Getting Started with Art Journaling

Recently, as part of my healing from betrayal trauma, I have started an art journal. Now I don’t work in it nearly as often as I’d like, but such is life as a mom of young children. It has definitely been a hugely therapeutic thing for me. I’ve shed tears more than once while creating. I also consider a lot of my digital art therapeutic journaling as well. Added bonus no messy supplies to get out and put away! There’s just something about working with actual medium on paper that is just so healing for me though. Maybe it’s because I’m a little less in control and there’s no undo button.

Getting Started with Art Journaling | The Muchness Mama |

What is Art Journaling

Art journaling is simply putting words and images together to express yourself. That’s it. It doesn’t have to be a masterpiece. There are no grades. There are no rules. Oh wait there is one rule: there are no mistakes, just happy accidents (yes, I love Bob Ross). Simply use whatever speaks to you to give a visual aspect to the thoughts and feelings inside. Put aside any thoughts of what is right in art. Forget about focal points, color harmonies, balance, unity, or any other “rule” you’ve been taught. Just get your feelings out on paper!

Art journaling has been around since the dawn of time. In fact many of the great artists in history kept these visual journals. The British Library has actually digitized one of DaVinci’s journals and made it available to the public. It is quite fascinating!

Therapists have also found the value in using art to unlock suppressed memories and feelings. It can also help to heal trauma as you process through those feelings in a creative way. By processing using your physical body and incorporating both words and images you use your entire brain. The more of your brain that is activated during therapy the more thoroughly traumatic experiences can be processed. You don’t need a therapist to guide you through art journaling. All you need is a willingness to dig deep and be honest with yourself. Sometimes it helps to have a prompt and other times it’s best to jsut start makign a mess and see what happens.

Art Journaling Supplies

All you need to get started is a writing implement of some sort and a piece of paper. Don’t let a lack of art supplies hold you back! It is far better to do a simple pencil sketch than nothing at all. Of course art journaling is a lot more fun with some color, so here are a few of my favorite things to use.

For starters let’s talk about paper. You can use a basic notebook, but you’re going to be a bit restricted on what you can do with the flimsy paper without destroying it. If you just want to use dry media (pencils, crayons, chalk, pastels, etc) you’ll be fine with a simple sketchbook. If you want to use more paints, glues, and other embellishments you’re going to need a heavier duty paper. A mixed media book is a great choice. If you really love to work with watercolors then it’s even better to get a book with watercolor paper pages.

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Colored pencils are my go to for sketching. I really like that they are hard to erase. It forces me to accept imperfections and mistakes, and allows me to just think about creation rather than perfection. Your basic Crayola pencils that you can get at any grocery store will do just fine. I have also recently discovered and am loving Arteza. They’re a bit higher quality and still a very reasonable price. If you really want to splurge then Prismacolor is the way to go. Their pencils are super soft with vibrant colors that get great coverage and blend beautifully. 

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Watercolors are another fun medium to use. When you think watercolor you’re probably remembering those cheap pan sets from grade school that gave you pale washed out paintings on wrinkly paper. Watercolor is so much more amazing when you have good paints on good paper. For a decent starter set The Artist Loft pan sets are a bit better than the grade school stuff and still very budget friendly. If you want to step up your quality a bit then Sakura Koi, Arteza, Prima, or Kuretake are a great choice. Jane Davenport is another middle of the road brand price wise and I am totally in love with them!  The neutrals pallet is perfect if you want to paint a lot of skin and hair tones. If you really want to get the top of the line watercolors Holbein, Sennelier, and Daniel Smith are all highly recommended. If you want to start out with the higher quality, but still on a small budget you can get individual pans or tubes of the three primary colors along with white and black then mix your own colors. For painting on the go water brushes are awesome! If you really want a good brush at a great price I also really like my Winsor & Newton Cotman brushes.

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In addition to the traditional pan or liquid watercolors you can also play around with watercolor crayons, markers, brush pens, or pencils. There are so many fun and creative ways to use these that would be an entire blog post in itself! Some recommendations for pencils are Derwent, Arteza, or Faber-Castell. For crayons check out Neocolor, or Ranger ink. Sakura Koi and Tombow both make a great felt tip watercolor marker, and I LOVE my Arteza real brush pens.

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If you prefer more control and opacity then Acrylic paints are the way to go. For a simple art journal I haven’t seen a need for anything fancier than the bottled craft paints that you can get at any craft store or Walmart. If you want to do a finished piece to hang you may want to get something a bit nicer and more professional because of their light fastness.

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Washi tape is so much fun! It is easy to reposition and you can get so many fun prints. I may have a slight addiction to washi lol. I like to go to Michaels craft store and check out their bin of individual rolls that are around 3 for $1. Here are a few of my favorite patterns on Amazon as well.

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There are so many other paints, pens, markers, etc. that this post would get WAY too long if I listed them all. Instead I’ll just put a few of my favorites in the product carousel below.

