How I Found Freedom in my Art Journal

(click here if you can’t view the video)

I believe in sharing our stories because they can be so powerful in helping others see parts of themselves in them. Which is why I decided to share my own story in how I came to develop my transformative art journaling practice. I know you’ll be able to relate to at least one part of my journey; and my hope is that my story will inspire you to find your own path in art journaling instead of getting stuck comparing yourself to others.

Hear my story, then share yours below. Where are you in your own journey? Have you found yourself stuck in a similar research trap? Or perhaps you’ve started already but aren’t so happy with your results.

Tell us your story in the comments below. I can’t wait to hear it, and you never know who else will benefit from what you have to share.






Comments

  1. I really liked your story, Kristal. I am new to art journaling, and I have been doing exactly what you were talking about: reading and viewing other people’s art, spending hours “learning” new techniques, etc. I also was trying too many things at once and getting frustrated. Yesterday was a good day for me. I came up with my own ideas. Some did not work as well as I would have liked, but others were a nice surprise.

    Thank you so much for the time you have spent on these videos!

    Margaret

  2. I loved the video Kristal and I must say your story really resonated with me as it is really almost identical to my own. I spent a least a year gazing in amazement at all the beautiful art journals, then decided to take the plunge and bought myself a beautiful (and rather expensive) art journal of my own. Then I spent months petrified, staring at the very first beautiful white page fearful of making even a single mark as I just did not want to ‘ruin it.’ One day I stumbled upon a blog post where the artist took one of those cheap composition books you can buy at any drug store and turned it into an art journal. Because the pages are so thin, she glued two or three pages together, then coated all of them with white gesso. I decided that this was a good solution to help me get over my fear or ruining my ‘good journal.’ The rest as they say is history. It started out a little rocky, but I am so happy I stuck with it as I can honestly say when I compare my beginning pages to where I am now, the difference is truly amazing to me.

    Once I got over the hump and the initial fear I really felt unstoppable and will say that now no blank page is safe when I decide to express myself. The best part is the self-discovery and the ability to authentically share parts of my soul that I had forgotten about or buried.

    • Such a great story, thank you for sharing Thomas! I found the same to be true… it’s so much easier to start off with a cheap $1 notebook – that’s what we use in my class ROOTS when I guide people through creating their first art journal! :)

    • Hi Thomas, (that is my brother’s name)

      Thanks for sharing a bit of your artistic journey. I had to chuckle when you wrote about buying an expensive journal and then not wanting to ‘mess it up’. I’m laughing because I am the same way with a canvas. It can really choke me.

      Some of my most surprising art came when I started messing around with cereal box pages and a cheap scrapbook. I didn’t care if it looked like nothing or didn’t turn out as I had hoped. I haven’t gone back to a canvas yet, but that will come.

      Happy creating,
      Teresa

      • I am that way too, although lately I am trying to think of the canvas as just a huge journal page so I don’t get stuck in this odd self-induced incorrect perception that a canvas is in some way completely different than a journal page :)

  3. I’ve been doing art journaling on and off for 3 years now, but lately I have been a bad girl and haven’t created anything. Even though I am working very late hours lately, I feel I should squeeze in a few moments for art journaling. Of course I do have time for browsing art journal pages on Pinterest, so your video has inspired me and I am beginning a new page right now. Thanks Kristal!!!

  4. Hi Kristal,

    I have been drawing everything that I love in my sketch book.
    Now I’m going to start drawing these same things that I love in my art journal.

    Thanks for all that you do for others!

  5. Hear! Hear! If I could just get away from the computer…well, one excuse is as good as another, right?
    I like to spend at least one to two days a week just playing with my own creations. I do enjoy reading about techniques and playing with them on my own since there are no classes anywhere nearby. Then my friends and I get together and show what we have learned and spend the day playing!
    Today is my day to play so as soon as I get off this computer…
    Thanks, Kristal!

  6. Thank you for your latest emails and video. I discovered art journaling when going through a life crisis and then discovered your courses which inspired me. As life has settled down now and I have been doing too much “research”, I have become lost and stuck. You are my angel, who has brought me back to keeping it simple and back to my own path. Thanks again.

