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Authentic Art Journaling

L.K. Ludwig

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Contents 9





The Written Word

Getting Started 12 15

The Basics of Art Journaling Taking a Closer Look: Katie Kendrick

18 Selecting a Structure 21 Insight Activity: Unblanking the Blank Page 22 Content and Meaning 24 Taking a Closer Look: The Deconstruction of Rothko, Bee Shay 26 Collectors, Thing-Finders, and Treasure Keepers 28 Insight Activity: Pillaging the Dragon’s Hoard by Using Your Good Stuff 29 Insight Activity: Automatic Writing 30 Insight Activity: The Vision Deck 31 Insight Activity: Musical, Imaginary Alphabet


Relationships 34 36 38 40

Family and Friends Insight Activity: Dropped-Paper Collage Visual Toolbox: Making a Stencil Portrait Taking a Closer Look: Maggie’s Baby Book, Nina Bagley




Tributes and Remembrances

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52 Incorporating Text as a Design Element 54 Favorite Quotes, Poems, and Prose 57 Visual Toolbox: Text onto Metal Mesh 60 Personal Writings and Storytelling 63 Insight Activity: The Found Poem 64 Visual Toolbox: Writing with Fluid Acrylics



Current Events 68 72 74 75

Everyday Events Insight Activity: One Hundred Versions Insight Activity: The Calendar Journal Taking a Closer Look: Traci Bunkers

78 Personal Life-Changing Events 80 Visual Toolbox: Adding Structured Texture to an Art Journal Page 82 Events with Global Impact 83 Taking a Closer Look: September 11, 2001, L.K. Ludwig 84 Insight Activity: Abstraction 85 Visual Toolbox: Silhouette Figure Study

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Places and Spaces 88 90 91

Travel Journals Visual Toolbox: Altering a Child’s Board Book Insight Activity: The Local Tourist

92 94

House and Home Insight Activity: Building Your Sense of Home

96 99

Favorite Spaces Visual Toolbox: Faux Landscape Painting



Self-Explorations 102 103

Self-Portraiture Taking a Closer Look: Juliana Coles

106 109 110 111 113 114

Photographic Self-Portraiture Visual Toolbox: Photographic Self-Portraits Visual Toolbox: More Than the Sum of Our Parts Visual Toolbox: Ink-Jet Transfer Visual Toolbox: Patina on Paper Taking a Closer Look: Melanie Sage

116 118 120

Self-Portraiture Using Other Media Visual Toolbox: Blind Contour Drawing Visual Toolbox: Carving a Self-Portrait into a Printing Block


Personal Archetypes

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Spirituality and Dreams 126 129

Faith and Spirituality Taking a Closer Look: Loretta Marvel

132 133 135

Dreams Insight Activity: Dream Characters Visual Toolbox: Altered Scrapbooking Papers

136 140 141

Appendix: Vision Deck Contributors Resources




About the Author

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Ten years ago, I began keeping an art journal out of necessity. I was primarily a photographer, working in medium-format, black-and-white film, but a health concern left me with vision problems. As I recovered, I began searching for a way to work with my existing portfolio of images. I found tantalizing tidbits of information on image transfers of toner photocopies in alternative photo process literature, Rauschenberg monographs, and references on the Internet and began working. I discovered Peter Beard’s work and then the work of Nancy Chunn and Tom Phillips. About this time, a magazine article ran showcasing the work of Janet Hofacker’s art journals, and the original online group, “artistjournals” formed, shepherded by Loretta Marvel and me.

Teesha and Tracy Moore were publishing the now-defunct The Studio zine, and the idea of art journals exploded. Since then, the work seen from gifted artists has only grown in sophistication and skill. I’m pleased to show you wonderful work from artists whose names may be familiar to you and to introduce you to the work of some new artists. I hope you find, throughout this book, eye candy to excite you, creativity boosters to help you generate authentic art work, and techniques to add to your visual repertoire.

How to Use This Book Each page of this book is packed with material to inspire you. Along with incredible artwork from some talented artists and guidance on various common art journal themes, you will find a journal prompt running down the righthand side of each page spread. There is also a fill-in-the-blank prompt or a question, related to the content of each chapter, posted on the bottom left corner of every page spread. The prompts are there to assist you when faced with

a blank page, when you are looking for a place to begin, or when you simply need new ideas. Several gifted artists provide a closer look into how they work or how a particular work developed. Even the Appendix offers inspiration: a deck of word cards to help you dig a little deeper; a bibliography for further research into information and techniques; inspiring artists; and information on where to obtain various art supplies.

“Artists don’t make objects. Artists make mythologies.”

Usurp an ordinary object for artistic purposes—a fork, perhaps. Bend the outside tines into a loop until they touch the fork, then spread the two middle tines apart. Is this a fork or a flower? Anything can be used. Think beyond the ordinary.


—Anish Kapoor


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c h a pte r

Getting Started Just as a blank canvas can be daunting to a painter, a blank sketchbook or journal can cause a creative pause for many artists. Where to begin? What medium to use? How to proceed? Questions seem to breed more questions. Beginning an art journal requires simply that you begin. But how? The best way to begin work in a way that is authentic and worthwhile is to consider content. Socrates said, “the unexamined life is not worth living.” Artists are complex beings, and even the most mundane of us can find sufficient content to fill hundreds of art journals. Our daily lives, with its blessings and travails, our relationships to other individuals and to the larger world, our hopes, our nightly dreams, and even our spiritual faith provide rich content worth exploring in an art journal. Each chapter in this book examines a category of potential content for the artist to explore in

the pages of an art journal. Although an art journal can be used to explore themes and content for other works, such as paintings, mixed-media assemblages, fiber arts pieces, or sculptures, an art journal is also a work of art in itself, serving as an artist book, regardless of whether or not it is ever shown to another person. The chapters look at themes common to almost everyone, and within these thematic areas offer Insight Activities to spark creativity and art journal prompts. Visual Toolbox activities provide techniques, and Taking a Closer Look interviews give you insight into how other artists work.

Using the Insight Activities There are times, before beginning work on a project, when we need a warm up, a process that allows us to flex and stretch just a bit before we “really” begin. Many artists find they begin by working the bad art out first. The problem with this process is that the results can be so disappointing, they stop the flow

of creativity. Sometimes, a few creativity starters can help smooth the way to the “real” work; consider them stretching exercises for the workout to come. Although each chapter in the book provides topicrelated activities, those that follow are general warm-ups for working our creative muscles.

Use serendipity. When something you read or experience dovetails with important things in your life, use it as topic about which to create. Messages from the universe should not be overlooked!

Art journal page by Katie Kendrick (Read more about Katie and her work on page 15.)


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The Basics of Art Journaling

An art journal can take a variety of forms and is most frequently contained on the pages of a book or a sketchbook or on loose pages housed in a portfolio—for some artists, art journals are not contained in books but are seen as a sequence of individual works created over time. All have in common the spilling of one’s self into the work in a way that chronicles or examines a part of the journaler’s life. The definition of an art journal, then, is very flexible. Artists have a way of challenging boundaries and preconceived notions about both their art making and their worlds. The basics of art journaling are about more than supplies—they’re about a desire to examine, to challenge, to remember, to dream. For now, though, we’ll examine the practical aspects of beginning an art journal, for there is a wealth of possibility in structure and media. Ruth Fiege—art journal spread using repetition as tool for exploration and emphasis

Rituals for beginning work are often very important to artists. What things do you typically do to begin work?


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“Painting is just another way of keeping a diary.” —Pablo Picasso

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Start out on one subject and wend your way around to another completely unrelated topic using a series of images copied to the same size. Start somewhere and end somewhere else.

Journal page spread by Brenda Beene Shackleford


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Y la li a

g s w s o i

In these two journal spreads by Katie Kendrick, her unique style of rendering faces communicates visual and emotional content.

WHEN we work is powerful. Time of day impacts mood, energy, and perhaps color palette. At what time of day do you work most regularly and why?


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Katie Kendrick

Your journal, which is housed in a large, old atlas, is so rich and layered and, at the same time, very intimate. Would you tell us a little bit about your process of approaching a page spread? Is there a thought-out plan? Do you respond to the work as it unfolds? The only thing in my journal that is planned and consistent is gluing four or five pages together, so that I have a strong, solid surface to work on. Intuition is my guide, as I play and interact with materials I have within arm’s reach. My studio is always in a state of orderly chaos; what I have surrounding me partly depends on what I’ve been doing that day, or where I am. An element, image, or color always leads me to the next step in the process.

There is no thought about an end result, because if I planned things out in advance, it [the art] would be coming from my head, not my heart. I don’t feel compelled to even date or order my entries, although I usually do. I’m not journaling to have a physical, calendar-type record of my days, I journal to connect with the dynamic flow of the universe, to try and understand the life force, the energy with my particular fingerprints, that is streaming through me every moment I’m alive. The process of creating, not the outcome, is what takes me to the source, although the end result, like a mirror, does reflect that creative energy.

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Map your path to work, the coffee shop, or the grocery store. Create an actual map, by drawing doodles of buildings, landmarks, squiggly trees . . . . Make the scale how long it feels to get to a place, not the actual distance.

taking a closer look:


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Y s

c m a f a a c w t a

“… I mean, making art is about objectifying your experience of the world, transforming the flow of moments into something visual, or textual, or musical, whatever. Art creates a kind of commentary.” —Barbara Kruger

C fa w fi

What six or seven symbols and four colors can you use to represent an area of your life with which you are having difficulty working in your art journal?


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How do you keep your work so real? By listening to my own voice within the creative process and doing that each time I experiment with the materials. Every day, that voice is recognizable as mine but slightly different. It’s not unlike looking into the mirror each day—it’s me, but a slightly different version of me. I can admire another artist and wish I could paint like him or her, but I must remain true to the longing to understand my own experience, to validate it and express it. It would feel empty and pointless to deliberately copy or emulate someone else’s work or style. I would get no personal satisfaction from that, and where is the joy in art making without that satisfaction? We all have our own stories, we are all on our own journeys; I don’t want to compare or judge mine, I only want to get to know it as fully as I can.


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Collage techniques with combinations of fabric, found papers, and images, along with her original drawings and paintings, fill Katie Kendrick’s journal pages.

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Place 4” (10 cm) squares of white, cream, and gray paper in a well-lit room. Notice how the light affects the colors as it changes over the course of the day. Try replicating these effects in your journal using watercolors.

Your art exudes, breathes, hums with creative energy. What are some of the things you do to keep your creativity flowing? Create on a daily basis. By this I mean moving paint around, cutting paper, scribbling, and playing with various materials and media. It helps keep down the pressure to create a “masterpiece” and just feels like playtime. Although I love spending time with family, friends, and other artists, I am an introvert by nature, and I need lots of alone time. Without it, I become overstimulated and full of thoughts and emotions that I’m unable to channel creatively. I have a rural lifestyle and take lots of walks in the woods and by the river—nothing inspires my creativity more than being in nature. Taking photographs and using them in my artwork also stirs the creative juices.


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Selecting a Structure

Typically, an art journal is housed in a sketchbook, journal, or hand-bound book. An artist might choose to work on separate sheets of paper and later affix these sheets into a journal. An example of this is shown on page 85, in which working with figures is illustrated using a collage technique involving tissue or deli paper. Another artist might also work on loose sheets that are housed as a collection in a ring binder, portfolio, or box. Some artists like to work in an old book, covering the pages with gesso or paper. Often, several pages are glued together to create a sturdy ground. They might cover the entire page and begin with a blank surface or use the book’s text and imagery to provide a spark and a jumping-off point. This differs from an altered book, in that the artist uses the book as a journal, instead of using the book’s content to alter it. Some of the artists whose work you will see in this book journal directly onto paintings and other single sheet works; often these pieces are independent structures in a series that challenge the viewer to see the content as a revelation of something personal or a glimpse into the life of the artist. You may need to “try several structures on for size,” to find the one that fits your style of working. Don’t be surprised to learn that your preferred structure varies with the topic you are exploring. A structure can also communicate content. The windowlike structure of an old Victorian album housing images of places and spaces that have moved the artist further reveals the content to the viewer. A child’s board book can be altered to create a travel journal, as well as to communicate the joy and wonder the trip brought to the artist. It would be impossible in the course of this book to detail all the different art media techniques that can be used to create a journal. Acrylic paint, watercolors, water-soluble oil pastels, crayons, colored pencils, dyes, inks, markers, and more can be used to add color and texture to pages. Various papers, both found and purchased, can create surface grounds and collages. Photographs are a wonderful way to incorporate personal imagery and can be manipulated in a variety of ways. Whether or not you integrate written journal entries into the visual journal pages depends on your desires and what the page content calls for. In this book, you will see examples of both purely visual work and art journal pages that have so much written on them that the writing itself forms a visual element. Candy Jernigan’s and Peter Beard’s works contain unusual elements that spill across the pages chronicling their lives. If there is a way to make use of something in an art journal, artists will find a way to do it. If you are new to art journaling, you may find the bibliography, on page 141, to be a helpful resource.

Look at the type of art journal you typically use. If you were to try other book structures, what two would you try?


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Bridgette Guerzon Mills inscribes her journal by writing into the surface of this encaustic painting, one in a series of works.

Empty an anxious heart onto your pages. Clip, paint, snip, scribble, splatter, write. Don’t consider the appearance of your page, just release your burden onto the paper. If this isn’t a page you want to commit to having in your journal, do it on scrap or deli paper.


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Drawing outward from a photograph of a section of a tree, Katie Kendrick uses the tree as a focal image that provides content and as a structural element, to hold her written journaling.


M •

• • •

As an artist, what themes have you examined in your artwork and journals to date?


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insight activity: Materials • journal, sketchbook, paper • acrylic gel medium • gesso • scrap paper—telephone book pages, newspaper, scrap tissue paper, old kraft paper or paper bags

Unblanking the Blank Page





Tear the scrap paper into pieces approximately 2 to 3" (5 to 7.5 cm) by 3 to 5" (7.5 to 12.5 cm). Larger is fine. You may wish to crumple a few pieces, before tearing them, for additional visual texture.

Using the gel medium, adhere the scrap paper pieces to your surface, either randomly or in a visually pleasing arrangement. Allow to dry.

Using a wide paintbrush, roughly apply a coat of gesso over the surface, allowing the texture of the paper to remain visible. You can cover the scrap paper to create a uniform color, or you can allow some of the scrap paper’s original color to remain visible.

Use the textured surface as the ground for a journal page by adding more paper, photographs, magazine clippings, drawings, mark making, or paint.

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Take an old book from your hoard to use as a new journal. Instead of using it the way it opens, turn it 90 degrees and use it from that direction.

Tip If you have trouble starting without a color, consider using a tinted gesso. Alternatively, use magazine pages with wide swaths of color to create a work surface. Use a variation of an ink blot technique by allowing the submerged shapes on the page to suggest what follows next. Include a focal image with the scraps and encircle it with texture.


