3 Art Journaling Archetypes

So last week, when I showed you the small art journal spread in the BOUND lay-flat album, it got my mind spinning a bit more on the subject of art journals in general. I’d brainstormed a bit about creating an art journaling kit but, wow, did that get pretty massive pretty quickly!

See, there’s just so much that can be used in art journaling–it’s pretty much anything goes out there–and a lot of different ways to approach an art journal. The more I thought about it, I realized most art journals fall into one of three categories.

And it’s totally possible to straddle two types or find yourself somewhere in the middle doing all three–that’s where I am, after all, and all the examples in this post are from my own journals going back 10 years. Here, take a look at this to get a better idea of what I mean…

3 Art Journal Archetypes

The Artist

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

Embossing Foam Tape Experiment, ~2012

This is probably what most people think of when they hear the words art journal, and The Artist isn’t going to disabuse anyone of that notion. Artists journal their way through sketchbooks and hand-bound books of various make-ups. Words are not quite as important in an Artist’s art journal, often their journal chronicles a journey of artistic growth and new techniques and products.

In the journal page, above, I had tried my hand at embossing foam tape. The embossing went well, the removing it from the temporary backing not so much… I ended up with bits and pieces instead of pretty strips. Still, they reminded me of building profiles, so I went with it. This is the sort of thing you’ll find in a technique-focused journal of an Artist.

Artists edge over into Alterers when they incorporate mainstream scrapbooking and card making products into their spreads. Jennifer Engle (MixedMediaJenn on YouTube) shows this particularly well in her “Strength” page. When the techniques become background for lengthy journal entries they fall more into the Illuminator arena.

Artists are drawn to kits like Print Your heART Out for the tools and techniques.

The Journalist

Draining, 2006

Draining, 2006

Focusing on the journal-half of the title, The Journalist puts the words first, recording thoughts and feelings on a sparsely embellished page. Moleskines and blank books are the foundation for a Journalist’s art journal, but the writing instrument can range anywhere from a fountain pen to a Sharpie. Images, when included, will be small sketches or maybe a word drawn in ornate letterforms.

“Draining,” above, is one of my earliest official art journal pages. It was part of an online workshop I took and the prompt for that week was, I believe, the word drain. For an artist I tend to be pretty literal (at least at first glance) and ran with the imagery of thoughts dripping down a drain. And when I pulled out this book to take the picture I was delighted to see there were a lot of blank pages yet to be filled!

No Regrets, ~2013

No Regrets, ~2013

When the journaling shares equal space and time with painted techniques and drawings, but is still the focus of the page or spread, that’s when the Journalist becomes an Illuminator (so called for the Medieval illuminated manuscripts which could be quite ornate). A modern-day example of the Illuminator might be Kara, aka BohoBerry. I don’t think she considers herself an art journaler, but if you watch her Bullet Journal Flip Through I think the case could easily be made!

If the Journalist tends towards stamped images or added paper elements, they fall into the crossover category of the Diarist. You know who might be considered a Diarist? The planner community that has emerged over the last few years that incorporate stickers, stamps, and decorative lettering into their planners.  

The coptic-stitched book in our BOUND & Determined kit is the stuff of Journalists’ dreams with its leather cover and toothy paper.

The Crafter


But First; 2015

Finally, The Crafter is the category of art journal I was most surprised to find crop up over the last few years. As art journaling has become more mainstream (not a bad thing, it means more people have access to it and are exploring it), the scrapbookers and card makers of the world have put their own spin on it. Like the Artists, the Crafters focus more on skills but these tend to use more stamps and patterned papers than paints and media.

One artist of this sort that I stumbled upon was Vicki Popaiannou of Clips-n-Cuts.com. Her “Take life one cup at a time” spread is a good example of the Crafter aesthetic, and inspired my “But First” layout, above, as I tried out her background technique. Now, I’d say my layout veers over into Alterer territory rather than being strict Crafter, but it definitely has Crafter elements to it. If I’d included some journaling about favorite wines or a recent wine tasting, it might be more of a Diarist-style spread.

Another example of the Crafter style is Nichol Magouirk and her Paper Doll Art Journal project.

Crafters are naturally drawn to the patterned papers, stencils, and stamp pads in our Winter Whimsy and Classic Christmas CPR Kits.

Meeting in the Middle

Of course, in the middle is where I most often find myself: The Eclectic. As you can see from the images above, I’ve spent time in all the various realms of art journaling over the last decade and range all over the styles and hallmarks of each archetype. It hasn’t been a constant pursuit–some art journalists are very committed to the form, working on a weekly or monthly page as part of their regular art practice–but it’s nice to know a blank page is waiting for me whenever I need to work something out.

I tend to use words even in my non-journal art, so my personal feeling is that an art journal isn’t complete without at least a single word somewhere on the page. A strict Arist-journaler might disagree, a Journalist would consider that not nearly enough, and a Crafter would want a nice stamped sentiment. That’s totally fine. There’s room for everyone.

What do you think of the archetypes I’ve identified? Do you see yourself anywhere on this spectrum? If so, where, and if not, what have I left out?

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