How to Start a Mixed-Media Art Journal

Art Journaling image by Andrea Chebeleu

~Artwork by Andrea Chebeleu

Anyone who frequents Somerset Place knows that we are huge fans of art journals.  We keep them as a place of inspiration, to play with new materials, and to establish new motifs and designs. Our magazine, Art Journaling, is chock full of inspiring artists and art journals to aspire to with our own creative practices, but where to start?

This post will explain the ins and outs of art journaling so that you can start your journey to self-expression. If you’re already familiar with the medium of art journaling, there are also some fun tips for taking your art journals to the next level!

 

Rae Missigman Art Journal Page

~Artwork by Rae Missigman

Why Art Journal?

According to Psychology Today, art journals can serve as a “transitional object” that allow individuals to repair, self-soothe, and de-stress. James Pennebaker conducted research that suggests that journaling can help aid recovery from trauma and that by writing or journaling, the individual can make the experience more manageable.

Benefits of Art Journaling:

  • Self-expression
  • Stress reduction
  • Self-soothing
  • May help self-regulation
  • A form of self-care
  • Restores emotional equilibrium
  • Can help externalize stressful feeling sand emotions
  • Strengthen feelings of well-being
  • A place to experiment with new art materials
  • A place to practice motifs and themes in preparation for larger canvases and substrates

Start with a Journal

If you are just beginning art journaling, the first step is to pick a journal that you can work in. There are tons of options out there from notebooks made specifically for mixed-media art to repurposed books.

Dylusions Creative Journal

Dylusions Creative Journals

Dylusions Creative Journals are the gold standard for art journals. They have thick, luxurious paper that will stand up to all mediums without warping or pilling. They also have a thick kraft cover to protect your artwork and provide one more place to decorate and express your own personal artistic style. Choose from multiple sizes to find the art journal that is perfect for your needs.

Andrea Ockey Parr Standard Notebook Art Journal

~Artwork by Andrea Ockey Parr, Somerset Studio Jan/Feb 2018

Standard Notebooks

Any notebook can be an art journal. From the composition books that we all used in school to a fancy leather journal, every notebook can be transformed into a place for your artwork. Standard notebooks are especially ideal if you are planning on using your art journal primarily for sketching, dry mediums, or collage art. Standard notebooks aren’t recommended for extremely wet mediums, like watercolor, because the pages may bleed, warp, or wrinkle. If you plan to use wet mediums in a standard notebook, be sure to prep your pages really well, which will be covered below.

Repurposed Old Book

Repurposing an old book

Old books are a popular choice for mixed-media artists because it provides a substrate that is already filled with texture and patterns. Priming the pages with gesso allows the book’s text to peek through, adding one more layer of interest to the work as a whole.

Some Things to Consider When Looking for an Old Book Art Journal:

  • Always check the binding/spine first. If the pages are coming loose or the spine is coming apart, then the book isn’t a good candidate for your art journal.
  • Find a book that lies flat while open. This will make it easier to work in.
  • Pick a book with somewhat smooth pages. Dime novels and cheaper paperbacks are made from a paper that will pill when wet, so they don’t work well as art journals.
  • Pick a book with a cover and subject matter that you like. If you decide to leave the text visible in your artwork, having a book that you enjoy will ensure that the words are meaningful to you. Nothing is worse than realizing halfway through the artwork that the page you are working on is talking about something unpleasant. I made hand-stamped tags for a party once, only to realize that the book’s text was talking about the plague in medieval Europe … in graphic detail.
Kate Yetter Art Journaling page

~Artwork by Kate Yetter, Art Journaling Winter 2018

Binding your own book

If you like to work with unusual sizes or if you need a certain type of paper, you may want to consider binding your own book. This option is also great for beginners because they can select which completed pages they want to keep in their finished book. Word of Warning: An art journal should be a place of freedom and self-expression, so if your inner critic wants to discard every page, then this type of art journal may not be for you.

