This article is part of my FREE e-course Art Journaling 101 – which has been designed to gently introduce beginners to the basics of art journaling so you can find your way with more ease and less fear. If you’re curious about art journaling or overwhelmed with how to begin, sign up for the full free course HERE.
Does the blank page intimidate you? Are you lost on where to start when art journaling? If so, I have some great tips on how to move past this block and get creating.
Tip #1. Skip the First Page
When starting in a new art journal, you may feel the pressure to create a really great first page, because you know you’re going to see it every time you open up that journal. So instead of putting that unnecessary pressure on yourself, simply skip the first page and start working on another. You don’t have to work in order!
Tip #2. Prep Some Pages
Many art journals require you to prep the pages with gesso before you can even begin. So when feeling stuck, go ahead and prep some more pages. Sometimes the simple act of taking a step forward gets you in motion to continue going. If not, move on to prepping your pages with background color. Get messy and slap some paint on a few pages! Drip, splatter, spray, or try out a new background technique. A colorful page is much less intimidating than a blank one!
Tip #3. Don’t Over Think
Keep in mind that art journaling is for YOU, its not meant to be a masterpiece. Don’t over think your first or next step, just begin and keep moving. You can always go over areas you don’t like with more layers.
Tip #4. Go For “Bad”
Just for fun, challenge yourself to make a “bad” or ugly page on purpose. Perhaps even journal about the things you don’t like. Removing the pressure to create a beautiful page will loosen you up to get started, and you may even end up liking the page!
Above is a sneak peek at Glitter N Glue’s art journal page.
Tip #5. Skip the Blank Book
If all else fails, perhaps you need to skip the blank book and start with a book that already has color or images on the pages. You can try using a hardbound book from a thrift shop, a handmade book that was created using recycled pages, or make your own!
Above is a sneak peek at one of Johwey Redington’s beautiful journals.
What else can you do when you find yourself stuck staring at a blank page? Share in the comments below!
Don't miss a single, inspiring thing!
Subscribe to my Museletter for inspiration and practical tips to keeping on track with this scary journey of reclaiming yourself and your creativity. You’ll also get VIP access to my new goodies, freebies, special offers, and more!
I like to glue down magazine pages and/or clippings as the first step. I tend to feel inspired when I page through the journal that has pages already started.
Sometimes when I’m stuck I will sift through magazines and cut out words and images to use in the future. Although it is not working directly in an art journal it is another type of “prep work”.
Kristal Norton says
That’s a great idea Emily!
Dena :) says
Thank you for that tip Emily…………it is exactly what I needed to hear (read) this morning……..:)
I have enjoyed your e-coarse tips. I’m new to this type of creativity, but I’m really enjoying it! Thank you for making it available to everyone!
I just got a ‘grab bag’ at a yard sale that has a TON of old scrapbook border stickers in it. I’m thinking I may put a bunch of them on the edges of my journal pages to get me going. It will also be a challenge to work in the schemes of the border’s existing colors!
For the first page of any journal or altered book I create I make a “me” page usually my name and the date started done in a big way…meaning big letters and many colors just so everyone who looks at it if they ever do knows who and when
Another goal I set is when I buy something new art wise I “test” it in my journal. So like color medium I color a page, new paper I glue it down. A new stamp I find an unfinished page and stamp it. I make the goal that I use new supplies within a week or receiving it. That way it gets used and I learn what it can do. It also fills up space fast without much planning.
I also do this with instruction publications like books or magazines. I love techniques so when I get a new publication I start each journaling session with a technique in mind and work on that technique. This way I get a lot of different pages.
I also don’t worry about finishing the page. I skip around a lot. I may do a few backgrounds, then next time work on one page from start to finish but I never stay in order.
Kristal Norton says
Wow, great tips Melissa; thanks for sharing! I love how you create a “me” page at the start of every journal. You never know where your journals will end up. And it’s great that you have the discipline to actually use what you learn and buy, I know too many of us collect things that just sit. You must have an amazing journal collection! :)
Love the idea of testing new supplies in the journal and seeing what they can do. I might even add notes that I can go back to on things I learned using the pens or paints kind of what it can and can’t do.
