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Visual journalling - when words are not enough...

Sometimes in our journalling practice we can feel drawn to go beyond words. This is where visual journalling - what some people might refer to as 'art journalling' - can be a helpful approach. Whereas words - 'language' - uses the right-side of the brain, images help us to access the more creative right-hand side which, in turn, can lead us to greater insight and understanding of our thoughts and feelings about a situation.

What is visual journalling?

In short, visual journalling involves using a mixture of words and images. As with any form of journalling, there is no right or wrong way to do this. It's all about making a mark on the page. No artistic talent or skills are required, nor expensive materials. This is definitely not about creating a piece of artwork - which is why I prefer the term 'visual journalling' to 'art journalling' - but more about using the creative process to express ourselves and explore whatever is on our mind.

What materials do I need for visual journalling?

You don't need anything special, and certainly not anything expensive. It's very possible that you already have everything you might want to use without needing to spend money on anything new. (And, if you do decide to buy some new supplies, these can normally be found inexpensively in supermarkets and other shops.)

The first thing you'll need is a notebook/journal or some sheets of paper (thick enough to withstand paint if that's what you decide to use in your visual journalling).

Another approach is to use the pages of an existing book (perhaps a textbook or a children's story book) which already has words and images which you can then create on top of.

Some ideas for materials:

  • photos (either your own or found elsewhere - e.g. in a magazine)

  • postcards

  • images taken from magazines, packaging or maps etc.

  • scraps of coloured paper or card

  • string, ribbons

  • washi tape

  • stickers

  • felt-tip pens

  • marker pens

  • coloured pencils

  • wax crayons

  • acrylic paints

  • watercolour paints

  • pastels

  • glue

You might also want paint brushes and a pallet for mixing colours, (a paper plate could work just as well). That said, finger-painting might be a fun way to create your visual journal entry!

Where do I start with my 'visual journalling'?

You might have a question or issue you'd like to explore through your visual journalling. If so, gently call this to mind. Then start by selecting the material(s) you feel drawn to. This might be a particular photo or image which you could glue onto your page. If you are using an existing book for your visual journalling, there will probably already be images (and words) on the page which you could incorporate into your journal entry.

You could then add more images, or scraps of coloured paper, or perhaps experiment with using paint to create shapes and lines. Perhaps add some stickers, if you're using them, or washi tape or scraps of ribbon. It's entirely up to you! Try not to overthink the process and simply do what you feel drawn to do.

If you've used 'wet' materials - e.g. paints and glue - it can be a good idea to let these dry before starting to work with felt-tips and crayons etc.. At this stage, you might choose to add some words, using a marker pen, for example, or you might opt to add to the shapes and images already on the page.

What do I do once I've created my visual journal entry?

Once you've finished, or perhaps at points during the process, you might like to sit back and gently consider the following:

  • what do you notice about the page you've created?

  • does anything (a particular image, a shape, certain colours) stand out to you?

  • what are you drawn to on the page?

  • how do you feel about it?

  • is there anything you now want to add to the page?

You might then return to the page and add to it. Another possibility could be to spend some time reflecting on - perhaps writing down either in this journal or in another notebook - the process and any insights gained from it.


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