 

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

This is also a popular option if you want to recycle materials to make your art journal. Paint on cereal boxes, cardboard from shipping boxes, or scraps of recycled paper for an eco-friendly way to create your art journal.

When deciding how to bind your book together, you can find many book binding tutorials on YouTube. You can also opt for a simple hole-punch threaded with ribbon. The possibilities are limitless when making your own book.

Art Journal by Olga Siedlecka

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

White Gesso

Preparing Your New Art Journal

Once you have decided on which art journal to use, you’ll need to prepare the surfaces for your beautiful artwork.

  1. Seal the gutter. This is an optional step, but can make a big difference in preventing bleed if you are working with watercolors or wet mediums. The gutter is the center seam where the two pages of your art journal spread meet. In order to prevent watercolor and other mediums from seeping into the spine and showing up on other pages, you can tape the seam with masking tape, gaffers tape, or even washi tape.Clear Gesso
  2. Prep the page with gesso. Gesso will provide the “tooth” that you need while also preventing the mediums from bleeding through the pages. You can get more information on gesso in our Beginner’s Guide to Acrylic Paint Mediums and Additives. You don’t have to limit yourself to white gesso, though. If using patterned paper, you can preserve the pattern by using clear gesso. You can also use black gesso to create an entirely new experience.

Black Gesso

Must-Have Art Journaling Tools and Supplies

With your journal prepped and ready to go, you are ready to embark on your art journaling journey. With just a few supplies, you can create vivid art journal pages. Here is a basic list of materials that you should have in your art journaling arsenal if you are just starting out.

Gel Medium

Gel Medium — Your New Best Friend

Gel Medium is an absolute essential for any art journaler. Use it as glue when you are collaging, or use it to seal your mixed-media layers. Gel medium provides a thin layer that will adhere your elements to the page and protect the work.

Tip: If you find that gel medium causes your pages to stick together even when they are dry, you can keep a piece of wax paper in between the pages or spray each page with a clear acrylic sealer to remove the tacky quality from your pages.

Color Tools

Color Tools

Pull out the crayons, pastels, chalks, watercolor pencils, and more! Water-soluble color tools are especially well-suited for art journaling because they allow you to create watercolor effects without having to use as much water. Just apply a little bit of pigment to the page then blend with a wet brush. This keeps the pages from getting soaked and allows you more control over the work. Dina Wakley Scribble Sticks, Distress Crayons by Tim Holtz, water-soluble crayons and oil pastels, and watercolor pencils are all great options for your art journaling.

Ephemera

Ephemera

If you don’t already have an ephemera stash, start now! Ephemera is a wonderful source of inspiration when you are getting started with your art journal page. Save your favorite magazine images, receipts, ticket stubs, book page scraps, pictures, flyers, junk mail, and more to have a wealth of materials to work with. Collage them into a background or pick a few to highlight on each page.

Ideas to Get Started

With an art journal, there are no limits to the way your pages can look, what mediums you can use, or the artistic techniques available. However, that can seem a little overwhelming to beginning art journalers. Some find that it is easier to stay focused and inspired if they pick a theme to work with, like portraits or flowers. There is no right or wrong way to art journal, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Magazine Collage

Dianne L. Fago Art Journaling page

~Artwork by Dianne L. Fago, Art Journaling Spring 2016

Download Dianne L. Fago’s article on art journaling with magazines here!

If you get inspired when flipping through a magazine, then this type of art journal is for you. Collage magazine images, juxtapose the different clippings, and create stunning visual arrangements with this technique.

Inspirational Quotes Journaling

Whether you’re capturing the quotes of Maya Angelou or illustrating sayings from Dr. Seuss, a quotes journal is focused around the written word. Gather your favorite quotes and create a decorated page for each quote.

