Create Custom Journals, Artists!

Include an ephemera pocket or envelope in your custom journals. You can even use a CD envelop that almost everyone has among their supplies.

Include an ephemera pocket or envelope in your custom journals. You can even use a CD envelope that almost everyone has among their supplies.

First You Have to Decide What You Want Out of Art Journaling

I can definitely attest the power of art journaling is in doing it. Whether you are looking to discover something about yourself or understand your art (or yourself as an artist) better, keeping an art journal is a foray into a special place where memory, observation, sketchbook and diary collide.

For me, it always comes down to first answering the three questions that Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson poses. I included my own answers and encourage you to ask yourself these questions, too, before you create any custom journals for yourself — it will help you realize what you are really looking for.

  1. What do you want from your journal? A place to explore visually without editing myself, lol. I want color, words, collage, and pen marks. I want to play.
  2. What goes into your journal? For me, it is mostly pen, marker, collage, stickers, photos, lists, napkin doodles, written words, and even sketches from elsewhere glued in.
  3. When or how do you see yourself journaling? I see myself doing it both spur of the moment — when there is a thought I want to capture — as well as something I do on a Sunday morning, going over the week’s entries and adding color or sketches to build out the feelings or thoughts I express.

 

Author and artist Cathy Johnson glued a vintage playing card and a bit of textured red paper to the front of this blue journal. A little metallic paint and some rubber stamps gave it a silly, fun journal cover.

Author and artist Cathy Johnson glued a vintage playing card and a bit of textured red paper to the front of this blue journal. A little metallic paint and some rubber stamps gave it a silly, fun journal cover.

Then Go After What You Want in Your Custom Journals

I usually start by spending hours of fruitless searching ready-made journals for ones that have all the characteristics I want:

-a soft, breakable spine so the book, open, lays flat

-a pocket or envelope for slips of paper, mementos, collage pieces, photos, or lists

-a size that allows me to work standing up while holding the journal in my hand or in my lap, and covers that offer enough support that I can really apply pressure to the page and not fear that the journal will buckle under my hand

Those are just three characteristics I look for but I could go on about the paper quality and color, the covers themselves, and the number of pages. Whyyyyyyy do I do this to myself? The fact is, I almost always end up creating custom journals for myself. It is a lot easier, and I can theme the journal and adapt the number of pages I want (a small booklet for a week-long trip vs. a thicker stack of pages for a collaborative food journal that my friends and I contribute to together).

Artist Fred Crowley uses Fabriano Ingres paper as a patch to cover drawings that “don’t get off the ground or are clear mistakes.” The patch adds a strong graphic effect, and placing it at an angle creates dramatic tension. Then he draws right over the patch. Genius!

Artist Fred Crowley uses Fabriano Ingres paper as a patch to cover drawings that “don’t get off the ground or are clear mistakes.” The patch adds a strong graphic effect, and placing it at an angle creates dramatic tension. Then he draws right over the patch. Genius!

No Place for Mistakes

Think about how you would use each of your custom journals and what aspects of an art journal appeal most to you. And remember, you don’t have to be afraid to “make mistakes.” Whatever that means! Mistakes for the average person are golden opportunities for artists. If that’s what is keeping you from starting your art journal right now, remember:

-Collage rules. Patches too. Paste an image or another sketch over anything you want to disappear.

Never fear the blank page in your art journal. When in doubt, sketch your stuff. Or food!

Never fear the blank page in your art journal. When in doubt, sketch your stuff. Or food!

-Add color, text, pen marks, watercolor washes to camouflage any false starts.

-Blur your writing if you want to rework it. Go over and over it, use another pen to layer, and soon you’ll find a design element that couldn’t exist without your “mistake.”

Artist’s Journal Workshop by Cathy Johnson has me brimming over with enthusiasm to get started on my next art journal. She shows dozens of artful ways to make journals and how to keep the art journaling process invigorating, relevant, and meaningful. This book might be your saving grace if you want to create an artist’s journal and are looking for a way ‘in.’ This is it! Enjoy!

Courtney

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