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Content and Meaning

Journaling is by definition personal, and art journaling is no exception. Keeping a visual journal can be rewarding, reactionary, intimate, confessional, fulfilling, cathartic, empowering, therapeutic, or pleasurable—but first and foremost, keeping a visual journal is personal. Filling blank pages with imagery laden with personal meaning is what makes art journaling, journaling. What we choose to show or hide, reveal or conceal, tells a story about our lives, our art, and yes, who we are inside. Each page in our journals, good or bad, is about something personal—the content our own. Pretty pictures and decorative pages devoid of deliberate content may indeed be pretty, but, as Rothko bluntly stated, “There is no such thing as a good painting about nothing.” Perfect techniques give you the means to create marvelous work, but the techniques are not an end in themselves. What we bring to bear on each page is the sum of our experiences. If it sounds daunting, it isn’t. Each technique you learn, each skill set you acquire for working with an artistic medium becomes part of your repertoire. Think of these as building blocks, as vocabulary—words for your unique visual language. The various activities and guides you use to develop original content become conversations you have had, pathways of exploration you follow in your creative process. This vocabulary, these words, this language, these processes give you ways of expressing authentic content. No longer are pages pretty for the sake of being pretty or mysterious to simply be clever; your pages are now pretty because they communicate an experience of beauty or mystery, as you puzzle your way into revealing even more of your inner self on your pages.

“I p p t s What are the last six things you added to your stash? Where are they?


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Turn up the volume: go for brighter versions of the colors you were going to use. Whatever you were going to do, do it bigger. Spill it off the page. Make it so big as to be unrecognizable. Make it so loud in color that anything else is hard to see, or so black that it could be a cave. Bigger, bolder, more volume!



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“It is a widely accepted notion among painters that it does not matter what one paints as long as it is well painted. This is the essence of academicism. There is no such thing as good painting about nothing.” —Mark Rothko

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taking a closer look:

The Deconstruction of Rothko, Bee Shay

Bee Shay’s Rothko journal conveys her side of a conversation she had with her husband about his visit with friends to a Rothko exhibit. Expressed in visual terms, Her work deconstructs imagery based on Rothko’s work, using Rothko’s deep commitment to communicating human emotions in his work and, by doing so, affirms her husband’s right to his own opinion about Rothko and deconstructs imagery based on the artist’s work, reconstructing the images and demonstrating Rothko’s deep commitment to communicating human emotions in his work. Your journals exude a feeling of connection with nature and a calmness, even as they address challenging topics such as selfportraiture and relationships. Can you talk a little about how nature informs your work? I’ve actually given a lot of thought lately as to why my work tends to be so organic, and I think that the answer is relatively simple. As a child, I was a relative loner, spending most of my time entertaining myself in the woods behind my house (about 20 acres [8 hectares] worth) exploring, building fairy houses, and collecting anything that wasn’t “nailed down,” as my father used to say. The acreage was originally a bird sanctuary from the 1850s until 1950, so it teemed with wildlife, as well. When I wasn’t in the woods, I was walking the shores of the Atlantic Ocean with my grandfather or the beaches of Chesapeake Bay with my family. I was always more comfortable with beaches, woods, birds, and animals than people, and it’s a safe place for me to work from. The calmness I feel when I’m “in the zone,” as my kids refer to it, when I’m outside collecting, gardening, or photographing, happens for me when my hands begin to move, as well. They are the instruments, the tools, that my heart and head use. The act of “making things” calms my spirit and lets the flow begin.

My best work comes when I’m able to get out of my own way and just let it happen. Can you share with us your process? How do you begin? Do you work in books topically, are they daily journals, or both? I have many journals running at the same time. Some are topical, and some are daily types. I probably have ADD, although I’ve never been tested. My self-portrait journal is the only journal I ever started and finished in consecutive days. It took a month of working nights, weekends, and whenever I could find a moment, but I was driven to see it through, rather than following my usual, more casual, approach of not being concerned with the product but more concerned about “the dance,” to quote my friend Shelley. Not controlling the outcome yields my best results, so I rarely start with a planned result. I usually begin by laying down backgrounds on many pages, just to get my hands moving. The things that are always right at hand are Rives BFK paper, gesso, inks, acrylic paints, and pastel pencils. I rarely cut, usually tear, and I just love texture, so it almost always starts with texture and moves on from there. Color is important to the way you communicate, and I’ve noticed you work with dyes and paints in ways that communicate texture. Can you tell us more about your favorite ways to add color to your pages? Layers, layers, layers. That’s my rule. I painted with oils for fifteen years and learned that it was much easier to add than to remove. Patience is the key. You can’t be in a hurry; you have to wait for things to dry, or you’ll end up with brown everything. That’s probably why I work on several things at once, so while one is drying, I can still be working.

List five topics you could journal on right now:


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o c o E


some places, and obliterating text or images in others. It’s almost like being on the beach and gleaning through the flotsam and jetsam left by the high tide. Once the thoughts are on the page, it’s no longer important to me that they are legible. I have gotten them “out,” and that’s the dance. I guess you could call this process of working constructive “deconstructionism.”



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“To us, art is an adventure into an unknown world, which can be explored only by those willing to take risks.” —Mark Rothko

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New journals can be daunting. Break in pages by dipping the book into a bowl of coffee, tea, or watereddown ink. Hold the book by the cover boards to dip. Fan open to dry.

I am also a big fan of spraying and washes. They have a way of taking a piece that feels disjointed and giving it a finished commonality that works for me. I rarely stop with one wash or one spray—it’s often five or six different shades of the same color. Each layer not only adds colors but texture, as well. The more I add, the deeper the piece becomes, and I like that. I like sanding back to reveal the colors that have been covered in


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Collectors, Thing-Finders, and Treasure Keepers

Many art journal artists work in mixed media, both in their journals and in their individual artworks. Many of us are thing-finders, collectors, and treasure keepers. We never know what our next piece might call for, so we gather up what appeals to us: old photographs, bits of tin, feathers, vintage textiles, and other found and foraged treasures. We create a dragon’s hoard, a collection of fabulous finds that we stash in our lairs and guard from harm. There is a certain excitement that is generated when we acquire a found-object treasure. When we look at the found object, we think, “Oh, wow! That would be great in….” “That would work perfectly for….” “I could use this in a piece on….” Excitedly, we snap up our find and carry it back to our studio, where we admire it, perhaps turning it over in our hands, and then we place it carefully onto a shelf or a tabletop or into a drawer. Unfortunately, the creative energy generated by the found object, all the possibilities for its use, and the excitement surrounding the found object go onto the shelf or into the drawer with the object. We give up the creativity to preserve the object, even though we obtained the object with the intent of using it.

g s t w I

“What are we going to do now?” asked Tommy. “I don’t know what you are going to do,” said Pippi, “but I know I can’t lie around and be lazy. I am a Thing-finder, and when you’re a Thing-finder you don’t have a minute to spare.” “What did you say you are?” asked Annika. “A Thing-finder.” “What’s that?” asked Tommy. “Somebody who hunts for things, naturally. What else could it be?” said Pippi. “The whole world is full of things and somebody has to look for them. And that’s just what a Thing-finder does,” she finished. “What kind of things?” asked Annika. “Oh, all kinds,” said Pippi. “Lumps of gold, ostrich feathers, dead rats, candy snapcrackers, and tiny little screws, and things like that.” —From PIPPI LONGSTOCKING, Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn, The Viking Press, 1950. [pp. 28–29]

L v a m

Make a list of all the media you use. Now list all the ways you use that media. Pull out your list when you are stuck, to help you brainstorm how to begin.


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Glue an envelope to a journal page. Write a love letter to someone, perhaps yourself, tuck it inside and seal it shut.

This sort of self-defeating behavior has its roots in fear—fear of running out of good stuff, fear of never ďŹ nding another one, fear of ruining the object. And, while some of these fears are legitimate, a certain amount of art making involves risk taking. There will always be good stuff to be found, and the next treasure is always waiting. Missing the opportunity to capture that creative energy is a true waste. In other words, use your good stuff. There is always more good stuff to be had.

Liz Lamoreaux incorporates vintage textiles and buttons along with her poetry into her mixed-media journal pieces.

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insight activity:

Pillage the Dragon’s Hoard by Using Your Good Stuff




Head to your studio. Peer into cupboards and poke into drawers.

Choose four items to work with, either for a journal or to incorporate into a journal page. Be brave and select items with which you feel an immediate connection, things that make you think of possibilities for use right away.

Take a spare bit of paper and jot down your ideas. Look them over. Choose the one that motivates you the most, and then begin.

Melanie Komisarski’s journal spread uses a layered paint background and silhouetted plant images to remind us all that nurturing our souls allows us to grow.

Tip This is an excellent activity to practice regularly. You can use variations of this activity for any art journal or other project by perusing your stash with that project in mind and gathering a small collection of items in a basket or box. Add or subtract objects as the project progresses. Maintaining an interaction with your collection of objects allows you to keep fresh in your mind the creative energy those objects generated.


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What are your four most amazing stash items? Where do you store them? What keeps you from using them?


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insight activity:

Automatic Writing

Tips Switch colors or switch to a different markmaking material and repeat the exercise. Use this paper as a background for journaling or as a collage element.

If you have ever attended a drawing or painting class, you are probably familiar with the process of automatic writing. In this exercise, we’ll let our mark-making material flow across the paper uncensored, and, to ensure that, some basic instructions are listed below. Materials • paper • timer • mark-making material




Take a sheet of paper, plain or otherwise, and place it, unobstructed, on a table. Select a few different mark-making materials, based on your personal tastes. For this exercise, choose something that moves easily across the page, such as a water-soluble oil pastel, a watercolor crayon, a hunk of charcoal, or even a china marker.

Find some way to keep time that you will not need to check. Rather than a watch, use a cooking timer, or even a song playing on your home audio equipment—something that will audibly alert you to the passage of time without your needing to be aware of it.

Set the timer for two minutes. Without looking down at the paper, begin to write about the topic. Don’t be concerned about legibility. In fact, writing illegibly can actually be freeing, because, when you’re not concerned about someone reading your writing, you are free to write all sorts of things. Illegible text is also visually interesting, because the loops and lines of writing provide a visual rhythm, and the idea of

3 Think about a topic— don’t think about what you are going to write, just think about the topic.

a written, illegible message is intriguing to the viewer. Feel free to write diagonally across the page or extremely large.

5 If you run out of space before your allotted time, turn the paper 90 degrees clockwise and begin again. Repeat as needed.

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When using text on a page, give it visual punch by creating words that jump off the page through their arrangement, color, or style.

This journal page has two layers of automatic writing in the background. I collaged a piece of Davey board with printed tissue, covered it with more automatic writings, and then further manipulated it, by collaging and stamping it with a textile stamp.


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insight activity:

The Vision Deck

One resource that can be used as both an easygoing warm-up activity and as a way to mine for deeper content is the creation of a Vision Deck. A Vision Deck is a collection of single words to use as prompts. A starter deck and some blank cards for you to copy onto card stock and cut out are located in the Appendix on page 136. Alternatively, you can use raffle tickets or small bits of paper. Some artists use the cards in a deck format, shuffling and turning over a random card; others place them into a fishbowl or box and draw a card at random. Single words are powerful tools for artists. As you ponder the word, often multiple meanings come to mind, a mood begins to form, perhaps colors or even shapes float to the surface. Pulling a card from your Vision Deck can help you begin a page in your art journal, and it can help you reach deeper into a topic already underway. To use the Vision Deck to begin a page in your art journal, select a card at random. Place it flat on your table. Taking up a pencil and paper, jot down as many things that come to mind as possible, without censoring. Allow your brain to free-associate. Once you feel you have exhausted that process, examine your list. What on your list intrigues, touches, disturbs, or distresses you? Make a mark by each word association that sparks that inner “ping” when you read it. Now, look at the associations that have moved you in some way. If you are merely looking for a jumping-off point, choose the most interesting association and consider the mood the it generates, your feelings about that association, and even the colors generated in your mind. You might have to sit quietly with your eyes closed to generate the colors. Some people find that the colors come with the feelings. Use your colors to create a palette for your page.

i If you are using the Vision Deck to mine deeper for subject content, then keep your topic firmly in mind when you choose a card. Follow the preceeding instructions, but generate your list of associations, relating the word to your topic. If you cannot come up with any, return the card to the pile and choose another. Now, as you examine your list of associations, pay close attention to your feelings—they are rich fodder for journal work. Some of the feelings may be expected, but often, you will discover content you hadn’t considered. Use these feelings to guide you into choosing various color palettes for your pages and objects, and ephemera from your collection to use in your work. The combination of materials on your pages, your color palette, and your content creates work that is rich in meaning.

Tip Sometimes, trying to think of words for your personal Vision Deck can leave your mind blank! Because we are trying to avoid this, try the following two simple tricks. Using a dictionary, quickly flip pages open at random and choose one word from each page spread. Don’t think about it, just react. Or, head to the hardware or paint store and collect a stack of paint sample cards. The paint color names often contain words that are evocative for an artist. Keep only the words, and either discard the color chips or set them aside for another project. (See the Dropped-Paper Collage activity on page 36.)

List six words you can immediately add to your Vision Deck.


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Musical, Imaginary Alphabet

Similar to automatic writing, the Musical Imaginary Alphabet activity is useful as a creative warm-up and as a mark-making activity. Materials • bamboo calligraphy brush • sheet of hot-press watercolor, printmaking, or quality drawing paper • music • ink • newspaper



Select some music that speaks to the mood of a topic on which you wish to work in your art journal.

Based on your emotional response, use the calligraphy brush to make alphabet-like marks, without actually using the alphabet. Allow your feelings to determine the faux alphabet shapes: rounded, long, sharp, short, linear, wavy.

2 Cover your work area with newspaper, and lay your art paper flat. Place your ink in a container that’s easily accessible for dipping your brush.

3 Start your music, and allow the feelings that the music evokes to determine what comes next.

5 Cover your page with these marks. Think cuneiform writing, runes, ancient messages, or Asian syllabaries, as you allow your creative spirit to work with the music to fill the paper with this mysterious text.

Tips • Use colored paper or paper that has already been covered with a wash of watercolor or ink. • If you want to make crisper marks on the page, use an ink containing a resin, such as Speedball Super Black India Ink. • These pages make gorgeous covers, backgrounds, collage elements, and endpapers for journals. And because they bear a relationship to your content, they add a layer of meaning to your work.

Journal spread by Carol Parks.

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Find one image or object that is the quintessential distillation of someone or some place you cherish and create a page that supports the image or object.

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Relationships A well-used axiom states that no one exists in a vacuum; we are connected to others through a series of relationships and have been since birth. Simple biology dictates many of these relationships, because we were each born with two biological parents. Family, friends, teachers, neighbors, roommates, love interests, and life partners have intersected our lives and affected our futures. The examination of relationships has provided inspiration for artwork throughout history—art journaling is no exception. Dozens of psychological theories and countless schools of philosophical thought have been

built around the nature of relationships between people. It is no wonder then, that the dynamic nature of our interactions and connections to other people creates the most often explored area in our art journals. We examine, explore, commemorate, and, yes, sometimes eviscerate our relationships with parents, siblings, children, neighbors, and lovers. We address failures, express fears and hopes, and record the very nature of love in our lives.

“Man is a knot into which relationships are tied.” —Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Made to commemorate his son’s third birthday, this piece by Joe Ludwig incorporates text—things his son says or enjoys doing—to create the shadows and lines in his son’s face.

Observe children at play. Note how easily they move between fantasy and reality. Create pages that flow between the real and imagined.

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Family and Friends

The process of art journaling about our most intimate relationships, our family, and our closest friends can range from joyous to incredibly difficult, depending on the nature of that relationship and the art journal’s content. Most of us can work easily, in a way that celebrates and commemorates our feelings and thoughts, but when the relationship we are addressing is difficult or painful, we can find it difficult to bare ourselves in our artwork.

“We all grow up with the weight of history on us. Our ancestors dwell in the attics of our brains as they do in the spiraling chains of knowledge hidden in every cell of our bodies.” —Shirley Abbott

Corey Moortgat journals onto her mixed-media paintings, which are created on panels of Masonite.