~Artwork by Pam Carriker, Art Journaling Winter 2018

~Artwork by Pam Carriker, Art Journaling Winter 2018


Posted: Friday, March 30th, 2018 @ 11:37 am
Categories: Art Journaling, Mixed-Media Art.
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Art Journaling image by Andrea Chebeleu

~Artwork by Andrea Chebeleu

Anyone who frequents Somerset Place knows that we are huge fans of art journals.  We keep them as a place of inspiration, to play with new materials, and to establish new motifs and designs. Our magazine, Art Journaling, is chock full of inspiring artists and art journals to aspire to with our own creative practices, but where to start?

This post will explain the ins and outs of art journaling so that you can start your journey to self-expression. If you’re already familiar with the medium of art journaling, there are also some fun tips for taking your art journals to the next level!

 

Rae Missigman Art Journal Page

~Artwork by Rae Missigman

Why Art Journal?

According to Psychology Today, art journals can serve as a “transitional object” that allow individuals to repair, self-soothe, and de-stress. James Pennebaker conducted research that suggests that journaling can help aid recovery from trauma and that by writing or journaling, the individual can make the experience more manageable.

Benefits of Art Journaling:

  • Self-expression
  • Stress reduction
  • Self-soothing
  • May help self-regulation
  • A form of self-care
  • Restores emotional equilibrium
  • Can help externalize stressful feeling sand emotions
  • Strengthen feelings of well-being
  • A place to experiment with new art materials
  • A place to practice motifs and themes in preparation for larger canvases and substrates

Start with a Journal

If you are just beginning art journaling, the first step is to pick a journal that you can work in. There are tons of options out there from notebooks made specifically for mixed-media art to repurposed books.

Dylusions Creative Journal

Dylusions Creative Journals

Dylusions Creative Journals are the gold standard for art journals. They have thick, luxurious paper that will stand up to all mediums without warping or pilling. They also have a thick kraft cover to protect your artwork and provide one more place to decorate and express your own personal artistic style. Choose from multiple sizes to find the art journal that is perfect for your needs.

Andrea Ockey Parr Standard Notebook Art Journal

~Artwork by Andrea Ockey Parr, Somerset Studio Jan/Feb 2018

Standard Notebooks

Any notebook can be an art journal. From the composition books that we all used in school to a fancy leather journal, every notebook can be transformed into a place for your artwork. Standard notebooks are especially ideal if you are planning on using your art journal primarily for sketching, dry mediums, or collage art. Standard notebooks aren’t recommended for extremely wet mediums, like watercolor, because the pages may bleed, warp, or wrinkle. If you plan to use wet mediums in a standard notebook, be sure to prep your pages really well, which will be covered below.

Repurposed Old Book

Repurposing an old book

Old books are a popular choice for mixed-media artists because it provides a substrate that is already filled with texture and patterns. Priming the pages with gesso allows the book’s text to peek through, adding one more layer of interest to the work as a whole.

Some Things to Consider When Looking for an Old Book Art Journal:

  • Always check the binding/spine first. If the pages are coming loose or the spine is coming apart, then the book isn’t a good candidate for your art journal.
  • Find a book that lies flat while open. This will make it easier to work in.
  • Pick a book with somewhat smooth pages. Dime novels and cheaper paperbacks are made from a paper that will pill when wet, so they don’t work well as art journals.
  • Pick a book with a cover and subject matter that you like. If you decide to leave the text visible in your artwork, having a book that you enjoy will ensure that the words are meaningful to you. Nothing is worse than realizing halfway through the artwork that the page you are working on is talking about something unpleasant. I made hand-stamped tags for a party once, only to realize that the book’s text was talking about the plague in medieval Europe … in graphic detail.
Kate Yetter Art Journaling page

~Artwork by Kate Yetter, Art Journaling Winter 2018

Binding your own book

If you like to work with unusual sizes or if you need a certain type of paper, you may want to consider binding your own book. This option is also great for beginners because they can select which completed pages they want to keep in their finished book. Word of Warning: An art journal should be a place of freedom and self-expression, so if your inner critic wants to discard every page, then this type of art journal may not be for you.

