      Thank you, Laura! Written Jjurnaling is so therapeutic too. The visual elements are a fun addition. Let me know how it goes. Big smiles, Julie

  2. Chelsea on July 8, 2012 at 2:38 pm

    I love this idea! I can always count on your updates to motivate me, and now you’ve stepped it up a notch and spoken directly to my inner artist. I love paper art, but most things I create are for other people, the one thing I do for myself is scrapbooking. I hadn’t thought about how scrapbooking focuses on the past and how that may be impacting me emotionally. I’ve struggled with creating new goals for myself since my diagnosis 2 years ago, and just like you, I haven’t been allowing myself to “want things”. I can’t wait to start my art journal and begin envisioning the future I choose for myself.

    Thank you Julie!

    • julie on July 8, 2012 at 5:50 pm

      Hi Chelsea, Thank you so much for your nice comment! I’m thrilled that my adventures are motivating. If you like scrapbooking, you’re gonna love art journaling! Sending smiles from DC, Julie

  3. Dawn Herring on July 9, 2012 at 6:05 pm

    I loved the validating aspect of what you have shared here. It’s important that we value our time, taking time to refresh ourselves. You made an awesome point about art journaling, how it focuses on the present and future, like a dream board. I love the combination of color, text, and image of art journaling; I started my practice in 2011, and it amazes me how much I get from it. It adds to my energy and gives me a place to express my point of view visually. So glad it works for you so well.

    I have chosen your post, I Create; Therefore I Am, for the #JournalChat Pick of the Day on 7/9/12 for all things journaling on Twitter; I will post a link on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, my blog and website Refresh with Dawn Herring, and in Refresh Journal, my weekly e-journal: http://tinyurl.com/bsycylk.

    #JournalChat Live is every Thursday, 5 EST/2 PST for all things journaling on Twitter; our topic this week is Your Journaling: Powerful Purpose.

    Thanks again for sharing your personal benefits of art journaling and taking time for yourself.

    Be refreshed,
    Dawn Herring
    Host of #JournalChat Live and Links Edition on Twitter
    Author of The Birthday Wall: Create a Collage to Celebrate Your Child

    • julie on July 9, 2012 at 6:12 pm

      Thank you so much, Dawn! I’m extremely honored to be featured in your online sources. You’ve made my day! With gratitude and smiles, Julie

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  7. Holly Twedt on November 16, 2013 at 6:30 am

    LOVE art and journal ideas I have also been led to do this! One resource is:
    Wide Open: Inspiration and Techniques for Art Journaling on the Edge.
    It is put together by Randi Feuerhelm-Watts.
    There are cards inside that inspire you to do art journaling. There is a creativity notebook inside to use. There is a Facebook page on Art Therapy.

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