11/14/2012 09:14 am ET | Updated Jan 14, 2013

7 Inspirational Journals (PHOTOS)

There was a time in my life when I really didn't "get" the whole visual journaling thing. Like most people, I've kept diaries and journals over the years, but I made the entries in those journals with words. Not with pictures or doodles. And certainly not with paints, packing tape, or tree rubbings.

With the encouragement of art friends, I tried my hand at art journaling by placing a mark on a blank page. Inspired by that first mark, I made another, and so on. I used not only pens and pencils but also markers, paints, and assorted collage materials. These visuals frequently inspired words that I would write--words that I composed in a more intuitive and artistic manner than I was accustomed to, often in tandem with the marks rather than on their own. As I grew more comfortable with adding doodles and images to my pages, I was surprised by how natural and freeing the experience was. Things definitely clicked, and I finally "got" it.

The magic of visual journaling is that there are no real rules. The journaler charts his or her own path with whatever materials are on hand. Imagination and intuition serve as guides, as the blank page comes alive with color and intrigue. The journaler digs deep, expressing not only the literal aspects of daily life but also the symbolic.

Journal It! [Lark Crafts, $21.95] presents the work of 19 artists who share their perspectives on the significance of visual journaling. Alisa Burke, for example, uses journaling as a daily "warm-up" practice to get herself into the mindset of creating art. For Alisa, journaling is the artistic equivalent of a runner's stretching routine. Contributor Bruce Kremer uses his journal as a repository for everyday occurrences. On its pages he jots down the amount of money he'll need to fix his car, tapes leaves found during a walk, and creates illustrations of places he's visited while traveling. By reporting on the ordinary in his journals day after day and year after year, Bruce compiles a revealing portrait of his life. His journals illustrate how seemingly mundane scraps of experience can be profound.

Journal It! is exceptional because it's not just about the why of journaling. It's also about the how. In addition to their perspectives on the process, the book's contributors share their signature journaling methods. Step-by-step photos and easy-to-understand instructions teach readers how to achieve personal and creative effects on the page.

The special insights and methods offered in Journal It! will inspire readers to say, "Yes, I can do this!" Most importantly, first-time journalers will learn that their points of view are unique, valuable, and worthy of expression."

7 Awesome Journals