List the layers you’ve added to your inner child as you’ve become a grown-up.


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Keep an Altoids tin handy; snip interesting letters from your junk mail to sprinkle onto your journal pages and store them in the tin.

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insight activity:

Dropped-Paper Collage

Exploring family dynamics can be difficult and often leaves us feeling exhausted or in need of therapy! If your art journal work is leading you to explore difficult dynamics and you are having trouble beginning, try a technique made famous by artist Jean (Hans) Arp, who was associated with different art movements, including Abstract-Creationism, Dadaism, and Surrealism. One of his famous works, Collage with Squares Arranged According to the Laws of Chance, was apparently created by tearing paper into pieces, dropping them onto another piece of paper, and pasting them where they fell. For this activity, draw from your Vision Deck, to begin to associate thoughts and feelings with your topic. Choose one or two colors of paper to tear, as well as a color for your surface ground. Your paper and your ground can be the same color, if that is the palette that corresponds with your feelings. Then do as Arp allegedly did and drop the torn pieces onto your working surface, pasting them where they have fallen. You might find this to be a sufficient background for a focal image or text, or you may choose to work into the collage, marking around the paper edge. You can also draw over the paper, perhaps with automatic writing, while thinking of your topic. Sometimes, a difficult topic may be rendered less so by the use of symbolism—not to be cryptic and hide our meaning but to find a metaphor with which we can approach our topic. The metaphor provides distance, so that we can safely approach painful, dark, or personal content, without feeling as though we have exposed ourselves entirely. Use tarot cards, tales, animals, trees, objects, geography—rivers, mountains, and caves, for example—to represent yourself and others.

Friendship can provide a lifeline when you’re treading through rough waters. List a friend who has been there for you.


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Tear up a collage that didn’t work and randomly glue down the pieces across a spread. Wash the page incompletely with a light-colored acrylic, such as bone white, and begin anew.

This journal spread by the author is part of a book exploring a difficult pregnancy.

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visual toolbox:

Making a Stencil Portrait

The first step in making a stencil portrait is to choose a photograph to work with. Choose one that is relatively simple or that can be cropped into a simple shot, such as a head and shoulders shot. Then, using image-editing software, alter the photographic image to remove detail and create a simplified black-and-white image that is ideal for cutting. The following instructions are for using Adobe Photoshop to alter a photograph, so that it can be cut into a stencil. Other image-editing software programs can also be used. In addition to referring to the manufacturer’s instruction manuals and experimenting on your own, search the Internet to find tips and shortcuts for using your image-editing software. Materials • photo or digital image • computer with imageediting software • card stock • cutting mat • craft knife and blades • glue stick • white crayon For Traditional Stenciling: • stencil brushes • acrylic paint For Spray Painting: • repositionable adhesive spray, such as Easy Tack • spray paint


To Alter a Photograph in Adobe Photoshop: 1



Use either a digital photo or an image that has been scanned and open it in Photoshop.

Under Image, select Adjust and then Auto Contrast.

Then, also under Image, Adjust, select Threshold. You’ll see a slider to adjust the Threshold Level. Once the image is to your liking, print it onto card stock. Make a reference print on plain paper, and save your image.

3 Repeat and choose Auto Levels.

To Create the Stencil:







Examine your printed image. You might need to print more than one version and combine the two to obtain the level of detail you want for your stencil. Use a sharp craft knife to cut the parts you like from one card stock print; using a glue stick, add them onto the other card stock print.

Before you cut away all the white areas from your printed image, you will need to be aware of how the black-and-white areas join, so that you do not cut loose an entire area of the face from the image. Be sure to look over the image and determine whether you have a section that must remain untouched, to hold the stencil together. Mark that area with a crayon, so you don’t forget.

In the event that you make a cutting error, fit the piece back into place. Glue on a piece of discarded card stock—on the top of the stencil, not the bottom—so that it overlaps the stencil and the accidentally removed piece. Flip the stencil over to trim away the excess card stock from your patch.

Test your stencil by giving it a spray with your spray paint. Do not use the repositionable adhesive on the reverse side at this time. Compare the results to your reference print. If you missed an area, it will be apparent. You may have to go back and cut more from your stencil. If the paint has obscured the cutting area, print another copy onto card stock, cut the missing section from this new print, and, using your reference print as a guide, glue this into place using the technique described in step 3.

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You can create custom stencils for text easily, without all the craft-knife work, by using a set of alphabet punches.

Examine the relationships you have with four people; what symbols or metaphors can you use to symbolize these people and your relationships with them?


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In this piece, I spray painted three stencil portraits, one of each of my children, onto single piece with a background created by spray painting layers using stencils.

Spray Painting 1


Always work outdoors or in an extremely wellventilated studio and wear the appropriate safety equipment. Disposable latex gloves are also helpful.

Shake the paint can sufficiently, and, using a light hand, spray paint your stencil. A light hand ensures that you will not have drips and globs of paint. Spray in short bursts and review your work after each spray, continuing until you feel it is sufficiently painted.

2 Give the back side of your stencil a healthy coat of repositionable adhesive spray. This affixes the edges, so that you do not have paint bleeding under your stencil. Place your stencil, adhesive side down, onto your journal page.

4 Allow the piece to dry thoroughly in a wellventilated area. Lift stencil from image.

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Make a photocopy of your palm. Head to the library and look up palmistry. Give yourself a palm reading and create a page about what your palm has to say. Are secrets there?


Tip Store your custom stencils, treated with adhesive, on a piece of plain white computer paper. These stencils store well in a threering binder with page protector sheets.


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taking a closer look: Maggie’s Baby Book, Nina Bagley When I was pregnant with my second child, Maggie, I was having a difficult time. I had complications with the pregnancy and was separated from my husband. My friend, Nina Bagley, asked if she could make a baby book for Maggie as a gift. Could she! Ooh, the anticipation! As my pregnancy progressed, so did our friendship.

Nina, also a single parent, with her boys now nearly grown, was filled with compassion for the situation and with nostalgia for those babyhood days gone by. Nina asked if I minded her working on some pages. Thrilled to be offered a gift of this beautiful original artwork, I said, “Oh, please, feel free—it is your book!”

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Describe an ordinary summer day from your childhood. What games did you play? What did you eat? Who were your friends?


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Two weeks before the baby arrived, this beauty of an art journal arrived at my door. I took it with me to the hospital, and in those wee hours, holding that wee bundle on my lap, I turned those pages and felt we were loved. Each page is filled to the brim with touching, gorgeous, baby-and-mama artwork. In fact, Nina had to rebind it, because the book had become too large for the original spine. More than 3" (7.5 cm) thick, the book is so full, Nina added a tiny blank book to the interior back cover for recording Maggie’s babyhood memories.

The amount of detail in the book is astonishing; one must explore these complex, layered pages, by opening envelopes and peering into pockets. These journal pages were thoughtfully created to communicate a sense of warmth and tenderness. The vintage paper ephemera, combined with the delicate, antique, floral shank buttons running down the vintage barkcloth spine, the vintage charms, the incredibly tiny text hammered into copper strips, and Nina’s tender writings, clearly communicate the artist’s thoughts.

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In second grade, what did you want to be when you grew up? What other things did you want to be when you grew up? Have you done any of those things? Do you still want to do any of those things?



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No other part of our lifespan seems to have as much significance to us as our childhood, that time of exploration, learning, and new experiences. Memories from childhood are unusually strong, and some seem almost imbued with a special power to generate the same feelings we had when the original event took place. We can remember sounds, images, emotions, scents, even physical touch. Exploring our personal childhood can be a roller coaster ride of both joy and sorrow, but it is also an infinitely rich subject to examine in our art journals. Actor Woody Harrelson is quoted as having said, “A grown-up is a child with layers on.” Memories take us under the layers, back to places we have long forgotten or to places we remember often. An art journal can serve as a place in which to work without ramifications, to explore or exorcise difficult experiences, and enable us to visually express feelings that no one need ever see or understand. Remember that many treasured fairy tales, for all the sugar coating, were once scary and dark tales. On a difficult day, we can travel in our art journal down the softly lit path of nostalgic summer evenings spent catching fireflies and linger a while. Childhood is an area for which few of us need prompts to generate topics; mostly, we seem to simply need permission. Symbols and metaphors can provide a means of entering topics we feel are difficult or that we are embarrassed to approach because of their sweet tenderness. Problems with getting started often stem from a flood of memories or feelings—by using your Vision Deck, you can narrow your focus to a specific instance or thought. Often, we are able to broach childhood in our art journaling after becoming parents ourselves. Suddenly, we find that having children leads us to understand our own parents more and, at the same time, understand them less. We are unabashedly sentimental about, unstoppably tender toward, and unashamedly frustrated with our offspring, as they grow from infancy to adulthood. Libraries and galleries could be filled with art journals that examine childhood. From the worlds of dream and imagination and the fiercely intense peer-group explorations to our interactions as parent and child, there is much in the realm of childhood to explore.


“So, like a forgotten fire, a childhood can always flare up again within us.” —Gaston Bachelard

What children’s songs or stories resonate for you? Why?


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Melanie Komisarski’s daughters play while she observes and records them with love on her journal page.

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Try on different handwriting styles.

Journal page spread by Juliana Coles


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Karen Michel journals about her son and the magic he works on her heart.

Tips • Ephemera related to children, toys, storybooks, reading primers, and vintage textiles can serve as jumping-off points to explore any approach to childhood. • Fairy tales and nursery rhymes offer potent symbolism and metaphor for approaching work. • Music lyrics and verses from children’s songs and poems can offer structure, by exploring a verse per page.

• Childhood mementoes and treasured teddy bears can be incorporated into pages! Objects that won’t fit between pages can be photographed, and the photographs can be further manipulated or used as is. • A favorite childhood book can be altered to create a potent journal structure, or the cover boards removed and used to bind a new blank journal. Try eBay and online used book dealers for a spare copy.

What five people have changed your life most significantly?


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Tricia Scott’s writing, color palette, and photography work together to create a vivid visual whole.

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Construct a page that interacts with the viewer. Try pull tabs, flaps, and small doors.

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Tributes and Remembrances

Death is a part of life. Regardless of how terribly overused this phrase is, it remains true. You might find yourself working in your art journal as part of the grieving process, expressing the tide of emotions and memories to which you fear others have tired of listening. You might also create art journals to house memories about those who have touched your life in a particular way, so that your journal becomes a tribute or book of remembrance. The timing must be right for this work. Fevered journal pages upon which you pour your sadness and pain give way to more introspective pages, as you work through your loss. While these pages are often difficult to look at, even years later, the power they have to evoke this visceral response tells you the work you have done in your art journal was valuable for you.

Remembrances and tributes can be difficult to begin. Who might you remember and why?


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“The deep pain that is felt at the death of every friendly soul arises from the feeling that there is in every individual something which is inexpressible, peculiar to him alone, and is, therefore, absolutely and irretrievably lost.”

Prove you exist.

—Arthur Schopenhauer

Amy Hanna created this piece in a workshop as a tribute to her grandmother.

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Remembrances offer a way to create art around people who were special to us, to chronicle their lives and their impact on our lives. Including personal ephemera, writings, signatures, textiles, and, of course, photographs allows you to fully flesh out your pages. As you work, think about your feelings, your subject matter, and the setting, and use them to generate not only your content but your color palette, allowing it to inform your technique choices, as well. Ask yourself some key questions: What feelings led you to choose this content? What feelings are you trying to communicate? What colors are associated with these feelings? What are the colors in your imagery? Is there overlap? If not, how can you connect these color palettes? Are there techniques that support the communication of your content? For example, use shiny transparencies and colorful collage for hopefulness, patina on metal or aging paper for the passage of time, or paint layers sanded away for nostalgia.

nonpermanent use of keepsakes There may be times you want to use precious mementoes but hesitate to risk them by attaching them permanently to a journal page. • Use quality photocopies of letters and images. • Consider using tea-stained or vintage paper for copies of written documents. • Take antique and vintage photographs to a photo developing shop to have quality copies made that look like the originals. • Create pockets and sleeves in which to slide mementoes. • Use library pockets, page protectors sheets, manila folders, or glassine envelopes to hold treasures.

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Draw a spider web and place yourself at the center. Make a list of your close family members, friends, and colleagues. Place them on the web according to where they are in terms of impact on your life.


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Collect doorways, or rather, images of doorways. Thinking about the nature of doorways can lead into some interesting journal work.

Melanie Sage remembers women from her past in this journal spread.

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The Written Word Art journaling allows us to fluidly move between art that is strictly visual to art that combines visual elements and text. Whether the text is incorporated into the background or used a focal point, text is a powerful element, packing visual, as well as narrative, content. Text can be applied to pages as a design element, through the use of the letters as visual texture, not legible words—letters scattered across a back-ground, for example, or sheets of grade-school cursive hand-writing practice.

Artists have often incorporated favorite quotes and words of power, poetry, and prose into their art journal pages. Personal writings, chronicled events, and storytelling often find their way out of our fevered imaginations and onto our art-filled pages. Even imaginary alphabets place a visual rhythm on a page, and in turn, the rhythm can tell a story. Sharp slashing marks speak tersely of tension. Fluid strokes share a sense of grace and ease.

“But words are things, and a small drop of ink, falling like dew, upon a thought, produces that which makes thousands, perhaps millions, think.” —Lord Byron, DON JUAN, 1819

Color, font choice, and collage elements work together to communicate the dynamic state of happiness described in the quotation on Sarah Fishburn’s art journal page.

Tear a piece of newspaper or tissue into rectangles and strips. Adhere these pieces to your page with acrylic medium. For additional texture, crumple the pieces before attaching them.

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Incorporating Text as a Design Element

“Words, like Nature, half reveal And half conceal the Soul within.”

Automatic writings, random arrangements of letters, or layers of words can be used to create a powerful background or focal content. The larger symbolism of the concept of language and words, of communication or the lack thereof, can be expressed without ever using a legible word or phrase. Legible text is also a visual design element, as any graphic designer will tell you. While art journal pages are not constructed to advertise a product, you are communicating content to a target audience, even if the target audience is just you. How your text is used to create visual impact is something to consider. You may wish to consciously place and use your text in a way that deliberately creates impact and communicates something visually, not just literally. Balance or lack of balance on a page communicates different things visually—harmony versus chaos or discord, for example. Proximity of letters to each other and to other visual elements on a page can be used to reveal our feelings. Tightly spaced text may speak to anxiety or intensity, while loosely spaced text can slow down a visual reading. Alignment, or the placement of text on your page, can lead the eye across visual elements, creating a visual sentence to be read diagonally, from top to bottom, or from left to right. Repetition creates emphasis, although this is true not just for text but for any visual element. Contrast, or the lack thereof, can speak volumes or speak softly. These design elements can be added to your visual repertoire and used to communicate content as yet another layer of meaning in your work.

—Alfred, Lord Tennyson, “Im memoriam A.H.H.,” 1850

Melanie Sage uses a variety of found text elements on a portrait page to communicate her feelings directly.

List two books you’ve read that you’ll never forget and your favorite passages.


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Coat a page in wax and scratch marks or text into the surface. Rub graphite or charcoal into the scratches.


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Carol Parks created a series of journal pages, in which the backgrounds are blocks of bold color and the text in the blocks is written in either white or black gel pen. Page after page in several journals is filled in this way, and the text then dissolves out of focus, visually becoming a strong, moving design element.

