I recently had someone ask me, “How did you get started? I’d love to do what you do!” I’ve shared a bit about when and why I began art journaling, but I’ve never really thought about how I began… which artists inspired me to try it and what it took to get going.
Before I get too deep into the how of things, I should state that I work almost solely in pen, ink, and watercolor. I sketch mostly things from or in nature, and I combine that with my love of lettering. I often use scripture to encourage others and to celebrate the beauty of God’s world. I tend to follow artists who enjoy the same type of artistic expressions, and how I sketch and journal influences what tools I purchase and use.
If you enjoy pastels, markers, scrapbooking, urban sketching, or other types of artistic expression in your journals, I think you are amazing and I hope this post encourages you. However, its main focus is how to get started with sketching and lettering when doing scripture and nature journaling — in other words, how to do what I do!
Below are my best tips on how to begin an art journal.
Finding time to sketch and journal is the number one struggle that many share with me, yet it’s the first thing you must do to begin. I understand the struggle. I am a full-time wife and mother who also homeschools our children. Plus, I manage this website. Plus, I do not have any outside help — we do all our own cooking, cleaning, yard work, etc. Plus, I do a lot of seasonal volunteer work. Whew.
However, I am committed to making creative time a priority in my life. (My kids know not to disturb Mama when I’m at my desk with my headphones on!) When outside the house, I always carry a sketchbook with me and take advantage of every free moment to sketch and journal.
I have discovered that folks will nearly always find time to do what is important to them, and becoming good at anything (even art journaling) requires time and commitment above all else. Nobody becomes great at anything without a lot of practice.
If your days are so rushed and busy that you have absolutely no free time for yourself, you may need to reevaluate what you are giving your time and attention to. It may be that you need to set boundaries and say no to some things to free up creative time.
You do not need a lot of space or materials to do art journaling. A dining room table, a sofa, a quiet park bench, a stump in the woods, or even a parked car can be great places to sketch and create art. However, since ritual can be an important part of creating new habits, it may be helpful to set aside a small area just for creative time.
Regardless of whether or not you have a place in your home dedicated to creative time, consider packing a minimalist field kit to carry with you, and make every space your "studio" space. The idea of art journaling is to capture what is precious and important to you, and there is no better time to capture a moment than the present one!
In all honesty, choosing what tools work for you is going to take some trial and error. Buying untested art supplies is always a risk. Unfortunately, I have purchased some expensive supplies that just don’t work for me, but I try to chalk it up as a learning experience. My best advice regarding tools is to concentrate on quality over quantity.
Before purchasing anything, it may help to read reviews written by artists who use the same mediums you do. Because a watercolor artist will probably not like the same sketchbook as someone who illustrates with marker, and vise versa. Many art bloggers readily share favorite supplies and reviews on their websites. There are no guarantees you’ll love what they use, but they can be great resources!
To discover what tools I use along with places to shop, check out my art journaling supplies page.
I try not to spend lot of time online, but I do follow artists who constantly inspire and teach me. I choose artists who not only do what I want to do but also share tips and tutorials on how to do it. Below are a few of my favorites. Maybe some of these artists will inspire you also.
Nature Journaling: John Muir Laws is an outstanding nature journaling educator. His site is full of tutorials, and I highly recommend his book. He also offers sketching meet-ups and classes in the California area, but similar groups have sprung up in other areas also. The easiest way to connect with Jack and other like-minded folks is via his Facebook group. In addition to Jack's site, I've also gained a lot of insight and inspiration from nature sketcher and artist Cathy Johnson who also manages a Facebook group.
Scripture Art: Stephanie Ackerman is a scripture art journalist who hosts the Documented Faith website & blog. Though Stephanie's style is not similar to my own, her encouragement, art, and letterings have constantly inspired me. She also hosts a very active Facebook group full of members with various styles and skill levels, and many in this group have started local Documented Faith small groups. Another similar and fantastic resource is Shanna's site, Illustrated Faith.
Calligraphy/Lettering: Lindsey at The Postman's Knock is an amazing calligrapher who constantly shares tutorials and also offers free downloadable practice sheets. Julia Bausenhardt is another wonderful calligrapher who offers great tutorials and practice sheets. If you are interested in starting out with a few, simple hand-lettering styles, try my tutorial.
Getting together with other artists and sketchers who share your passions is an excellent way to learn and be inspired. Plus, these groups can offer great support and encouragement.
I live in an extremely remote area, and I have yet to find a group close by that enjoys art journaling, sketching, or lettering, so I do not have access to this… yet! However, I have found amazing encouragement through several of the online groups mentioned above, so that is also a great option.
If you can’t find a compatible group in your area, consider starting one. If you're close to me, I'd love to join you!