You’ll Love This Simple Art Journaling Exercise!

You know the exhilaration you feel when you’ve just finished making a piece of art? That’s how I feel right now, and the watercolor isn’t even completely dry on the art journal page I just completed after being inspired by Gina Rossi Armfield’s No Excuses Watercolor. Gina’s book is part of our “No Excuses Watercolor” kit, which includes her No Excuses Watercolor eBook, No Excuses Art Journaling (eBook), and two of Gina’s video downloads on similar topics. That’s hours of techniques, advice, and inspiration!

I had chosen a simple exercise from her new book to share with you here, but as I studied this particular art journaling lesson (below), I decided to give it a try. The beautiful part isn’t so much the completed piece (you can see my work below), but rather the excitement that I felt when clearing the table, gathering my supplies, and then jumping in.

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners. Artwork by Gina Rossi Armfield |

Exercise: Sketch Journal by Gina Rossi Armfield

Materials: paintbrush • pen with waterproof ink • reference image • washi tape • water • watercolor journal or sketchbook • watercolor paint

Use a watercolor journal to work on quick studies and sketches. This is the place where you can have fun, experiment and try things out. Try to use a variety of pencils, pens, watercolor paints, etc. I often tape in magazine clippings and photos to work from.

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners |

1. Choose an image you want to draw and paint. Tape it to a page in your sketchbook with washi tape. (above, left)

2. Sketch or draw the image on the page. (above, right)

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners |

3. Begin with the lightest color and add it to the sketch. Include a swatch of the color along the bottom of the page to create a palette. (above, left)

4. Continue with the next lightest color, gradually adding darker colors to your image and palette. (above, right)

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners |

5. After the paint is dry, add a background around the image and magazine clipping to connect the images and create a cohesive picture. ~G.R.A.

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners. Artwork by Cherie Haas |
This is my finished art journal page. I usually don’t title my work,
but when I look at this, the word “spirit” comes to mind. ~Cherie


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Watercolor Exercise in Action

First, I used a dull pencil to lightly sketch the figure, which I chose because I so loved the curving lines created by the dancer’s arms and legs.

Then I selected my color palette. I used watercolor blocks for the first time, and found that I actually prefer them to tube watercolors because they are so clean, and I didn’t waste any pigment. I’ve been told by friends I trust that yellow, orange, and red are my colors, so I tend to go with that combination in my art and beyond. It’s perfect.

After painting the figure and trying to honor the flow of the lines created by it, I noticed that her hands and feet were all but missing. Of course, these body parts are difficult to draw, so I took the easy way out and didn’t attempt to draw them. Once the paint dried, I decided to follow a saying among some of my friends: if you don’t like something about your body, then put glitter on it and draw as much attention to it as possible. So I gave the figure flowers to hold, and made one flower in particular the focal point.

Art journaling exercises with watercolor for beginners |

I used watercolor to start the flower design on both hands, let the paint dry, and then used a red fine-point Sharpie® pen to doodle around the flower petals. I intentionally kept the flower on the left a little smaller than the one on the right so that they wouldn’t compete. To add some contrast, I used a similar shade of reddish-orange to fill in some of the doodle patterns.

To add some line contrast, I used a similar shade of reddish-orange to fill in some of the doodle patterns.

Once I was satisfied with the doodled art, I carefully added a light layer of watercolor to the remaining white space. I thought I was finished at this point, and so I took a picture of the art, and pulled it up on my computer screen. That’s when I noticed that some of the watercolor had created a harder line within the figure than I intended. I was tempted to leave it alone, but then the words of acrylic artist Chris Cozen came back to me: “It’s not finished until you’re happy with it.” So I dipped my brush in the water and painted again, lightly blending the area until it looked right.

I hope you’ll try this art journaling exercise for yourself–it was so much fun that I can’t wait to start working on my next piece. Click here to get your own No Excuses Watercolor kit. With two eBooks and two video downloads, you’ll never run out of ideas for your own art journal!

Happy painting,



Art Journaling and Lettering, Blog, Mixed-Media Painting Techniques, Mixed-Media Techniques


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