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Favorite Quotes, Poems, and Prose

Fill your packsack with tiny black sketchbooks scrawled with a quote on each page for safekeeping. Add everyday journals made fat with cellophane tape and snippets from magazine readings, hastily written excerpts on napkins, airline boarding passes, and the occasional chocolate bar wrapper. Shelves of books can be stored inside the packsack, paper flags poking up from the spines, each a reminder that some arrangement of words on that page whispered something to the soul. Art journals are marvelous repositories for treasured writings; quotes, poetry, and prose can all can find their way onto the pages, marrying the visual elements and speaking, whispering, and shouting the myriad things you work so hard to say.

E c is s

Powerful and direct, Melanie Komisarski’s journal spread uses text as a design element and is built around an inspiring quote.

What writing would you hang on your moonlit clothesline?



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Folding pages adds new perspectives. Fold before starting, to create separate spaces. Fold after, to create texture and dimension.

Elizabeth Bunsen’s moonlit clothesline and hillside page is a repository for quotes she wished to keep.


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“Poetry is a packsack of invisible keepsakes.” —Carl Sandburg

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In this piece, which shows my daughter’s hand and a treasured quote, I incorporated a variety of techniques, including spray painting with stencils and automatic writing. I had my daughter rest her hand on a copier and used the resulting image to create a mask from contact paper.

The two most frequent ways I add text to a journal page: I use these two methods of applying that text:


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visual toolbox:

Text onto Metal Mesh

There are two easy methods for applying text to metal mesh. Method one—Stencils and Masks on Mesh—makes use of vinyl press-on letters, alphabet stickers, and alphabet scrapbooking masks. Method two—Stamping a Resist on Mesh—uses alphabet rubber stamps and a Versamark watermark stamp pad. Both methods can be manipulated to apply images to mesh, as well as to text.

For Method One, Stencils and Masks on Mesh, you’ll need: • vinyl stick-on letters, alphabet stickers, or alphabet scrapbooking masks For Method Two, Stamping a Resist on Mesh, you’ll need: • rubber alphabet stamps • Versamark watermark stamp pad

Method One 1



Fill the spray bottle with patina solution. Be sure to have a water supply close at hand.

Wearing your rubber gloves, rest the mesh on some grass or in a tray, and spray the surface of the mesh with the patina solution. When you see sufficient color change on the mesh, rinse the mesh in your bucket or with the hose.

Allow the mesh to dry, resting on some grass or in the tray. Once the mesh is dry, remove the materials you have attached to the mesh. The patina will continue to develop over the next hour or so. Once it has developed, spray both sides of the mesh with a clear spray paint.

2 Tear down your mesh to the size you require. Mesh will tear, just like fabric.

3 Apply the stickers, letters, or masks to the mesh, burnishing them down firmly.

variations Commercial Stencils You can use all sorts of stencils and masks with this technique. Plastic commercial stencils sprayed on the reverse side with repositionable adhesive can be adhered to the mesh and then sprayed with patina solution. These make gorgeous backgrounds. You can combine small stencils and text to create a page or focal piece. Contact Paper Contact paper can be used to cut custom stencils and masks. Think of masks as silhouettes. You can draw your own shapes onto the contact paper and then cut them out. Or, use a photocopier to enlarge shapes from books or drawings, cut them out of the paper,

glue them onto the contact paper, and then cut them out again. Adhere the cutouts to the mesh and proceed as previously described. Magazine Images Anything you can clip from a magazine—a person, a tree, a dog—can be adhered to the mesh with regular spray adhesive. Add text or other elements, spray with patina solution, and follow the instructions described above. Leaves, Ferns, and Other Natural Items: Adhere relatively flat natural materials to the mesh, using regular spray adhesive. Apply the patina solution and follow the instructions described above.

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Save your doodles. You can enlarge and copy them to create interesting backgrounds.

Materials (for both techniques) • wire mesh in either copper or brass • patina solution: Novacan Black for Solder and Lead, liver of sulfur, Modern Options Patina in green or blue, or JAX patina solutions • spray bottle • rubber gloves • water supply, such as a filled bucket, garden hose, or utility sink • plastic tray, box, or grassy area • clear spray paint


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Method Two 1 Stamp text onto mesh, using the Versamark stamp pad Allow to dry.

2 Wearing rubber gloves, spray the mesh with patina solution.

3 Once the desired level of color change has been reached, rinse the mesh with water from a bucket or garden hose. Allow to dry.

4 After an hour or so, treat both sides of mesh with clear spray paint.

variations Rubber Stamps You are obviously not limited to alphabet rubber stamps. Most stamps will work for this process, although extremely detailed stamps will lose some detail. Printing Blocks Hand-carved printing blocks, made from linoleum block or the new, easier-to-use carving materials, can be used to create your own designs for application to mesh and other printing processes.

In this journal page, I used a magazine image as a silhouette, vinyl text, and natural items from my yard as masks.

Make a list of your favorite quotes. Consider what they are attached to, as journal page topics.


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Vagary. Despite its naughty sound, a vagary is a whim, an odd or eccentric idea. For one week, collect all your odd ideas, not just those that are art-related. Now choose one, two, or more and make pages about them.

Calligraphy, collage, and hand-sketched details create a page balanced between text and image in Sandra Hardee’s art journal.


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Personal Writings and Storytelling

Many artists are also poets, storytellers, observers, and recorders. For some of us, our written journals are quite separate from our art journals. However, something magical happens when we allow our writing to inform our art. Whether we are communicating written content and echoing the feelings or sentiments of that writing with our art, or juxtaposing our art with our written thoughts, somehow the work becomes something more, something larger, as if a collaboration has happened. Anaïs Nin wrote, “The role of a writer is not to say what we all can say, but what we are unable to say.” Our written words allow us to say what we are unable to say with our artwork, and our art communicates where words fail. Storytelling with text and art on our journal pages is an inventive way of approaching content. Storytelling also allows for a bit of detachment, because the story we have to tell can be told in the third person or as if it happened “long ago and far away.” Creating characters to represent persons we do not wish to identify allows us to exaggerate, highlight, or eliminate to enhance our story. The richness and depth of the story is in the presence of art and writing.

“And by the way, everything in life is writable about if you have the outgoing guts to do it, and the imagination to improvise. The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt.” —Sylvia Plath

What do you look at every day? Is any of it written words? List the reading materials you peruse daily.


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Nikki Blackwood created this piece in one of my classes; it tells the tale of a husband, a wife, an affair, and a child.

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Attach all the loose items—gum wrappers, receipts, stubs, to-do lists—from your coat pockets or the bottom of your handbag to a page in your journal. With a piece of charcoal, make marks all over this page. Spray with workable fixative and use as a starting point for a journal page.



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M •

• • • •

Artist Loretta Marvel searched among her ancestors to explain her and her sisters’ artistic natures. Finding no one, she created a tale that imagines a hidden artistic ancestor. She wanted to both explain her unquenchable desire to paint and address the sense that perhaps being an artist wasn’t encouraged as a career path in her family.

Make up a fairy tale right now. Don’t think too much! Who are the characters?


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The Found Poem

Sometimes startling in their beauty and insight, found poems are relaxing to create. Two ways of creating a found poem follow. Materials • newspaper or magazine article • paper lunch bag • scissors • glue stick • journal spread

Version One: The Paper Bag Poem

Version Two: One Line at a Time

Clip apart the words from a brief magazine or newspaper article and toss them into a paper bag. Pull the words from the bag one at a time and lay them out on a table. Rearrange them at will, and then paste your found poem into your journal.

Choose an article from a newspaper or magazine that has as many lines as you wish to have words in your poem—a ten-line article, for example, to give you a ten-word poem. To really enjoy the process, try for a twenty- to thirty-line article. Clip the text into individual lines. Working one line at a time, consider the words in each line and snip one of the words of that line. Glue them onto your journal page, in order of discovery.

For this journal page, I applied text using a ruling pen, then added a found poem cut from pages randomly removed from a typing instruction manual and silhouette figures. The background was created with successive layers of fluid acrylics; the last two layers of color were applied using a wood-graining brush from the hardware store.

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If your pages are typically neat or open looking, assign yourself the task of creating five messy pages. If your style is typically loose, assign yourself five cleanly designed pages.

insight activity:


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Brenda Beene Shackleford created a small series of mixed-media paintings that incorporate small poems, completed simultaneously.

visual toolbox:

Writing with Fluid Acrylics

Adding handwritten text after using acrylic paint can be problematic, because many pens and markers will not write over a glossy surface. Sometimes, the piece calls for something other than markers or paint pens, and the softer look of a crayon is insufficient for what the artist is hoping to accomplish. One way to add handwriting is to use a ruling pen and fluid acrylics. Ruling pens are available at and stores that sell art and drafting supplies—try craft and office supply stores. Materials • fluid acrylics • cup of water • small dish • paintbrush • ruling pen • scrap paper





Squeeze some fluid acrylic onto a dish. Dilute slightly with water.

Using scrap paper, test the diluted acrylic. If it doesn’t flow, add a few more drops of water to your paint mixture. If it flows out quickly, add a bit more paint.

Once you have the paint suitably diluted, load the pen again. Practice writing on some scrap paper.

Write onto your painted surface using the ruling pen. You may find you need to begin on scrap paper and then write on your painted surface to prevent puddling on the initial strokes.

2 Dip the paintbrush into the diluted fluid acrylic and apply the paint to the opening of the ruling pen

What fonts do you prefer to use? List them and why you like them.


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Pick an artist in whom you are interested. Research the time period in which they lived. What other work were they exposed to? What poetry was written then? What were the current events? What were the dominant colors in paintings? Fashions? Create a visual research journal.

Kelly Rae Roberts considers her paintings journal entries, because her writings are part and parcel of each one.


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M th h


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c h a pte r

Current Events The phrase “current events” might remind us of school days when we reported on the happenings from the daily newspaper and the nightly news. However, journaling about the current events in our lives can provide the most constant source of rich, personal content. Think of current events on three levels—the Everyday Events, the Personal Life-Changing Events, and Events with Global Impact. Everyday events are the stuff life is made of: sipping tea in the mornings at the kitchen table, commuting to the office, driving the children to school, stargazing at night, and everything in between. Everyday events include spying the red-tailed hawk on his tree perch on the interstate roadside and wondering if he is hunting the ubiquitous rabbits and chipmunks or the ubiquitous automobiles wending their way north and south each day, like beads on a string. Everyday events include the gratitude you feel for the safety of your own life when you drop coins into a hat of a homeless person on your way to the subway. The mundane everyday events—the arguments or lovely dinners with your spouse, the worries and joys of parenting, even the colors of the

produce at the market—are the fabric of your life and are worthy material for art journaling. Personal life-changing events don’t need to be defined; we know what those are. Delving into the joys and sorrows that make up the rhythm of life provides a way of honoring those times and a way of making art with deep personal meaning. Use your art journal to explore your reactions and emotions regarding the birth of a child or grandchild, the loss of a loved one, a change in careers, or a move across the country. Events of global impact include our responses to things that touch us from the news. Whether we are responding to the daily newspaper, evening news, twenty-four hour news channel, or news bites from the Web, we can describe our feelings about what is happening in the larger world in our art journals.

“Not being able to govern events, I govern myself.”

Create an antitravel journal. Create pages for places you NEVER want to go to again.

Melanie Komisarski remembers the sorrow of September 11 in her journal.

—Michel de Montaigne


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Everyday Events

Our admiration for powerful art journal pages about dramatic events can lead us to believe that our everyday experiences are not worthy of gracing the pages of our art journals. In other words, we are saying our lives are unworthy of our own attention. Yet, as artists, we ďŹ nd beauty, mystery, and emotion throughout our day. We spy leaves swirling up from the ground in the wind of an autumn day, follow the stark lines of a tree divested of leaves in the winter, peer into the face of the woman who rings up our groceries, smile along with the toothless grin of a baby who loves us, or vent our frustration at collecting yet another set of socks from the living room oor. Art journals can chronicle the ordinary, or they can explore the moments when the ordinary seems to transcend.

Elizabeth Bunsen celebrates a birthday in her art journal.

What everyday events do you visually record in your journals? Which ones do you always record?


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Create a quilt of images and words on pages. Decide on a quilt design, sketch it out on scrap paper, and make a copy. Cut up the copy and use it as a template for clipping your images to ďŹ t into the quilt spaces. Piece your quilt together and glue it down in your journal.


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Lesley Riley combines image, fabric, and fiber to express the feelings of welcome, wonder, and love she felt during her presence at the birth of her granddaughter.

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Tracie Lyn Huskamp’s color-rich daily journal page chronicles the first day of fall and the impact of the changing colors of leaves on the trees. By using unusual color, the oft-remarked-upon change of the seasons is given vibrant energy.

Make a list of the ways you can reect the seasons in your journals.


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“It’s surprising how much memory is built around things unnoticed at the time.” —Barbara Kingsolver, ANIMAL DREAMS

Sandra Hardee captures one Sunday using ink, watercolor, photography, and text.

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Tell a more complex story by superimposing one image over another using transparencies and packing tape transfers, or by layering image transfers to accomplish this depth.

Using images of a house toppling into the ocean, Diana Trout explores a need for balance, in this art journal spread.


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Carla Sonheim’s pocket-sized journals are first filled with watercolor paintings, typically of interesting characters. She then journals directly onto the background area. Sometimes, as in the case of the moose spread (above), her son, Wes, joins her in art journaling.

insight activity:

One Hundred Versions

Choose an ordinary object: a bowl, a sock, a blank book, a pen, something very ordinary. Then, set about recording this object one hundred times. Photograph your object in a variety of settings or in the same setting but at different times of day, as the light changes. Photograph your object with similar objects, and then with unrelated objects. Sketch your object in ink, in pencil, in crayon, in watercolor. Re-create it using torn tissue paper. Create a collage in homage

to your object. Use the name of your object and create a page using text as a design element. Make a self-portrait of you with your object. Create an image in your journal in which your object fills the page, and another in which your object is very small. You needn’t reach one hundred, but the act of examining your object in as many settings and media as possible will allow you to see how truly unordinary the ordinary can be.

Where do you work on your journal? Why?


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Flip a page with which you are not satisďŹ ed upside down or sideways and work on it from that direction. current events

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insight activity:

The Calendar Journal

Using a journal to which you can add or rearrange pages, such as a portfolio or ring binder, create one page per week for this journal. You might find that you have created several pages for a given week, but only one can be chosen for this journal. You can create

a montage or mosaic depicting your week, distill your week down to one feeling or experience, or simply respond to your week visually without planning on a single page. The pages will comprise a visual record of your year, and the results may surprise you.


Y lo c a a a Leighanna Light created this calendar journal. In this spread, she deals on one page with new growth and future planning, while the other expresses her feelings of unhappiness in a toxic work environment.

t t v le “ t d T o

What two things can you do to prepare, so that you can journal more frequently?