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In the future I’m planning to do more detailed posts on each medium that I use as well as some great art journaling prompts. What other products are you interested in learning about? What are your favorite products for art journaling? Come join the Muchness Mamas on Facebook and lets chat about it! I’ve also created a Pinterest board just for Art Journaling if you’d like to see more tips and inspiration.

Serenity Prayer Zentangle

What is Zentangle?

I have recently discovered and fallen in love with doodle drawings also commonly called Zentangle. This type of art has been around since the beginning of man, but has recently experienced a resurgence in popularity due to Rick Roberts and Maria Thomas giving it the name Zentangle and dictating rules to follow as you create it. Most artists, however, don’t really believe in following rules so we take what we can from the art form and then invent our own ways of creating. Most artists then call their works Zentangle Inspired Art (ZIA) or simply just doodle drawings. One thing I have chosen to incorporate into my art is including my favorite quotes, sayings, and scriptures. I then tangle around them making beautiful motivational art that I can decorate my home with.

Benefits of Tangling

1- Meditation

The original intent of creating Zentangle was for meditational purposes. The idea is that as you concentrate on making the repetitive strokes necessary to create the fill patterns you are able to relax your mind and let go of the jumbled thoughts of the day. It affects my mind in a way similar to deep breathing exercises and has actually been called “yoga for the brain”.

2- Develop Creative Abilities

Anyone can begin creating ZIA by following the myriad of step by step instructions available for different patterns. Check out my Zentangle Pintrest board where I have saved many different patterns for reference. As you become more familiar with your favorite patterns then you can start to add your own embellishments and variations to make each piece uniquely you.

3- Increase Hand Eye Coordination and Spatial Awareness

The careful creation of each stroke can do a lot to increase hand eye muscle coordination. You can make strokes large or small. You have to match angles and align different strokes to create correct patterns. All of this programs the brain to be aware of spatial relationships. It is excellent for kids to work on their writing skills which can then hopefully translate into better penmanship.

4- Therapy

For me personally Zentangling has been wonderful therapy. Creating with permanent pens represents life; I can’t erase so I have to find a way to turn my “mistakes” into a part of the finished product. I also like to include my favorite thoughts, quotes, and scriptures into my work. This gives me time to ponder on the message of those words and how I can then apply them in my life. For many people doodling can be a way to process through their emotions of fear, anger, hurt, embarrassment, and more. It can also be used in addiction therapy by giving a patient something to focus their mind on as they are working on avoiding their triggers and cravings.

5- Increased Attention Span

Entangling requires concentration and focus. The repetitive strokes and patterns train the user to calm their mind and focus one creating their art. Often the act of doodling can increase a person’s ability to listen to a class or lecture going on as it draws their mind away from other external distractions.

6- The Finished Product

Of course the finished art itself is the number one benefit of tangling. Through the act of creating and sharing art self-esteem is boosted. A person feels like they have contributed to their community in a meaningful way. They also can be reminded of the other benefits they experienced while creating each time they look at the piece.


There are many good resources out their for learning the art of Zentangle. The first of course would be the actual Zentangle website. Here you can learn the story behind the creation on the official rules as well as get reference for many patterns to try. They even have a list of certified zentangle instructors if you’d rather learn form a class instead of by researching on your own. There are several great books out there as well. One that has been highly recommended in many of the groups I am in on Facebook (there are several of them so just search Zentangle then join the ones that appeal to you) is One Zentangle a Day by Beckah Krahula. This is a 6 week course that will teach you new techniques and patterns each day. For kids we have and love the book “Zentangle for Kidz” by sandy Bartholomew. This fun book is written comic book style and introduces children to the art of Zentangle as well as including instructions for several patterns. Sandy also has several other books and sets of pattern step-out inspirations cards. Many anglers like to use the cards when they are stuck not knowing which pattern to draw next. Simply pull out a card and use whatever pattern it instructs you on!


The most basic supplies needed for Entangling are paper, permanent fine line black pen, pencil, eraser, and pattern references. I personally use Sakura pens and a set of Royal & Langnickel sketching pencils. I got the sets on both of these so that I would have a variety of options for line widths and shading capabilities. I also use Koh-i-Noor Woodless Colored Pencils and am planning to purchase the Prismacolor colored pencils for more shade variety in the near future. Many artists also love to use Copic Markers and watercolors to color their artwork. Many artists will make copies of their black and white line work before adding color so they can experiment with different options. I love to pull my tangled pieces into Corel Painter to play with with different colorization methods. I love that I can do many different methods on one piece of art by utilizing the technology available to me.

Serenity Prayer|Zentangle Inspired art|ZIA|Zentangle|Doodle

Here is an example of my most recent ZIA. I created the word art in Photoshop and printed it on regular white paper. I then created my line drawing with the Sakura pens. I scanned it into the computer and made a copy for coloring with colored pencils. I then pulled it into Corel Painter and did one copy with just shading and a second copy with various watercolor brushes. I had a ton of fun and now I can’t decide which one I like best! If you happen to like it prints of this and my other works are available on my Fine Art America page and Cafepress.

Do you like to create doodle or Zentangle art? I would love to see your work! Feel free to share your link in the comments so I can check you out.