What’s an Artist’s Journal?

Artist’s journals are illustrated diaries and journals on any theme.

An artist’s journal – or art journal – can be a record of your daily thoughts, a travel journal, an exercise or diet diary, a dream journal, a place where you jot down your goals or to-do lists, or… well, almost any record that you’d like to keep in a book or notebook.

They become “artist’s journals” when you add any kind of art, illustration or embellishment to the pages.

On this page:

This is a travel journal page I created after visiting “The Nubble” lighthouse in York, Maine (USA).  It’s a mixed media work, combining sketches, photos, beach glass, shells, and driftwood from that journey.  The original is part of a 9″ x 12″ spiral-bound sketchbook.

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Homage to Dr. John – a mixed media collage

This is a collage to honor the music of Dr. John (aka Mac Rebbenack). It is the art for the Homage to Music card deck exchange hosted by Red Dog Scott.

(Click on the Homage to Dr. John image — at right — to see the 767 x 1006 pixel version. It opens in a new window.)

Dr. John is probably my favorite musician, since I first heard his music around 1970. On an early album, Gumbo, he described his sound as “a combination of Dixieland, Rock & Roll, and Funk.” Add a little Mardi Gras and gris-gris, and you’ll get the idea.

Not everyone understands his music; I do, and it inspires much of my art.

This collage was over a month in preparation.

I started with a stretched canvas that I’d painted metallic gold (spray paint).

Then, I began layering Burnt Sienna, Cobalt Blue, French Ultramarine Blue, and finally a black that I mixed using French Ultramarine and Burnt Umber.

Because I use oil paints for their depth of color, each layer had to dry for at least ten days. (In workshops, I use acrylics because the layers dry in minutes, not weeks.)

After the layers were dry, I began sanding them down for texture. I place a wooden block the size of the stretcher-bar opening, under the canvas so it is evenly supported.

I sanded down different amounts in different areas.

Then, I began the collage.

My first layer was tissue paper, crumpled and “painted on” with Golden brand Soft Gel Medium.

Next, I “painted on” a piece of antique lace. Over that, I glued three strips of teal chenille yarn.

For small pieces, I use the Golden Medium as glue; for larger pieces, I use hot glue.

Then, I added feathers. Some were gatherered at the beach, others were purchased.

Next, I coated the entire canvas with Golden Medium, and waited for it to dry until tacky. At that point, I began applying Gildenglitz. For the larger areas, I increased the adhesion with a double-sided tape.

Almost finished, I glued on a dollhouse Parcheesi board, a plastic lizard, and a heart milagros that I had sprayed gold and highlighted with Dr. Martin’s calligraphy ink, in copper.

The final addition–when everything else had fully dried–was some highlights with Rub N Buf gold leaf, in antique gold.

This is the kind of piece you can expect to complete in my workshops that involve collages, and natural materials.

Generally, I like to work with rich & deep colors, gold leaf or glitter, and natural objects such as twigs, acorns, and feathers–natural materials, used flamboyantly.

This remains one of my favorite collages.

If you’re not familiar with Dr. John…


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Dolls’ Faces – Easy Homemade Molds

Homemade dolls’ faces are easy to make, even with little or no sculpting skills. Whether you want to make a doll’s face, a doll’s head, or a mask for a doll, you can make it yourself in under an hour.

Sculpting skills are not necessary. Here’s what you need:

  • An existing doll that’s the right size, in any condition.
  • Fimo, Sculpey, or a similar clay that you can dry or bake at home.
  • Optional : Tools for carving the clay. (They can be anything from kitchen utensils, manicure tools, or plastic or wooden tools for working with plasticene or other clay.)

homemade dolls faces using oven-baked clayIn the photo above, you’ll see the molds I’ve made.  They’re on the right.

In the center column, you’ll see the results, after using those molds.

On the far left, to show size, I have an American quarter (25-cent coin) and 20p from Ireland.  (I wrote this article before Ireland joined the EU.)

You can make your own molds in any size.

Here’s how I used one doll’s face from this experiment.

Not quite an altered doll
Not exactly altered, and not exactly a doll…

Let’s talk about the two molds that I created, and how you can make them yourself.

The doll mask

In the top row, the mold was made from a vintage international doll. That doll is made of cheap plastic and her face has a nice expression.

To make the mold

  1. First, I dusted the doll’s face with cornstarch.
  2. Then, I kneaded a lump of Fimo to soften it, and then flattened it slightly so it was bigger than the face of the doll.
  3. To create the mold, I gently (but firmly) pressed the Fimo onto the doll’s face.
  4. Starting at the top, I carefully peeled the Fimo off the face of the doll.
  5. I gently pressed the mold back into shape.
  6. Following the directions on the Fimo package, I baked the mold and then let it cool.

To make the doll mask

  1. Dust the mold very lightly with cornstarch or talcum powder.
  2. Press kneaded, prepared Fimo (or any clay that you can bake at home or air dry) into the mold.
  3. Carefully remove the Fimo from the mold.
  4. If the Fimo changed shape as you lifted it out of the mold, gently bend it back to the shape you want.
  5. In the edges (flaps) on either side of the face, create holes for the ribbon.  (I used the point of a mechanical pencil.)
  6. Bake Fimo (or any clay) according to package directions.

The result is a mask that you can paint, add ribbons to, and tie onto a cloth doll as a mask or an alternative face.

