Art Journals: Productivity, Accountability, Creativity.

I keep an art journal.

It’s not a journal where I make beautiful images that reflect my day, emotions and state of mind. That would be cool, but I don’t keep one of those. I am envious of people who do.

It’s not a fancy name for my sketch book, either.

Nor is it where I write love letters for my favourite artists. (Hello Oliver Jeffers and Gemma O’Neil!)

My art journal: the cover has the perfect reminder to get me motivated!

Instead, my art journal is a productivity accounting device. It’s a Creative Accountability tool. It’s where I list my goals, sometimes reflect, and how I keep myself motivated.

It’s not an exact science. Like everything else in my life, it grows and shifts and changes according to my needs and current state of being.

I try to spend some quality time with it on Sunday evenings, after I’ve picked out my clothes for the week (yep), ensured that the house is tidy, lunches are ready, had some quality time with my wife, and have written and scheduled some blogs.

I write down a big list of what I want to do. I update my ongoing list of what I want to do, in case I did accomplish some of those things. By looking over these lists, I can reflect and redirect myself. I can update my current “to do” so that it is reflective of where I am, where my interests are, and where I want to be. This is a messy process.

After I’ve looked at and created a bigger list, I set myself up for the next available morning chunk that I have. I talked about this in this post. Basically, I write down 2-3 attainable goals for the chunk of time that I have. Usually, it’s 20 minutes to 45 minutes, if I’m lucky.

The purpose is not to complete something ground breaking. It’s not to put final touches on anything. No, I save those bigger jobs for at night, when I have longer chunks of time available. However, even though I have those chunks of time, I probably won’t use them if I don’t get my day going with my morning investment, so I create attainable, achievable goals.

12227564_10101221742212331_3892526387601587470_nHere are some recent examples:

  • Halloween Sketch: revise the messy one I did last night
  • scribble some ideas for kids (study the books I picked out)


  • sketch of houses in a row
  • find & pin some bear references for spot illustrations


  • bear sketches


  • sketch a turkey
  • work on the girl’s head shape


  • rewrite the “truck” joke
  • work on the girl’s head, but mostly on her eyes

Do I ALWAYS get them done? No. I’m a human. Sometimes, I don’t want to do the work I set out the night before, but knowing that this list is there and that something has already been selected certainly helps me to get my butt out of bed. I am not a morning person, but I get 2-3 mornings a week where I am alone in the house for a good 30-60 minutes. I must make the most of this time, so I do.

How can art journalling help you? Here are some ideas I have about that:

  1. It will focus you on what you want to do. Sometimes, us creative types feel like we are SO CREATIVE … until we look at our body of work. It is lacking, it is thin, and it kind of sucks. This will kick you in the butt and get you creating productively.
  2. It will help you get to know yourself better. Maybe you’re saying “I will draw kids” three times a week, but every time you go to do it, you hate it and just want to draw turtles and snails. Hello! You should be drawing turtles and snails. You’ll also get to know yourself in terms of what you can handle at, say, 5:30am. Maybe sketching won’t work, but filling up a Pinterest board for references will help to get you moving for when you have time later in the day.
  3. You will create goals, and you will reflect on them, and you will improve them. Then, you’ll send me an email THANKING ME for this free advice.

If you try it out and it works, please let me know!

One thought on “Art Journals: Productivity, Accountability, Creativity.

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