Creative Character Tutorial for Art Journaling


HeadshotAfter getting my first look at the new book Art at the Speed of Life, I knew I needed to get in touch with author Pam Carriker to ask her to share a little project with you. Pam graciously accepted and put together this Character Construction tutorial for you.

Thanks Pam!

Adding interesting characters to your art journal is an easy way to construct an art journal page using things found around your home. By collecting collage materials from everyday ephemera such as newspapers, magazines, junk mail, school papers, and grocery lists, you can create a character that represents you in a symbolic way. Building a story around your new character collage is an exercise in creativity that is both fun and enlightening.

If you don’t create in art journals, you can easily apply these techniques to standard collage surfaces.


  • Journal with heavy paper such as 140-lb watercolor paper
  • Collage fodder (grab things that speak to you, labels, junk mail, newspaper, magazines, etc.)
  • Gel medium or other collage glue
  • Scissors
  • Gesso
  • Assorted acrylic paints including Titan Buff, White and Raw Umber
  • Acrylic glazing medium
  • Conte Crayon: Bistre, or Black
  • Blending stump
  • Assorted journal pens
  • Graphite pencil
  • Water soluble crayon

Character Construction 1 pcarriker

Step 1

Gather together multiple collage items including a picture of a face if you want to make a person in your story. Your whole page does not have to be covered and you can lay the collage items out to form a body of sorts. Glue the papers down with gel medium or other collage glue and let dry.

Using a 1-2 wash of gesso and water, paint over the collage elements leaving some of the focal images untouched. When the first layer dries you can add a second layer to some of the area and use a rag or baby wipe to remove gesso as necessary to leave some areas still visible.

Step 2

Use a graphite pencil and draw in your character details. Don’t be afraid to change things around, get creative. Use the collage elements to begin telling your story. Caffeine deprived? Make a cup of coffee your focal point. What’s your day been like? Use it! Tell your story through pictures.

Character Construction 3 pcarriker

Step 3

Paint the face using Titan Buff, white and Raw Umber acrylic paint, leaving the eyes unpainted. You should be able to still see the facial details through the paint. Add some highlights to the face with White.

Colorize it! Remember the old black and white movies that were colorized? Do that to your page! Think outside the box a bit. Cobalt Teal was used on this page to further shade her face and provide some background shadows. Using an unusual color to add shading gives the page a fun, unique look.


Character Construction 4 pcarriker

Step 4

Use the Conte Crayon (Bistre color) to further enhance the shading, blending it with a blending stump. Add the crayon to her face and around her body as well as around the images on the page. The Conte Crayon is lighter than charcoal and adds a soft look to the page.

Begin adding some page details with a pen, pencil or other writing tool(s).


Character Construction 5 pcarriker Step 5

Now it’s time to tell your story with words. Try writing in different styles or with different pens/tools. Color can be a big thing to give voice to your page. Use a symbol (arrow) to give direction to your page. Use water soluble crayon to add additional color over parts of the writing if desired. Activate the crayon using a  wet brush dipped into the gel medium. When dry, the crayon will be 'set' and won't reactivate. It’s so much fun to watch this type of page unfold!

Character Construction Final  Image pcarriker

I don’t know about you, but I’m ready to start adding characters to my art journals right now! I think I’ll spend my evening curled up with a cuppa chai and flip through the rest of Pam’s new book. What a creative way to spend some time, don’t you think?






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