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Creative Expression

Collage Journaling

Combine the art of collage with visual journaling.

By Kristi Tencarre | Posted October 6, 2006 | Updated September 8, 2019

I have journaled for years, but just this past year, I watched my journaling become more image focused and realized I was enjoying collaging images into my journal just as much as writing.

I do my collage journaling for myself. I do wonder what people might think if they saw my work. However, if I were to do art for them, it would not be authentic; it would not reflect me and ultimately, I would lose the joy of the process. Be yourself. Allow your writing, your art, to reflect you.

I am attracted to colour. My collage journaling began as a need to see colour. I was living in a very brown desert with little to no plant life and therefore little to no colour. The only colour was in my journal. I began by using coloured pens and markers. My collage journaling began in the new year, when I had a beloved Monet calendar that I could not throw away. I had put my favorite pictures on the wall, but I still had pictures leftover. I decided to cut them up and fit them into my journal so that I could write around the colourful images.

That opened up a door to me in visual journaling. I loved writing around the images and found that they worked as writing prompts as well. I began looking through my magazine stash and finding pictures that spoke to me. I cut them out and put them in a box for safekeeping in order to use later. Sometimes an image would speak so strongly to me that I had to use it right away (I love that play on words: the need to write right away!).

I had been journaling in notebooks. They had fanciful, colourful covers, but the insides were white lined pages. My collage visual journaling got so fun that I ended up buying a blank art book. The sturdy pages allowed me to use paint as a background and glitter glue for more colour decoration, as well as to glue in tissue paper and other found objects.

I found myself doing different things with different images. It all depended on my mood, the amount of time I had to play, the intensity of how the image spoke to me, etc. Laying my journal flat, I'll often spread an image over both pages. Sometimes I'll cut an image in half and glue it to opposite sides of the page so that the writing is framed by the image. Other times I'll jigsaw it over the 2 pages and write around it. I've even loved an image so much it took up the whole page and I wrote on tracing paper. I only glue the tracing paper at the top or the side so that it can be lifted up to get the full feel of the picture's colour.

Images are not the only things that have found their way into my journals. I'll colorfully write out or glue in quotes that I feel are worth remembering. Portions of emails get collaged in and details written around the excerpt.

Sometimes I make my collage journaling an event. I light candles and put on music to suit my mood. I love to journal on my bed, the couch, or the floor. The key is picking a spot that makes you feel comfortable. It does not have to be a desk or a table. Make it fun.

One way to spice up your writing is to change location. If you always journal in one spot, try a different area just to see how that changes your writing. You can even try public areas like a coffee shop or a park with your back against a tall evergreen.

The art you do will depend on your mood and the materials available. But don't let anything stop you, especially not the internal critic/editor. Continue through the comments you hear. Shut out the editor so that you can play with your art. You will make some interesting discoveries when you are working just for yourself and doing art for your own pleasure.

Georgia O'Keeffe painted for her own pleasure. She says: "I decided that the only thing I could do that was nobody else's business was to paint. I could do as I chose because no one would care." Little did she know that down the road, people would care. She had no self-consciousness because she was doing the art for herself. May we all be that uninhibited.

Most importantly, have fun with it! You'll be inspired to stick with something you enjoy.

Journaling Tips

Here are a few tips about journaling:

  • Follow your first instinct, your "gut" instinct.

  • Use your first thoughts. That is your authentic self. Do not limit yourself to what the internal editor/critic wants you to hear/say/think/do.

  • Allow the words to flow out of you, uncensored. You can censor and edit later.

  • Pick the image that speaks to you, that grabs your attention and go with the flow.

  • Write for yourself.

  • Do not write what you think you should write.

  • Do not write for an audience.

  • Pick a journal that you are not intimidated by.

  • Pick a journal that will work for what you want to do. For example, I like to write in spiral coiled books because you can fold them in half or easily rip out pages that you decide not to keep. They also are more expandable for gluing stuff into.

Journals do not have to be expensive. Plain lined ones can be bought for a few dollars at drugstores or the Walmart-type stores of the world. I find that books marked: "Journal" or sold at book stores tend to be of higher quality but are more expensive, smaller, and less easy to collage into. It can also be intimidating to have a beautifully bound journal. Some of my thoughts aren't beautiful.

Art stores, dollar stores and scrapbooking stores are great resources for the extras. Magazines that have been read are also a source of visual inspiration. You can even cut out words or letters and make a spread using no handwriting.

Collage journaling materials:

  • A lined or plain notebook (back-to-school sales are the perfect time to stock up)
  • A blank art book (weight of pages is dependent on what type of medium you will use; ask someone at the art store for help in figuring out what's right for your art)
  • Tracing paper
  • Magazines
  • Pens of a rainbow of colour — try different styles like calligraphy, thin or thick tip, gel, roller, etc.
  • Markers (I prefer Crayola)
  • Glitter glue
  • Stickers
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue stick (this is less messy than liquid glue and dries quickly)
  • Scissors
  • Paints (I prefer acrylic as you can make them thick like oil or thin like watercolour)
  • Paint brushes
  • A small jar to hold water for the paint
  • Plate or palette (to mix the paints)
  • A box to hold the cut out images until you can use them
  • Anything that is fun for you to use! Your only limitation is your imagination. And don't let that limit you!

Experiment. Enjoy the process. Allow yourself to get lost in the words, images, cutting and pasting. It can be a delightful and satisfying way to spend a few minutes or a few hours. And remember the wisdom of Henry David Thoreau: "It's not what you look at that matters, it's what you see."

©2006 Kristi Tencarre. All rights reserved.

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