Parallel Art Journaling {Or, how to start art journaling with your loved one}

So what is Parallel Art Journaling?
Well, it is a term I have coined to describe the process of art journaling that I do with my significant other. Basically it is two or more people working side-by-side (thus parallel) in separate journals, with similar if not identical prompts.

A journal page in progress.
Personally, we started the project over two years ago when we were finally living in the same city, and the same house no less. My idea was to document our first year living together. What ended up happening was a deeper understanding of not only ourselves, but each other and our relationship. On top of that, it became a sacred, if not spiritual, time we spend together each week—just us and the art (well and our two shelties!)

How to start...

Find a willing partner. 
For me it was simple as asking him to embark on this project with me—and he was willing. I was prepared to convince him that it was a project worth doing, and had a speech all worked up in my head. I had been knee deep in art journaling already, so I knew the value. However, he was a "non-artist" (but a musician) so I was not so sure he would be down for it—but when I asked him, he needed no convincing! Honestly, I was a little disappointed I didn't have to use my speech!

Make some decisions...
One of the first decisions that needs to be made is the journal. What size? Bound or loose pages? Bought or hand-bound? (see this post on choosing a journal)

Here are some things to consider:
  • use an old children's book as an altered book
  • use a deck of cards as your pages
  • bind your own book
(One piece of knowledge that I have found helpful is that altering pages does not create "the blank page effect," in other words it helps prevent the "where do I start" syndrome.)

For our first year, we altered round playing cards. The size made them easy and fast, but also non-threatening for a non-artist.

A few of our framed playing cards. (Mine are on top, his are on bottom)
For the second year we decided to alter children's books, which gave us a larger format to play with. For this year, we are altering large binders used in stores to display invitations. At some point, we plan on binding our own journals to use.

Next you will need to decide on a mutual theme, as the idea of parallel means that you are not only working side-by-side, but also on the same directive or prompt.

Some ideas:
For our first year, we journaled about our week, as one of the goals was to document our first year together. For our second year, we chose to do a list of pre-created prompts, hoping to gain a deeper understanding of each other. This year we are writing our own prompts and adding them to a journal jar that we then draw from each week. 

Decide on a frequency, and make it a special time to spend together. Maybe it is once a week (which works well with a deck of card journal, one card for each of the 52 weeks). Or maybe it is less often, and is once a month. Or maybe you do it once a week for one/two months, instead of a year. No matter what you decide, set aside the time for you and your loved one to create art together.

We have a weekly Art Night that is set aside, right now it is Sunday night as it fits well with both of our schedules. It is our date night, where we both clear all our schedules for this night, and we eat dinner and make art together. Now sure, sometimes one of us is out of town or the holidays get in the way, and then we just move our Art Night to Tuesday or Thursday or... you get the picture. But no matter what is happening we make that time for each other, our relationship, and art.

There are tons of variations that could be made here. You could make art as a family and have the kids get involved. You could create with your best friend. You could create an art journaling group (similar to a knitting circle or book club). The possibilities are endless.

Make Art
With the decisions being made, all that is left to do is to make some art! I would love to hear about how others journal with their loved ones as well!

What we have found in our process...
There are so many things that have come out of this for us, some already mentioned above. It makes a sacred space for us in our relationship. We continue to learn about and grow together; doing a parallel process, as you discover aspects about yourself you are able to share them directly with your loved one. We talk about topics we may not normally talk about... Let's face it when you become comfortable in a relationship you sometimes stop asking questions like "what are you proud of" and the conversations become "how was your day?" Granted those are conversations we need to have, but this allows for a deeper understanding and a growth together. And there is something really nice about creating art together. It is a relaxing process individually, but in a parallel process, it is relaxing for the self and relationship. You can feel the energy between the two people at times, and you can feel energy shifts as well. (Read his take on art journaling and our process here.) All in all, it is a process that is integral to our relationship at this point, and one we plan to continue to use in the future. I am sure there are things that I am forgetting, but that is the nuts and bolts!

See a collection of our pages here:
First Year
Second Year
Third Year


  1. I love your "how to" and ever since finding your blog I have considered getting my husband to do something similar. I really didn't think he would go for it, so I never followed through, but this makes me think that I might as well TRY to get him on board....

  2. It never hurts to ask. You may be surprised!


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