My First Complete Art Journal

Those of you who know me, know that I’ve kept a journal since sixth grade and have taught numerous journal writing courses over the past eleven years online, in Chicago, Louisville, California and locally. Words in a blank journal or a private file on the computer have always come easy.

But I’ve had this nagging desire to find out what all the hoopla was about art journals. Why is everyone so excited? I took an online class Life Made By Hand with Kelly Kilmer to get started in this medium. I enjoyed it, but I really needed another push. I wanted to create an art journal similar to a regular journal in that I would write every day about my feelings and what was going on. However, I would add art to the page. So I decided for the month of October I’d complete a page a day.

I started by cutting 6 x 6 sheets of watercolor paper and painting them with acrylics. Now, I didn’t do it for the whole month, just to get me started. I picked that size because I felt it was a good size for both writing and art – not too big and not too small.

Painted pages for my art journal
Painted pages for my art journal

When those journal pages were completed, I painted another batch of pages. I found through this process that having color on the pages helped me to focus on that day’s journaling and art instead of starting with a blank page. I would pick a color for the day that appealed to me. There were always enough colors for me to choose from.

Every morning I would date the page and start journaling adding the weather (sunny, cold, hot etc)Β  – and then how I felt (good, excited, sad, tired etc). That might be all I did in the morning and I’d finish it later that day. Some days I completed the whole page in 15 minutes before breakfast. If something happened later in the day, I could add it to the page.

My first page started with just writing.

October 1, 2010 art journal page
October 1, 2010 art journal page

What was amazing, by Day 2, I was adding collage elements, and by Day 4, I was drawing! Now, not a masterpiece, but I was amazed at what I could do. And just like journaling – there is no right or wrong way. How freeing!

Of course, I hadn’t really thought about how I was going to put this journal all together. Here I ended up yesterday with 31 pages, with blank back sides!

My Art Journal Pages
My Art Journal Pages

I originally decided to sew them together, but while working on the cover, I had trouble with the Elna so decided I’d staple them instead. So here is my finished October art journal.

October 2010 Art Journal
October 2010 Art Journal

The cover technique is in the new issue of Cloth Paper Scissors by Sue Bleiweiss. As soon as I saw it, I had to make it for my journal cover. If you want to try this technique here are the steps.

1. Cut a brown paper bag to fit the front and back. Crumple it but don’t tear it. Smooth it out with an iron and then attach Peltex 70 to the back to give it stability.

2. Paint the paper bag side with brown acrylic paint. I covered it with dark brown and then added a lighter brown.

3. After this dries, fuse a piece of fusible web to the front that you have painted.

4. Place your letters or numbers or whatever you want to put on the cover. I used some old chipboard letters I’ve had for years.

5. Cover with parchment paper or cloth and iron to fuse the letters in place.

6. Stitch the letters in place. It doesn’t matter how sloppy you do this step because you will be painting over this.

7. Paint over the entire surface with brown paint. You can highlight the letters with a lighter color or whatever you want to do.

8. Fuse your lining on the other side which is the inside of your journal cover.

Cover Closeup
Cover Closeup

It is amazing that it looks like leather. Edging it in metal tape would add some zing to it.

Here are some of my pages. The inside cover material is Pablos Puzzles by Hoffman.

It has been a great journey this past month. I love that I can look back and see what was going on during a particular day. I found that adding art helped me to express even more what was happening. I’m sure for those who feel writing-challenged, the art really helps to tell their story. I had so much fun exploring my artistic side and this is not the end to my art journaling! Thanks for letting me share a new passion with you.