Many years ago, I taught at Artfest. It was a golden era, and – for the first few years – I had a wonderful time.
At one Artfest, organizer Teesha Moore gave us simple cloth dolls. I think her grandmother had assembled them.
When I received mine, I promptly embellished her. Here’s the result.
(I apologize for the size of the image. It’s from around 2001, I think. All of my online images were very small, because – with dial-up connections, and some people paying by-the-minute for Internet service – load time and file sizes were a big concern.)
I added rubber stamps, beads, wool hair, antennae with beads, and wired, rubber-stamped, paper “faerie wings.”
I think she’s in storage right now. When I find her again, I’ll take a better photo and add her to this website.
This is from my 2002 post to the old ArtistsJournals2 list at Yahoo!Groups.
Some of the information (and the terminology) has changed.
For example: In the late 1990s, we’d started calling them “artists journals.” Then, people began calling them “art journals” and I used the term art/journals. Now (2021), we’re using terms like “art journaling,” “mixed media art,” and sometimes “scrapbooking.”
Whatever you call them, they’re illustrated diaries or journals, and they’re important.
I’ve been doing these quick collages for months now, though not consciously doing them daily.
As I’m writing this, I’m starting each day with a collage, the same as I used to do morning pages.
I allow myself a half an hour for the initial collage process. Then, later in the day, I may go back several times – adding more things – until I’m pleased with it.
But it all starts with the determination that, whether it’s good art or not, there will be a collage when I’m finished!
Usually, I paint with gesso throughout my journal so the pages are strong enough to support collages here & there.
I’ll leave a few pages for writing, then gesso two or three pages so they’re prepared for collage. That forces me to avoid having an all-text journal.
My current journal is fully gesso’d pages, because this one will be entirely art.
Gesso for art journals
For my art journaling, I use any gesso that’s cheap, from the fine art supplies section of Michael’s.
Gesso makes the paper stronger, so it doesn’t suck up the glue or paint so much, and it has “tooth” to grab whatever I apply to it in layers.
I buy mostly white gesso.
Yes, you can buy it in colors, but if you start with white, you can add color to it (in small batches) with watercolors (including Dr. Ph. Martins), acrylics, even food coloring or unsweetened KoolAid if you like! But I’m happy working with white, usually.
Then, the images
I store a wide range of images in folders, kept in a heavy cardboard portfolio, to use when I want to do a collage.
I also keep a stack of magazines & newspapers on hand for my collage work.
And I go through and grab whatever images, words, and phrases strike my fancy at that very moment.
If they connect somehow, great. If they’re completely disrelated, that’s okay too. It usually makes sense to me when I put it all together, in the context of my thoughts at the time.
I love layers in my work. For this reason, I’m very big on using colored tissue paper.
Adhesives hold it all together
I use Golden Gel Medium (soft/gloss) for the adhesive, and when the tissue paper is saturated with the gel medium, it remains translucent after it dries.
However, the gel medium will make the paper buckle sometimes. I like that, because I’m very process-oriented. I’m not interested in a collage that looks pre-printed. The buckling and extra glops of gel medium work for me. But I know that not everyone likes the buckled-paper look.
I apply the gel with a sponge brush. Sometimes, I forget to rinse them. Though I’m much better at remembering now – due to environmental concerns – I stock up on inexpensive sponge brushes (10 cents each during Michael’s sales) regularly.
[2021 update: Now, I’m using Yes! paste. I apply it with a sponge brush or a cotton swab, depending on what I’m applying to the page in my art journal. It rarely buckles or puckers. I absolutely love this product!]
While the page dries, I’ll place a piece of waxed paper over it so I can turn the page and either write or do another collage. If it’s facing another damp-and-drying page, I’ll keep waxed paper between the pages for a week or two until the adhesive is fully cured.
Embellishments in your art journal
Don’t limit yourself to paper and the occasional paint or colored accent.
I highlight some of my work with different types of leafing… gold, copper, etc. I adhere it with the same medium or paste.
For some of my work, I think of other ways to attach stuff.
For example, on a “hurting” day, a bandaid may hold an image in place.
And there are grommets, paper clips, straight pins, safety pins, and so on. Think beyond tradition and rules!
I never fret because an item prevents the journal from fully closing, nice and flat.
Frankly, by the time I get done with lots of pages, the whole thing is so layered (and sometimes a bit buckled) that it hasn’t a chance of closing nice OR flat, ever again!
Cover additions are a nice touch
Often, I sew a button to the front cover of the journal, and a piece of string (I like hemp twine) or ribbon attached with a grommet to the back cover, so I can tie the journal closed when I carry it around or shelve it.
But, you may think of other ways to secure your art journal. Think of it as yet more mixed-media art, not just “what’s going to hold this journal closed, in my purse or backpack.”
Do. Don’t plan!
These collages are exciting to me.
I never know how they’ll turn out until I start putting the random bits of paper together and realize what the internal message is. It’s sort of like bringing what’s deep inside me, forward.
