Tips for Making a Watercolor Travel Journal

I so admire the beautiful watercolor travel journal projects many artists create. But for myself, watercolor scares me.

watercolor travel journal page
Jacqueline Newbold uses stencils and a Mr. Clean Eraser
sponge to add words and patterns to her watercolor
travel journal pages.

I'm well aware of the reason why. It's the lack of control. I'm always afraid of adding too much water or not enough. Or muddying the colors. Or putting color where I don't want it. And once you've made a mistake, you're stuck. So I've shied away from watercolors.

But I was making baklava the other night and I thought, you know, working with watercolors is a little like working with phyllo. A lot of people are afraid of working with this paper-thin dough. But all you really need is some instruction and a little practice.

So I fired up the laptop and popped in my copy of watercolor and travel journal artist Jacqueline Newbold's Cloth Paper Scissors WorkshopTM video, "Art Journals On-The-Go."

Jacqueline is clearly an experienced watercolor artist. The watercolor renderings of her travels to southern France and Mexico in her art journal took me right to her sun-splashed vacation surroundings.

But what really captured my interest was the way she implemented some simple watercolor art journal techniques for allowing the watercolors to serve her, not the other way around. In other words, she showed how to exert some control over the process while still allowing for some seredipity.

1. Control the flow. One way Jacqueline controls where the paint goes is by using artist tape. This white tape acts as a barrier while you paint and can be removed later without ripping your paper. Jacqueline uses it to delineate borders that she later uses for writing about the places she visited.

handmade art journal page
My artichoke art journal page, with stenciled
highlights using a Mr. Clean Eraser.

2. Suck it up. After letting the colors mingle a bit on the paper, Jacqueline traces her dry paintbrush along the wettest areas. The brush wicks the extra water away without leaving brushstrokes and without muddying the colors.

3. Erase mistakes. Jacqueline uses a few methods for "erasing" watercolor mistakes. They include painting gesso over the offending area, dabbing very small areas with Wite-Out, and pasting another painting over the area you don't like. For example, Jacqueline took an old watercolor painting of sunflowers, cut around the petals, and glued it over part of a landscape foreground that wasn't working.

Speaking of erasing, my favorite technique of Jacqueline's has to be the use of Mr. Clean Eraser sponges. You simple place a stencil over the area where you want to add a pattern (or letters) and lightly rub a damp piece of the sponge over the stencil. It will "clean off" the paint, leaving the design on the handmade journal page.

Upon seeing this last technique, I couldn't help myself. I ran out to the nearest store, bought some watercolor paints and a pad a paper, and started making some travel journal pages in the style of "Art Journals On-The-Go."

I had a blast fearlessly playing with my watercolors and art journal pages! And then I made some more baklava.

P.S. What are your art journaling fears? What have you done to try to get over them? Share in the comments section below.

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