I ju “

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Traci Bunkers

Your work is so honest and real. Being fortunate enough to look through your journals, I noticed your work is made up of conver-sations with your inner self, unspoken prayers, visualizations, and requests from the universe or a higher power. Are you able to tell us more about your way of approaching your journal and your style? I pretty much just do whatever I feel like doing, or what “needs to be done” at the time. And whatever happens, happens. I’m not trying to make “art,” so to speak; I’m just expressing myself. I’m a very emotional person, and working in my journal is a perfect outlet for me. Sometimes, I just start painting background colors, or “gluing [stuff] down,” as I call it, without any concern for finding the right image or color. Other times, if I need to get something down before I have any background work done, I just get it down. Then I add the color and what-not later, working around or on top of what I journaled, whether it’s visual or just written. I do a lot of layering, sometimes covering up images or text. If I don’t get a spread finished, and time goes by, I either leave it or just start adding to it the next time I work in it. By the time I feel “finished,” there is usually a lot going on, and it looks totally

different than when I started. I never work with any preconceived idea of what the finished journal spread will look like. I find myself working more in my journal when I’m down or dealing with things than when I’m happy as a clam. The reason for that is that working in my journal is what helps me get through those times, and it helps me to figure out what I need to do—whether it’s making a business decision or a personal decision. As silly as it might sound, I have learned to become my own cheerleader in my journal, and it has really shifted things for me. I have done a lot of inner work through visual journaling and with affirmations, usually combining them. As far as the conversations, I have them in my head all the time. They change from normal thoughts to unspoken conversations with people when I’m mulling something over, figuring out a solution or action to take. So, it carries over into my journaling. It gives me a voice to express things to someone or to a situation. And that’s also where my inner cheerleader comes out. I went through a pretty traumatizing experience in 2006 and found solace in my journal. I believe journaling about it helped me to deal with it and come out stronger.

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A xenolith is a fragment of rock imbedded in another rock. Create a xenolithic artwork.

taking a closer look:


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i m g w I o o i

T o s a m ďŹ m s

Traci Bunkers’ multilayered, intense pages, dense with imagery and content, examine both her daily life and larger personal issues.

Whose voice is the voice that is ongoing in your head?


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I read somewhere, on your blog perhaps, that you curl up in bed and journal. How do you organize yourself to do that? You probably read an article I wrote about making art in bed. Yes, I love my bed, and so I love doing things that I love in my bed, like working in my journal. It’s easier than you think. You just have to keep an eye on the pets that hang out in bed with you! The main thing you need is one of those breakfast trays, the kind with the legs on them. It’s the perfect size for my journal, or whatever else I want to work on. I put other supplies on old metal serving trays. I usually put the water container on the nightstand. One thing I love about the tray is I can just pick the whole thing up and set it next to my bed when I’m done for the night, or fold the legs down and put it under the bed. That way, I don’t have to clean up right away, and it’s ready to go. You can’t go crazy when you work in bed, though, because you don’t have all of your “stuff” out. It’s a good time to practice limiting what you use. I also have some of those little organizer totes to put my supplies in. They work great for working in bed, and they help stop the horizontal spread that always happens when you work.

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Embed a fragment of a past work into something you are working on now.

Your pages are so visually rich, dense in both imagery and text. Do you have a typical way of beginning pages? I’m a big fan of gesso! I usually gesso a spread before I work on it, but it just depends. I used to always use old printed books for my journals, and I’d work on top of the existing text and images, generally gessoing them to tone them down and make a ground to work on. At the end of 2006, when I was ready for a new journal, I made a new book to work. For the pages, I used a wide variety of papers: watercolor, brown rosin paper, and pages removed from other printed books. So, I’m still working over existing text and images most of the time. I just like doing that. I pretty much always have a headline on my journal spreads. That happens without my thinking about it—I think it’s part of the conversations I have in my head. It also probably has something to do with getting my degree in graphic design. I am also an avid photographer, and I like to use my own images in my work. I’m an old-school photographer—meaning I shoot on film, and I do it with old, funky cameras! I use the actual prints in my journals. I figure better to have them in my journals than just sitting in boxes.


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Personal Life-Changing Events

We know these events: birth and death, marriage and divorce, illness, recovery, trauma, and achievement. The pages in our art journals and, often, entire art journals themselves, are filled with what these events bring to us. While I could wax philosophical and say we learn from the difficult things, in reality, we survive the trauma, and our journals give us a shoulder to cry on or a door on which to pound in frustration. We can celebrate new chapters in our lives, and trumpet in a new arrival with great joy. Thomas La Mance is credited with the famous quote, “Life is what happens when we are making other plans.” None of us would choose the difficult times, and even a planned-for, long-awaited birth of a baby can still take us by surprise with the wonder and amazement the event brings.

Tina Abbott uses manipulated photographs to communicate energy and joy in her expressive journal pages.

What are the three largest inhibitors to your working in your art journal?


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“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” —Lou Reed, “Magic and Loss”

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Never pass by a photo booth! Take the person with you into the booth, too.



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Carol Parks turned to her art journals during her journey through the darkness of cancer.

visual toolbox:

Adding Structured Texture to an Art Journal Page

Adding texture to pages obviously increases the page’s visual interest level. Adding content to the texture by using a mask adds meaning to yet another level of your artwork. A mask is the opposite of a stencil. Masks are available commercially at scrapbooking supply stores or online retailers. You can make your own mask out of blank stencil sheet, or any thin, stiff plastic. A manila folder can be used, but because art media will adhere to the surface, it isn’t necessarily reusable. Punchinella, or sequin waste, can be used, as can a variety of items from your yard, such as ferns, leaves, or feathers. Treat the back of your homemade masks with a lightweight, repositionable adhesive. Materials • Delta Texture Magic • acrylic craft paint • masks • palette knife • previously prepared page (collaged, painted, drawn on, or other)





Apply the mask to your page, and smooth it down. Leave a tiny part of the mask hanging over an edge, or plan to leave a small corner of it clean—you will need to use a clean section to lift the mask off your page.

Knead the tube of Texture Magic and squeeze a little onto a shallow dish. Mix paint directly into the Texture Magic in a 1:1 ratio.

Using a palette knife, spread a thick layer of the Texture Magic paint mixture over the mask and the area you wish to cover. Wash your palette knife.

Slowly lift the mask off your page. Allow the page to dry overnight.

Right now, in our world, the following is happening that reaches right in and gets me in my gut:


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Collect images with qualities of light that you ďŹ nd attractive from art, design, and photography magazines. Notice the effect of the light on various colors. Try to replicate the effects you like in your journal work.

I used Texture Magic and several masks to create a textured image over a book board collaged with various papers and then painted with fluid acrylics.


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Events with Global Impact

Natural disasters, such as the Asian tsunami of 2004 and Hurricane Katrina in 2005, and frightening events, such as the London bombings in 2005 and the events of September 11, 2001, have been chronicled on a personal level in countless art journals. The arrival of the new millennium, the dissolution of the Soviet Union, and the fall of the Berlin Wall are past events remembered in art journals. Global warming, the Darfur conflict, earthquakes, drought, famine: these human tragedies of the largest scale find their way onto our pages, as we try to find ways to express our grief and sorrow, our outrage, and our hope for the future.

“Wherever a man turns, he can find someone who needs him.” —Albert Schweitzer

Elizabeth Bunsen responded to the shootings at Virginia Tech with an art journal spread that communicates healing and hope.

List two global events from the past five years that you followed in the news.


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September 11, 2001, L.K. Ludwig

Originally intended to be a resource sketchbook for paintings for a course I was taking, this sketchbook ended up as a visual reaction to my fears and worries as a person and as a mother in the days immediately following the tragic events of September 11, 2001. My instructor suggested that I submit the sketchbook as part of my ďŹ nal portfolio for the class. Where we lived, we regularly saw large army helicopters and planes patrolling the sky, and, suddenly, army vehicles were visible on the highways during my daily

commute. No one knew what would happen or if we were safe. Billboards suggested that residents store bottled water, canned food, and duct tape to seal our windows. We were frightened. I had to travel to Amherst, Massachusetts, by plane three weeks after this infamous day, and I was both comforted and unnerved by the armed soldiers in the airports, something we are rather accustomed to now.

For these journal pages, I used newspapers from the days immediately following September 11, 2001. I applied the papers to the surface before beginning work and used the papers again to create collage elements. The stark colors were applied using acrylic paint, tinted gesso, and Speedball Super Black India Ink.

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Pull the covers off of magazines from each month of the year. Back each with sturdy paper and visually journal on the blank paper side. Bind a year’s worth into a yearbook.

taking a closer look:


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insight activity:


Wassily Kandinsky said, “I value those artists who embody the expression of their life.” Paul Klee and Wassily Kandinsky began the formulation of a new form of visual language in the 1920s that eventually became known to us as abstract expressionism. Abstraction is more than merely making art that isn’t a direct representation of something (nonrepresentational art). Far from being meaningless shapes or blobs of color, abstraction attempted to express emotions in their truest, most reduced, form, solely through the use of color and shape. Kandinsky was committed to the expression of the spiritual in his work, saying “That is beautiful which is produced by the inner need, which springs from the soul.” Sometimes, particularly when working with emotionally charged material, abstraction is an excellent method of communicating the power of a moment and defusing the autobiographical nature of that moment, to create a more global experience. Materials • image or photograph of relatively simple composition • scrap paper, newsprint, colored tissue paper, sewing pattern paper • acrylic medium • china marker


Tip Keep a shoebox or file folder of figures torn from magazines, newspapers, and books.

W u O

M •

1 Begin with a blank page, or cover a page with the artistic media of your choice. Choose colors that align with your feelings about the image with which you are working.

2 Examine your image. Identify the dominant shapes in the image. If the process is difficult, outline the broader shapes of the image with a china marker and eliminate the details.

3 Now, using your scrap paper, tear approximate versions of the dominant shapes in your image.

4 Using acrylic medium, paste these shapes down in an approximation of the dominant images. Perfection is not key—communication of the sense of the original image is the goal.

5 Continue to work the image with other media, as needed.

What was the last global news event you followed? Why?


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Silhouette Figure Study

Working with figures is often integral to communicating what we have in mind. However, many of us haven’t yet developed the drawing skills to render a figure in a way that says what we need to say. One way to incorporate figure is by using silhouettes. Materials • figures clipped from magazines or newspapers • scrap or decorative paper • glue stick



Choose figures with clean lines, until you feel comfortable clipping the figure down to the lines of human proportions on your own.

If you want to use the figure in the direction it is positioned, cover the back of the image with your chosen papers. Turn it back to the front and trim the excess paper from around the figure.

3 If you want to use the figure in the opposite direction from which it is currently positioned, first clip out the figure. Glue the paper to the front of the figure, then flip and trim around the silhouette.

Insert into your page as appropriate to your art. Continue to work with images as desired. Alternatively, you can use freezer paper, shiny side up, to cover your work surface and a sheet of deli paper as a ground. Paint, stamp, and collage onto the deli paper and integrate your figure into this piece. Then glue the finished sheet into your journal using gel medium.

This journal page incorporated a figure with visual elements clipped from a newspaper.

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Create an abstract or nonrepresentational image of yourself. Create you, in code, perhaps, or from clipped images, gestural marks, or a series of colors.

visual toolbox:


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Places and Spaces Location is everything, the adage states, and, as artists, we take notice of our location—its light, color, texture, and shape. We travel to places near and far, spend time absorbing the beauty of nature, and ponder the implications of house and home. Our art journals become a record of our explorations, a repository of our musings about the places and spaces in which we spend our time. We are often chased by memories and inquire about history. We feel our surroundings, as much as we see them. Thoughts, feelings, sketches, imaginings, hopes,

memories, and dreams all surface in response to location. In turn, they can become content for our art and ripe for exploring in the pages of a journal. More than simple geography, places and spaces can be thought of in terms of travel, nature, nostalgia, and memory—of things that we may have lost or things we may have found.

“How hard it is to escape from places. However carefully one goes they hold you—you leave little bits of yourself fluttering on the fences—like rags and shreds of your very life.” —Katherine Mansfield

Color, font choice, and collage elements work together to communicate the dynamic state of happiness described in the quotation on Sarah Fishburn’s art journal page.

Add history to your travel journals by purchasing vintage souvenirs, postcards, photographs, and books from your journey’s location. Antique shops and eBay are the best sources for these kinds of ephemera.

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I adore looking at other artists’ travel journals: the colors they record, some neatly in swatches, others scattered wildly throughout; the moods their pages evoke; and the details that leave me hanging on every scrap of information. I peer into these wonders, examining sketches and smiling or quirky photographs, and get a vicarious thrill. Travel journals are charged with the energy of discovery and are often created with the idea that they will be looked at again and again.

Travel Journals

Rhonda Roebuck’s Wroxall Architecture journal makes use of a book structure that complements her content.

“Wandering reestablishes the original harmony which once existed between man and the universe.” —Anatole France

What place holds the most memories, history, and power for you?


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Come out of your shell. Create a page using shell imagery around the skills, talents, dreams, and desires you think no one recognizes in you.


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Sarah Fishburn’s art journal record of a three-week summer road trip is colorful and stuffed to the gills with art, ephemera, and experiences.

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visual toolbox:

Altering a Child’s Board Book

A child’s board book is a sturdily constructed, yet compact, book structure that lends itself well to traveling. Preparing some pages goes a long way to giving you the ability to journal on location and to capture the dynamic energy that true travel journaling creates. Artist Minnie Helvey made such a journal to use on a trip to Italy, with gorgeous results. Materials • child’s board book • sandpaper • decorative scrapbook paper; some patterned, some solid colors, or with a worn layeredpaint appearance • manila folders • glue stick


1 Sand the book covers and page surfaces to remove the glossy surface.

2 To create a flap on the page, cut 3 to 4 pieces of manila folder that are slightly narrower and slightly longer than your book’s pages. You will use each piece of cut manila folder to create

an individual flap. Fold a section of the top edge of each piece over about 1" (2.5 cm) to form a tab. Align the folded edge with the top of the page and glue just the folded piece to the top of a book page. The bottom edge should either line up or be shorter than the bottom edge of your book page.

Cover the pages and manila folder pieces with scrapbooking papers.

4 Travel!

Tips If you cannot close your book, you can separate the pages and bind the book back together when you return home. You may want to collect some ephemera and vintage imagery before your trip by doing some searching on eBay. Look for reasonably priced vintage postcards, travel guides, and photographs. Pack this baggie full of goodies into your suitcase with the tiniest amount of art supplies. Attach some of the flaps along the bottom edge of your book for variety.


flap closed

I a d H w C T s d b o s

flap open

List all the places to which you have traveled in your life.

w t


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insight activity:

The Local Tourist

If you have no plans to travel to a distant land full of exotic color and sound, yet your fingers itch to record an adventure, do not despair! Become a traveler to your hometown. Pull out the map. Have a good look. What’s within a two-hour drive? What is right where you live? Are there small towns with quaint shops nearby? Country roads with old barns painted with Mail Pouch Chewing Tobacco signs and fields full of dairy cows? Does your park boast sculpture or monuments? Is there a city with a museum within driving distance? Are there weird or hokey displays that certain businesses hope will be tourist attractions? Interesting skylines of tall buildings and millions of lights? Billboards and marquee signs? Strange shop signs or street graffiti? Your assignment is to spend a Saturday being a tourist right where you live. Although, like many travelers, you won’t complete the pages until you are back in your room, pack a traveling art

kit: watercolors or water-soluble crayons, a brush, a small bottle of water, a permanent extra-fine-point marker, a glue stick, some scissors, and your camera. Now, spend the day eating, looking, shopping, laughing, and admiring. Be surprised by doorways, columns, steam grates, and manhole covers. Slip menus and business cards into your traveling bag or pockets. Surreptitiously photograph the locals, yourself in front of landmarks, and even your lunch. At the end of your long day, head back to your lodgings. Put your feet up. Sift through your ephemera. Peek at your photos. Spread everything out on your luxurious bed, and, with glue stick and scissors in hand, water glass and watercolors at the ready, begin a few pages. Then, just like those who have traveled far from home, go back home to your studio, print out some photos, and make use of your supply stash to make some more pages.