  7. Hi Kristal!
    I was just blown away by this video. I just recently lost my only son very suddenly. I have always had an “artistic” streak. But, I have never done much at all, due to my low self worth. Since Frankie died, I started “collaging”. Just my own “silly” stuff to keep me sane and busy. It led me to look into art journaling. I have been “researching” it for a few months now, and became overwhelmed by the talent, different media and techniques, etc. etc. I tried some watercolor techniques…and ripped it all up. I proved to myself that I had no right to even try any type of art…..Who did I think I was….and artist?!? So, I havent done anything. I worry too much about others actually seeing anything I do. I had taken your class a few months ago, and was gung ho! So, this morning, I was checking my email, and there was your video….I have to thank you. You inspired me in a whole new way, its about me, my journey, and expressing myself. It is also amazing how much better I was dealing with my grief when I was just doing “my” art….a general term for modgepodging my odd collages….So, I just wanted to thank you Kristal. By doing this, you have made a difference in my life, and I am sure, many others. Keep inspiring, you do it well.

    • You have brought tears to my eyes Lynn! Thank you for sharing your story. You know what? You ARE an artist. We all are at heart. But it’s our choice to follow that calling. If you found comfort in collaging, then I think you would gain that and so much more with an art journal… creating and writing can be so healing. Just start simple and with what you know – with collage. Then you can experiment by adding in words, writing, then expand with other things when you’re ready. You can do it!
      PS Your work is Sooo not silly. It’s important, healing work. :)

    • Dear Lynn,
      My heartfelt sympathies to you on the loss of your beautiful son. I agree with Kristal that you should keep at the collaging.

      When I went through some very tough years, I was not able to write anything or even read; nothing that took any focus. Finally, through collage art journaling I was able to express that difficult time with cut-out pictures and random words. It was such a relief to get that out and was not as painful as trying to use only words would have been.

      As for watercolour paints, I find acrylics much more forgiving. You can layer and cover up your mistakes quickly and easily. I would have given up long ago if I had started with watercolours. Just saying…

      Blessing hugs,
      Teresa

  8. Hi Kristal, thanks for sharing your story.
    I’ve just started my own art journal, but had some travel journal workshop experience and it taught me to be more self confident and let me go with what I am, my limits and my surprising gifts.
    Everyone of us is unique and it’s useless wanting to copy other’s art. I look at this possibility as a way to find your own voice and style, a way to explore what you are.
    lessons and models may inspire you for the technique, but in the end it’s your own pages, your own life.
    Thank you for sharing,
    Adele

  9. I’m at the same place, spending hours on Pinterest drooling over other’s work instead of creating my own. Thank you for reminding me that the time I spend wishing to create is time I could use in actually creating.

    Keep up the AWESOME hints and encouragements.

  10. Kristal, thank you for sharing your beautiful heart.

    My start was your free art journaling course. I watched many videos as well, but I kept coming back to your admonishments of “this is for you” and “you don’t have to show it to anyone else”, which helped pushed me passed the fear.

    Art journaling has led me into intuitive painting and mixed media art, where my soul meets with God. I am often astounded at what comes out of me and I have to agree with Thomas that using cheap materials is very freeing. Some of my best art has been done on cereal box pages and a $3 scrapbook.

    I still watch art videos and use some of the ideas I see, but I am beginning to have a sense of my developing style. I can hardly believe I am saying that. Imagine me, having a style. Ha. What a lovely journey of self-discovery I am on. Thanks for getting me started.

    Hugs,
    Teresa

  11. AAAAAaahhhh, This is me!
    Haha, staring at all the youtube video’s…
    Watching blogs…

    But I also started LifeBook 2014, so I’m also creating, and learning new techniques. And also scribbling and painting in my own artjournal, but that isn’t coming out like I want.

    You’re so right.
    Gonna turn off my laptop now!

    Have a wonderful evening, if you’re looking for me, I’m creating!

    XX Anne

  12. By the way, love what you’re doing. Enjoyed your 101course, and you are such a sweet person who gives me the confedance that I can do this, or, that I can enjoy, even when the result isn’t exactly what I wanted, I enjoyed the process!

    Thanks so much!
    Amme (The Netherlands)

  13. Loved hearing your story Kristal. I just started art journaling this year after admiring others work for years. I’m really enjoying it but do get discouraged with myself sometimes when a page doesn’t look as nice as I want it to. I am by far my worst critic. It is so hard to get out of that frame of thought. I just push through and move onto the next page. Thanks for sharing with all of us. I love to get your emails with all the great advice.

