Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Creating an Art Journal

Is there anything more intimidating than a blank canvas? All that space waiting to be filled by the vision in your head. I have several canvases sitting in my basement in various stages of completion and it is hard for me to start a new one because there's this underlying fear that it will end up in the same pile.

A journal is an excellent way to try out ideas, but art journals can be expensive and I find all that beautiful heavy paper creates the same problem as the canvas. I don't want to make mistakes.

Enter the homemade practice journal.

I was introduced to the following method by a woman I follow online named Cat Gellar. She calls it Cosmic Smashbooking and uses the journal - and the process of making it - as a form of therapy. I have not done most of her exercises but I have used her process to make a couple of journals for myself. I've found that when I pick one up I'm far more likely to let myself experiment and play.

Start with any sketchbook, composition book, journal, or a plain notebook. It really doesn't matter. The book can be lined or unlined. Unlined is nice, of course, but if you're trying to alleviate blank-page-paralysis then lined is the way to go. There's nothing scary about a lined page. It's just begging to be covered up. You can even use a magazine.

I found this old exercise book while going through my daughter's school work from last year. I had torn out the used pages when I put it away but you really don't need to. The whole point of this method is to create a journal containing pages you really don't care about ruining. 

Have some fun decorating the cover, using collage, paint, fabric, or any other method you choose. You can decorate it at the beginning of the process or wait until you have finished the other steps. I had a vision collage I created at the start of the year that fit perfectly (more or less) so I simply glued that to the cover:

The first step to creating your journal is to assess the thickness of the paper. If you're using wet media such as paint, or if the pages are very thin, then I recommend gluing two or even three pages together to give the paper some extra body. You can do this using a regular glue stick (which I also pillaged from last year's school supplies :D)

Once the glue is dry, it's time to move on to what is often the most difficult part for most people. You're going to scrunch the pages. Yes, crumple them. Bunch up each one as much as you can. Squish it, crush it, dig in your fingernails. Make it messy.

Fun, right? Even if your inner perfectionist is rebelling a little. Now do the rest. You may find that as you do this some of the pages come loose. This is just fine. The more imperfect, the better. Plus you can have some fun putting them back in place with colored tape if you want.

Once you're done, open up the pages and flatten them out a bit. You'll be left with a book that looks like this: 

Cat recommends adding an envelope to your journal. It gives you a spot to put any bits of paper or other odds and ends you may want to add to a journal page. I had this envelope from a gift certificate I received, so I glued it inside the front cover:

Now you need some watercolor paint, watered-down acrylic, or some other thin media you can apply with a brush. I have a set of Crayola watercolors from my kids' old craft supplies, which is what I used here. Choose any color you like, or use a combination of colors. Make it wet and drippy. Then, holding the book closed at the spine, run the brush along the outside edges of your journal pages. Cat calls this "gilding the edges" which is a lovely way to look at it :)

When you open your journal, your pages will look something like this:

You can see how much easier it will be to mark up these pages, as opposed to working in a book that is shiny and new.

Here are two other journals I made using this method. The one on the left I found at Michael's for $2. I liked the look and feel of the cover so didn't bother decorating it, just dressed it up with some sparkly ribbon and beads from my odds and ends. The one on the right was a composition book I found at the dollar store. I made a simple cover out of a piece of fabric I loved from my quilting stash and added a piece of ribbon I had saved from a gift. Initially I wasn't thrilled with having the words on the ribbon, but I wanted brown and that was the only piece of brown I had. Then I decided that Birk's = wealth and ran with it :D 

I love these for trying new techniques or experimenting with a different medium. There's no pressure to create something beautiful because the pages are already marked up. It's very freeing. I've also found I'm far more likely to put in a few minutes of creativity when I have one of these around. I can doodle or scribble or play with mark-making when I don't have the time or the energy for a longer session.

If you do try this method, please share your journal in the comments. We'd love to see what you create!

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