By studying full-size masks — including Native American designs and Italian masks — you may think of more elaborate designs to modify your doll masks.

Stylized, modern doll head

In the lower row in the photo above, you’ll see a mold that creates a very simple face for a doll. This is a very stylized doll’s face, with a brow, a nose, optional area for eyes, and you can add a mouth if you want… or leave it blank.

It’s a little like faces in artwork by Paul Klee, and inspired by the figures on Easter Island.

To make the mold

I started with a small ball of kneaded Fimo. I smooshed it flat — about 1/4 inch thick — and smoothed the edges.

Then I cut out a three-sided notch with a paring knife.  That notch is the size and shape of the figure’s nose.

After cutting the notch, I smoothed its edges.

Next, I curved up the lower edge of the clay mold.  That created a handle that makes it easier to use the mold.

Then, I punched a small hole in the handle — with the tip of a mechanical pencil — so I can put a string through the mold, to hang it with others on my studio wall.  (I wish I’d done this with all of my molds.  It makes storage much easier.)

I baked the mold, following the directions on the Fimo package.

To use this mold

  1. Roll a ball of Fimo (or any clay you can bake at home, or air dry).  Prepare to experiment with various sizes of lumps of clay, to get the proportions you want for your doll’s head.
  2. Place the ball of clay on a smooth surface.
  3. Press the mold into it
  4. Carefully lift the mold from the clay.
  5. Add as many details as you want*, or leave the face that simple.
  6. Add a neck to your doll.  (Generally, I roll a piece of clay and smoosh it onto the base of the head.)
  7. Push something round-ish through the neck sideways, to create a hole big enough for a piece of wire.  (I’ve used round toothpicks to make this opening, or a piece of spaghetti, or an orange stick, or a big yarn needle.)  That hole will enable you to attach the head to a wire armature/body, or sew the doll’s head into a stuffed cloth body.
  8. Bake the head according to Fimo (or other clay) directions.

*If you’re going to add beads or jewels or something else as eyes or other decoration, create a gentle indentation for each of them, but don’t add them until after you bake the head.  Otherwise, the beads might melt, crack or even explode.


With an existing doll** or a simple design concept, and some use-at-home clay such as Sculpey or Fimo, you can make molds for doll’s heads and faces.

Then, you can use those molds to make doll heads or doll masks, also from home-baked (or air dried) clay.

**WARNING: Do not use a modern, copyrighted doll, particularly if you’re planning to sell or even give away the dolls you create.  Though I can’t advise you about copying the doll’s face for your personal use, it absolutely cannot be copied to make dolls you’ll sell.

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New Freebie Adventure

This is a freebie for anyone who’s interested.  No strings attached!


I’m having such fun sending out free, artsy/creative postcards to people, I’m creating new ones and sending them — at random — in batches of 20 – 100 per week.

Card updates:

  • The original (orange & purplish, “Your year to create!”) cards are gone now.
  • I’ve sent a small (20-or-so) batch of b&w cards about making art with what you have, no matter where you are.  Those are no longer available.
  • My next 100 cards were glossy, printed postcards, and they include a mountain scene and a quotation about beauty.  Not signed or numbered, they were a “test run” with a different postcard design.  All of them have been sent now, too.
  • I will create more, spontaneous b&w cards and send them on whim, as well.  They’re not signed or numbered… just fun!

Starting with the August 2010 postcards, the artwork is generally my own.

To receive free artsy/creative cards in the mail, scroll down and use the form below.  No charge, no strings attached, and I don’t share addresses with anyone else.

Really, this is just one of those fun things that I like to do.

Here’s what I said in the original post:

I’ve now sent postcards to all former (paid) subscribers to my zine and “creative somethings.”

If you were a subscriber and didn’t receive your postcard, please use the paid subscribers’ form to update your mailing address.

Anyway, I have about 30 postcards left from the batch I had printed. I want to send them out, too. (Update: Remember, those have all been mailed now.)

In fact, I want to do this with every zine or gift-y, artsy item that I publish:

In addition to mailing to my subscribers’ list, I’ll draw names at random from the freebies list.  When someone receives that month’s postcard, it’ll be like receiving a treat.  They’ll have a free, 30-day pass to something cool and exclusive.

Some of the postcards will be a signed & numbered artsy something, in itself.

And, the info on the postcard will lead the person to the hidden location of whatever-it-is. (It may be a riddle or a mystery to solve, to figure out the download location. I want this to be a game, sometimes, but not too difficult.)

If you’d like to be part of the freebie pool of names/addresses, send your name & snailmail/postal address to me, using the form below. (It’s okay if you’re not in the U.S. I’ll choose a few non-US addresses each time, too.)

The first 30 (or so) will receive my current postcard, which is simply the “confirm your mailing address” card I’ve been sending. (You will NOT need to confirm your address.)

After that, you’ll be in the regular drawing for access to… well, I’m not sure what, yet.


  • If this works out, I may turn the subscription area into something that new people can subscribe to.  Let’s see how this first step goes.  This has to be fun!
  • Some people were confused about my earlier call for addresses from former, paid subscribers.  If you were NOT a paid subscriber  — someone who signed up for a year of paper zines, probably in the 1990s — and you sent me your name + address during my earlier call, you do need to resend it with this form.
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