Artist Spotlight

How art journaling was the missing puzzle piece that completes Sarah Maddox

Why do you love art journaling and how has it impacted your life?

Art journaling has completed me.  For me it is the missing piece of the jigsaw.

I have been creative all my life but have never before found the perfect creative outlet.

It is interesting for me that of the few distinct childhood memories I have there are three that stand out and they are all around drawing; I drew a decorated letter at school, a beautiful big bold Z that went up on the classroom wall. I drew a lovely big bold chicken that was admired by my friend’s artist father. I designed an island in the shape of a hippo for a school project, Hippo Island.

I just loved drawing and colouring in.  That’s what I did as a child. That was my thing.

Then at senior school art seemed to become all about realism, here’s a shell – draw it. I don’t recall actually being taught how to draw it.  And I couldn’t draw it, so I gave up on art. My teenage-self thought, ”I can’t do it, I’m not artistic, I’m not creative, I’m not doing it.” To me, at this juncture, art seemed to be just about drawing things to look real. Fine art I suppose. I thought that was all art was.

At University I did business studies. What was I thinking? The only thing I remember about that course was making a collage of magazine cutouts to decorate a business psychology essay I was writing.

After Uni, I had a non-creative decade of working in London then I traveled around the world, come back and settled in my now home town, beautiful, lovely, creative, Brighton.  I felt a sense of belonging in this broad-minded, artistic place where anything seemed possible.  I started to attend evening classes, ‘drawing for beginners,’ ‘life drawing.’ I was getting closer to what I needed but it was still too formal, I needed something looser.

So I changed tack to try to get my art fix.  If I couldn’t create art,  I could learn about it. So I did a degree in Art History. I now had words to use when talking about art, I could contextualize it, I felt braver around art.  Confidence boosted I trained as a graphic designer and things really started coming together for me then, they started making sense.  Here was something creative I could do and I was good at it. I was making art, and I loved it.

But graphic designing became work.  I designed images that someone else wanted me to make that I was paid for.  It was creative but not quite the creative missing piece I was looking for.

And then I found it. I found art journaling.

And…..breathe. What a relief.  Here was a thing that involved sticking, gluing, paint, mixed media, washi tape, ephemera, gesso, stationary, stamping, scribbling, painting, tearing, making things on paper just because.  And there were people out there just like me people who wanted to create for the process, just for the joy of it, because they needed to and all the time, for fun.  No structure, no rules, no right or wrong, just throw that paint down on a blank page because you want to, have to.

Get Messy was the icing on the cake for me; constant, interesting, thought provoking prompts, new challenges, a sharing of creative ideas and techniques and a supportive and wonderful community of like-minded people.

As Essie Ruth said in her Messy Conversation – I found my tribe.

My art journaling process

I am not sure how to answer this.  I have just looked through all my art journals to see if there is a pattern to my art journaling and I am not sure there is.  There has been an evolution though.  My journaling has changed quite a lot.  It is much freer now.

Anyway - my process - I think I usually start by going through my stash of paper for inspiration.  I might find a picture from a magazine or a personal photo.  Sometimes a picture that has meaning that fits in with a journal prompt, sometimes just a beautiful picture. Or I might just find some lovely paper that I want to glue on a page with some other random paper from my stash. Then I might add some paint or a stamp or some letters or some ephemera.  I think I might write something around the image that I have made.  I think this is what I do. I don’t really know.

✨ Free class for creatives ✨

In How to Start Art Journaling, we’ll walk you through the art of art journaling, including how to start doing (🙌) and make your very first art journal page (even if you’ve never even opened an art journal before).

What tips do you have for beginners?

The advice that I gave recently to someone on Facebook who was feeling stuck was this, ‘Just start. I know that’s completely unhelpful on the face of it. Get a piece of paper. Stick another torn piece of paper from a mag on it. Then a few more. Write something around the edge of the stuck on piece e.g. ‘I don’t know what to make. ‘Scrape some paint somewhere on the page. Stamp something. You’ve started!’

What do you do when you don’t know what to make?

See above. I also look at the prompts, look at Instagram but not for too long (do as I say not as I do…) or put some paint on a page, make some marks, create an abstract pattern, then add some ephemera or a quote.  See above again.

What are your must have art supplies?

Paper of all types, I love paper. My favourite paper is probably pages torn from books, I love how they look on the page. I LOVE gel pens especially the white one. Paint, especially watercolour. Black waterproof pens – I am using  Staedtler pigment liners at the moment. Glue – glue stick and mod podge. Magazines.  I also like my Selphy printer, bought on Lauren’s recommendation.

Journal of choice?

I have used all types – loose pages, spiral bound, altered books .  I think on the whole I would now choose a journal with no middle binding just a flat notebook like a moleskine. I do love an altered book though.


I don’t know many fancy techniques so I am hugely inspired by the Get Messy tutorials. I have recently tried ink blotting and packing tape image transfers. I am also inspired by the work of other Get Messians in general.  I also spend too much time on Creative Bug. There are lots of techniques I hear about that I want to try, gelli prints for example. I would also like to try various printing techniques and letter press. And so much other stuff…

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Sarah Maddox

Artist, greeting card designer and dog lover. Sarah paints things, mostly dogs.

Find your missing puzzle piece through art journaling

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