Getting started with creative reflective journaling

The biggest barrier to getting started with Creative Reflective Journaling is the fear of the bank page.

You’ve just bought yourself a journal or sketchbook and it is full of the most beautiful pristine white pages. The thought of making a mark, getting it wrong and making a mess can stop you in your tracks. I have plenty of beautiful sketchbooks that I haven’t used just because of that! We all do.

New to art journaling?

Creating imagery and getting started can be difficult, especially if we have never done this before and / or our inner critic takes over and we find ourselves not creating but perhaps writing notes instead and putting image making off altogether. We may even start something then rip the page up as it doesn’t meet our expectations!

To help you get started I have shared below my five tips for removing the fear of the blank page and quietening your inner critic. Happy creating.

My five tips for getting started

Tip 1 – Do some warmup exercises and play

Before beginning your image making begin by warming up with some playful mark making. Find some spare pieces of paper and just start using your materials anyway you want to.

You could use a page in your journal choosing a particular material and seeing how many different marks you can make with it, or start with a colour and fill your page with all the different ways you can capture that colour using all the different materials you have noticing how different or similar they are.

Tip 2 – Mess things up 

One of the most common barriers to getting started is the fear of the blank or white page.

The empty white space or empty page can look too precious, be daunting and start to conjure thoughts of failure. So let’s mess things up a bit. One way of doing this is to take an HB pencil or softer and scribble over your blank page. Then take an eraser and rub out some of the marks and soften other marks, leaving an abstract pattern behind. What other ways could you mess up the blank page?

Tip 3 – Make backgrounds

Making a background on which to create is a lovely way to begin and makes a good starting point both for removing the fear of the blank page as well as a warming up exercise. You can also create a number of backgrounds in your journal and then when you are ready to create an image you can choose a background that resonates with you in that moment. Make sure you leave some white pages though as you may, once you have your confidence, find them much easier to express yourself on.

Some suggestions:

    • Create a textured background by covering a page or part of a page in crumpled tissue paper
    • Using newspaper as your background or brown paper
    • Pain watercolour on your pages as a background using more than one colour, allowing colours to mix on the page.

Tip 4 – Don’t start on the first page

We always feel we have to start a journal at the beginning. We don’t, and breaking that rule can be very freeing. Dive into a page anywhere in your journal and start there.

Tip 5 – Start on a piece of paper and then stick it in to your journal

Another great tip is to create your image on another piece of paper and then stick it into your journal when you are ready. If your piece is bigger than your journal page you could stick it across a double spread, or just fold it where it needs to be folded. No-one says you have to create your image in your journal… break those rules again.

Happy creating and reflecting.


A Year of Creative Reflection

If you would like to develop a creative reflective practice or deepen your existing practice, why not join me for a year of creative reflection starting in February next year. We look at getting started and overcoming the barriers we can put up to creating images. We explore and use the Creative Reflective Process and together we create a supportive creative reflective space for image making, self-expression and reflection.

Find out more about this year long programme here: A Year of Creative Reflection

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