Step-by-step intuitive abstract figurative art journaling page

Paint with me! Join me at my art table as I show you how to create an intuitive abstract figurative painting in your art journal.

Intuitive abstract figurative painting. Full video and step-by-step tutorial

If you’ve been around here for a hot minute, you know that I’m a diehard art journaler and that I absolutely love intuitive painting — especially figurative abstracts. I art journal almost every day, even if it’s just for 10 or 15 minutes. And painting intuitively perfectly suits the short bursts of time I spend in my art journal. I can leave things to dry, come back and look at my art journal spread with fresh eyes, and find stories within the layers of paints and marks.

Join me as I share some art journal techniques, show you my intuitive painting process as we create an abstract figurative painting, and hopefully inspire you to create an art journal page! Whether you’re new to art journaling or already love have an art practice, I hope this step-by-step tutorial and video will get your creative juices flowing!

Art supplies used for this art journal spread

I used this Mixed media paper, but you could totally do this in your art journal too. This one is my favorite.

White gesso

Acrylic paints in your favorite colors. I used the following:

Camlin paints: Grey, Brilliant yellow green

Pebeo paints: Fluorescent orange, Fluorescent pink, Payne’s grey, Raw sienna, Turquoise blue

Payne’s grey Derwent Intense pencil

Princeton Catalyst mini blade no. 01

Mini palette knife

Paintbrushes in different sizes

Note: Most of the links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase using these links, I may receive a small commission at no extra cost to you. If you’re an India-based artist, I highly recommend ArtLounge — I get most of my art supplies from them, going to Amazon only for the few brands that they do not stock. Use the coupon code SHINJINIM at checkout to get an 8.5% discount.


Watch the process: Intuitive abstract figurative painting process

Join me in my studio as I show you my intuitive semi-abstract art journaling technique to create an easy figurative abstract painting.

If you enjoyed this video, you will also love this tutorial on my intuitive painting process that I shared a while ago. Perhaps you can incorporate techniques from both these tutorials to create something that is unique to you!

Paint with me: Step-by-step abstract figurative painting

Intuitive abstract figurative art journaling step-by-step tutorial

Step 1

Activate your page. Put down a few colors of paint using your Catalyst mini blade or palette knife. Use broad, loose strokes. Don’t worry about covering your entire page at this time. You may immediately start to see some shapes — draw them out. I noticed a couple of dots of paint that reminded me of eyes and a mouth, so I used a mechanical pencil and sketched in a face.

Step 2

Continue to add colors and marks to the page. I noticed another face peeking out, so I sketched it in. I wasn’t sure if it would stay in the final painting, but that’s not the point — yet. Keep building up the colors and marks.

Paint an abstract figurative step-by-step process

Step 3

Bring in some contrast. I’ve been using mostly light, bright places so far. So, I added in some Payne’s Grey at the bottom of the page to create some contrast and to “ground” the painting. If it feels too dark, you can use a toothpick or a mechanical pencil to etch into paint while it is still wet.

Step 4

Keep building up your colors. Remember to use loose strokes. Don’t be afraid to layer your paints. When you start to see shapes or symbols, bring them out.


Step 5

I saw a portal — a recurring symbol in my art — at the top left of my page and another doorway/portal in the smaller figure. I used Payne’s Grey to define both shapes.

Abstract figurative art journal spread steps 6, 7, and 8

Step 6

Build up your faces. I added in the features in both the figures + hair using a nail {you can use a paintbrush} and Payne’s Grey paint.

Step 7

I continued to layer the paints and etched into the wet paint here and there to build up the texture and to show the under layers.


Step 8

As you continue to build up your page, notice any other symbols that show up. Build up any areas that feel particularly interesting to you. See how the story of the painting evolves.

Abstract figurative painting steps 9 and 10

Step 9

Here, I found a moon shape at the top right of the page, which I highlighted with white gesso. I decided to let the portal at the top left go, otherwise it would have made the painting too busy.

Step 10

I came in with a variety of paints to cover over the portal, making sure to use similar techniques — loose application of paint, etching, layers — to smooth out the painting and make the portal disappear into the background.

Steps 11 and 12

Step 11

Paint in the faces. I chose to keep the face shading to a minimum, maintaining a loose, abstract, slightly whimsical feeling to the portraits.

Step 12

As a final step, I added paint splatters using watered down Payne’s Grey to bring the whole piece together.

Intuitive abstract figurative painting in your art journal or on canvas. Full video tutorial + step-by-step process.

And it’s done! Your intuitive figurative art journal spread is complete!

This is one of my favorite ways to play in my art journal because there’s zero planning involved. I can paint in short periods of time and build up a beautiful, complex, layered art journal spread over a couple of days.

I hope you enjoyed watching this intuitive semi-abstract figurative painting come to life, and are inspired to create your own intuitive semi-abstract art journal page!


More art journaling inspiration

If you’re looking for more inspiration, take a look at my whimsical mixed media portrait tutorial or join me for the Inner You e-course to learn how to paint whimsical faces

If you’re new to intuitive painting, you may also enjoy this intuitive figurative mixed media journal page, this intuitive painting demo and these notes on trusting the intuitive painting process.

Want to up your art journal game? Then join me for Book of Days 2022, a collaborative e-course that will take you on a deep dive into mixed media art journaling. In this year-long course, we will focus on all the ways that working with journal art can enrich and enhance our lives. The course is suitable for everyone from beginners to advanced artists, and will help you to create and maintain a practice of meeting yourself on the page.

If you’re an India-based artist on the lookout for quality art supplies, I highly recommend ArtLounge — I get most of my art supplies from them, going to Amazon only for the few brands that they do not stock.

pain palette

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Weekly notes from an artist’s studio, including pages from my mixed media art journal, works in progress, notes on the creative process, and other ideas that capture my interest, along with regular discussion threads to chat about art.

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I’m an artist and art educator, podcaster, tarot reader, and writer. I share my discoveries along the path to inspire you to live a more creative, soul-centered life. Receive my love letters for more of my musings on life and creativity. P.S. I love Instagram - join me there?

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