Visual journaling has existed throughout history as a process of reflective thinking, and as a record of image making. Throughout history great thinkers recorded and reflected on their ideas using a variety of visual journaling techniques. From Thomas Edison’s light bulb sketches to Leonardo DaVinci’s visual journals of flying machines to Stephen Hawking’s space-time diagrams, this record of image making also served as a record of the thought process. Exploring the thought process through visual journaling is essential in a world that is in continuous change (Grauer & Naths, 1998). Da Vinci (1452-1519) carried a visual journal with him at all times so that he could record ideas, impressions, and observations as they occurred. His journals, of which seven thousand pages exist, contained observations and thoughts of scholars he admired, personal financial records, letters, reflections on domestic problems, philosophical musings and prophecies, plans for inventions, and treatises on anatomy, botany, geology, flight, water, drawings and paintings. Evidence of visual journaling throughout art history can also be seen in the visual journals of Norwegian expressionist Edvard Munch (1863-1944), Contemporary artist Eric Fischl (1948- present), and Celebrity artist Michael Bell (1971-present).

Artists on the national level have continued to explore visual journaling as a way to record evidence of the creative process, and to incorporate practice and theory. Visual journaling is a process that encourages students to get to know themselves on a deeper, intrinsic level. This is an effective way to break down walls of communication by using the visual journaling process as a form of self-exploration and visual communication. Visual journals serve as a record of how we think, which moves us out of the world of reflex and allows us to look beyond the immediate situation and pay closer attention to the process. Teachers need to understand that during this process, the experiences gained are not only valuable in helping students establish connections to the art-making process, but also towards literacy. Not all students will produce the same amount of drawings as a prelude to further works of art, just as not all artists or designers plan in exactly the same manner. Therefore, individual ways of working through visual problems and concepts in the visual journal should be respected (Grauer & Naths, 1998). Teachers need to work with students individually and in groups in order to help students determine how they can effectively and authentically make use of visual journaling.

- Michael Bell