  14. Thank You Kristal for all your inspiring videos, posts and emails. I started art journaling in the beginning of this year, and then all of a sudden…pfffft! I got stuck. I have looked at too many tutorials and other peoples’ pages and let it get me down instead of inspiring me. I also battle depression, which doesn’t help. I really need to just let it go and create again and not worry about thinking it’s “supposed” to look like other peoples’ and perfect. You are such a wonderful person and make a difference to so many lives. Thank You! <3

  15. O.M.G! I could make my own video & say word for word what you just talked about (except the sketching & sewing)!!! I research the crap out of art journaling & mixed media!!! And now I know why I have such a problem creating my own! I feel I’m not good enough, all of these other “artists” are so amazing, I can’t create something as beautiful as they can! I’ve been art journaling/doing mixed media for a couple of years or more but still feel stuck all the time, like I have to watch a video or look at a blog just to know what to do!! It’s really kinda sad because ALL I want to do is create!!! It’s in me but I have a hard time expressing it. I have really been enjoying your Art Journaling 101 series. Thanks sooooooo much for sharing all of your knowledge, inspiration & motivation :)

  16. Thank you so much for sharing this! I so needed this….
    I am really new to art journaling, and I have been doing exactly what you were talking about – trying to do it “just right” and comparing my work to other beautiful ones, trying to do what they do :( Didn’t work!
    I’m going to take your advice and just do “my thing”.
    Thanks again….

  17. Thank you for this video Kristal, it really came in the perfect moment. I used to do my art journaling and sketching but then got stuck while comparing my sketchbook pages with others and admiring other’s people work. This was a few years back and I am still in that place. Spend hours going through pinterest and blogs, hoping to get unstuck.
    Your video made me realise that my sketchbook, my journal is all about me and no one else. I don’t have to share it with anyone or feel guilty about it.
    Again thank you for sharing.
    You are doing such a great job:):)
    xxx

  18. Hi Krystal-
    Thank you so much for your video! I resemble that remark! I have been watching You Tube and reading art journaling books at B&N, gleaning all this information for 10 years. I have an art journal that I have written in for the past 15 years on and off. I think I have 20 pages left. Setting up the time to do it is a challenge. I recently worked on a project where I used art journaling techniques to make some gifts. It was my first major art project and I broke it up into daily steps after dreaming and scheming about it for weeks. I hope to be able to finish a book. I am taking a couple of online self help classes and plan on art journaling the homework. Thank you for doing this! You are an inspiration.

  19. Hi Krystal,
    I first got interested in art journaling when I saw someone’s beautiful page and somehow knew that was something that I wanted to “try”. Well, then I came across your 101 class and faithfully watched your videos……..then I started surfing various sites to get ideas. Lol……that is where I got hung up…….looking at too many other people’s ideas. I had the feeling that I didn’t want to mess up….(sounds familiar, doesn’t it people?) Well, about a week ago I DID MY VERY FIRST PAGE and I must say…..I actually liked it! I have gesso on my next pages already, and I am ready to add color and whatever else moves me at the time. I love your videos and look forward to hearing what you have to say. After I get some cards made that I have planned for my friends and family, then I am off to do page 2 in my journal. NO…….I think that after dinner this evening, I am going to AT LEAST add color to those gesso prepared pages. Keep up the great work that you are doing to encourage us. I, for one, truly appreciate you! You have taken me from TRYING to DOING at age 67.

  20. I have been art journaling off and on for about two and a half years. When I complete my pages, I am pleased with how they speak to me and for me. My one obstacle is that I have too much ephemera. When I get ready to start a new page, I look through all my papers and ephemera and I can’t decide on what I want to use. All the different colors and shadings call to me to use them, but I end up just putting it all away because I can’t decide on what I want to use.
    Right now I am in the process of unpacking after moving from an apartment into a house. Hopefully next month I will have all my art supplies unpacked and be ready to start art journaling again

  21. Michelle T says:

    I am so glad I watched your video! I have many health problems that keep me at home most of the time. I need a lung transplant and I have a tumor in my heart, and some other things. I have all the time in the world to create. Anyways, I have been watching “how to” art videos for the past couple of years, so wanting to do an art journal, make cards, water color. So I have every art supply I could ever need: pan pastels, water colors, distress inks stains markers, Golden mediums and paints, spray inks from different companies… I am lost! I feel overwhelmed trying to decide what to use. None of my ideas are my own. It’s all just jumble from watching too many youtube videos and reading so many diff blogs. Help!!!