From time to time, I’ll display my new (real) art journaling and mixed media art pages here, as I create them.
Below is an article about creating an artists journal. I wrote it early in 2002. Before you read it, here’s the backstory:
Back then, I was preparing to leave a difficult marriage. My then-husband wanted me out of the house, but I insisted on staying until my youngest child finished high school. It probably wasn’t one of my better ideas, but it seemed like the right thing to do, at the time.
Emotionally (and sometimes, mentally) I was holding on by a thread. The Harry Potter books were what kept happy outcomes in my mind, and several supportive friends were invaluable to me. They made sure that I got out and saw people, regularly. I am so grateful to them. I’m sure that I was difficult to deal with, at times.
One friend in my circle of friends suggested that we could all get together and create our own version of Hogwarts. It would be a place to learn things like authentic bookbinding, assemblage and found art techniques, and so on. Of course, it was a fantasy, but several of us were going through difficult times. Pretending it might be real, someday… that helped tremendously.
One day, my wonderful friend Erin asked me to explain how I worked on the journals that I kept during that time. The journals were where I expressed my hopes, fears, aspirations, and anxieties, usually through my art, but sometimes with accompanying text.
I replied to Erin, and then I posted my (slightly edited) explanation as an article. Here it is.
My friend Erin asked me how I work on art/journals.
Generally, I have a couple of them going. One is my angry one, that no one will ever see. It’s unattractive, but keeps me from venting too inappropriately sometimes. Pain and rage are scribbled on its pages.
Then I’ll have the one at hand. Right now, with maybe ten more pages left in it, it’s my “Hogwarts Journal.” (That’s it in the photo, at left.) It’s a journal that started as a place to jot notes & sketches for the university I’d love to create someday, either on my own or with my friends.
I started this journal because my partners-in-crime for this project are as busy as I am. I see one member of the group infrequently, but for longer periods of time. I figured that I could just hand him this journal when our paths cross, and it’d save me hours of explaining my ideas (and probably forgetting half of them) .
But though I thought I was finished with this journal weeks ago, it was always at my elbow, convenient for adding more art & ideas, often unrelated to Hogwarts.
Now it’s nearly full, with about 1/2 Hogwarts ideas, and 1/2 totally different art & ideas.
I also have an event-related journal in progress (I’m writing this in Feb 2002, immediately after Celebrate Art!) And another one that seemed like a good idea before the event, but I didn’t like the stilted not-really-art that I produced trying to deal with pre-event stress, so it went into the trash yesterday.
(No, I don’t usually throw out art, but honestly, this was truly awful stuff, beyond redemption!)
Generally, I start with standard sketchbooks. You know, the ring-binder kind that they sell at Michael’s, and other art supply shops. I like the 5″x8″ size. (For the following illustrations, I’m using my Hogwarts journal.)
First, I gesso & paint and then collage the cover. (Gesso keeps the paint from seeping into the paper.) I use whatever gesso is cheap & available in bulk.
Recently, I added a hemp/string & button closure to this journal, because the pages are too irregular for it to stay closed. I lace the string through two mini-grommets I’ve mounted in the back cover, and I wrap the hemp/string around the antique button loosely sewn on the front. (It’s secured with a smaller antique button on the inside of the front cover.)But, next in the process, I start the title page, which will evolve as the journal does. This one isn’t finished yet.
Along the way, I’ll alternately write and make art in the journal. (I like the phrase “make art” because it sounds like “make love,” and it’s an equally passionate expression.) I deliberately gesso ahead a few pages when I’m doing art, to make certain I keep punctuating my journal with art.
Below is an early page from this journal. This collage started with line taken from a magazine: “You’re not alone.”
This entry was from the time when I deliberately dropped my boundaries and started accepting hugs from people again. And I discovered that some friends give fabulous hugs, while other people in my life… well, my own journaling on that page says it:
“I need someone to hold. Someone who won’t pull back at the first sign of release, and withdraw behind the mask as if the whole thing was a little distasteful. Someone who looks me in the eyes and smiles beyond his lips, with a knowledge of the ages and a sense of comfort like returning home to a place I never really left.”
The tissue paper–like most of my images–was applied with Golden Gel Medium (soft, gloss). This leaves the tissue transparent enough to read the text through, while giving it the sense of layers that I value in my art.
Generally, my elements are antique paper (from flea markets), magazine images & text (W magazine and Nat’l Geographic), art & text that I create on the computer, and acrylic paint, glitter, and sometimes gold leaf. Surface embellishments include found feathers & other items, antique buttons, freshwater pearls, and… whatever else finds its way into my art supplies!
And yes, the pages do buckle and bubble beneath the gesso, paint, gel medium, and layers. That’s why I use a string-and-button closure. And no, I don’t mind that it’s such an irregular and funky design. I’m very process oriented, and if the pages buckle and warp… so be it.
So anyway, that’s today’s art blurb. I hope it helps!