How to Make an Art Journal Page in 10 Minutes

art journal portrait
Art journal portrait from a photo.

cate pratoI have this photo of my younger daughter that I absolutely love. Her older sister took it a couple of years ago while they were playing around one day, dancing and taking pictures of each other.

I just adore the curves of Meri's arms, the tilt of her head, and the expression on her face. She is completely in the moment and unconscious of the camera. It's what my uncle, a professional photographer of some note, would call a "soul picture." It captures her essence.

For a long time I've been looking for a way to render this snapshot in art. My first impulse was to make a portrait quilt, and I went so far as to work on the image in photo editing software, cropping it, turning it to grayscale, and bumping up the contrast.

But that project went by the wayside. I didn't have the right fabric in my stash, and every time I was in the fabric store I didn't have the picture with me. Also, I've never made a portrait quilt before and I was afraid to begin. But mostly, I just didn't have the time.

So, the other day I when I opened my Pictures file and saw the picture once again, I just decided to do something with it right then and there. Prompted by an art journaling exercise by Lisa Bebi in Art at the Speed of Life: Motivation and Inspiration for Making Mixed-Media Art for Every Day, I printed out several copies of the edited image and basically colored over it.

I love the final product. And it took about 10 minutes.

Lisa's instructions call for fluid acrylics, but I used a Big Phat Marker by Tulip as my under layer of color and Faber-Castell Gelatos (my new must-have art supply) as the top coloring because I wanted to give the picture a chalk pastel look.

four steps of art journaling portrait
The four steps: printed image, under layer of yellow, turquoise background and highlights,
color and highlights.

Here's what I did.

1. I printed out my image in black-and-white on an inkjet printer using regular printer paper.

2. I applied the yellow Big Phat Marker in vertical brush strokes over the entire surface of the photo to give it an underlying warm glow. The strokes of the marker also gave the photo a painterly look.

3.  I applied a metallic turquoise-colored gelato all around my main image and also roughly traced the lines of the creases and ripples in Meri's shirt. Gelatos are acid-free pigment in a stick; they basically look like lip balm. They come in metallic and matte and their creamy texture makes them blendable. They also work great on dark papers, which was perfect for my purpose.

4. Using a set of neutral matte gelatos, I colored on top of Meri's shirt with a goldenrod color, adding some shading with a terra cotta hue. I added a peachy color around her cheeks and forehead, blending it with a light gold. Finally, I colored her lips with terra cotta and added it to her hair as well.

You could use paints, inks, or markers to do this, but if you use a wet medium I would encourage you to use a heavier paper (like watercolor paper) or mount your paper on a substrate (as Lisa advises).

Coloring over a photo of your own is a quick and easy way to make a stand-alone piece of art or start a page in your art journal. It gives you a place to begin, so you're not wasting time staring at a blank page, and you can alter it any way you want. Write on it, collage on it, cut it out and paste it on something elsethe choice is yours.

I feel so satisfied that I've finally created something with this photo. Now I feel like I'm part of that perfect moment, too.

Author Pam Carriker and her contributors to Art at the Speed of Life offer so many ideas to get art done lickety-split. There's no need to wait for a big chunk of time to create.

P.S. What's your favorite way to jump-start an art journal page or other piece of art? Share in the comments section below.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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