how art journaling has helped my mental health + tips for starting your art journal

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It’s been a year this month since I started my art journal.

I first learned about art journaling back in my color theory class when I was a freshman. My color theory professor strongly stressed us to create one, since artists are constantly thinking and needing a space to brain dump. I searched online, scrolling through Pinterest and Tumblr, in search of how to create the perfect art journal. It was on Pinterest that I stumbled across Noor’s Place, a Pakistani art journalist who created beautiful pages. It was then that the pressure was on. How could I create the perfect art journal, with perfect pages, and perfect clippings from magazines? I couldn’t.

Though on winter break of my sophomore year, I decided to let go of the idea of perfection. Why did my journal need to be perfect? My journal was not Noor’s journal. My journal was not my color theory professor’s journal. This journal was all my own, and it was my choice to keep it private or share it. For a whole year, I kept it private, too myself, zipping it away in a blue storage bag until I had the creativity set a spark in my mind. A year later, I am now ready to share what’s inside my art journal…and how it’s affected my health.

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My art journal holds all of my highs, my lows, my moments of confusion, doubt, and even self-pity. At the beginning of winter semester last year, I aimed for my journal to have structure. Each page would begin with a cut-out quote, the date, and a drawing for the day. That lasted for about two weeks, until I gave up on trying to have the journal make sense. It was then that I vowed that my art journal was a more than a diary, and far from an artsy shareable Pin. I ditched my structure for the occasional poem, drawing without words, drawing with words, or sometimes a blank page. The poem above, The End of an Eon is an unpublished, brain dump poem I wrote after I’d just broke up with my boyfriend.

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When I first started my art journal, I’d read Milk and Honey over winter break. It was during this time that I was beyond with the words that Rupi Kaur had written and the gesture drawings she sketched. Above, I re-created my own version, replacing the head and breasts of a woman with boxes. This has to be one of my favorite pages in my art journal. Below, this is from when my crush (at the time) stood me up and I ate the pit in my heart away in rum cake.

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Above is a replica of the pattern my first true boyfriend’s hoodie, which I wore all the time until we broke up.

My art journal is a place where I can understand my feelings. For me, it is like talking to a therapist, but there is no response needed. I’ve written in my art journal during panic attacks or spells of deep sadness. It’s brought me out of my worst moments, and I’m forever grateful for stumbling upon Noor’s Place because I think I am my happiest when I’m art journaling. Art journaling is a release. I no longer hold things in and let them fester. Instead, I turn my brain on auto-pilot and do whatever comes to mind. Suddenly, the stress becomes a pattern, and that pattern marks a time I successfully endured. After journaling for a year, it’s truly amazing to see how much I’ve grown since I first started the journal.


Don’t invest too much into your art journal

So, you’ve decided that you want to art journal? Fantastic? But where will you get your supplies? I would recommend Target, because they always have the cutest stationary and art supplies. I am fortunate enough to attend an art school, where there are art supply stores galore in my area. Though, I do regret purchasing a TON of supplies from the school store at an expensive rate, versus investing in more inexpensive at stores like, Target or TJ MAXX, for example. It’s easy to feel the pressure of buying the highest quality of markers and pencils, but this is not about the look of your journal! Art journaling should be more about self-expression.

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Your art journal is your property

You don’t have to share your art journal with anyone. No one even has to know that you have one. If you do choose to start an art journal, you don’t need to post about it every time you make a new page. If you’re feeling something intense, draw it out, write it out, and close the journal. Unless you feel comfortable enough to share your pages, you don’t have to. Like with the supplies, there will be a pressure to Instagram your pages to “fit in” with those who are a part of the art journaling community. But sharing your feelings is not required when you start an art journal. Make your art journal any way that you want, personalize it, and cherish it.

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Treat your art journal like a diary

Remember in middle school when you would write down what would happen in during your day? Art journaling is just the same. It’s okay to keep your pages general, like above where I quoted Taylor Swift’s Dancing with Our Hands Tied. But those days when I flip through my art journal, I appreciate the quotes I saw on a friend’s Instagram, or heard someone say, or said to myself more. Write down exactly what happened that day or what you felt in that moment. Before I made new pages for this month, I was able to reflect on who I was when I first began the journal, and it was truly a journey for me.

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At the end of the day, what should be most important is establishing a connection with your journal. I journal for my mental health. I journal because I struggle with anxiety and panic attacks, and most of the time, I am too afraid to talk about the jumble that’s happening in my mind. I believe that art journaling has strengthened my confidence in battling with my mental health, as well as my confidence as an artist while attending a competitive art school. So, start your art journal today, and let me know how it goes!

Comment down below if you are familiar with Noor’s Place OR if you have your own art journal!!

I hope that you enjoyed this post!

stay as you are,

-hello ninetyseven







3 thoughts on “how art journaling has helped my mental health + tips for starting your art journal

  1. I LOVE this post so much! I’m starting to get more creative with my bullet journal and starting to wonder whether I should start an art journal. They’ve always been a bit intimidating to me, but then again so were bullet journals, so maybe 2018 is the year! Your art/words are beautiful, thanks for sharing something so honest and personal ❤


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