How to Pick an Art Journal

How to Pick an Art Journal

This is a very serious topic. I (and many people I know) can spend hours contemplating the pros and cons of a shelf full of journals that, to the untrained eye, look pretty much the same. Oh, but they are not. We (you and I, and people like us) know that this decision is not about just “picking a notebook” this is more like interviewing a companion who is to accompany us on a journey. No one wants to be saddled with someone who is going to give out on the 3rd day, or complain the whole time. We want to travel with someone who is just as excited about the possibilities as we are. We want to share the joy of new discoveries with this companion, and lean into the next adventure. So here are some things to look for when conducting your interviews:

The size and shape: It is okay to judge this book by its cover. Square, tall rectangle or wide rectangle…that is the question. And this is completely up to your personal preference. If you have never posed this question before, that’s okay. Ask it now, which shape book do you like? Which feels best to you when you are holding it, and then open it up and look at the full spread. One will look and feel more comfortable to you, trust me. A last consideration I do need to mention; corner shapes. THIS is a dealbreaker for me. I don’t know why, but if the journal does not have rounded edges, it does not even make it to the final round of interview questions. That is just me and my weirdness, though, there is nothing wrong with square corners, and millions of people are perfectly happy with them. Just not me.

Page number: There is no perfect number of pages. And we don’t have to do “one a day”, unless you want to, so you don’t need a book with 365 pages. We’ll be working in layers, not page by page, so you may be perfectly fine with 24 pages or 48 pages…and guess what? If you do run out of pages, you can pick another journal.

Page texture and thickness: Here I do need to make a recommendation. We’ll be putting paint and gesso (primer) on pages, so there will be water involved. This means you need a companion who’s pages can stand up to a little soaking. Well, not exactly a soaking, but definitely some dampness. So look for thicker paper, and if the packaging says “mixed media” that is best. Or if it says “good for light washes” that works, too. HOWEVER, if you find a journal that makes your heart happy but the pages are thin (more like a notebook or writing journal), then we can work around it by gluing pages together and using gesso to prime each page. Besides picking a store bought journal, you can use a handmade one or alter a book. Both are wonderful options, and (spoiler alert) I have some classes scheduled for these in 2021.

Where to find them: My first recommendation is my neighbor, The Art Cart. Not only is she the ONLY locally owned art supply store in Huntsville, she has ordered lots of art journals just for us, so she has a fantastic selection, AND you get a 10% discount just because you’re art journaling with Studio 127. If you are not in Huntsville, please visit your local art supply store (support local businesses who are supporting local artists). But if that is not an option, Barnes and Noble has some in the art book section, not the regular journal section. (I know this because I am there almost every week looking for inspiration). Or Michaels, of course, and probably Hobby Lobby, though I have not ever shopped there for art journals for some reason. And if you need to order online click here.

Remember this is hopefully not the only journey you will ever take; there’s a very good chance this is just the first of many, so you’ll have the opportunity to choose another companion later. I have MANY journals and they are all different shapes, sizes, styles…each one was perfect at the time. My daughter likes to say, “You don’t pick the journal, the journal picks you.” and I think she is right.