When I embarked on creating a year of Art Lessons for Cloth Paper Scissors, I decided to make a special journey of it. I created all of the tutorials in one altered book art journal for the Supply Stash Series.
I love creating in books! Having one spot that spans a multitude of moods and months, that I can open and shut and easily move with me, appeals to my creative soul.
There are three types of art journals that I like to use: my 9 x 12 Jane Davenport Canvas Journal with watercolor paper (from American Crafts), my own handmade journals with sheets of watercolor paper and found papers, and an altered old book that I use as a journal.
For my Art Lessons I decided to go with the third option, and I selected a cloth-covered book published in 1965 titled You are an Artist by Fred Gettings. The book paper was nice and thick, so it is was robust enough to paint on. The subject matter suited my purpose also, with passages about art and creativity peeking through paint.
The binding and spine were good and strong. I often use older books with damaged covers, and although they can be salvaged and made sturdy, a book spine that is already in working order is a bonus.
You should check that the book you are going to work with for your altered book art journal isn’t a valuable first edition or something special from someone’s beloved collection.
When you are working in an altered book, you will be adding paint and collage and texture, which all add bulk and put pressure on the cover over time. For that reason, I like to remove a third to half of all the pages. I keep the torn-out papers and use them for collage if they are interesting.
I also like to stitch in some smooth watercolor paper, so there is a combination of the original pages and fancy paper throughout the journal.
Old paper needs some help to deal with all the paint, watercolor, ink, and pastels that are going to be swirled on top of it, so I usually prepare the pages with a mixture of gesso, matte medium, matte acrylic paint, and clear gesso.
I add a few drops of each medium on the paper and mix it right on the paper. This variation in the recipe for each page means the texture is a little different throughout the book. You can change the transparency of the mixture by adding more or less matte medium, so that the text or photos on the pages are muted. I apply the mixture loosely, so that I have lots of variety before I even start creating. Make sure to let pages dry before adding gesso to the reverse side.
You can see the end result throughout the Art Lessons series in my altered book art journal. All the Art Lessons combine to make one of my favorite journals!
Jane Davenport is a professional artist, online workshop leader, and the author of Drawing and Painting Beautiful Faces and Fabulous Figures. Jane’s mixed-media art supply collection with American Crafts is available in the U.S. and Canada at Michaels stores, and on her website. Jane’s website features a free mixed-media workshop series tips and techniques; see it at janedavenport.com. See more of Jane’s work on Instagram (@janedavenport) and on YouTube.