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Sew loops into the spine of your journal from inside the signatures and hang things from these loops.

Syd McCutcheon created this shaped Day of the Dead journal.


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House and Home

Thoughts about house and home can be much like a Dickens novel; there are the memories of a home long past, there is your present home, and there is the dream of your future home. In addition, there are the memories you have of family homes long past and those dreams you had as a child of a future home. Your present home can be looked at as the home that it truly is or as the home you try to make it. Although it seems slightly schizophrenic and even more than a little confusing, generally speaking, we carry a lot of thoughts about house and home with us. House and home imagery is extremely enchanting. Think of the antique postcards created by itinerant photographers who traveled through towns, photographing people standing on their front porches or seated in their yards, often with chickens running around. Picture the mothers, still in aprons, with their babies in their arms, standing out in front of their domains. There is something romantic about the apron-clad, baby-on-the-hip lifestyle, with clotheslines and chickens. However, the practical person remembers the way chicken coops smell and the wonders immunization has done for infant mortality. (I wear aprons, and I certainly have a baby on the hip, but, alas, no chickens, and I buy prepared mashed potatoes to serve with my pot roast. Don’t tell.)

“Never make your home in a place. Make a home for yourself inside your own head. You’ll find what you need to furnish it— memory, friends you can trust, love of learning, and other such things. That way it will go with you wherever you journey.” —Tad Williams

What does the home inside yourself look like? What does it look like inside? Outside?


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Finish a page that you left unďŹ nished.


In an exchange with her friend Julie Madsen, Tracie Lyn Huskamp has created an opening spread to greet you with imagery that evokes a country home.

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O b r d a

This journal spread shows work from Julie Madsen (left) and Tracie Lyn Huskamp (right) which communicates thoughts of home and heart across the miles.

c c a c t b m a a

If you were a tourist in your town or area, what should you see?


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Building Your Sense of Home

On a piece of scrap paper or on a page in your journal or sketch book, draw a loose house shape: two straight lines topped by the roofline. Then divide your house in half crosswise and then in half down the middle, so your house has four rooms. Add one last line across to form an attic. In the bottom left room, list things you remember from your childhood home. On the top left, list what you wished your childhood home had been—the dreams and imaginings you had as a child. On the bottom right, describe your current home, the colors, feelings, and favorite things that say home to you. On the top right, describe your dreams about the home you wish it might be, not just physically but emotionally. In the attic, where old memories typically go, describe any nostalgic thoughts or ideas about a home you had, one you might have imagined from long ago, or one that belonged to a grandparent.

Develop a color palette for each room. What colors suit your memories, your emotions? What was the quality of the light? List two colors for each room. You now have sufficient material with which to make an art journal around the concept of home. You may find that your collection of objects in your studio or home fits neatly into your “rooms.” Look through your decorative papers and ephemera, and you’ll undoubtedly find pieces that speak to the colors and feelings you described. Consider moving forward to make a book. A child’s board book can be cut or an old book altered into a house shape. Listen to your inner voice telling you about other things as you work: sibling and parental relationships, family secrets, quirky stories, humorous anecdotes. Jot them down for safekeeping or include them in your art journal.

In another page spread from the journal exchange between Tracie Lyn Huskamp and Julie Madsen, Julie incorporated a piece of vintage quilt, bringing another touch of home to her work.

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We have habits in our art. Take a look at your last journal. What did you do a lot of? What do you wish you’d done more of? What is missing entirely?

insight activity:


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Favorite Spaces

A triptych, done by Bridgette Guerzon Mills in encaustic, has writing embedded in the wax surface of the painting.

We arrive somewhere we’ve never been, yet every cell in our body screams, “You are home!” It could be the light, the scent of the air, or the feeling of the breeze. Perhaps it is the architecture of the local houses or the shapes of the trees as they climb up a mountainside. We belong in this place, and our sense of belonging is primal, as if we were born to be here. We return as often as we are able, and we spend the time in between visits planning how to get back there. Perhaps we even consider relocating to this place. Invariably, being the magpie collectors that we are, we bring back trinkets and mementos—sticks, stones, shells, photographs, souvenirs—and keep them like talismans we hope will transport us back to this place once more. Often, art journals about these places will span time, sometimes chronicling decades of travel to and from them. If visited frequently enough, they appear regularly in our art journal pages. Across these pages, we watch children grow up and friendships mature into deeper things or pass by, as some friendships must. These places vary as widely as people do; they are beaches, mountains, farms, resorts, coastal villages, and metropolitan meccas. Sometimes, our place only exists during a brief period of time—a retreat or a conference, perhaps—where the people present create an atmosphere that feels like home. A place this special need not be thousands of miles away; it can be a local park, a favorite camping spot, a place you have visited since childhood. What matters is the sense of belonging, the feeling of having arrived home. As David Whyte said, “There is no house like the house of belonging.”

What’s your favorite place in the world?


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“You can fall in love at first sight with a place, as with a person.”

Zoom in on something—an object in your house, perhaps. Select just a part of it: the stem of your wristwatch, the knob of a door, and re-create it visually in your journal.

—Alec Waugh

This triptych of travel journal pages by Brenda Beene Shackleford includes both landscape and detail.

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T Artfest, an art retreat held annually at Fort Worden State Park, in Port Townsend, Washington, holds special significance for a number of artists. It’s known as a place in which you can be surrounded by 500 people who are very much like you, yet totally different. Bee Shay, like many artists, keeps a yearly Artfest art journal to record this special place that exists only for a few days each year.

M •

T I q p s o G th

What places have you fallen in love with at first sight?


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visual toolbox:

Faux Landscape Painting

Materials • quality ink-jet print of a landscape • book board, Davey board, or mat board • flat paintbrush that is very soft and wide • glossy acrylic gel medium • Golden GAC 500 (acrylic polymer) • palette knives, paintbrushes, rubber color shapers, polymer clay tools





Glue the ink-jet print to your book cover or other surface using acrylic gel medium. Cover it with waxed paper or plastic wrap and weigh the print down as it dries. Allow it to dry completely before proceeding.

Using a paintbrush that is as soft and as wide as possible, apply a coat of Golden GAC 500 across the surface, to seal the ink. Be gentle, and do not press the paintbrush into the surface. You do not want the ink to smear. Resist the urge to work this coating. Allow it to dry completely.

Using a palette knife, apply the acrylic gel medium to the photo. Use a heavy hand and apply a relatively thick coat. The coating will be white but will be clear when completely dry.

While this gel is still wet, use your palette knives, rubber color shapers, polymer clay tools, and paint brushes to create your faux painted surface. Work with the content of your landscape, and create knife and brush strokes, swipes, and shaped marks, as if you were painting the landscape.

5 When satisfied, allow the piece to dry completely. This could take as long as 48 hours, 72 hours if the humidity level is high. Do not disturb the surface during this time.

I incorporated this faux landscape into part of a journal page.

Tip If you are using highquality, matte ink-jet photo paper, you can simply apply a thin coat of gel medium, instead of Golden GAC 500, because the ink will resist smearing.

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Attach a strip of fabric along the edge of a page by running it through your sewing machine set to a decorative or zigzag stitch.

This technique lends itself to book covers, single-sheet pieces, and portfolios.


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Self-Explorations A line of thinking suggests that each and every piece of art an artist makes is self-portraiture, because the artist is sharing her unique perspective or, more romantically expressed, a piece of her artistic soul. Some would argue this is merely the nature of art. Self-portraiture, then, is the process in which the artist sets about rendering an image of herself. In the process of creating a self-portrait, the artist becomes also the subject, collapsing the distance between artist and model, between creator and creation. When an artist creates a portrait of a person, the artist has a vision in mind for that portrait. The person may or may not have any direct input on the context or

treatment of the work, the setting, or the media used. These are choices ultimately made by the artist, to express something the artist wishes to express. Self-portraits become exceptionally interesting, because the way in which the subject wishes to be viewed becomes part and parcel of the artistic process. Self-portraits can be fascinating and often extremely revealing.

“Your work is to discover your world and then with all your heart give yourself to it.” —Buddha

Juliana Coles’ work is unabashedly, unapologetically autobiographical.

To infuse your journal with scent, scorch some pages with your favorite incense.

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Self-portraits are important for art journalers to consider for several reasons. First and foremost, a journal is autobiographical by definition. Including self-portrait work allows us to record how we saw ourselves, or how we felt about ourselves, at a moment in time. We may not be able to see ourselves clearly at that moment; only when we look back at our art are we able to see what was going on. Images of ourselves advance this process. Another reason for considering self-portraiture is that we are frequently not happy with our appearance, even when others tell us we are beautiful. Being able to make images of ourselves that feel strong, real, or attractive, is important. Knowing how to make an image of ourselves gives us more freedom to make images of others. Having been on the other side of the camera lens or canvas, we are better able to encourage our subjects to speak visually. There is a power in self-portraits that all artists should own for themselves. You needn’t share your self-portrait work, unless you feel so moved. Sometimes, I have found my most powerful self-portraits to be the riskiest and not attractive, but nonetheless, the power in them is important because of the honesty involved. If I am working on self-portraits during a difficult time in my life and I look “picture perfect” (although I never do), the meat of what I am exploring is missing.


J a h o

Juliana Coles creates a personal tarot card on this journal page.

We all suffer the slings and arrows of life, and sometimes we get bruised and wounded. List these times. What did you avoid adding to your list?


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taking a closer look:

Juliana Coles

Juliana Coles’ art journals go deep and stay there; they are intense and can be difďŹ cult to look at, yet they reach straight for your heart. Her workshops, which she teaches nationally, work to help other artists do the same.

Could you share a little bit about the Western book you turned into an art journal? This is one of my most recent and favorite books, The Little Naked Cowgirl, an altered Western book turned visual journal. It marks a huge growth in my existence on this planet, and I turn its pages with tenderness and compassion. To me, the visual journal is a combination of words and images for self-introspection, not one or the other; it is work in tandem.

self-e xplor ations

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Use an old phone book as a mark-making journal. Scribble on one page each day for a few minutes, using charcoal, or pastel. No object drawings, just marks.



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Y c p

d w f d v m

w c d o o h t

It is said that “the eyes are the windows to the soul.” List four to six ways you can work your art journal pages to examine this idea. Try to range from direct interpretation to subtle interpretation.


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obligation to ask questions; this process of active meditation is how I ask questions. Most of the time I don’t even know what the questions are, but my book always knows, and I must be patient and have faith in the process. The extreme journal is the container, soul home, or witnessprotection program and not some proving ground. There is no place here to show the world what a great artist I am or how nice and pretty I can make everything, so everyone else can feel fine. I am what I am, when I am. Silly, cute, raw, angry, frustrated, sad, fierce, frightened, drowning, and rising—all just pieces of me, no better or worse than any other part. I won’t leave behind or reject what is integral to my being. This is how I got here. My pages are a place of safekeeping and honor, in which I transform my inner enemies into allies. What seemed to be my weaknesses are really my strengths. Like a soul map, my pages allow me to see more clearly and more deeply the path to the real me. I have been saving my life in extreme journals since 1987, page after page, book after book.

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Make a photocopy of a photograph of yourself and, using pastels, paints, chalks, or colored pencils, make yourself radiate light.

You have a strong sense of self-awareness and this communicates clearly in your journals. Could you talk a little about your philosophy of art journaling? Whether we admit it or not, in all of us lies a deep pain—some disturbance, loneliness, heartache, grief, memory, remorse; some weight, fear, or feelings of unworthiness, unloveability, emptiness, fakeness … you get it. My extreme visual journaling practice is a desire to know these deep and tender shadow places, to give them voice, and to heal and transform them. In these dark recesses lie my greatest gifts. I don’t want to hide them; I want to reveal them! The extreme journalism process I have developed combines words and images for self-dialogue and enables me to create communication with my higher self, to access healing. This is deep and challenging work: I am crying, gluing, painting, furiously writing, tearing things off, rewriting, all in an explosion of emotion and expression, so I don’t have time to judge it or hold it back. This tangible act of revelation has had a powerfully transformative effect on my life. The ancient Greeks said it is our


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Photographic SelfPortraiture

Having spent a lifetime of examining our reflection, we are used to what we look like in a mirror. Psychologists have discovered that we rearrange our features to match what we see in the mirror with what we envision in our heads. Often, we dislike a photograph “because it looks nothing like me!” This is the mirror phenomenon in action. We dislike the image because it is dissimilar to the image we hold of ourselves in our mind’s eye. What we see in our mind’s eye is incredibly important on many levels and provides a rich area for exploration. You can use the mirror phenomenon to your advantage for your art most easily through photographic self-portraits.

Describe the photo of yourself you like the most and why:


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“While there is perhaps a province in which the photograph can tell us nothing more than what we see with our own eyes, there is another in which it proves to us how little our eyes permit us to see.”


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—Dorothea Lange

Melanie Komisarski examines parts of herself, both literally and figuratively, through self-portraiture.

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If tomorrow were infinite in its length, and money were no object, what ten things would you learn to do?



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In this journal, I focused strictly on self-portraiture. Below each letter on the cover, a self-portrait image peeks through.

Feeling shy? Try • wearing hats and sunglasses • photographing the back of your head • looking off to the side


M • •

You are the sum of your life experiences. Create a timeline of your life across a journal spread. List at least one event for each five-year span.


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visual toolbox: Materials • camera with a timer • tripod, stool, or chair for propping up camera • mirror

Photographic Self-Portraits




Find a portable mirror and a tripod or something sturdy, such as a chair, stool, or even a stack of books, on which to rest your camera.

Set the mirror just slightly to one side of the camera. Arrange yourself in a way that pleases you. Take time to practice.

Do not scold or berate yourself during this process. Be kind to yourself. Appreciate yourself. Feel free to delete images, if you need to. Be patient and shoot a sizable number of images. Twenty is not too many. You may notice a change in your images as you work through a shooting—you become more comfortable, get more creative, just as you would if you were only the photographer and not both photographer and model. As you become more accustomed to your own image as the subject matter, you will be more comfortable in your role as photographer and more comfortable with the many ways you may appear: happy, sad, frustrated, relaxed, sullen, gentle.


2 Take camera, tripod, and mirror to a well lit, but not brightly or harshly lit, area. Harsh lighting is not flattering, and while all self-portraits need not be flattering, getting comfortable with self-portraits is easier when you start with images that are uplifting. Think of the lighting you need as the light you’d see on a bright but overcast day; the light is plentiful but without stark, strong shadows.

You can use an object such as a chair or cushion as a stand-in for yourself, so you can frame the photo properly. Be brave and attempt to fill the frame with yourself. Later, you can include the physical setting, because it also includes information about you, but do it with intention.

5 Press the timer button or the shutter.

Tip Don’t hesitate to Photoshop your images: adjust the contrast, invert, equalize, posterize, crop, enlarge, or reduce.

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Pay attention to the scents of your day: coffee, asphalt, baby smells, pencil lead, toothpaste, leaves. Journal, using the colors those scents generate in your imagination.

In this journal spread, I explore duality, noting with certain irony the two-faced Roman god, Janus, who is the god of beginnings, endings, doorways, and also the month of January, my birth month.


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Bee Shay peers out from a page in a self-portrait art journal.



