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So you’re new to Bible journaling. You’ve decided to finally give it a try and get over any reservations you may have about it. Then you look at your new blank Bible with its pristine, unadorned pages and panic hits.
What on earth do you illustrate?
Bible journaling can be daunting when you don’t know where to begin. If you’re not feeling particularly creative, you might need some inspiration or a few prompts.
Here are 5 ideas to help you get you started.
Note: these aren’t necessarily specific verses or pictures I’m going to give you in this tutorial. Rather, these are general ideas to get your creative juices flowing and inspire you.
6 creative ideas to help you get started with Bible Journaling
1. Sermon or podcast notes
This is a fairly easy one to begin with.
If you are sitting in church listening to a sermon, the speaker may give an illustration or analogy to demonstrate a particular point or bring out the meaning of a verse. You can use this as the basis of a picture you can draw in your journaling Bible.
You can also do the same if you are listening to a podcast. Maybe the speaker describes a situation they faced in their own life that is relevant to the verse. Or perhaps they use a vivid picture analogy that helps you gain a better appreciation of the passage.
In his book, Called To Create, Jordan Raynor recounts a story of one of the creatives he interviewed named William Warren. Warren used to work at Chick-fil-A’s corporate headquarters in Atlanta. He was a trained cartoonist who had been drawing comic strips since he was in school. His dream was to combine his passion of illustration and communication.
Eventually, he stumbled upon the practice of something called “graphic recording”. This was where an illustrator would listen to a speaker at an event. Then, in real time, instead of simply transcribing everything he heard in written form, he would summarise it in the form of sketches. Warren took up this same practice and eventually launched a visual communications agency called The Sketch Effect that specialises in picture summaries for different individuals and companies.
Now while this isn’t specifically Bible journaling, you can apply the same principles. When you listen to a sermon or podcast, you can create a pictorial summary while will act as a visual artefact and reminder of the message. In fact, this is what William Warren did by visually summarising some of the sermons of his pastor. However, as far as I know, he didn’t draw this in a journaling Bible.
If you’re wanting to create a picture in your Bible, then here’s a tip: don’t jot down the sermon notes directly into your Bible as the speaker is speaking. Write them down somewhere else such as on your phone or on a notepad. That way you won’t be cluttering up the margins with your writing. This will allow you to plan out your illustration later on.
The pictures you are creating in your journaling Bible should just be a crystalisation or summary of your sermon notes. The idea is that you want to be able to remember it as clearly as possible. A picture that encapsulates the whole idea is much better than trying to read through pages of notes. Remember: a picture is worth a thousand words.
Of course, if you are simply planning on using your journaling Bible to write sermon notes and not for the purpose of creating pictures, then you can ignore that step.
2. Pictures that God gives you during your quiet time
When you are reading your Bible and mediating upon the word and spending time in God’s presence, he may give you specific words or pictures.
Sometimes these are direct Bible verses. Other times, they are words or pictures which may recall thematic ideas from a verse but are not a direct quote themselves.
If someone gives you a picture that doesn’t necessarily accompany a verse, then you might wonder where exactly do you draw this in your Bible?
In a case like this, try to think of key ideas or images that embody the picture you’ve been given. Brainstorm key words and phrases associated with the idea. This can then serve as a launchpad for finding an associated verse.
You can go online to a site like Bible Gateway and enter in these words and phrases and see if anything comes up in your search. You might find that you discover passages that are saying essentially the same thing as the picture that God has given you.
On the other hand, these don’t even have to be pictures you received yourself. If someone has given you a picture during a time of ministry or listening prayer, then you can illustrate this exactly as they have described. It will help you remember what they said and God’s promises towards you.
In some cases, they may even illustrate the picture themselves and give it to you. I’ve had people do that for me before where they have given me a physically illustrated picture accompanied by Bible verses and specific promises. This one is similar to prophetic art.
3. Using a Bible reading plan
There are several out there either in physical format, online or as part of a Bible reading app. The YouVersion Bible App (aka Bible.com) has a number of different reading plans on a variety of topics.