    • I see this with so many women Michelle, you are not alone! There are waaaaay too many supplies out there to keep track of, and they make us believe we need to try it all! I have chosen to just ignore it all. I went into a mixed media store the other day, and I had no clue what half the stuff was! lol I’d say just choose one or two mediums and stick with those. Perhaps even think about selling the rest. The more decisions we have, the more paralyzed we get – especially as beginners. Honestly, I’ve been just using crayons, markers, and cheap craft paint in my journals lately! That’s all I need. :)

  22. I am just beginning and looking for the actual journal. I took a drawing class this summer that was fashioned like Zentangle. I got excited because I saw a way to add my watercolor efforts to this style of drawing. I came across your website and saw a way to marry the art with the journaling that I already do. Win/Win/Win! I will get my journal started this weekend. Your video has got me motivated!

  23. Hi Krystal,

    I am a seasoned journal keeper, but I am a newbie to art journaling … and I am also guilty of stalking youtube videos on how others create their amazing pages. I do feel a little bit intimidated about creating my own “version” of a page/theme/idea … but, I love your story, and your advice about just having fun and allowing myself to just play in my journal, to discover who I am through the art that I will create!

    Blessings to you,
    Kathie

  24. I took your class it was wonderful! Then I stopped art journaling…then life started happening…and I need to get some of the things and events out of my head and off my heart so I can move on and create. ..starting back today!

  25. I have almost completed two journals thanks to your encouragement. I thought about sitting at my Grandmothers kitchen table, cutting,pasting and coloring and how much fun it was. She always told me not to think about what I was doing just enjoy the process and I did. Sometimes we have to dig out that inner child and give ourselves permission to have fun. You have inspired me to be that child again. Thank you.

  26. Gerda Frankes says:

    Hi Kristal’
    No more pinterest for me ….okay some times. I have learned from you to listen to the inner me and look more around in to my daily life. I get easy inspired and going my own way. Thank you for helping me on the way.

  27. THANK YOU SO VERY MUCH dear Kristal for your wonderful creative and compassionate way of nudging me on in continuing the art journal.
    you inspired me big time with your 101 class in setting up again an arts corner with old supplies stored away in drawers. now i can spontanously start getting into it any time of the day.
    i started playing around with old books still preparing pages with many different backgrounds and experimenting with materials…so much fun….
    my love for glue paper scissors color brushes has been rekindled thanks to you!!!!!
    and YES. i have a strong inner critic…it seems to disappear s l o w l y …thanks to your encouraging words…
    I CREAT for M Y S E L F only ! ! ! ! !

  28. To funny that you are doing this, I am writing something similar for Friday.

  29. Heather Dreith says:

    Kristal, thank you very much for this video. I have been collecting (well, hoarding really) art supplies for papercrafting for a long time and hardly ever using them. This summer, I did a 60-day challenge by Tammy Garcia of Daisy Yellow called Index Card a Day (ICAD.) That small format gave me confidence and I tried out many supplies and techniques. I’m ready to try art journaling now. I’ve tried to sign up for your Art Journaling 101 class but I never get the confirmation message. Oh well, you’ve inspired me anyway and I’ll just plunge right in. (But not tonight!)

  30. Kristal, I came across your website and this video because as yourself and others that have commented your video, I was viewing artwork and other people’s art journals, and checking out the techniques etc. Most of what you said really resonated with me and got me thinking… Thanks for sharing your story. This will definately help me with my new year’s resolution…get creating and stop looking at others creations!

  31. Kitty collins says:

    Thanks Krista. I really related to this. I pretty much am the researcher, but I have done some journaling but am self judgemental which takes the fun out. Thanx!!

