Parallel Art Journaling

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 have a question, I've heard others talk about a cirle journaling group. Where you start an art journal then you mail it another person in the group and then they mail it to someone else in the group, mean while they've all started one's and are mailing them to the other in the group. Once it's been to the last person you get it back and decorate the front. I've search everywhere for info and find snips here and there but not enough to find one. Do you know anything?

  2. Amylynn,
    I think that what you are talking about is a Round Robin. I have participated in a couple myself, organized on different blogs. I believe that I saw one being organized on A Year in the Life of an Art Journal group on facebook. You might also do a google search for Round Robin and Art Journal. Good Luck.

  3. PS. I have also done a local one, where we meet once a month for an art night and rotate journals there....

  4. This is so neat! Thank you for taking the time to describe this in detail. I am truly inspired and look forward to starting this with my two children, one with learning difficulties. It would be a great keepsake for years to come. I am also contemplating this would be good therapy for my elderly, frail mother who is a non artist. The altered cards is a great idea. Many thanks. :)

  5. Cassie,
    I would love to hear how this process works out for you! It sounds like it could be a perfect fit!

  6. Thanks for your comment. We bought our supplies and now we can start and just "go for it"! I too am keen to see how this all works out :) Thanks for the encouragement.

  7. This is a wonderful idea. Maybe you can share the speech you had in your head for us to use on our significant others. :-)

  8. Oh I would love to share that. I will have to do some thinking again has this has been several years ago. But the big points were it would be a keepsake of our year, it would bring us closer and it would help us continue to learn about one another.

  9. I would love to do this with my husband, kind of doubt he would ever be into it. He is a writer, but not a bit of interests in art or crafts. I am going to approach the subject though. Your work is amazing. I am enjoying the information.

  10. I will be starting art journal workshops sometime in Nov I hope....found this idea here about parallel journaling. Know of at least 2 mother/daughters that are having "communication issues" early teens! Thought this might be a good idea...what are your thoughts...some prompts just off the top of my head...what should I/you wear to do you see each whatever their issues and arguments are right now and as they change...


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...