Keeping a Studio Journal

How to Keep a Studio Journal

Last week I shared my very first video Studio Journal – and got a big old outpouring of love, well-wishes, and the request to do more.

Kathy posted a great question in the comments, asking what I write about in my studio journals.

Today’s video shows you what one of my studio journals looks like, and what in the heck goes inside.

Studio Journal, January 16, 2017

Why Keep a Studio Journal

A studio journal helps you document your creative process. Without documentation, it can seem like you’re lost in the woods when it comes to your creativity and your reasons for making art.

A studio journal can document any type of project and be used for any medium – it’s not just for visual artists.

Documenting your studio practice is practical. It helps you keep track of your supplies, methods, tools and process.

Think: step-by-step instructions, recipes, paint mixtures, outlines, timelines, project goals.

Take notes on how you made something, so you can make it again or re-create an effect.

Documenting your studio practice can also be therapeutic and spiritual, if you take notes on how you are feeling as you work. This is especially helpful for noting difficult feelings and how you work with them in your art.

How do you deal with resistance? Not wanting to work? What kind of patterns do you notice? When you take notes in your studio journal you are building a framework for how you are working at a particular time and place.

Having this framework helps you recognize the ways you do your best work, and what gets in the way of working.

Seeing this in black and white, in the pages of your notebook, can help you quickly get back on track, return to your center and continue working — whatever it is that you are facing.

These are just some of the benefits of keeping a studio journal. It’s a big subject!

How to Make a Studio Journal

The best thing is to keep it simple and use any old notebook you can find.

The minute you use a fancy or expensive journal to do your studio journaling, you might think things like:

OMG, this paper is too nice for just writing. I better paint the pages first.


My handwriting sucks. I hate the way I write. It’s too messy for this book.

You know what happens, then?

Not much.

Suddenly we’re off to find the perfect way to document our work, and then nothing gets written at all.

If I sound like I know what I’m talking about… yeah. I’ve so been there. Hashtag #perfectionism.

Start Your Studio Journal

  1. Grab any old notebook.
  2. Use it to take notes on your creative process.
  3. Date each entry so you can track it. Like you would in a journal or diary.
  4. Decorate the cover if you want. (Later. After you’ve already started taking studio notes.)
  5. Keep your notes private. Privacy will support you to say anything in your mind and heart. Honesty and truth-telling supports artists to do their best work. Having a private space to work is essential.

What to Write About in Your Studio Journal

Here are some of the things I write about and take notes on in my studio journal:

  • Notes about the project or body of work I’m creating – this includes what inspired the project, and where I envision the work going
  • Supply lists
  • Techniques used – think of these like recipes
  • Sacred Downloads – the inner wisdom that comes in as I’m working – I have to write it down or I’ll forget it later
  • Ideas
  • Random stuff – to-do list items, people to call… I just write it down because the studio journal is handy and then I’m not getting anxious over trying to remember to put something on the to-do list later
  • Research Notes – things I want to look up
  • Books related to the work
  • Artwork and artists that inspire me in that moment

Everyone will approach their studio journal differently, and that’s great. I recommend you experiment to see what sorts of things you want to document.

Your Turn

Do you keep a studio journal? What do you document and how do you use your journal?

Are you inspired to start keeping a studio journal? What questions do you have? What would you like to keep a studio journal for?

HUGE Gratitude

Thank you all so much for your feedback. I will keep the videos coming. It’s quite a fun new experiment. I’ve always loved documenting my process, and doing with video will open up whole new worlds.

Especially since you are out there watching. This really means a lot to me, so thank you again.

Feel free to ask questions, and let me know what you’d like to see in future videos.

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