  32. Andrea W says:

    Hi Krystal,
    A friend and I have started art journaling using Brene’ Brown’s, “The Gifts of Imperfection.” Being the perfectionist that I am, I found myself doing a lot of “research” about art journaling on Pinterest and YouTube. I must say, it definitely intimidated me! There are so many techniques and awesome art supplies to work with. The art journal pages are so beautiful and awe inspiring. I have always felt a creative spirit inside just wanting to come out. Unfortunately, I never felt like I was a “true” artist. Just a dabbler. I am trying hard to overcome my perfectionism and self-doubt. I enjoy reading your posts and watching your videos. I think between you and Brene’ Brown, I will be able to find myself. Thanks for sharing your story. It gives us all hope that we too can be creative souls!

  33. I am so glad I watched this video today. I have done a lot of art and taken wonderful classes and have some confidence. I have also been through frustration and disappointment and have realized that in my mind I am a great artist but on the page not everything is what I would wish it to be.
    I have a journal going from the Brene Brown class but may or may not continue with her assignments but I am committed to continuing the journal. Your video is a good reminder that not every page needs to be beautiful. Thanks for your honesty.

  34. Sandy G says:

    This is so relevant to me! So far I have completed months of ‘research’ – looking at beautiful pages, reading blogs, flicking through books – and completed zero pages. It really is the fear of my art not being ” perfect” or even good enough, my inner self critic is very strong, holding me back, so thank you for the reassurance that ugly is OK, that anything I produce is fine.
    I will just grab that notebook and slap colour on that first page – today!

  35. Hi Kristal! Wow, I just loved your video! It spoke directly to me (as well as others, as I have read above). I am a new artist – just started when I retired so that’s about 5 years ago. Never did art as a kid. So totally new to art. I love to watercolor and sketch. I have been thinking about and researching how to do an art journal for about a year or more. I love to write so I thought combining the two would be perfect. BUT SCARED CRAZY TO TRY because like you said – I was comparing. So with all that said – your video spoke directly to me. Thank you so much!

  36. Krystal , I can totally relate to your story. I’ve been painting other people’s projects for years and I would like to find my true authentic self through art journaling. I’ve got caught up in research and buying products, and when I try to journal on my own my inner critic comes in and I think it looks like crap. I need to get past this point and just let go. I think with your help I can get there. Thanks

  37. Hello,
    First of all, thank you for this free course. It’s been inspiring so far although I admit I haven’t started the process of actually doing anything yet. I’m new to art journaling. I think I came across this form of journaling from a tumblr post. I’m in a research rut also. I have quite a couple of notebooks worthy of mixed media and a sketchbook. I used “draw” back in my adolescence but once I got to high school I became intimidated by how much better other people were and stopped doodling. Lately I’ve been feeling that itch to create visually again. I like to write as well but I get writers block in the creative process. I have plenty of colored pencils and some pastels. Plus there just doesn’t seem to be enough hours in the day to get things done and I mean like even daily responsibilities let alone any creative me time. I want to make it a point to start this Sunday considering I work today (Friday) and tomorrow (Saturday). If you see an update next week to this comment then I got my butt going. Thanks Kristal.

  38. Thank you so much for this course. It has made me realise that something is missing and this week I started creating my first pages for my art journal and it feels so good! I can never say or tell your quite how much that means to me because now I am so excited about doing more my style and not worrying about others so much x

  39. Sarah Watson says:

    I’m totally new to this art journaling thing but I am so excited about starting !! I love your video about your story .

  40. You inspire me so much! You are an amazing person, be you!

  41. Having lost my confidence on a number of creative fronts — writing, fiber art, multi-media collage — I’m trying to re-set my point of view. I know that keeping an art journal practice will be part of it.

  42. I am a repeating beginner. Your video made me realize that I, too, am stuck in the research phase and I’m trapped. Stuck in my own spiderweb. I’ve been here for at least 5 years and I have so many thoughts, visions, noises in my head that they are a symphony of pictures, words, and sounds. The strange thing is; they go silent when I try to journal.

  43. Lee Booth says:

    Great video! Thank you so much. I too have found myself in the research trap. What seems to trigger it is when I have intentions of showing a journal page to others. As long as I remain focused on the reason I started art journaling in the first place, I just let lose and do what I do, lol.