Earlier this year, Christian artist Jessica Jones (no, not Marvel’s Jessica Jones) did a Bible study devotional called Art and Scripture which can be found on YouVersion. There she reflects on various Bible passages and discusses artistic choices she made in interpreting those passages and drawing out the symbolism through her paintings. That’s something you can look at for inspiration.
Let’s face it. Krysten Ritter fans are probably going to be wandering over there accidentally!
YouVersion also have another devotional series on their app, called “Presence: Arts That Inspire Reflection and Prayer“. In addition to this, they have a verse of the day which usually has accompanying pictures already.
There are other Bible apps out there which you’ll need to explore for yourself, but these should help to provide some inspiration for your creativity.
4. Get inspiration from others
There are many sources of inspiration out there already. You can use these as the starting point of your Bible journaling.
Liz Davis has created a book called 100 Illustrated Bible Verses. This can jump-start your ideas.
Alternatively, check out Pinterest or Instagram for creative ideas.
The Complete Guide To Bible Journaling by Joanne Fink and Regina Yoder is also a good starting point.
In addition to telling you about the different Bible journaling techniques available, it also provides some examples for inspiration.
If you belong to any Bible journaling groups on Facebook or Instagram, you’ll often see someone posting an art prompt or challenge that often consists of a word or idea based on a theme. You can follow one of these and use that as inspiration.
5. Listen to some music
Worship music can ignite your imagination and creativity. Many of the songs use word pictures to create the overall theme, drawing on metaphors and vivid imagery.
For example, the Hillsong United worship song “Oceans” is rich with pictures of water, waves, the deep and the theme of faith. This sort of piece can help you focus on those images which you can translate into pictures. Let it inspire you as you mediate upon the words.
Similarly, “Be My Rescue” by Nichole Nordeman also uses vivid imagery in its lyrics. There is a lyric video on YouTube which adds to the overall picture with accompanying images.
But don’t just listen to worship music. Worship music is typically songs addressed to God. However, there are many Christian songs out there about God or about his word that might not technically be considered traditional praise and worship songs.
Although they’re quite a few years old now and they’ve also disbanded, I recommend listening to songs by the Christian rock group Petra. They are renowned for using extremely vivid imagery and metaphors both in their lyrics and song titles, all of which they base on scripture. You can draw inspiration from these.
6. Illustrating images or events actually described in the Bible
This one is another good starting place and possibly the easiest one to begin with.
Take for example a passage like Mark 14:22-26 on the Last Supper, and parallel passages in Matthew 26:26-30 and Luke 22:14-20.
There are different ways you could illustrate this passage and various aspects you could focus on. I simply chose to illustrate verse 22 for the purpose of this example, which says:
While they were eating, Jesus took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”
However, I haven’t used the text exactly in the caption above, as you don’t need to always do this when Bible journaling.
I didn’t spend much time on the above picture as I wanted to show how it doesn’t have to be something time consuming. It’s more of a sketch with a splash of colour using coloured pencils. You can use watercolour paints or create fancier texts which resemble calligraphy if that’s your sort of thing. I was just getting something down on paper to demonstrate, and chose something simple. The picture doesn’t have to be very elaborate. It’s more about drawing out the elements which speak to you in particular.
While you can illustrate events or stories in the Bible, I would use this sparingly. You don’t want your journaling Bible to simply look like an illustrated Bible. This should be used in combination with words God has given you or other images you’ve been inspired with when reading the words of scripture.
This is by no means an exhaustive list, and I am sure there are plenty of other ideas you can use to help you get started. Why not give Bible journaling a go?
If you can think of any other ideas, leave me a comment in the section below.
However, if you decide Bible journaling isn’t for you but still want other creative ideas for simply reading the Bible, check out my article here.
And if you want to read Luke’s gospel in a fully illustrated form, why not download a preview of my graphic novel Bible that’s coming soon? You can do so by entering your details in the form below.
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Robert is the founder of Drawing on the Word. He has a Bachelor’s degree in Theology and a Master’s degree in Systematic Theology. He also has a degree in Law and was called to the Bar. Robert previously taught religious studies and was a theology lecturer. He is an artist, musician and writer, and has created a graphic novel version of Luke’s gospel. You can follow him below.