Monday, June 13, 2011

Fearless Art Journaling, Part 2: Getting Started.

Welcome to the second part of my series for those new to art journaling. Thank you to everyone who read and/or commented on Part 1!

I'd like to quickly mention that the supplies listed on my previous post are my favorite supplies, and not at all necessary to jump into the world of art journaling. Many journal artists simply use paper and pencil or pen, and create gorgeous and authentic journals. So don't feel that you simply must run out and buy all the things I mentioned before you can take part. I'd like to stress that you can use whatever supplies you already have on hand and feel comfortable working with. To quote one of my very favorite artists, Lynne Perrella, "It's not what you have, it's how you use it."

I'd also like to repeat reader spinjenny's comment about referring to an art journal as a "visual journal" instead. The word "art" sounds scary to some people, and I can understand that. The notion of what is art can be debated 'til the cows come home, and I'm not going to get into that here. We all have our own ideas about what art is. An art journal, simply put, is a journal with a visual aspect. A journal may only contain writing, while an art or visual journal may contain photos, drawings, bits of paper, etc. I hope this way of looking at it can help you feel less intimidated to join in on the fun.

I'd been keeping these types of journals for years before I ever heard someone refer to them as "art journals". For me, it was a natural progression. I used to filled pages upon pages with words alone, then at some point added bits of ephemera from my life and photos, then later little sketches, until finally the paint and images eclipsed the words. I found myself more and more at a loss for words, mostly because what I wanted to say couldn't be contained by words. Now, there is a lot less writing in my journals and a lot more of the visual nature.

So, let's talk about why someone would want to keep an art journal. There's a multitude of reasons, and I doubt I'll be able to touch on them all, but here's a few that I have found to be true for me and other artists I've talked to or read about.

  • To keep a record of one's days. This may be one of the most common reasons. As I said, I have kept a journal for years. In the last few years, I've not been as prolific as I once was (I used to journal everyday), and sometimes I regret not recording some of my life's treasured little moments, some now forgotten. A photo or a scrapbook page can yield a record, too, but an art journal is different in that it can be more personal. Photos, say from a trip or vacation, are wonderful, but sitting down with your journal and sketching the scenery, or pasting ticket stubs and other ephemera (or your photos) onto pages and writing about how the scenery makes you feel or about your experiences or activites adds a whole other dimension.
  • Experimenting with new supplies or techniques. Maybe you just got your first set of soft pastels and are anxious to use them, but not yet ready to commit to a canvas or big art piece. Your journal can be a virtual playground for trying out supplies and hashing out ideas, and these pages can be a jumping off point for future art projects. When I'm feeling less than inspired or in a creative rut, flipping through the pages of my journals helps. I rediscover ideas I want to flesh out more, and sometimes I find myself adding to existing pages that I previously considered finished.
  • As a means to release emotions and creativity. Art is a lot of things to me, one of them being therapy. I find that the more I explore my creativity, the better I feel. I have suffered with depression since I was 13, and have found art to be, for me, the best way to combat the deep sadness that threatens to overcome me if I allow it. Art fills me with a sense of pride, nurtures my self esteem, abolishes boredom and offers joy and a feeling of accomplishment. Art journaling in particular results in these feelings, as I can be as free as I want to be with no worry of what someone else thinks of it. It's for me, and though I may choose to share my journals with others, I don't have to. No one ever has to see what's between the pages, so allow yourself to express anything and everything, "good" or "bad", happy, sad or angry, with no thought of whether it's "good enough".
  • Because it's fun! Period.

So, let's get started!

Here it is, the dreaded blank page. Just look at all that scary white space! Instead of seeing the blank page this way, I invite you instead to see it as ripe with possibility. There are so many directions we could go, which can be a little scary sometimes, but can also be exciting. "Where do I even start?" You start by just doing it. Having a predetermined idea is wonderful, but that doesn't always happen. In that case, let's just get something on the page, anything, just to do away with the vast white.

That's better! I first spritzed my page with water (so the paint will flow and blend on the page), then added a watercolor wash of blue and yellow. Then I spritzed with water again, just to blend the paint a little more and lessen any brush marks where the paper was a bit drier. If you spritz with water after the watercolor paint has dried, you get little flecks of white, which is a nice effect.

Don't like watercolors or don't have any at your disposal? Use acrylics, either using a watered down wash of color(s), or even right out of the tube. Or forget paint all together and doodle some swirls or random shapes with a pen or marker. Or glue down clippings from magazines or books. Or grab a pencil and do some automatic writing or a favorite quote or song lyrics. The writing doesn't even have to be legible, and can be covered completely with additional layers. The idea here is just to get something on the page to banish the white and the fear it may bring.

If I wanted, I could just write directly on this watercolor wash and call my journal page complete. Personally, I am all about layers and adding depth and details, but there is already some interest here as is, and makes for a perfectly good foundation for journaling. You could also bump it up a bit with some doodles, sketches or rubber stamping and then add your journaling. There are no rules! (You'll hear me say this a lot, I'm sure. It's worth repeating.)

I'd say this installment is long enough, so we'll stop here. I do want to mention that before you begin slathering paint or wet media in your journal, it's a good idea to put a piece of wax or deli paper or something similar between the page you're working on and the next page in your book. This will keep bleed through and the mess of stray media to a minimum. An added bonus is these protective papers end up with some interesting effects all their own and can later be used in collage and other projects.

In Part 3, I'll talk more about different techniques for creating backgrounds. Please feel free to share your own ideas for getting started and overcoming the blank page in the comments section, as well as any questions you may have. I'd also love to hear your reasons for keeping an art journal.

Thanks for stopping by!


    1. This is great!! Thanks for sharing this Jessica!

    2. You're welcome! Thanks for reading! :)