Who Wants to Start an Art Journal?

I’d like to give a special shout out today to all the fantastic art journal newbies out there. This blog post is for everyone of course, but especially for those of you who have hesitated opening up an art journal and just starting. Today we’re going to create an art journal spread, and you are going to wonder why you waited so long to try art journaling. You will see the light. And the paint. And the collage. Who’s in?

The May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine features several articles on art journaling, and they’re for all levels and styles. I write in my editor’s letter that I hesitated for so long to try journaling, not sure how to begin or what to put in an art journal. Thank goodness we have an expert to lead us today: Rae Missigman. What makes Rae the perfect artist to crack open the door to art journaling is that she had some of the same doubts and questions many of us have about journaling—and she did it anyway. And that has led to some incredible things. Her no-rules, use-what-you-have-on-hand approach is refreshing and freeing.

Everyone should try Rae’s art journaling techniques, but especially you newbies. Her article, “Art Journaling: The Wings to get Started,” takes you from start to finish to complete a spread, and I guarantee you’ll enjoy the ride. Here’s what we’re going to work in: a catalog. Yes, a catalog. Rae recommends this, and here’s why it’s so brilliant: Catalogs are easy to find, cost nothing, and if you mess up (which you really can’t do), you’ve only used up a couple of catalog pages. And that doesn’t hurt. Her philosophy for beginners is to work with what you have. You can always invest in great products, but use what you have right now.

Let’s start by covering a spread with gesso—one or two coats should do it. You get to decide how much of the page you want to obscure, and how much you want to show. Gesso does a few things: It acts as a primer for acrylic paint, so if you want to remove some color, you can do that with a wipe. Gesso gives a little heft to thin pages. And if you slop it on like I do, it will add some texture as well. Quick tip: If the paper you’re working on is super thin, adhere two pages together with glue stick or acrylic medium, let dry, and then brush on gesso. Another quick tip: If you gesso both sides of a page it will curl less.

Turning a catalog into an art journal
Turn a catalog into an art journal! Cover spreads with gesso and you’re good to go.

When the gesso dried I chose three analogous colors (coral, yellow, and orange) and went for it, using my fingers and smearing up a big mess. Can I tell you how much I love painting with my hands? It’s the gift that keeps on giving. Use whatever colors you like most, and paint without second guessing yourself. I used craft paint, fluid acrylic, and heavy-body acrylic, and didn’t care at all that I was mixing them up. In fact, using a combination added some interest, as the paints had different levels of opacity.

Art journal background with acrylic paint
Choose a few favorite colors of acrylic paint, apply them with your fingers, and you have an instant background.

I have a bad habit of squeezing out way too much paint. I’ve tried to be more judicious about the amount I use, but sometimes I forget. By preparing additional spreads with gesso ahead of time I can use that extra paint to start new art journal backgrounds, so nothing goes to waste. I used a palette knife to scrape some leftover coral and navy paint onto this spread, and I already love the color combination:

Using extra paint to create an art journal background
Got extra paint? Use it to start another art journal background!

Next, Rae recommends creating some abstract shapes with a complementary color, which will make the images pop. I chose turquoise, created heart shapes, and then framed them in navy. Another great tip from Rae: use a dry bristle brush, which gives your work a great texture and style.

Complementary colors used in an art journal
Don’t fear color–let Rae Missigman show you how to use it to make images pop.

Here are my favorite bristle brushes, which all look like they’re having a really bad hair day. These inexpensive brushes are seriously some of my favorite tools because they produce such great textured brush strokes.

Ragged brushes used to create texture
Don’t throw out brushes when they start to look ragged–they create great texture.

I auditioned collage pieces, rough-cut hearts from my stash of hand-printed and painted papers. When I decided on placement, I glued them to the page with acrylic medium. You can also use glue stick for this, but when gluing things to acrylic paint, I find using an acrylic medium works really well.

Collage techniques for art journaling
Use scraps of collage paper to create even more interest on an art journal page.

If you’ve seen Rae’s work, you know that she’s a master at mark making. As she notes in the article, “The most important part of the process is finding marks that speak to who you are as an artist.” So experiment. See what works and what doesn’t. The marks you feel most comfortable making will eventually become part of your art journaling signature. I created some dots, scallops, and small flowers with a black Fude Ball 1.5 pen, which works great on acrylic paint. I also added some patterned washi tape. Rae reveals her favorite mark-making tools, and has great tips for creating marks and lines.

More elements were added with stencils, and don’t miss Rae’s techniques for pulling the spread together. Creating this art journal spread reminded me how important it is to just start. Play. Have fun. Discover things. And don’t sweat it. Make a commitment to do some journaling every day, even if it’s a five-minute mark-making session.

Art journaling can help you grow as an artist
Art journaling can help you grow as an artist. So what are you waiting for?

I spent a couple of days away from the spread, then looked at it again. The background still seemed too  busy, so I calmed it by adding more white paint, then brought a little bit of color back in by swiping bits of coral and yellow in spots with a palette knife. Rae says not to be afraid of covering something up you don’t like, so I took her words to heart, and I’m much happier with it now.

Art journal page with collage
Looking at a piece with fresh eyes can help determine what needs to be tweaked.

One of the most eye-opening things I found in Rae’s article was what she wrote about her art own journaling journey: “Ten years later, I am still experimenting in my art journal. I know journaling has the power to uplift and encourage both budding and experienced artists. You just have to believe in the art, and in yourself.”

Truer words were never spoken, my friends. Dive in, dig in, and discover how much art journaling can help you grow as an artist.

Did you see the amazing artwork Rae created just for Cloth Paper Scissors readers? Download these images today for free and use them in your artwork! And don’t miss the lookbook preview of the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors!

May/June 2018 Cloth Paper Scissors magazine
Get tons of ideas for your art journal in the May/June 2018 issue of Cloth Paper Scissors magazine.
Art Journaling Exercises video with Rae Missigman
Art Journaling Exercises: 15 Creative Prompts is Rae Missigman’s must-have video for all art journalers!
Cloth Paper Scissors Art Lessons Vol. 4: Journals with Texture by Rae Missigman
Make your own art journal and discover the wonders of texture in Art Lessons Vol. 4: Journals with Texture, by Rae Missigman.
One Brush Wonder video with Rae Missigman
See how one paintbrush and three paint colors are all it takes to create a great art journal background in the video One Brush Wonder with Rae Missigman.



Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog


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