Daily Painting Journal: How I Do It

Several people have asked me if I plan to offer a class on how I keep a daily painting journal. Whenever I’ve been asked, I’ve thought, I just paint something every day in a book. But there is more to it than that, so rather than a class, I thought I would share using my blog as the means to convey the details of what I do and the benefits of why I do it.

I’ll start with why I decided to keep a daily painting journal. The simple answer is I wanted to have a prompt or motivation to get me into my studio. I figured if I set an intention to do a small daily painting, I might just linger and do something else and build upon the time I spend in my studio. Many times that has happened, but other times, I do my painting and that is it for the day; but it is something.

Another reason I decided to start a practice of creating a small painting in a journal is that it allows me to experiment and play with ideas. By creating in a small journal, the painting isn’t precious, it isn’t for anyone but me, and it allows me a certain amount of freedom that painting on a large canvas or painting for a show doesn’t allow me.

What I learned along the way:


  • It’s fun. Sometimes I don’t want to stop and I allow myself to put leftover paint from my current page onto the next day’s page so I have something to respond to the next day.


  • It isn’t precious when it’s in a journal. It seems my inner critic is quieted by painting on the page of a journal. I approach it as just practice or at best playtime, so the censors are muted.


  • I was inspired along the way. I often use my daily journal pages as inspiration for bigger paintings, either in acrylic or in oil and cold wax. The pages allow me to play with colors and compositions so when it is time to show up in the studio and create bigger pieces with a deadline or for some other purpose, I have lots of ideas to choose from and use as a spring board, even if the finished piece looks nothing like my journal page.

My process:

  • It is important to have a dedicated space for doing my daily paintings. I have a table set up in my studio with acrylic paints, paintbrushes, palette knives, a brayer, water, paper towels, and mark-making implements such as pencils, acrylic paint pens, and oil pastels.

  • I use a 9×9 inch Super Deluxe Mixed Media journal by Bee Paper Aquabee (manufactured in Beaverton, Oregon). The journal has 60 sheets and the pages are 93 lb. weight; the journals retail for $21.25 (and at the time of this blog post, they are on sale at Dick Blick for $10.04).

  • I cover each journal with handmade paper, using sandpaper to rough up the cover’s surface, then adhering the paper with matte medium.

  • When I started this project at the beginning of the year, I painted an entry on each side of the page, but after a few days I wondered if I might want to do something with the individual paintings, i.e., pull them out and hang them for a show, or pull them out and mount them to a panel. If I had paintings on each side, I wouldn’t be able to do either of those things, so I quickly abandoned double-sided painting and now use one page for each daily painting. I go through journals more quickly, but I have options if I choose to do something with all or some of the paintings in the future.


  • I use acrylic paint on the pages. A few times I’ve incorporated collage, but so far the focus has primarily been on creating abstract paintings. For making marks, I use No. 2 and Stabilo pencils, Woody chunky crayons, acrylic pens, and oil pastels.


  • In my first four journals, my paintings are in the middle of the page, going out toward the edges, but not to the edges. When I started my fifth journal on August 11 (Day #223), I was ready to mix it up and started painting all the way to the edge on all four sides.

  • I let the paintings dry thoroughly, but for the first few days after I have painted a page, I insert a piece of wax paper to prevent the pages from sticking together.

  • I number and date each page, and then photograph each painting, which I store on my computer by the “day” number.


  • I regularly post photos of my daily paintings on Instagram and on my Facebook art page; I share selected photos on Pinterest, and on occasion, I do a blog post highlighting some of my favorite pages. Here are links to previous posts:

January 25, 2019

March 27, 2019

May 28, 2019

August 2, 2019

I recommend giving a daily painting journal a try, using my methods or coming up with something that works for you. The benefits are more than worth the effort and I love watching my journals stack up.

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