I read a lot and collect statements/quotations from my reading that really grab me. I want to put those in my journal in a creative way. Still working on this idea.
Kristal Norton says
I do the same thing, except I actually have three separate journals for each purpose. One mini spiral journal/notebook for collecting quotes (in which I reference to when I want to add one into my art journal), a big “test” journal where I play with new supplies and test out new techniques I learn with notes, etc, and then my actual art journal. :)
Cristina Parus says
I start my faces (portraits) on a blank page and draw/sketch without thinking too much about proportions and stuff like that. In fact, what am I saying here, I don’t think during the process and at some point I stop and look at the drawing and …wow. I like it! Of course, I don’t get beautiful results all the time, but my joy is mine when journaling. Isn’t it?
Thanks for sharing all this with us,
I copie poems I like, cut them out and stick them in my
diary. I copie the cover of the book I am reading and stick
it also in. I zentangle the empty spaces. I copie the letters
to my penfriend and stick them in. I draw the sea, if I have
been walking or been thinking of the sea. It is all fun.
I take some photographs and print them of to use later.
Becky Bailey says
I have several journals on the go and all different sizes so if I am brain dead one day I do a small one which usually turns into a page on my bigger books.I also jump from one book to another.
sarah hluchy says
Whenever I’m bored and I really want to do something creative, I sometimes take a page and doodle all over the page, then color in the shapes left by the doodle.
Another thing that gives me inspiration is quotes. A good place to get quotes is from a website called Brainy Quotes.
This month I’m going to see how I like having more than one art journal. I’ll have the 3 ring binder that I told you about, and I’ll also have a little journal that I altered as per instructions that you referred us to previously. I think I’m going to doodle in that one and explore oil pastels. That little journal and the pastels will be easier to take with me to college than my three ring journal and supplies.
I love to have a couple of pages going at the same time, adding a little here and a little there. I love to go to my local thrift store and buy things like tissue paper, crayons, colored pencils and other odds and ends. They’re cheap and fun to play what if with.As in what if I do this, or mix this with that. Another creative idea is to ask someone to give you 6 random words and use them in my journal pages, another idea is to ask someone to name three colors and use them to create. It makes me think and come up with ideas outside of the box.
Haven’t started yet. Haven’t found enough supplies in my packed up apt. Life has gotten in the way as usual. I love a lot of these ideas though and plan to save and use them……Maggie
This lesson was enlightening … in my case it works start from any page of my scrapbook.
I saw me in this lesson! I was afraid of touching my new Art Journal…everyday i looked and touched but did nothing!. All of a sudden i started with something new in my life (my business at home Linduras – gift baskets and something els!) and since this first page, it unleashed me, and now i do not stop!…Thanks for the wonderful tips shown in each class!
I’ve just ordered my first journal and can’t wait for it to arrive. I’m new to all this mixed media and love learning all I can about it. Running off to my art room is my new pleasure and although things don’t always go as I want them to I feel a real sense of freedom and joy in creating and then wonder where on earth the time has gone to!
Thank you for your series I love the way you cut to the chase and make things so plain. I had been trying to find out what an art journal was and what sort of paper it should have etc and your series covered those questions beautifully – thank you.
Dianna Short says
Your recommendation of “Go for Bad” is perfect for me, thanks. I will pick one of my journals to practice in. I was an uptight first grader, so getting past “doing it wrong” is hard for me. I love your approach to the whole journaling adventure and you motivate me everyday.
these thoughts have been helpful, we can never run out of them can we! have loved the focus on art journaling and look forward to each email. Found myself painting on a board yesterday with inks, sprays etc and I hate wasting any left over, especially on my stencils so I always have an open page on my journal of which I lay the reverse side of the stencil down and let the ink absorb. at some point I will make something of this page but at least I am getting the run for my money with my ink!
Emma Camacho says
After reading how everyone is using their journals, I’ve decided to try making a small art journal out of an old book just for practicing with new materials to try them out and to play with color combinations and layouts before diving into one of my keepsake art journals….sort of a trial and error effort. It just might turn out to be one of my favorites!
Maria Noah says
when I’m stuck, I draw a mountain landscape kindergarten style!
this strategy never fails! The next thing is always cooler!