  44. Jude Coombs says:

    Your video could be me speaking. I am definitely stuck in the research and collection rut. Maybe my background as a teacher-librarian isn’t helping, but having to have the right equipment and knowledge before I start has forced me into a blind alley. I am not going to buy anything more until I have started something . I have some gorgeous mini-journals crying out for some journaling and I have been aching to do something in them but afraid to ruin them too but your inspiration is going to help me break through that brick wall. I am keen to start today and I WILL have something done today. Those larger journals can wait. I have many beautiful pens and lovely paper just waiting to be cut up and added to the tiny ones. Look out world here I come. Thank you Krystal for inspiring me to get going and just having some fun for fun’s sake. Nothing can go wrong because it is my book and I am the only one to judge.

  45. Kelli Heath says:

    Kristal ~ Thank you for inspiring me to get out of the black hole of “research” and into my happy, creative place. I am new to art journaling and could totally relate to this lesson. I don’t know yet what my favorite mediums are but found myself spending money on many products that I probably don’t need and I’m not sure I will enjoy. There are so many beautiful journal pages out there, and I appreciate learning some different techniques for different media from artists who are willing to put their work out there. But exploration and expression is why I started my art journals in the first place, and this lesson helped bring my focus back to that. Thanks!

  46. Karen de Goede says:

    Hi Kristal
    I have not read anybody else’s comments because I am pretty sure that you have heard this before from others…. and if it’s been said before, I know that I not repeat a message you have already received from someone else.

    While watching your video, within the first 5min, I was asking myself how on earth were you able to read my thoughts!?!? I have been doing exactly what you did – researching – and have even told my husband that I have a few things to start, but I am a little nervous, a little scared, even, to start. Yes, I even used the word ‘scared’.

    Thank you for the encouragement, and practical advise that you have shared with us.
    I am, however, going to continue with your course because I have learnt so much from you already, and look forward to learning a lot more.

  47. Karen de Goede says:

    Hi Kristal
    I have not read anybody else’s comments because I am pretty sure that you have heard this before from others…. and if it’s been said before, I know that I would not repeat a message you have already received from someone else.

    While watching your video, within the first 5min, I was asking myself how on earth you were able to read my thoughts!?!? I have been doing exactly what you did – researching – and have even told my husband that I have a few things to start, but I am a little nervous, a little scared even, to start. Yes, I even used the word ‘scared’.

    Thank you for the encouragement, and practical advice that you have shared with us.
    I am, however, going to continue learning from you because I have learnt so much already, and look forward to learning a lot more.

  48. Debbie H says:

    I took some watercolor classes 10 years ago and loved it. The instructor even said I was developing my own style. I found it very relaxing but was still caught in that perfectionism trap so it took weeks to finish a small painting. I drifted away. My husband started encouraging me to go back to painting but I decided to learn quilting instead. Wrong! Talk about stress. Last October I stumbled across an art journal post on YouTube and I was hooked. I was so relaxed and happy. Didn’t care how it turned out because it was just an expression of my feelings and thoughts. But I fell into the trap of Pinterest and YouTube and my perfectionism came back. I wanted to find my style own style again so I bought books which didn’t help and watched videos that didn’t help. Then I stumbled across a Pinterest post by you, found this free course and yesterday created my own idea on a mini canvas and expressed my soul in my journal with paint and collage. Thank you so much for offering this free course. If you hadn’t I probably would not have been set free.

  49. Thank you for your video. I feel so much better knowing there are other people feeling the same as me. My fear is by creating with a computer at work all day I have forgotten how to create beautiful art with just my hands and my mind. I’ve grown dependent on the ability to erase a few steps and start over again to make it “just the right way”. I need to let go of making it perfect and have fun again. That’s what I miss. Having fun while I create art.

  50. Bianca Jahns says:

    Hi,thanks for the Video. I just happened to stumbLe on art journalIng a few days ago while im on vacation. Which might have been a good thing cause otherwise i would have spend more hours in Front of my PC and looking. But i had the same research trap going on when i discovered bullet journalling and for that it took me around a month before I started one on my own.so i know the feeling well. I bought a sketchbook a few weeks ago cause i wanted to improve on my drawing skills—i havent done much in it yet. I dont know i think ive got a wrong size cause for me now its like the page is soo big how can i possibly finish the Page in a short time?since im also busy and Not always have 1 hour to just create.
    Now on vacation however i already did 2 full beautiful pages.the ocean is trully inspirering. The lessons helped as well.

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