Keeping a Watercolor Art Journal

Art Journaling Classes, Workshops and More

By Cathy Johnson


Art journalist and teacher Gay Kraeger and Christina Lopp have taught watercolor journaling together for 12 years. “I always loved the idea of an illustrated journal, but I had all sorts of excuses not to draw and paint,” Kraeger says. “When Christina came home from a trip to Europe, she shared her journal with me. It captured her trip wonderfully, and I was inspired to go out and buy paints and a small book. I started the next day.

“For tools, my main criteria are portability. I try to keep everything with me in my purse. My main tools are: a ‘brendabook’ made with hot-pressed paper; my waterbrush (any kind); my paints (they vary with what colors I’m in love with at the moment); and a mechanical pencil and a few pens I throw in the bag.”

Jane LaFazio, who has a degree in graphic design, got started in watercolor journaling after rediscovering fine arts in 1992. “Then a friend introduced me to Danny Gregory’s work and I embraced the watercolor journal whole heartedly,” says LaFazio. “I love working small, capturing life’s details and then simply turning the page.”

LaFazio has taught watercolor journaling in San Diego, where she lives, and at art retreats around the country and online, for six years. “My favorite tools are hot-pressed watercolor paper, Niji Waterbrush and a kneadable eraser. I’ve used the Moleskine watercolor sketchbook for years, but now I’m into 5×7-inch sheets from a block of Fabriano hot-pressed paper. I’ve also made a few very simple accordion books that are easy and fun and dedicated to a theme,” she says.

Jane Lafazio used beautifully observed ink lines to provide a framework for subtle watercolor washes.

If you like, use interesting lettering for headlines or other notes. Add graphs, grids, or lists—feel free to put your to-do list here, or an e-mail you may need later. Stick in a photo, business card, stamp, ticket, menu, brochure or what have you, to capture the moment and complement your watercolor sketches and make for a richer page.

Rosehips by Jane LaFozio

Excerpt from Gay Kraeger’s journal



If you long to create travel journals but life—or expense—gets in the way, try Laure Ferlita’s (online) imaginary trip classes. Ferlita takes you to England and Ireland, Paris and New Orleans, and explores autumn, the garden and the beach. Find out more about Ferlita and her classes.

Check out my Artists Journal Workshop blog at for news of upcoming or ongoing classes. Plus, check out my book, Artist’s Journal Workshop, for more tips and advice.



In addition to Hannah Hinchman and Danny Gregory, look for journal books illustrated by Fabrice Moreau, Graham Byfield, Keith Bowen, David Gentleman, and of course David Rankin (author of Fast Sketching Techniques) keeps journals of his travels to India and the world.


Find Cathy Johnson’s special report on Art Journals in the October 2011 issue of Watercolor Artist.




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