The Therapeutic Nurse™
Build #Resilience & Heal


How to Start an Art Journal: 10 Steps to Therapeutic Living

Gather materials 3.jpg

Grab a journal, notebook, or sketchbook and dedicate it to being your art journal. All you need is something to write or draw with, but keep in mind color therapy can help with specific prompts. Devote a shoebox filled with your supplies like pens, colored pencils, markers, crayons, tape, glue, stickers, ribbon, watercolors, and paint (all optional). For collage prepping, store magazines and old newspaper for photos, text, and texture. You do not need expensive art supplies to gain the health benefits from keeping an art journal.

Safe Space.jpg

You don’t need an art studio or a writer’s loft to create. Find a space that you can claim for yourself even if only for 15 minutes. It’s best to journal with purpose in a spot where you feel comfortable and won’t be disturbed. If you are unsure where to art journal, try out various spots in your home. It doesn’t have to be an official spot like at your desk or kitchen table (or maybe it is). Maybe find a corner in your bedroom or possibly on the floor up against your couch. Your safe space might be outside under a tree or at the dog park. Perhaps you’re more comfortable in the library or at your grandma’s house. Anywhere that you can prompt truth is a good place to start.


Remove negative and heavy energy, or feelings such as unworthiness and shame, from your safe space so that you can be your authentic self comfortably. If you are religious, praying to your Divine can clear the space. For example, pray for guidance, wisdom, peace and truth to come out of your artwork and/or journal entry. Many energy workers clear their space with vibrations.  Ground yourself in the space through lighting smudge, incense, or a candle. Balance the energy by listening to music with high vibrations or natural sound machines, ring a bell, sound a chime, play a singing bowl, or hit a gong. Aromas clear the space, as well.  Spray or diffuse essential oils.  And if you don’t vibe with praying, saying a mantra, or clearing energy, that’s OK too.  Clear the space by opening a window or simply declutter your space so there are no distractions.


Bring awareness to a virtue or quality before creative self-care, and the authentic you will embody it and energize you to inspire others. Examples of virtues and qualities include: patience, love, forgiveness, living in the present moment, release, grace, peace, awareness, wisdom, openness, and strength. Setting an intention enriches the art making by connecting creation to your everyday life, while helping you focus on the task at hand. Or maybe you set a literal intention for your art journal page to keep focused on what you want to create and/or reflect.  


Choose a prompt to guide your journaling, provoke creativity, and reduce the stress and anxiety in your life. Try one art style per session so that you can find what works for you. Maybe you’ll love writing letters, but get frustrated writing poetry. Maybe you’ll find that therapeutic photography decreases your depression more so than collaging. Not everyone vibes with the same creative self-care so please be open and play around. And feel free to make your journal entry a multimedia art page!  Start with a prompt or a feeling or memory you can't shake off and see where it takes you.


Art journaling for therapeutic living is not about perfection, but about authentic self-expression.  It’s about letting go of standards, breaking artistic rules, and creating for your mental and physical health. Of course, this is much easier said than done. But there is a negativity release that opens your mind once you can let go of the expectations you hold for yourself.  When you can feel the irritation of the imperfections and not only tolerate them, but continue on with your artwork despite them – you are pushing through a brick wall (and possibly artists/writers block).


Research states that the hardest part of creating art (of any kind) is the first stroke. Just make it – whether it be a paint brush, pen, chalk, or crayon. Do it with your eyes closed, if you have to. Let it suck. Let it be ugly. Let it be messy. Let it be you.   


You did it! You made the first stroke. The hardest part is over. You got this!


Express yourself through writing, drawing, collaging, photography, music, playlists, and painting. Don’t produce art you think others will find beautiful, meaningful, or worthy. Create an entry that speaks to you. Make art that represents you for you. Make this your art, your world.


Analyze your art. What story does it tell? What questions or feelings does it bring up? How does this entry represent you? How can you live differently tomorrow because of it?

This is one technique that promotes therapeutic living.  It’s your choice to do what you will with your art journal and how it helps you process your #SloppyHonest expressions.