Kristal Norton says
Haha I love that idea! :)
Cody Doll says
I love the idea of not starting with a blank page. It makes the white page easier. I have decided exactly what I want to do for my art journal and I can’t wait to get started. Thank you soo much for this class, without it I would have discovered who I am as an artist.
Teresa Arsenault says
Great lesson and some fabulous ideas here from other members. I love the idea of doing backgrounds and experimenting with new techniques as foundations for new pages.
I chose an old library book for my journal. It is a book about the Victorian era, with lots of lovely pictures. I kept a number of them from pages I tore out to prepare the book. Many of these pictures have spring-boarded ideas for journal pages.
One of the pictures actually looks like my son. It reminded me of a tragic time we went through with him, so I art-journaled about that, calling it, “The Dark Years”.
I had never written about this time in my life because it was too difficult to go there. Art journaling allowed me to express the turmoil in pictures, words & quotes. Everything came out and onto the page, without my having to walk, word by word and step by step, through those five difficult years. Even though I worked for 2-3 hours on this layout, I did not feel the emotional exhaustion I would have experienced had I only written about this time in my life, describing every detail. In fact, I felt quite positive and hopeful by the time I was done and added a number of positive quotes to the page.
Kristal Norton says
That is so great to hear Teresa! Art journaling can be a powerful tool for healing. :)
I like using an old story book as an Art Journal. I like that the pages aren’t blank – so they seems less scary… and I can still paint over them if I want too. What I also sometimes do is I scan through the text on the page – sometimes I find a word or phrase that I use as inspiration and I try to somehow incorporate it into my page.
This is my first comment during the course. I have been thoroughly enjoying the lessons. It has occurred to me as I see each lesson that I didn’t know what I didn’t know. I have done written journals and recently did an online course that required participants to Art Journal as projects to reinforce learning. So, my interest was peaked and ever since I have been trying to learn about how to do an Art Journal. The comments from others have been extremely helpful! I am ready to shop for supplies and several journals this week to begin. I am not an artist but am an Interior Decorator. I naturally like artistic looking things so my goal is to enhance or illustrate themes within my writing. Could range from quotes, observation of life events or just things I’m thinking about.
Thank you so much for your informative course. I have always journaler and drawn but the idea of combining these is just wonderful. I am really enjoying my pages. As a designer of embroidery stitcheries I have found playing in my art journal has really helped my creativity in other areas. Thank you x
Hi Krystal, I am enjoying your pointers and seeing all the others works too. Not an artist but I am started putting pictures in for the day beside what I did that day. No journal yet as I have to find a time to go out and buy one. I am returning the love Mom gave to me many years ago and am home bound with her. It is joyful most of the times these days. There is no end to the situations love creates for you.
My plan is to go into the basement and bring up every type of paint I can find. Lets see what kind of a mixed media that turns into!
Sounds fun to me.
Thank you for this very inspiring and encouraging course. I’m really enjoying it and the sharing spirit it has invoked. I’ve been journaling for years but never attempted an art journal. I just bought some oil pastels and lately all I want to do is let the little artist inside me have at it! I’m excited at the possibilities!
such good ideas everyone! Krystal, so nice to share your art with us and get started to follow our dreams and journal life….
I drew a page of little boxes (about 20). I decided I want to create every day, even if it is just coloring or doodling one of those boxes and that is it. But I am finding that the two minutes or so it is taking to do the little box helps me want to create more. I really liked the idea of just putting some paint down on a page, and another person talked about a me page. Sounds great. Thank you for this wonderful series!
Thank you for the inspiration. I have a really nice sketch book that I am going to fill up, some how, but I getting excited to try old books and stuff too. I have drawn all my life, but I am really not very creative, and I am not an artist. I want everything related to art journaling right now… However, I am trying to be practical.
I have done several collages and water color back grounds and filled them with Zentangle(r) patterns. I have prepared several pages with water colors or ink. That is all I have right now. On some pages I just penciled in some ideas at the top the page and on others I have inked out boxes or huge letters. So everyday I am doing something.
