I managed to compile a set of entries for 2011 and 2012, and while there were long lulls, the journey then was a learning experience for me both in art and in expressing myself. I know that it’s a month and half into 2013, and while I had been working on the journal since the start of the year, I didn’t really write any entries until today. My work on my art journal is pretty free-flowing. There are times when I work on backgrounds one after the other — or other times when I work on a piece from start to finish before moving on.
You don’t have to be an artist to do an art journal. I, for one, don’t consider myself an artist. I’m a crafter. But I am a writer, too. There are many forms of so-called smash books where you put anything and everything representative of what you want to journal about. Not all journals these days are your run-of-the-mill all words journalling. There are now “focused” journals where you write according to journal prompts instead of just writing about your day. Or there are these art journals we do.
I have been encouraging my friend P to write a journal or journals actually, and I try to encourage her to keep at it every time I send her one of my handmade cards. If you want to get started on art journaling, read on.
1. Pick your journal. Some people like moleskins, some people prefer those thick, beautifully bound leather journals. It can be as simple as a composition notebook that you might want to “alter” by working on the cover.
I did a composition notebook last year but I ended up pasting two page entries on top of the pages which caused me to have an uber-thick journal bursting with pages. For my next journal, I picked a rather ambitious 9 x 12 sketchbook which I had bought on sale in December 2012. I have already bought a second “spare” in case I need more pages. The idea is hopefully to combine the two at the end of the year into one book, granting that I am able to fill up that much of the journal. You also have to give allowances for pages being torn away as spoils and needing “refills”. To do that you have to have easy access to the same journal, and since this was on sale, I didn’t want to run the risk of running out.
2. Gather your art supplies. I started with Angelo’s leftover watercolor set from school. I progressed to a more versatile set at Michael’s, but I do not buy the expensive watercolor sets. The one I use has a whole palette, but it only cost me $5.00. My paint brushes are from the dollar store. (You’d be surprised at the variety and quality of the paint brushes there.) I have his leftover crayons as well.
As I progressed on to acrylic craft paint, I’ve gathered a stash of very versatile colors and have them all in a huge plastic bin, with the colors either on a swatch of masking tape on the top or of late, written for easy reference.
3. Remember that art journaling can be a mixed media effort. You can collage, paint, sketch, draw, or anything that for you represents your preferred mode of expression. There are times when we think of a subject matter that we want to put on paper and only one word represents that feeling, like for me, there was a time I did a journal entry with the French word “Oui.”
4. You have to be forgiving of your own mistakes. This is all for you, by you, and about you. Mistakes are always a part of life and you can always remedy the error or move on to the next journal entry. No one is judging you.
5. There is inspiration galore out there to pick up ideas from and to see how other are doing it. I visit Julie Fei-Fan Balzer’s website, Balzer Designs, every day for inspiration. I actually participate in her Art Journal Every Day Flickr Group and link up when she has an Art Journal Every Day post like this one — IF I have an entry to share. (My Flickr set on my Art Journal Every Day entries is here.)
6. Be easy on yourself when it comes to what you will write about. Journalling is supposed to be a no-pressure, spontaneous activity ABOUT YOU. It need not be profound. It can be as simple as a quote that suits your mood, a word (like I said), or a picture. It can be an ad in the magazine. Let if flow.