Guidelines for Art Journals


Whatever format you use to record the story of your past and to document your current work to move forward with your life, here are a few more guidelines about how to proceed:

  • The journal (hopefully a visual one) is the container for your story, your answers to the questions provided in the Reboot book, the place that captures your insights about what might be keeping you stuck, and ways you can move forward.
  • Address both the trauma and the triumphs. Don’t forget to include what inspires you, what gives you hope, signs of healing, dreams and plans for your future, etc. You want a written document of your pain and struggle, your recovery, and of your journey to create the kind of life you want.
  • To derive the most benefit, journaling should be a mainly relaxing, enjoyable experience.
  • Think of this journal as a “safe place”, even a sacred space, where you go to reflect, express, dream, re-evaluate, imagine, plan, and be authentically you. It may be that in this safe space memories you compartmentalized, minimized, or split off will re-emerge so you can deal with them now. While that is not the purpose of the journal – welcome what comes and make room for it in your journal.
  • Date every entry. You may come back to reread what you journaled and the dates will help provide context and meaning.
  • Add descriptive detail (words and images) to some of your journal entries. If you find it hard to express with words, then adding imagery or illustrations may be just your thing.
  • Do not judge your writing or your artwork – this kind of verbal expression and illustration is not supposed to be neat, pretty, orderly, follow any rules – or be judged. Spelling and grammar are not important. What you want on the page are your feelings, explorations, and insights in whatever form they take.
  • Be judicious about who you allow to see your journal. Even a slight furrowed brow from a friend could discourage you. You cannot expect others to understand your images or the value of this kind of work. This is your book to take back your life and re-imagine a future where you are free to follow your instincts, your dreams. To ensure privacy, find a safe place to keep your journal. 
  • Do a few Google or YouTube searches looking for examples of different styles and methods of visual journals to see what appeals to you. Seeing images or videos of what others are doing can awaken your interest and reveal that it is an exciting, easy, relaxing, and satisfying process.
  • Find a pen that feels good in your hand and glides easily across the page. If you want to add doodles or images to your pages, decide whether you will use colored pencils, pastels markers, or even watercolors – and, if you don’t have the tools you need now, you can often have them the next day by ordering online.
  • I like to fold over parts of a page, gluing down only the outer edges so that I end up with a pocket in which I can place notes made on other papers, letters, or bits of nostalgia. It makes the journal more interactive and dynamic.
  • If you decide to illustrate with paint, you don’t have to have special paints and/or paintbrushes. You can use a rag, sponge, paper towel or fingers to lay down paint – or borrow your children’s paints or brushes.
  • Google about mixed-media resources such as art stamps, stencils, washi tape, decorative papers, stickers, etc. There are hundreds of YouTube videos demonstrating how to use scrap paper and mixed-media resources in a journal.
  • Check out adhesive alphabet letters and pre-written words you can use for headings.
  • The purpose of a reboot journal is to break free of the old story of control, deception and exploitation, and re-imagine and re-vision your life in a format you will treasure for the rest of your life.


A great article about combining art and writing into a visual journal:

Here is a website with extensive information on art journaling: