Creating a journal of the tides of your year

Hi Get Messy friends.  It’s Elizabeth here with my final tutorial of the year.  And what a year it has been.  I have been so grateful to connect with you, and have been so grateful for your warmth, talent, inspiration, courage and generosity of spirit.  Being on the Get Messy Creative Team, and being a member of this community have certainly been high tide times for me.

What’s a high tide time?  I’m glad you asked.  And I think maybe I just made that up (maybe not), but as someone who feels especially connected to the ocean (and is lucky enough to live close to the shore), I often find myself mapping my experience by the tides.  Sometimes we are riding high on the waves, and other times… the tide goes out and we feel a little alone, a little stranded, a little low.  And then there are the mid-tide moments, that are perfectly in between, and give our lives meaning as sort of a leveling out.

art journaling the tides of your year

I am thrilled we are closing out 2017 with the Season of Nature, because the natural world (and the ocean, in particular) has been such a source of peace, comfort and order in during what has been an especially challenging year.  Between the political climate in the US, my mother’s illness and the general (yet wonderful) chaos of raising two spirited young children, I have found myself feeling more adrift than years past.  And yet, when I go down to the shore for my nearly daily chats with the sea (often with one or both children at my side), I am reminded that while the tide goes out… it always comes back in.  And it brings treasures (sea glass, shells, and perfectly smooth rocks) with it.

In an effort to process, organize, and send off 2017 (and prepare for this new year), I decided to art journal the tides of the past year.  This exercise can be fast and loose, or more consuming.  It might be something you take on today, or set aside for a time that feels right.  You can also use this exercise at the end of the day or month (organizing the day or day’s events, rather than a full year’s worth), or in relation to a specific relationship or place you’ve lived, etc.  I’m sure you know how I roll at this point… there’s always room for exploration, experimentation and making this your own.

Art Journaling the Tides of Your Year

art journaling the tides of your year

Recommended supplies

  • 1 sheet of paper: Size and weight are up to you — Because we will be cutting this down, you may want to experiment a bit with inexpensive copy paper.  I knew I wanted my finished booklet to be small enough to be tucked into my Season of Nature art journal.
  • Simple binding materials:  Use what you have/prefer — my tides booklet was small enough that a bit of glue did the trick, but you may want to use a pamphlet stitch (see Vanessa’s class for great options), a stapler, some tape… who knows.
  • Media: Paint (watercolors seem like a natural choice for this one!), water soluble markers, ink… again, use what you love/have on hand.
  • Inspiration/Reference: You might want to flip through your day planner, Instagram feed, iPhone photos — anything that helps you see the full range of your year.


art journaling the tides of your year

Preparing your booklet: Fold your sheet in half to create a booklet.  Cut or tear your paper in half.  One of these halves will be your high tide.  Take the second half and cut or tear it approximately 1/3 down, giving you your mid tide and your low tide.  You need not label them (unless you want to, obvi) — the photo above is simply to illustrate the process (a picture speaks a thousand words… more clearly than I can type them, perhaps).

art journaling the tides of your year

Make some waves: Using your preferred paints, inks, crayons or makers, create an ocean backdrop for your journaling.  Please note: You could also do this step before tearing down your paper, but I liked being able to treat each piece (and tide) separately.  I started with water soluble markers (watered down with a large brush) and then layered on full body acrylic paint for texture and depth.  We had a big storm that coincided with a new moon last weekend, so the tide was especially high (we call it a flood tide… but I can’t be certain that’s totally accurate #notascientist).  I wanted to capture some of that surging, whitecaps and all.  You’ll likely want to paint both sides of your mid tide and low tide pieces (the back side of your high tide will effectively be your cover — feel free to paint this as well).

art journaling the tides of your year

Record your year: In whatever way feels right to you, spend some time recording your year.  Your joys, triumphs, accomplishments, and peak moments will occupy your high tides.  The sort of everyday memories, feelings, and occurrences will occupy your mid tides.  And your low times will (appropriately) occupy your low tides.  This may be a fast and loose exercise for you.  The words might flow quickly and easily.  And they may not.  You may want to come back to these pages over the course of some time.  Honor what works for you.  I wrote in black pen at first — the things that came quickly and were on my mind.  I came back later in the day with a white gel pen to add more details that came to me.  Feel free to use the flaps to shield more personal moments, if that helps.  Feel free to share openly, if that helps.  You do you, my lovely boos.

I loved seeing just how much I have to celebrate and be grateful for, alongside the challenges I have faced and endured this year — and the seemingly mundane moments, too.  This was a great reminder that the tide is always turning (one way or the other), and that finding ways to stay grounded and true to myself helps keep an even keel (a little sailing metaphor, if you will).  I hope this exercise has brought some order and peace to the end of your year.

And I hope your 2018 is flooded with one high tide after another.


  • Take some time to list out the high/mid/low tide moments of your year.
  • Create a booklet (or a single page in your art journal) mapping these moments.
  • If you make a booklet, create space in your Season of Nature art journal to incorporate this booklet (perhaps an adorable pocket?).

Sending lots of love + appreciation to each and every one of you Messy friends.  xx E.


Elizabeth lives in Boston with her husband, two young children and not-so-young French bulldog.  She is passionate about encouraging others in their creative pursuits and building peaceful communities. She almost always laughs at her own jokes.


  1. Clare Davis Etheridge

    I love the different page sizes and the effect it creates! Can’t wait to play!

    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you so much, Clare <3

  2. angela zacharek


    • Elizabeth D.

      Thank you, Angela! <3

    • Elizabeth D.

      Ahhh, and such a beautiful heart it is! xx E.

  3. Marsha Smusz

    This just went on my ‘do this’ list. be home and reunited with all my fun ‘toys’ tomorrow. To wave goodbye to 2017.

    • Elizabeth D.

      Oh wonderful — I hope you enjoyed. xx E.

  4. Sasha Zinevych

    Such a beautiful art concept to explore!

  5. Maura Flood

    Love this! I’m across the country, near the Pacific coast. I think I will keep track of my mood and circumstances for the next two weeks, or for the month of May, then see what the corresponding tide tables looked like. It’s great that you make the high tide pages largest, because then we will focus on the positive!