Got Theme? A Baker’s Dozen of Themed Art Journals

by The Artist on September 10, 2011

The Artist would like to state for the record that, while she is not a big fan of segmenting out her art journallybits, that at many, many points during her tenure of Making Things, she has been.  At various points in her Life-With-Pens, she’s had as many as six going all at one time, but found that for herself, having One Book To Rule Them All was the best course of action.  Especially since she can lose things within about five seconds of touching them and in plain sight.

That said, we wanted to talk about a concept that can sometimes be JUST the whack in the side of the head to get you moving and putting pens to paper (or glue-stick to paper, or pictures-to-digital…however you’re keeping your art journallythings).

Putting Life in Categories: The Single-Purpose Diary

For some people who are far, far more organized than the Artist will ever be, having a separate book to play in that follows a certain theme or subject matter can be amazingly inspiring and motivating.  And probably feels more organized than the willy-nilly what-do-I-write-about-NOW? thing that goes on here at the cabin sometimes.  Rather than finding a creative prompt or sudden inspiration every time you sit down, you know that when you pick up Book A (or whatever), you’re going to be talking about a specific aspect of your life — rendering prompts to be not as important.

(Though, let us state for the record, it’s often a really creative exercise to take a prompt that’s NOT for your particular theme and figure out how it CAN relate.  Like, for instance, in your wedding planning journal, if you used the “shadows” prompt, you could spin off an entry about how to draw out the wallflowers at the reception, or how you want to use directional lighting to create drama, or who you really hope doesn’t RSVP.  Something.  Creative thinkin’, at its finest.)

If you’ve got more blank books than you could ever use up if you lived to be a million, think about starting a themed art journal — you might find it’s just what you need to get going.

And because the monsters love you, here’s a handy-dandy list of some possible themes you can use:

1.  Tons of people keep garden journals.  Try making one that’s all for imaginary gardens.

2.  Seasonal Journals — one for each season.  It’s pleasures, what you did, what you want to do, what you’ve already done, what you did as a kid.

3.  Craftybit Journals – a page or two for each of your projects with all the notes about what you customized to make it, materials used, what you’d change next time, and a whole section just for vision boards to isnpire future projects.

4.  What I Own Catalogue — do you collect things?  Tell the stories of what they are, how the collections came about, what each thing is, and a picture or drawing of each.  Collage up a bunch of pictures, or put in maps to your favorite places to get more, or a section of Things That Almost Were Yours.

5.  Home Journal – not just home dec, but the stories of what you’ve done to your place, what you wish you could do, and all the practicalities of when certain tasks are supposed to be done and when you last did them.  I like putting in envelopes for receipts, and doing entries about other people’s houses and the parts of them that inspire me, too.  Lots and lots to draw or photograph here.

6.  Journal a friendship and send it to the friend to add too and send back.  They used to have Circle Journals (product) that were for this particular purpose, but you could just as easily do it with a regular journal.  Call it a record of your visual letters back and forth.

7.  Wishes and Dreams — dream journals, both for the asleep kind of dreaming and your daydreams.  Keeping them all in one place makes them accessible, later, and having the separate book encourages you to write them all down.

8.  Specific Project Chronicles — pick up a book and walk through a big, complex project (or habit, or some kind of other learning) as it happens.  It’s a great way to watch your own progress.

9. Word of the Day journals — learn a word a day.  (There are tons of sites online, and those little calendars that have all kinds of options.)  Then make a collage, drawing, or short writing piece all around that word.  (Note:  A lot of the prompts in the sidebar here come directly from my WotD calendar, modified to be turned into a creative topic.)

10.  Conversations With Imaginary People — who says your dog can’t have his/her own journal?  Maybe taking things from the perspective of Fluffy might be just different enough to kickstart your creative brain.  (Or it’ll just be pictures of fire hydrants, drawn over and over.  Depends on the dog, I’d bet.)

11. Food Journals — Everybody eats.  Why not draw everything you do?  Or paste in recipes, or illustrate them. Or use it as a weight loss/gain/health journal, too, and print out a standard calories/exercise/challenges-type sheet that you can paste in every day and make art all around?  You can do whatever makes you happy.

12.  Texture Journals — All around us, there are interesting textures.  Keep a book specifically for recording these, either by photo or by rubbings.  (They actually sell crayons specifically to make rubbings with.  The Artist had one in Seattle, and man, that thing was HUGE.  Lasted FOREVER.  But it only came in black, and you could probably make one of your own or just use the black crayons if you were so inclined.)  Use the journal entries/rubbings as the basis for other creative stuff (scan them or redraw them or something.).

baker’s 12:  Keep a journal specifically to record your history.  This is a great one for those self-reflective types that want to go through and process their entire lives.  Separate a book into ages, and write/collage/draw/discuss all that happened in those years, in as much detail as you can.  What was happening in your life? What was happening in the world?  Who were your friends and what did you do?  The Artist did one of these once, and it was awesome.

(Also, note: substitute the word “scrapbook” for “art journal”, and you could do any one of these as a separate scrapbook or minibook album.  Seriously.)

Whether you’re an all-in-one kind of person or a segment-it-out person, you can also do any of these as individual entries, or little subsets of your current book.  Finding a theme is fun to do AND helps you think in a different way — which, really, is the whole point, isn’t it?

What topics/themes have you tried?

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