I’m so thankful for this free course! I’m really a newbe, but it consumes my whole day! I see inspiration in everything. :-)
Still hoarding supplies and materials, for me it’s like playing, experiencing how everything works with each other. But the most beautiful thing for me, perfectionist and control freak, is that I have finally found something in which I can let go of that!! Somedays more easily than others, but for ones I enjoy the process, and it’s not about getting a perfect result. What a gift!
And you give so many tips and tricks that are so easy to work with. So thanks for that!!
Anne, (the Netherlands)
I am enjoying the course so far very much. I have watched your video story and laughed because it sounded exactly like me! What I have come to realise over recent years is that I love to live the fantasy that I could be a great artist if all these other things I have to do didn’t get in the way. To actually go out there and do it – and possibly fail – could burst that bubble and leave me without anything to hold onto.
It is very scary, but great to know that even successful artists have been through the same thing. I am hoping that being part of something like this will give me the courage to finally have a go. Thanks so much!
When I have a difficult time with a blank page I sometimes use a colorful scrapbook sheet, or cut up several different pages to glue down in a weave pattern.
Maura Flood says
I love the idea about skipping the first page until you’re ready to tackle it.
I volunteer in our library’s used bookstore. Sometimes a book is not in good enough shape to be sold, so I’ll rescue it from the recycle bin and alter it, or cut out words and pages to put in an existing journal. You might want to check out a store like this – the little paperbacks sell for 50¢ and give you plenty of material to work with. The hardcovers in our place sell for $1.50 or $2.00, so they’re a good deal, too.
Since Covid there are no old books anywhere, I’m in Australia. We used to have so many 2nd hand book shops, charity stalls etc. I’ve even thrown out old books, I wish I had them all back now.
First, thank you so much Kristal for this free course! I’ve been putting off art journaling for about 6 months because of the fear of the blank page. So what I did – 1st page is the goals I set, what techniques I want to try, some supplies I need, etc. The 2nd page is about my fears and WHY I’ve been putting it off, getting those out on paper really helped!! The 3rd page, tips from you and your readers on how to get over that fear, and the things I SHOULD be telling myself when my internal critic starts to get in the way. So I’m already THREE pages in, after having put it off for so long :) thank you (and all of the other commenters here!!) for the extra shove I needed to get going on this journey!
I always start with colours. I pick between 2 and 4 colours that appeal to me and go from there. They might inspired me to draw something even before I lut those colours on the page. I don’t plan anything, I just let it all flow out of me. Another great way to start a page is to do a challenge, either from a class, or I keep a small purse with prompts of techniques, media, shapes, colours, words, etc, and pick about 5/6 to help me build a page; I do them in the order I pick them, which I find a great exercise to stretch your creative muscles while having the support of a prompt.
on my first page I foundafter throwing some ink and paint around and splattering it all over the page I hated it so i went over the whole page with a blue and totally wiped out the bacground as a result of the background and the blue overlay it ended up with a blue green tinge and I coudnt help thinking it would look amazing as a space background so once it was dried I got out my paint pen and drew dots all over it to look like stars and then I used the moon idea from vickies tutorials with paper and pitt pens and added that over the background then using the same technique some smaller planets. again i got out my paint pen and dotted around the planets to give them some depth then got out my space stamp and made some aliens and ufos onto paper and colored them with my jasart pencils.and stuck them on with medium gloss to finish with a really kool space page. the end result wasnt so bad after the starting point looking so bad.
I’m using an old Readers Digest book I found in a basement. I love the spine and cover because it looks proper and antique, completely different from what you will find inside! The pages need prep-ing, so I’ve glue some together, painted background colours, stencilled, practiced lettering,…I’ve even painted a page white to make it more blank than before. I shamelessly copy things that impress & inspire me because I am “just practicing”. I’ve skipped around here and there all over the book;no rhyme,no reason. I’ve been inspired by other’s comments, so thank you all!
Debbie H says
I keep two art journals, one for misc and trying new techniques and one for my prayer journal. When working in one I keep the other open to a blank page and use leftover paint, ink on stamps and so on to cover the page. Some are a mess but that is ok because I can always cover it with gesso or more paint if I do not like the result.
If I need to start a new art journal but am looking at the blank page without any ideas what to do, I will practice hand lettering with the words “This is Not a Blank Page.” This is usually enough to get myself going on to being creative in a new journal.