Using the Art Journal to Find My “Roots”

Today I’m pleased to bring you a guest blog post from Mary Beth Shaw, mixed-media artist, author, and founder of StencilGirl Products. Mary Beth is also one of four artist/instructors featured in Art Journaling Live 3, along with Gina Rossi Armfield, Nathalie Kalbach, and Jodi Ohl! Score this lively DVD kit and learn how to rock your art journal–the kit includes a stamp set, one of Mary Beth’s stencils, three DecoArt ink misters, a tube of Daniel Smith watercolors, and a set of Tombow professional drawing pencils. You can find it only at North Light Shop. Happy journaling! ~Cherie

Art journal ideas | Mary Beth Shaw,
Art journal spreads by Mary Beth Shaw

Using the Art Journal to Find My Roots by Mary Beth Shaw

Many moons ago I was a collage artist, or at least that was how I labeled myself. Even though I used paint in my work, the collage part seemed more important to me that the other media. As the years passed and I learned more about acrylic paint, pencils, pastels, ink, and all the other glorious products we use in mixed media, I often joked that perhaps I was simply a shopper rather than an artist. It seemed like I was obsessed with the need to own and experiment with every single thing that crossed my path. I feel sure many of you can relate to this idea.

Art journal ideas | Mary Beth Shaw,

Truth be told, exploration of all these products distracted me from the simplicity of collage for several years. One day, thankfully, I finally realized I could use my collage elements along with my other mixed-media products to create even more visual interest in my work. I realized that all the different media would complement each other beautifully, and I could celebrate this variety in my work.

Fast-forward to today, and the idea of “roots” has started to visit my art. At first, I took this quite literally, as in tree roots or family lineage. I have often worked with tree imagery and I thought this was perhaps another manifestation of my interest in nature. Or, maybe it was something about my family, my childhood, with roots harkening to a deeper meaning? As I’ve continued to think about it, I suspect this might be related more to my artistic roots, or collage.

In order to explore this further, I’ve been working in my art journal. Here is one of the pages that I created, along with a guideline on how you can get started with this type of journal work.

Art journal ideas | Mary Beth Shaw,
A stenciled background makes a great start to art journal pages.

1. I gathered hand painted papers, vintage text, magazine pages, and, of course, stencils. For this art journal spread, I already had a painted and stenciled background, so I decided to use that as my starting point. Sometimes this is easier than facing a blank page.

Art journal ideas | Mary Beth Shaw,
Combine painting and collage techniques to vary the texture and appearance of your art journal.

2. Next, I started with gathered collage papers, relying largely on compatible color schemes in the early stages. I tore papers somewhat randomly, gluing them down with a Uhu glue stick. I try to vary the shapes and sizes so there’s a lot of variety. I tear some edges and cut others.

Art journal ideas | Mary Beth Shaw,
The final spread of Mary Beth’s art journal.

3. Once I have enough collage, I grab what I call a unifying stencil, in this case, I used Brick Factory (StencilGirl Products). Placing the stencil over the edges of a few collage components, it’s quite easy to unify the piece with a neutral color. From there, the sky’s the limit! You may use this as your background and build up additional collage layers. Or you may journal all over the page. Perhaps you’ll identify a focal point and choose to accent it with paint or markers. Perhaps you simply want a strong word to complete the page like I did.

Whether or not you’ve used collage in your art journal, give it a try. It’s extremely forgiving. In fact, I don’t even know if this page is done yet! ~Mary Beth

Mixed-media artist Mary Beth Shaw worked in the insurance industry for 18 years before she quit her job in 2000 to re-ignite a childhood love of art. Since then she has spent all her waking hours exploring life as a painter working in mixed media. She worked as a road gypsy for five years, exhibiting at outdoor art fairs and selling as many as 300 paintings in one very blurry year. She transitioned into being a workshop instructor and finds pleasure helping students find their own voice. She’s author of Flavor of Mixed Media and Stencil Girl, is a columnist for Somerset Studios Magazine and a Golden Artist Educator. She is the founder of StencilGirl Products, LLC.


Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Techniques

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