 

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

This is also a popular option if you want to recycle materials to make your art journal. Paint on cereal boxes, cardboard from shipping boxes, or scraps of recycled paper for an eco-friendly way to create your art journal.

When deciding how to bind your book together, you can find many book binding tutorials on YouTube. You can also opt for a simple hole-punch threaded with ribbon. The possibilities are limitless when making your own book.

Art Journal by Olga Siedlecka

~Artwork by Olga Siedlecka, Art Journaling Spring 2016

White Gesso

Preparing Your New Art Journal

Once you have decided on which art journal to use, you’ll need to prepare the surfaces for your beautiful artwork.

  1. Seal the gutter. This is an optional step, but can make a big difference in preventing bleed if you are working with watercolors or wet mediums. The gutter is the center seam where the two pages of your art journal spread meet. In order to prevent watercolor and other mediums from seeping into the spine and showing up on other pages, you can tape the seam with masking tape, gaffers tape, or even washi tape.Clear Gesso
  2. Prep the page with gesso. Gesso will provide the “tooth” that you need while also preventing the mediums from bleeding through the pages. You can get more information on gesso in our Beginner’s Guide to Acrylic Paint Mediums and Additives. You don’t have to limit yourself to white gesso, though. If using patterned paper, you can preserve the pattern by using clear gesso. You can also use black gesso to create an entirely new experience.

Black Gesso

Must-Have Art Journaling Tools and Supplies

With your journal prepped and ready to go, you are ready to embark on your art journaling journey. With just a few supplies, you can create vivid art journal pages. Here is a basic list of materials that you should have in your art journaling arsenal if you are just starting out.

Gel Medium

Gel Medium — Your New Best Friend

Gel Medium is an absolute essential for any art journaler. Use it as glue when you are collaging, or use it to seal your mixed-media layers. Gel medium provides a thin layer that will adhere your elements to the page and protect the work.

Tip: If you find that gel medium causes your pages to stick together even when they are dry, you can keep a piece of wax paper in between the pages or spray each page with a clear acrylic sealer to remove the tacky quality from your pages.

Color Tools

Color Tools

Pull out the crayons, pastels, chalks, watercolor pencils, and more! Water-soluble color tools are especially well-suited for art journaling because they allow you to create watercolor effects without having to use as much water. Just apply a little bit of pigment to the page then blend with a wet brush. This keeps the pages from getting soaked and allows you more control over the work. Dina Wakley Scribble Sticks, Distress Crayons by Tim Holtz, water-soluble crayons and oil pastels, and watercolor pencils are all great options for your art journaling.

Ephemera

Ephemera

If you don’t already have an ephemera stash, start now! Ephemera is a wonderful source of inspiration when you are getting started with your art journal page. Save your favorite magazine images, receipts, ticket stubs, book page scraps, pictures, flyers, junk mail, and more to have a wealth of materials to work with. Collage them into a background or pick a few to highlight on each page.

Ideas to Get Started

With an art journal, there are no limits to the way your pages can look, what mediums you can use, or the artistic techniques available. However, that can seem a little overwhelming to beginning art journalers. Some find that it is easier to stay focused and inspired if they pick a theme to work with, like portraits or flowers. There is no right or wrong way to art journal, but here are a few ideas to get you started.

Magazine Collage

Dianne L. Fago Art Journaling page

~Artwork by Dianne L. Fago, Art Journaling Spring 2016

Download Dianne L. Fago’s article on art journaling with magazines here!

If you get inspired when flipping through a magazine, then this type of art journal is for you. Collage magazine images, juxtapose the different clippings, and create stunning visual arrangements with this technique.

Inspirational Quotes Journaling

Whether you’re capturing the quotes of Maya Angelou or illustrating sayings from Dr. Seuss, a quotes journal is focused around the written word. Gather your favorite quotes and create a decorated page for each quote.

~Artwork by Pam Carriker, Art Journaling Winter 2018

~Artwork by Pam Carriker, Art Journaling Winter 2018