4 Ideas for Starting an Art Journal Page

Studio Saturday is on a short break. Please enjoy this blog post, portions of which were previously published on our sister site,  ArtistsNetwork! ~ Jeannine

We can all agree that when it comes to art journaling, we loathe the blank page, yes? Starting an art journal page with a few ideas ready to go is great for days when you want to work on something, but your muse is off getting a latte. Yet sometimes, prepping a page by just putting one random thing down it isn’t enough. It doesn’t compel me to want to do more. So today’s Studio Saturday is going to show you a few techniques I use for starting an art journal page, and they don’t take much time at all.

These techniques can work for painted canvases, too, or collages—pretty much anything you enjoy creating on a regular basis. The idea is to give yourself a little bit of a narrative to start with. Just a smidge of a story. A starting point. Think of it as leaving little art clues for your future self. Here are a few prompts that work for me:

1. A sketch of an idea: I have journals that I use just for sketching with pencil and pen, for when I have a few minutes to create something. I really like some of the sketches in the book, but I don’t want to tear them out. So, I copy them on plan copy paper, then use them for starting an art journal page. Here I’ve copied a couple of sketches from my book, added color to one with colored pencil, tore them out, and adhered them with glue stick.

Using sketches for starting an art journal page
Copy your favorite sketches and use them for starting an art journal page.

When the glue stick was dry, I painted around the images in happy colors (I love pink and orange together), adding some stenciling with white paint, and suddenly the story came to me.

Painting and stenciling over sketches
After painting the background, I stenciled over it with white paint.

I added lettering and a few embellishments for a bright, fun page. When I use this technique, I try not to have a plan in mind when I glue down the sketches, allowing the page to develop organically.

Art journal page
Two simple sketches were all I needed to start an art journal page.

2. Drip, drip, drip: Acrylic ink is a lovely medium. The saturated color, the way it flows on the page, and its unpredictability makes it so much fun to work with. Ink drips really well—and those drips can be great for starting an art journal page. Here I used Liquitex Professional Acrylic Ink! in Quinacridone Magenta, and squeezed the dropper to create a kind of wonky grid across the page.

Ink drip art journal page background
Ink drips are a great idea for an art journal page background-but this one needed a little more.

You could use this as a springboard for doodles, or creating an abstract design…but honestly, looking at it left me a little cold. That is, until I remembered some copied vintage photos I had. I chose this cowgirl (downloaded from The Graphics Fairy) and did a quick image transfer using a Chartpak AD marker blender. The process took under a minute, and I not only have a cool, compelling image, but I also have the beginning of a story, which I didn’t have before.

Image transfer technique for starting an art journal page
This cowgirl image gives me a starting point and a story.

3. Full coverage: Covering a page with collage scraps is great, but for me, the end result is almost as creatively frustrating as a blank page. It doesn’t move me. Here I’ve covered a page with torn vintage book pages. It’s nice, but…meh.

Torn book page art journal background
Starting an art journal page with torn book pages is great, but there’s not quite enough to go on.

I invested another three minutes and brushed some heavy body acrylic paint on the page, blending blue and black and white, creating a frame around the center. I did this with no thought to what I would ultimately do with it. When the paint dried, I sanded it a bit and added the word “Clamor.” Now there’s something going on. I may use the word as a prompt when I come back to the page, and the colors and shapes create a mood and give me something to work with.

Adding paint to a torn book page background
A little paint, a little sandpaper, and now I’ve got something to work with.

4. A touch of texture: Gesso and art journal pages are a happy marriage. I love gesso for its texture effects, so I often use it as a foundation, brushing it on a blank page and, while wet, stamping or scribbling into it or using a texture tool like a Catalyst wedge. Here I brushed it on a page and used some bubble wrap and the end of a paintbrush to give it some interest. When it dried, this is what I had:

Making marks in gesso as an idea for starting an art journal page
Making marks in gesso is a great idea for starting an art journal page.

Since gesso takes acrylic paint well, I created a paint wash and brushed it over the page, highlighting the texture. A great beginning, but I needed a little more to get the wheels turning.

Painting a textured gesso background
When the gesso dried I brushed on some watered-down acrylic paint.

I’ve been dying to use some Altenew coffee-themed stamps, and the coffee color of this page was the perfect backdrop. Three stamps later and I’ve got a nice theme going on, and I know this is a page I’ll love working on.

Building a coffee theme for starting an art journal page
These coffee-themed stamps give me all kinds of ideas.

Looking at these pages, I have all kinds of notions spinning in my head. I want to add a crescent moon to the collaged page, and the cowgirl needs some big, Texas-size flowers. As you can see, it didn’t take much to spark ideas for art journal pages. Next time you sit down with your journal, try some of these techniques, and develop your own. The blank page will become your best friend.

Did you know you can create incredible art journal backgrounds with acrylic paint and a palette knife? This blog post has some fun ideas for starting an art journal page with just two supplies!

Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald
Learn how to create art that’s all about creative play and experimentation in the eBook Raw Art Journaling by Quinn McDonald.
Art Journaling Live 3 video
Discover tons of great techniques for starting an art journal page in the video Art Journaling Live 3.
2015 Collector's Edition of Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons
Explore the exciting world of color and see how you can make your art journal pages come to life in the 2015 Collector’s Edition of Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons.



Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques


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