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 I am 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.
And for more art journaling techniques and fun and inspiring projects, be sure to get your video download of Art Journaling Exercises, available now, from Rae Missigman!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
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?
For more fantastic ideas for your art journal that will have you holed up in your studio–in a good way–start with Rae Missigman’s Art Journal Exercises video download. Have fun!
Here’s a quick bonus tip from Rae on how to repurpose your artwork into custom stickers!