How to Write Creatively in Your Art Journal

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art journaling creative letters
Art journal page by Pam Carriker.

I have a thing about my handwriting. I trace it back to my grade-school nemesis, Barbara D.

Barbara D. was one of those girls who always seemed to come out on top. She had such a stellar reputation, even at age 8, that when she did do something wrong, the adults always gave her the benefit of the doubt.

I hated her for this.

But the thing that bugged me most was the way she formed her letters. She took advantage of her initials to slightly bulge out her letters, especially the b's and d's, to create a distinct writing style that all the girls in the class admired. It didn't conform to the rules of penmanship we were learning, yet she got away with it, receiving big, fat A's on all her work.

So one day I decided to mimic Barbara D.'s lettering style. During our penmanship lesson, I bulged out all my b's and d's on the specially lined practice paper. And what did I get for it? Not the beautiful 'A' I was hoping for, but a lot of red ink pointing out that my letters were too fat.

I shot daggers at Barbara and she simpered back at me.

What did I learn from this?

1. Life's not fair.

2. Don't try to copy someone else's style; find your own.

creative art journaling
A layer of "under journaling" adds depth and personalization to your journal page.

I'll admit it took me several years to take away Lesson 2 from this episode. I'll also admit I still don't like my handwriting, which is a problem when it comes to art journaling. I can be perfectly thrilled with my journal pages until I put pen to paper. The moment I finish writing even one word, I feel like I've ruined the whole project.

But I have hope. As I've been learning art journal techniques, I've been keeping notes on how to write without using my handwriting. For example:

  • Cut letters out of magazines, ransom-note style.
  • Use alphabet stamps or stickers.
  • Emboss words onto a retro-styled label maker.

I'm also trying out some new methods I learned from Pam Carriker, author of Art at the Speed of Life. She has a new Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video now available for pre-order, "Art Journaling Fast & Easy: Unique Journal Pages One Step at a Time," with a segment on writing creatively.

From Pam I learned some very helpful tips for creative journaling. Here are my favorites:

  1. Think of your writing as drawing. This will help you slow down and form the letters in the way you want. You're less likely to make spelling mistakes, too.
  2. Two pens are better than one. You can make your writing or printing look more arty (and also repair boo-boos) by outlining or adding shadows. You can do this with different colors of inks from two pens or take advantage of the pens that come with a brush tip and a ball or fine-point tip.
  3. Black and white inks make colors pop. These inks can also add shadows and highlights, unify lettering, add emphasis, and create patterns on top of colored letters. A white gel pen and a black permanent marker should be in every art journaler's arsenal.
  4. Under journaling to the rescue. "Under journaling" is Pam's term for scribbling over a journal page as a layer over which you will add more writing, collage, etc. This is a great way to put your personal penmanship into your journal without it having to be legible or front-and-center.

art journaling
Shade and outline your letters
to make them distinctive.

Pam is passionate about making personalized journals. She saves time and resources by repurposing her images and tools in many different ways.

"Art Journaling Fast & Easy" offers a range of art journal ideas and techniques to try, with Pam demonstrating lots of shortcuts to help you get you to the fun stuff fast.

I've tried several of the writing techniques and I am pleased to report I am on my way to cultivating my own creative writing style.

So there, Barbara D., wherever you are.

P.S. Do you use your own handwriting in your journal or do you cultivate an artistic style? Do you hate your handwriting? Tell me I'm not alone and share your tips!


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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