M • • •

• • • • • • • •

“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” —Dr. Russell Ackoff

visual toolbox:

More Than the Sum of Our Parts

A fun way to ease into self-portraiture is to take photographs of your “parts”—your hands covered in paint, smiling eyes, an ear dangling a favorite earring, the curve of your neck, a close-up of the back of your head, or your bare feet. If you feel intimidated by even that much self-scrutiny, opt for photographing things that are with you daily or often: a favorite bag or purse on your shoulder or with the contents on display; your favorite cowboy boots; your dresser top; or objects you treasure. Work with straight photographs, or try using ink-jet image transfers that you

manipulate further with mark-making media, acrylic paint, and rubber alphabet stamps. Make a list of ideas for parts to photograph. This process is easier if you keep your camera handy in your bag. Eventually, if you desire, you can compile these pieces into a self-portrait journal. In this instance, you would vary the way you use them: ink-jet transfers, for example, transparencies, or printing on rice paper. You can further manipulate the pages in your journal with mark-making, automatic writing (see pg 29), collage, and text.

Our lives are made up of eras, spans of time—childhood, adolescence, young adulthood. Think about the eras in your life—what original names would you give them?


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Ink-Jet Transfer Materials • camera • ink-jet printer • JetPrint Multiproject paper • water • wooden spoon • printmaking paper • rubber alphabet stamps • inkpad • acrylic paints • pencil • china marker

1 Print an image of your choice onto JetPrint Multiproject paper or other inexpensive glossy ink-jet photo paper. Trim any excess paper, leaving approximately ½" (1.25 cm) around the image. Set aside.

2 Using a spray bottle, dampen the receptor paper surface with water. Blot with paper towels and repeat the spraying and blotting process once more.

3 Using the fine spray setting on the spray bottle, spray the paper lightly. There should be no puddles, only a fine, even coating of spray on the surface. Place your image face down on the receptor surface. Hold it in place with the fingertips of one hand and use the other hand to rub the back of the image firmly with the bottom of a wooden spoon or with a bone folder. Work across the entire surface of the back of the image.

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Create visual rhythm on a page, by making multiple copies of the same image in the same or varying sizes or by cutting a photocopy into strips and gluing the strips with varied spacing across the page.

visual toolbox:

4 Work quickly, because if the paper dries, the image transfer paper will adhere to your receptor surface. Check the work by lifting a corner of the image, while continuing to hold it in place. Once satisfied with the transfer, remove the ink-jet photo paper. Continue to work the image using pencils, a china marker, or acrylic paints. Add text, if desired, using alphabet stamps.

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In this journal spread, artist Bee Shay created a great deal of texture by using patina on paper.


T a i p i

M •

• • •

Examine two or three recent pieces of work. How do they overlap? (For example, is it the medium used, the color palette, the collage elements?)


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Patina on Paper

This technique will not simply mimic the look of patina on metal; the products actually form a patina on metal. Modern Options metal paints have metal flakes in them, which react with the patina solution, creating a real patina surface. The patina solution will also work on copper or brass sheet and mesh. I enjoy teaching this technique because the products offer many possibilities! Materials • heavyweight paper, such as printmaking or watercolor paper, cut or torn to desired size • Modern Options Copper, Bronze, or Gold Surfacer paint • Modern Options Patina Green or Patina Blue • disposable brush • disposable plate • small spray bottle

1 Pour some Patina Green (or Blue) into a small spray bottle. Set spray bottle to mist.

2 Shake the container of Modern Options Copper or Gold Surfacer paint thoroughly. Pour some onto a disposable plate. Working quickly, cover the paper with one coat of Surfacer paint. Allow it to dry.

3 Apply a second coat of the Surfacer paint, but before this second coat dries, immediately begin spraying the painted paper with the patina solution. Allow to dry. Additional coats can be applied to build up the patina on the paper. Important note: patina will only appear where the patina solution comes into contact with the wet Surfacer paint. This is one of those situations where less is not more; more is more!

Tips If you are covering a larger surface area, you can save money by applying a base coat of metallic spray paint in the same metal as the Surfacer paint. The second coat should then be the Surfacer paint, which can be sprayed with patina solution. You can also apply the second coat of Surfacer to specific spots of the object being painted and apply the patina solution only to those spots.

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Put things that make sounds between your pages: waxed paper, glassine, crumpled tissue, wrinkled paper bags, corrugated paper.

visual toolbox:


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B w d t i

i k h a n g w E c

taking a closer look:

Melanie Sage

Another way to ease into self-portraiture is to make use of significant images of ourselves from childhood and work them into a journal page about ourselves. Like many artists, Melanie Sage has made use of childhood photos to help her explore childhood experiences and, by doing so, she creates a revealing self-portrait. I loved seeing your journals in a stack, the covers similar yet different. The repetition emphasized your commitment to art journaling. Could you tell us about your working style? Are you a daily art journaler? Are your books limited to an area of exploration, or are the topics in your books those that are simply current for you? All my books start out with the same base. I bought a stack of these books at the dollar store, shiny Back Street Boys books, a pop band from the 1990s. After rebinding each of the books with heavier paper and covering them, I created a starting place. I love that all the books are the same size, each book like a volume in a series. I also keep the books purposefully short, about forty pages. I like the books to cover a short period of time, a snippet of my life. This is especially helpful when I am going through a difficult time, because finishing a book can feel like closure—I can “put away” that experience (literally and figuratively). I also tend to look back at my past journals, basing them on what I was going through at the time; “this is my ‘choosing a job’ journal, this is my ‘relocation’ journal.”

The books aren’t limited by theme; they hit whatever is going on for me at that place in time. I always do a table of contents in my books when I am finished. I think this is another way of deepening my personal understanding of my experience, and doing it at the end allows me some distance. I might have been very confused while working on a page, but I go back and label the page “growing” when I revisit it. I have new insight. These books are personal dialogues for me; they help me work through a thing. I usually spend about four hours on a spread, so it is meditative. I am thinking about something that is going on for me, and focus playfully on that topic for hours. When I say playfully, I don’t mean the topics are light—they are often intense. But art creates brain connections for me, I think, that allow me to consider a problem in ways I haven’t thought about before, and I can make better sense of it all. And it’s cathartic, too. If I can get it all out on paper, it helps me to make better decisions.

Talismans are powerful, but many of us have ordinary objects in our pockets and bags that are always with us. List three objects that are nearly always with you. What’s the story behind these objects?


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I am working on a journal. When my page feels done or almost done, it often needs a unifying force to hold it all together. So, I will use one or two colors of paint around the page, to create some balance. I am working toward balance in art and in life. I try hard not to censor my journaling, but I do still have internal sensors. There are things I am not ready to put onto paper, even for myself. In one of my books, I wrote, “once you say the words out loud you have to do something about it.” Sometimes I am not yet ready for action; I can’t put the words on paper. But I have a philosophy about sharing my pages and the struggles. I want other women to know that we all struggle, we deal with similar hurts and crises. Maybe it’s a bit of a reaction to the “scrapbook happy” pages, the ones that highlight the trips to Disneyland, where everyone is happy all the time. Don’t misunderstand, I love happy family scrapbooks, but I think it shields part of the picture. I hope that, through sharing my pages, other women might feel more whole and less alone in the world.


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Use masking tape to tape off a grid on a journal page. Place the tape at odd angles. Use the sections of the grid to create a series of minicollages about one topic.

What is your typical way of beginning a page? I never really preplan a page or have a vision for what it will be. But I often start with getting color on the page. I love Peerless watercolors. The colors are so bold and so easy to use. I often put different blocks of color on my page, and that gives me an opportunity to organize my thoughts into the different blocks later, if I choose. Sometimes, they disappear with the next layer. When I sit down to journal, I often have something going on in my head, something I know I want to journal about. If I don’t know what I am going to write about, I will often start with childhood photos of myself. I think this helps me meditate on who I am, get in touch with the child in me, think about my most basic needs, and consider the process of growing up. If I am stuck, I’ll go through words from junk mail and scraps. When I find some words that appeal to me, I cut them out and glue them down. Everything else just comes one layer after another. I keep a scrap/ collage box (OK, lots of them!), and I’ll pull one of those out when


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Self-Portraiture Using Other Media

Although photographs are the most accessible way to make a self-portrait, an artist can be use any other media to create a self-portrait. Small sketches and paintings can be worked into art journal pages on personal topics or be the focus of the page itself.

Ruth Fiege uses images of herself over the years in this journal page spread, in which mixed-media paintings provide the central focal image set and are repeated in the background for a sense of history.

“Anyone who says you can’t see a thought simply doesn’t know art.” —Wynetka Ann Reynolds

T o jo th T w w th u

Draw or collage a silhouette to represent yourself. Then create imaginary organs to represent your inner life. Brainstorm a list of those organs.


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This piece by Leighanna Light is one of a series contained in an art journal entitled One. It is based on the concept that we are all one. The images, including this one, were created by filling the journal with large faces and then working them over and over, until they were unrecognizable.

Turn photos of people and pets into paper dolls for in your journal. Use catalogs and clip art to redo their wardrobes.

Zorana Stanojkovic includes a self-portrait painting as part of a mixed-media page.

Self-portrait sketches by Diana Trout

Mary Ann Moss used a self-portrait stencil to create these art journal pages. See page 38 for information on the techniques used to create a portrait stencil.

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visual toolbox:

Blind Contour Drawing

Blind contour drawing is sometimes called continuous line drawing. Although blind contour drawing is often taught as part of learning to draw, there is a continuum of skills involved in the process, when the artist begins to place internal lines in the drawing. The contour drawings by Shirley Ende-Saxe (below and opposite) are of the more complex variety. She worked into the image after completing it, and then incorporated her drawing into a mixed-media art journal page. 1 To begin, place a mirror in front of you, so that you can see your face.

2 Place your paper or sketchbook on the table. Because you are not to look at your paper as you draw, you might need to place your sketchbook on your lap or even under the table to avoid cheating.

3 Fix your eyes on your image in the mirror. Choose a point to begin your drawing and place your pencil or pen on the paper. Without looking down, begin to draw the outline of your face, very slowly, in a steady, continuous line without lifting the pencil or looking at the paper.

4 Think of your line as a lasso, as you begin to work inside the outline of your face, and lasso in your eyes, mouth, and nose. You may look at the paper to place an internal feature, but once you begin to draw it, don’t look at the paper.

Living through adolescence can be bewildering, confusing, painful, astonishing, and often set us on a particular life path. List some key words to describe your adolescence, and pair them with adjectives and colors.


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Make a page full of pencil or charcoal marks. Now go through and erase parts of the marks. Outline or change the direction of the marks, using your eraser. Notice how powerful removal can be?

This mixed-media art journal piece by Shirley Ende-Saxe is constructed around a contour drawing.

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Carving a Self-Portrait into a Printing Block Materials • carving block, either linoleum block or softer carving material, such as Mastercarve or Speedy-Cut • linoleum block carving tool and blades • Chartpak colorless blender pen or fingernail polish remover • toner photocopy of a photograph of yourself that you have altered in Photoshop, according to the instructions on page 38, and reduced or enlarged as needed, to fit your carving block • liquid acrylic paints or water-soluble block-printing ink • brayer • glass plate

1 Place your photocopied image face down onto your carving material. Using a Chartpak colorless blender pen or a rag dipped in acetone, rub the back of the photocopy, transferring the image to your carving material.

2 Linoleum carving blades come in different sizes. Use a larger gouge blade to clear large areas, and a smaller V blade to carve detailed areas.

3 Carve away the white areas and leave behind the black areas. This creates a positive of the image. Carving away the black areas, and leaving the white areas creates a negative of the image.

4 When you are finished with your carving block, print a test image. To do this, squeeze a line of paint onto a glass plate and roll a brayer across the paint until the roller on the brayer is coated with an even layer of paint (not too thick).


Joe Ludwig carved his self-portrait onto this linoleum block.

Roll this paint onto your carved image. Place a piece of paper over the coated carved image and burnish. Lift the paper off the image to view your print.

Even when we are unhappy with our appearance, we have aspects we like. List your three best body parts.


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Make a color transparency of a journal page and attach it to that journal page, but slightly off-kilter.

Joe Ludwig incorporates a variety of visual imagery that has significant personal meaning into a watercolor painting, over which he has printed a self-portrait, made with a carved linoleum block.

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Personal Archetypes

Nell Morningstar created a series of personal tarot cards around specific archetypes.

Found throughout history in literature and mythology, archetypes are an idealized model of a person. The Hero, the Warrior, the Mystic, and the Monster are examples of archetypes commonly seen in mythology and literature. Carl Jung developed a psychological theory involving a framework of archetypes, such as the mother, the child, the self, the shadow, and the hero. Artists often have a pantheon of personal archetypes they use, sometimes unknowingly, to represent themselves in their artwork. Sometimes, the archetype is a particular self-portrait image. Other times, it involves a particular image that repeats itself in the artist’s work. Think about your art journals. Are there images that repeat themselves? Eyes? Wings? Birds? Hands? Interestingly, Gestalt psychological theory offers up the idea that, in interpreting dreams, we are everything present in our dreams. If we dream we are lost in a forest and attacked by a bear, we are the forest, the bear, and ourselves. Examining the dream from these various perspectives gives us insight into our dream. The same might be applied to the images and content that artists repeat. If we examine the objects that appear in our work repeatedly, and look at their symbolism, we may begin to see connections between those objects and ourselves. For example, I am drawn to birds, wings, feathers, and nests. When I look at the symbolism of birds, wings, and feathers I find flight, freedom, escape, soaring, and perhaps even, by the use of a single feather or found feathers, the loss of flight and, therefore, freedom. When I look at birds and nests, I find that the symbolism of home and family applies directly to where I am in my life. When we know why we are drawn to particular imagery, we can begin to use these images with intention and give our work greater meaning.

List five personal archetype symbols you regularly use.


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Carol Parks created a tarot of archetypes inside an art journal. The self-portrait image in the right-hand card is an image that she uses repeatedly.

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“Every artist dips his brush in his own soul, and paints his own nature into his pictures.”

Label an envelope with the words “visual feast”, and adhere the envelope in your journal. Fill it.


—Henry Ward Beecher

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Spirituality and Dreams Many artists explore in their art journals concepts that escape concrete definition. Spirituality and faith—subjects that are difficult to articulate with just words and that are often a minefield when discussing them with friends—are wonderful topics to explore in the pages of an art journal. Provocative questions, controversial thoughts, and deeply held beliefs can be explored and expounded upon. Tenets of faith can be honored or challenged in the relative privacy of journal pages. Dreams, their ephemeral or mystical nature, and their hidden meanings are also an interesting

topic to mine in an art journal. Fantastical, disturbing, odd or sensuous, our dreams are image-dense and loaded with content. Examining our dreams visually, responding to feelings and content, can reveal a great deal about situations in our waking lives. Our art journal becomes a place in which we can mine our subconscious for answers, speak with God, connect to the universe, send prayers aloft, or manifest abundance into our lives.

“What art offers is space—a certain breathing room for the spirit.” —John Updike

Katie Kendrick explores the nature of a dream in her large atlas art journal.

Apply five to eight coats of acrylic medium to a toner-based or magazine image and allow the image to dry between coats. Once dry, wet the back and rub the paper off with your fingers. The image, which has adhered to the thick layers of gel medium, will be slightly stretchy, allowing you to distort the image, if you wish.

