Studio Saturdays: Art Journal Backgrounds

We can all agree that when it comes to art journaling, we loathe the blank page, yes? Prepping art journal backgrounds offers inspiration on days when you want to work on something, but your muse is off getting a latte. Yet I often find that prepping a page by just putting something down it isn’t enough. It doesn’t compel me to want to do more.

So today’s Studio Saturday is going to show you a few techniques I use for taking pre-prepped art journal backgrounds one step further–and it doesn’t take much time at all. This technique can work for painted canvases, too, or collages—pretty much anything you enjoy creating on a regular basis. The idea is to give yourself a little bit of a narrative to start with. Just a smidge of a story. A starting point. Think of it as leaving little art clues to your future self.

Art journal backgrounds

Create art journal backgrounds that compel you to take them further.

1. Full coverage: Covering a page with collage scraps is great, but for me, the end result is almost as creatively frustrating as a blank page. It doesn’t move me. Here I’ve covered a page with torn vintage book pages. It’s nice, but…meh.

Art journal collage background

Words, words, words–I need more from an art journal background.

I invested another three minutes and threw some heavy body acrylic paint on the page, blending blue and black and white, creating a frame around the center. I did this intuitively, with no thought to what I would ultimately do with it. When the paint dried, I sanded it a bit and added the word “Clamor.” Now there’s something going on. I may use the word as a prompt when I come back to the page, or not. But the colors, the shapes, and the word create a mood and give me something to work with, and the time investment was minimal. The photo doesn’t do justice to the beautiful gradation of color on the page.

Art journal collaged background

A little paint, a little sandpaper, and now I’ve got something to work with.

2. Drip, drip, drip: Acrylic ink is a lovely medium; the saturated color, the way it flows on the page, and its unpredictability makes it so much fun to work with. Ink drips really well—and those drips can be a great starting point for an art journal background. For this page I used Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink! in Quinacridone Magenta, and squeezed the dropper to create a kind of wonky grid across the page.

Acrylic ink dripped on an art journal page

Love the shapes, but it’s not quite there.

That’s fun, right? You could use this as a springboard for doodles, or creating an abstract design…but honestly, looking at it left me a little cold. That is, until I remembered some copied photos I had that I could use for an image transfer. I chose this cowgirl (downloaded from The Graphics Fairy) and transferred it using a Chartpak AD marker blender. The process took all of 45 seconds, and I not only have a cool, compelling image, but I also have the beginning of a story, which I didn’t have before.

Art journal backgrounds image transfer

This cowgirl image gives me a starting point and a story.

3. A ghost of an idea: Monoprinting on gelatin plates is completely addictive, and there are a thousand different ways to spin this technique. I’m sure you’ve made ghost prints, which are lighter second and third-generation prints from the original, which look great layered. When I’m doing printing on my Gelli plate I have at least one art journal on hand so I can make ghost prints on the pages, since they make great backgrounds. Here’s one I did recently, which is a ghost printapalooza of various designs and colors:

Art journal background ghost print

Ghost prints from a monoprint plate make great art journal backgrounds.

There’s a ton to look at, but not that much that inspires. So I flipped through another art journal and found some silly sketches I did one day when I was bored. I liked the sketches but not the rest of the page, so I cut them out, backed them with black paper to make them pop, and glued them to the page. Maybe the elements are a little incongruous, but I love the way the sketches pop, and they’re no longer lost on a page I had forgotten about.

Art journal sketches

Sketches taken from a forgotten art journal page get a new life.

4. Need some texture? I gesso: Gesso and art journal pages are a happy marriage. I love gesso for its texture effects, so I often use it as a foundation, brushing it on a blank page and, while wet, stamping or scribbling into it or using a texture tool like a Catalyst wedge. Here I brushed it on a page and used some bubble wrap and the end of a paintbrush to give it some interest. When it dried, this is what I had:

Gessoed art journal background

Making marks in gesso is a great way to start an art journal background.

Since gesso takes acrylic paint well I created a wash and brushed it over the page, which highlighted the texture. A great beginning, but I need a little more to get the wheels turning.

Gessoed and painted art journal background

When the gesso dried I brushed on some watered-down acrylic paint.

I’ve been dying to use some new Altenew coffee-themed stamps, and the coffee color of this page was the perfect backdrop. Three stamps later and I’ve got a nice theme going on, and I know this is a page I’ll love working on.

Stamped art journal background

These coffee-themed stamps give me all kinds of ideas.

Looking at all of these pages, I have all kinds of ideas spinning in my head. I want to add a crescent moon to the collaged page, and the cowgirl needs some big, Texas-size flowers. Guess I know what I’ll be doing this weekend. You? Here are more fantastic ideas from our very talented artists, available in the North Light Shop and the Interweave store, that will have you holed up in your studio–in a good way. Have fun!

Colorful Backgrounds by Nathalie Kalbach

Let Nathalie Kalbach teach you how to make beautiful, unique backgrounds in this video.

Painted Paper Art Workshop by Elizabeth St. Hilaire

Gets tons of great techniques for creating collage papers in Painted Paper Art Workshop by Elizabeth St. Hilaire.

Acrylic Painting Techniques by Chris Cozen

Chris Cozen’s video, 17 Acrylic Painting Techniques, will fuel your journal pages.

Cloth Paper Scissors Jan Feb 2016

This issue of Cloth Paper Scissors has great ideas for surface design, perfect for art journal backgrounds.

 

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