Besides keeping a sketchbook, which often functions as a nature journal, since nature is what I am most interested in, I also have begun keeping art journals and making altered books. The video above takes you through my most recent nature themed, altered book, art journal.
Click on "altered book projects" at the top of the page to see more altered books I've made.
Different Kinds of Journals
So, what's the difference between a sketchbook, an art journal and an artist's journal? Many of these terms have overlapping elements but there are some differences, and people tend to use them in different ways but here's how I define them.
A sketchbook is for loose, quick sketches usually done directly from life. The sketches may be in pencil, pen, or also include watercolor, gouache, markers etc. The important part for me is that these sketches are done fairly rapidly and focus on capturing gestural, expressive and emotional content.
However, you might also have a sketchbook dedicated to longer studies, for the purpose of improving skills and the works in them may actually be considered drawings because of the number of hours spent on them and the level of finish accomplished in them.
The Art Journal
An art journal is different. The entire thing itself, including the journal as a structure, is a work of art, and each page withing the journal is a work of art in its own right, Art journals typically are created in mixed media with all mediums, dry, wet, collage, print making available for use. I tend to put art journals under the umbrella of book arts.
The art journal may also have the unique function of being a tool for personal, emotional, and spiritual growth and development. It can be the vehicle for dealing with problems, issues, emotions, questions and serve as the place that we can tap into our inner wisdom and intuitive knowing through art making.
I also fit altered books in the category of book arts. An altered book being an actual published book that is taken as the basic structure for an art journal, where the book itself is altered and becomes the foundation of the art journal,
The Artist's Journal
That brings us to the artist's journal, which you might also hear called an illustrated journal or a visual journal. For me that's the broadest category and my "sketchbook" often becomes an artist's journal in the winter months when I have to work in the studio more because of the weather. In addition to sketches from life I may also do some collage, or carve stamps and play around with them in my sketchbook, I might also venture out into other media, or combine media just for fun and play to pass the time in winter. The artist's journal might also take on the role of a place to capture ideas, do thumbnail sketches to work out a larger art project, do materials tests or just jot down "to do " lists or notes etc.
It's highly likely that unless you are constructing a specific project your sketchbook/journals at times will contain elements of all these types of journals. For example the first altered book I ever made I specifically created to be a sketchbook. I altered the front and back covers inside and out with collage elements and prepared the inside pages with primer and then filled the book with sketches from life just as I would have in any other purchased sketchbook.
In any art form things can be rather fluid and that is definitely the case with art journaling of any type. The most important thing is to simply be making art as often as possible and not really worry about whether you're doing it "right" or in the "right" type of journal or book. The joy, the benefit, and the magic is in the doing.