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Faith and Spirituality

As artists, we are aware of a creative force inside of ourselves. Many of us, regardless of religion or faith, believe in the idea of a soul and feel that we are part of some larger plan or energy. Some artists explore an awareness of a spiritual force on the pages of their art journals. Others make use of iconographic symbolism to connect their work to ideas they feel others will understand, without necessarily having an allegiance to a particular religion. One example of this is the use of Madonna imagery. While the Madonna has a particular signiďŹ cance in Christianity and in Catholicism, it has also been used to represent the Mother aspect of the goddess (Maiden, Mother, Crone), to connect a work with the spiritual nature of motherhood itself, or to draw attention to one of the common aspects of womanhood. Many of us were raised in a household that followed a particular religious faith. Some faiths encompass so much of daily life, determining holidays, foods served, schools attended, customs practiced, or modes of dress, that they move beyond religion to culture. In these cases, family history is intensely intertwined with the religion of our childhood, and faith becomes part of our past, our memories, and our present life.

How is your life touched by your faith or spirituality? Does this appear in your art journal?


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“The windows of my soul I throw wide open to the sun.” —John Greenleaf Whittier, MY PSALMS

Like many other female artists, Ruth Fiege and Traci Bunkers have made use of the Madonna image in their art journal pages. Traci also makes use of images of Ganesha, a Hindu deity, whose most common aspects include Remover of Obstacles and Lord of Intelligence.

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Take a clear vinyl slide or photo protector ring-binder sheet and plan to attach the hole-punched edge to the outside edge of your page. Create a page in your journal and fill the pockets. Attach the vinyl pocket page to your journal page.



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H in p w fo

b s e M w fi o b

a t il fo a w I t

Los Dias del Milagro, an art journal by Loretta Marvel.

Create a prayer, positive affirmation, or request of the universe in your art journal.


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Loretta Marvel

Having known you for a few years, I am aware that faith is an integral part of your life. Your faith seems to also be an integral part of both your culture and your personal history. I was wondering if you might tell us a little bit about the significance, for you, of the title of your Los Dias del Milagro journal? My faith is woven through every page of this book, stitch by stitch. Or rather, my continuing pilgrimage towards faith is stitched on every page. I don’t think faith is a static thing that you either have or you don’t. I was very heartened to read that even Mother Theresa had droughts of faith and persisted in her good works despite them. I have felt at times like that lizard on the first spread, scrambling on my belly through the desert, in search of my soul. I have envied those who are like the big, fat, lazy bumbles, sipping faith from every flower. My formal religious education is as a cradle Catholic raised in a conservative and traditional Italian American family. I don’t think my parents ever missed church on Sunday unless they were ill. After pulling away from the church as a teen, I returned to a formal, active church-going parish life over the course of raising a family. My husband converted to Catholicism on our fifteenth wedding anniversary. My faith, however, has little to do with what I hear at Mass or what the church professes. Currently, I am not a traditional, active church-goer. My faith is bound up in my family,

in my art, in the natural world, and in the strong matriarchal legacy of my family that has me believe that all the rich, potent personalities that have gone before me still linger somewhere, somehow, waiting for me to catch up with them. I credit my Catholic-school upbringing with giving me a rich love of ritual and liturgical ceremony. The relics of the saints, the blessed medals, the novenas, the rosaries, the scapulars, the little white First Communion prayer book, the drawing of the heavy folds of the velvet drapes that left me in the darkness of the confessional and my sins, and the lighting of the Easter fire are all symbols that reverberated the mystery of faith. The majesty of faith is found both in the first breaths of my newborns and as witness to my mother cradling my father’s head as he took his last breath. I found the humanity of faith when I was a eucharistic minister, standing on the side of the altar, facing my friends and fellow parishioners, the host in my hand and placing it in wave after wave of hands, old, young, slender, fat, graceful, gnarled, calloused, and gentle, with the words, “The body of Christ” meaning, to me, both the host and the hands waiting to receive. All of these things make me treasure everyday and consider everyday to be Los Dias del Milagro.

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Create a page to be touched. Use fabric, textured gesso, or interesting handmade paper. Maybe fun fur is the answer, or maybe it’s a small piece of flat, smooth stone.

taking a closer look:


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L im e y in

Using her own poetic writings as a focal point, Loretta Marvel visually explores the humanity of her faith.

n t f f

s s m a s

Create a list of names for the major arcane of your personal tarot. Be as funny or as serious as you desire.


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nichos. Almost all the materials used in the book are religious artifacts and household detritus from my grandparent’s house, all of which have enormous spiritual energy for me. I wanted the book to actively involve the reader through the narrative and the intricate artwork. I want the reader’s experience to be that of a pilgrim on a journey, with each page being a step on the pilgrimage. The paintings in Los Dias del Milagro are luminous. Can you tell us which media you used to get such color? Most of the pages and the cover of the book are painted with Golden Heavy Body Acrylics. They dry to a matte, velvety finish that reminds me of milk paint. The metallic paints are Golden Glazes, including the teardrops on the front cover. The page with the border that resembles mosaics was done with pastels sealed with a fixative.

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Tab in pages to a bound journal using packing tape or by gluing down an edge.

Los Dias del Milagro is a large book, which could be seen as imposing, yet the pages are intricate and intimate, rendered even more so by the writings. Could you tell us a little more about your process? What came first, writings, art, or was it a handin-hand process? The process of making the book was very organic. I began with no real idea in mind, other than that I wanted to make a book that would express both the highs and lows of my struggle with faith. All the inspiration from the book was derived from Mexican folk art, the crosses, retablos, and enameled art that I collect. I find that art is extraordinarily powerful for my personal spirituality. I constructed the book, which was an oversized scrapbooking album bought on sale after Christmas at a Hallmark store (there were three others, and now I regret giving them away!). I had never worked with cutting out windows in books, so that was my first endeavor, and I wanted them to resemble


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Dreams provide fascinating art journal content. Mysterious, rich in visual imagery, we often wake with the sense that a particular dream needs to be examined more closely. A quick search of the Internet will provide a variety of ways to examine the meanings of our dreams and even associate the symbols with numbers we might use to play the lottery!


In King and Queen of the Lopes, Leighanna Light describes a wild dream, in which she was queen of a crazy mail art project. As she created the Queen of the Lopes in her journal, Leighanna decided the queen needed a king to assist her.

Have you a recurring dream? Describe this dream. Does this dream appear in conjunction with events in your life?


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Dream Characters

When you awake with a dream that is puzzling or intrigues you visually, grab a piece of paper and jot down a quick description of it. Then, before your dream fades, make a list of all the “characters” of your dream, giving a quick visual description of each character. Later, in your art space, consider your notes. Determine which two characters in your dream were most significant. Bring these characters into existence on your art journal pages. Most likely, you will not be able to re-create them as they appeared in your dream. Go instead for the flavor of the characters, examining your stash for ephemera, papers, and items that fit the character. Tell your story with words right on the page.

In her art journal, Michelle Remy chronicles the message found within a dream.

Michelle Remy’s art journal page was created around a Rainer Maria Rilke quote that she adapted: “Art is the way we surprise God in [her] hiding place.”

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Gravity. Use it. Spill coffee or paint onto a page, even one in progress.


insight activity:


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Mary Ann Moss layers spray paint onto blank art paper using stencils and adds collage elements to create a place in which to explore the content of her recent dreams.

A th a s p

v “Dreams say what they mean, but they don’t say it in daytime language.”

T s w to

—Gail Godwin

M •

• • •

• • • •

What is the weirdest dream you can recall?


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visual toolbox:

Altered Scrapbooking Papers

This technique gives you a head start in creating layered backgrounds. Using some of the amazing scrapbooking papers available at local craft stores and scrapbooking specialty stores, and working with the wide range of spray paint colors and stencils that are commercially available, it is possible to create a layered background that can communicate mystery, opulence, and even gothic horror. Materials • spray paint in several colors • repositionable adhesive • several stencils • scrapbooking papers • respirator (mask, available at hardware stores) • large cardboard box • scrap paper • masking tape • latex gloves




Working outdoors, place your box on the ground or on an old table. Place a small piece of masking tape along the white edge of your scrapbooking paper, and tape the paper to the bottom of your box. Wear a mask to avoid breathing in spray paint.

Select a stencil with which to begin. Spray the reverse side of the stencil with repositionable adhesive and place the stencil across your paper. Place scrap paper around the edges of the stencil, where the paper is exposed. Tape the paper into place, so that only the paper to be sprayed is visible through the stencil openings. Choose a paint color, and spray. Spray in short bursts—think puffs of paint, not lavish coatings.

Allow to dry a little, and remove the stencil.

4 Allow to paint to dry completely, and add a new stencil. Repeat from step 2 with another color of paint.

Tips • Experiment with working from light colors to dark and the reverse. • Experiment with metallic paint on dark backgrounds and black paint on metallic papers. • Use colors similar to, but slightly darker than, the color palette of the paper. • Look in craft stores for spray paint in a wider range of colors than what might be available at hardware stores.

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Create a visual joke, something that makes you smile each time you see it.

As part of creating a page spread that looks at the mother and maiden aspects of the goddess, I used scrapbook paper altered with spray paints and stencils.


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Appendix: Vision Deck Photocopy these words onto card stock, then cut each word out following the frame. For more about using this Vision Deck, see page 30.











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Add your own words on these blank cards.


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Contributors Tina Abbott

Katie Kendrick

Michelle Remy


P Nina Bagley

Melanie Komisarski

Lesley Riley

Nikki Blackwood

Liz Lamoreux

Kelly Rae Roberts

Traci Bunkers

Leighanna Light

Elizabeth Bunsen

Joseph Ludwig

Juliana Coles

Julie Madsen

Shirley Ende-Saxe Ruth Fiege Sarah Fishburn www.sarahďŹ Amy Hanna Sandra Hardee Minnie Helvey


Melanie Sage


Tricia Scott


W r


Syd McCutcheon http://sheep

Bee Shay

Karen Michel

Carla Sonheim

Bridgette Guerzon Mills

Zorana Stanojkovic

Corey Moortgat

Diana Trout






a r


Nell Morningstar Ubbelohde

Carol Parks

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M r

J s

Brenda Shackleford

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L w

Rhonda Roebuck

Loretta Marvel pomegranatesandpaper/

Mary Ann Moss

Tracie Lyn Huskamp

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Resources art supplies



Patina Solutions

Alphabetica Lynne Perrella, Quarry Books, 2006

Somerset Studio

Altered Books, Collaborative Journals, and Other Adventures in Book Making Holly Harrison, Quarry Books, 2005

Cloth Paper Scissors

Novacan Black for Solder and Lead: various online stained-glass supply retailers Liver of sulfur:; Modern Options: various online art-supply retailers, Michaels craft stores JAX Patina solutions: various online suppliers

Wiremesh brand: various online art supply retailers Chartpak Colorless Blenders

Jetprint Multiproject Photo Paper

artists to research Peter Beard Nancy Chunn Dan Eldon Sabrina Ward Harrison Candy Jernigan Robert Rauschenberg

Art & Life

Collage for the Soul Holly Harrison, Quarry Books, 2003

Wire Mesh

Artist Journals and Sketchbooks: Exploring and Creating Personal Pages Lynne Perrella, Quarry Books, 2005

The Complete Guide to Altered Imagery: Mixed-Media Techniques for Collage, Altered Books, Artist Journals, and More Karen Michel, Quarry Books, 2005 Fabric Art Journals: Making, Sewing, and Embellishing Journals from Cloth and Fibers Pam Sussman, Quarry Books, 2005 Making Journals by Hand: 20 Creative Projects for Keeping Your Thoughts Jason Thompson, Quarry Books, 2000 Making Memory Books by Hand: 22 Projects to Keep and Share Kristina Feliciano, Quarry Books, 1999 Mixed Emulsions: Altered Art Techniques for Photographic Imagery Angela Cartwright, Quarry Books, 2007 Mixed-Media Collage: An Exploration of Contemporary Artists, Methods, and Materials Holly Harrison, Quarry Books, 2007 Mixed-Media Nature Journals L.K. Ludwig, Quarry Books, 2008 1000 Artist Journal Pages Dawn DeVries Sokol, Quarry Books, 2008


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Acknowledgments There is something exhilarating about writing a book about a much-loved topic. Art journaling has led me on a journey that I could never have imagined. Friendships that have spanned nearly a decade were forged over discussions of art journaling techniques. Moving from conversations about paper and paints, we shared about children, husbands, partners, and our daily lives. Heartaches and incredible joys graced our art journal pages and our emails. I’m honored to show the work of some of these gifted artists in these pages. These contributing artists risked something of themselves in sharing their personal art journal work with the larger world. Thank you for allowing me to show the world a little of who you are. I owe a debt of gratitude to my editor, Mary Ann Hall; her patience and her remarkable talent for shaping the book was such a gift. I also want to thank Betsy Gammons, whom I am fortunate


A enough to have had as my project manager for two books. She is the book’s shepherd, solving, fixing, coddling, all with infinite kindness. To my beloved, thank you for all of it: the time, the space, and the support. I’m tickled beyond words to give the world a peek at your artistic gifts. You are my heart. I have to also thank my moms for occupying the littles while the manuscript was being written. Bless you. To my littles: When I was pregnant with my first child, everyone told me how quickly time would go by, and I nodded, understanding, despite not knowing. I now know, and time is passing so quickly. I cannot stop time, nor can I keep you from growing up. But, I can record my heart on the pages of my art journals, chronicling the love I feel for you and my amazement at your beauty. I love you.

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About the Author L.K. Ludwig creates art and chases her three small children around in a Victorian Foursquare in a very small town (pop. 4,023) in Western Pennsylvania. Many weekends are spent in the woods and at the river where family memories and art are made while the Allegheny flows by. With a strong belief in creating around what she knows—nature, parenting, love, and life—these elements seep deeply into L.K.’s artwork, making

it content rich and personally meaningful. L.K.’s first book with Quarry was Mixed-Media Nature Journals, New Techniques for Exploring Nature, Life, and Memories. Her work has been featured in a number of books and magazines and shown in various galleries. L.K. enjoys teaching at various venues across the United States You may contact her through her blog at


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Š 2008 by Quarry Books All rights reserved. No part of this book may be reproduced in any form without written permission of the copyright owners. All images in this book have been reproduced with the knowledge and prior consent of the artists concerned, and no responsibility is accepted by the producer, publisher, or printer for any infringement of copyright or otherwise, arising from the contents of this publication. Every effort has been made to ensure that credits accurately comply with information supplied. We apologize for any inaccuracies that may have occurred and will resolve inaccurate or missing information in a subsequent reprinting of the book. First published in the United States of America by Quarry Books, a member of Quayside Publishing Group 100 Cummings Center Suite 406-L Beverly, Massachusetts 01915-6101 Telephone: (978) 282-9590 Fax: (978) 283-2742 Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Ludwig, L. K. True vision : authentic art journaling / L.K. Ludwig. p. cm. ISBN 1-59253-426-0 1. Photographs--Conservation and restoration. 2. Scrapbook journaling. 3. Photograph albums. I. Title. TR465.L93 2008 745.593--dc22 2007048948 CIP ISBN-13: 978-1-59253-426-5 ISBN-10: 1-59253-426-0 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1 Page 26: From PIPPI LONGSTOCKING by Astrid Lindgren, translated by Florence Lamborn, copyright 1950 by Viking Press, Inc., renewed Š 1978 by Viking Penguin, Inc. Used by permission of Viking Penguin, A Division of Penguin Young Readers Group, A Member of Penguin Group (USA) Inc., 345 Hudson Street, New York, NY 10014. All rights reserved. Design: Laura H. Couallier, Laura Herrmann Design Cover photo: Glenn Scott Photography Interior photos: Al Mallette, Lightstream Printed in Singapore

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Ludwig l k true vision