Art Journals – Beauty is in the eye of…

not coloring in my art journal... yetToday, I was browsing some sites where people have posted their art journals (or artist’s journals… same thing… it’s a term always in transition).

I quickly found a wonderful series of pages, and the artist  (Zom) muses if they’re part of an ugly art journal.

I want to say, “No! Those pages are lovely!” but I hold back.

It’s sort of like when I was pregnant.  Each time, I’d refer to myself as “the fat lady.”  At the time, it amused me.  Obviously, I was pregnant, not fat, but the size of my stomach… well, my humor runs to sarcasm.  Telling me I wasn’t “fat” made me question the vision of the observer.

Hello.  60 inch stomach…?  Fat! *chuckle*

But, of course, I understood the point.  They just didn’t understand mine… which was also okay.  Often, people don’t get my humor.

So anyway…

I look at these pages in all their loveliness.  I absolutely love the juicy colors and the choice of images.

However, if Zom wants to call them ugly… well, it’s her journal.  My opinions are different, but that’s my experience, not necessarily hers.

Moving past that semantic moment…

I love it where she says, “I don’t know how much of a connection I am feeling with this art journal. Is the form no longer relevant?”

That resonated with me.  For a long time, I didn’t connect with my artists journals.  I looked at them, tried to add to them, and generally felt a sense of ennui before completing even one page.

I became a different person over the past several years.  The reasons I’d kept an art journal, years ago… they weren’t there any more.  It was a different context altogether.  For starters, I’d been driven to keep my journal… it was a manic, almost “outsider” thing, for years.  It was how I kept my sanity during challenging years.

Since then, my world gradually shifted.  It wasn’t quite like watching paint dry, but it was very slow-moving.  I didn’t want to articulate it because the changes — even the minute ones — were radical, but — at the same time — they were constantly in transition.

What I’d say one moment might be totally different, even an hour later.  I suppose they were very subtle ah-HA! moments.

So, I’d put things down on paper and, later that day or sometimes a few days later, I’d shred them.  They weren’t me… not a “me” that lingered for more than a few minutes, anyway.  And, with such fleeting changes, I didn’t want to keep art around that represented that.  It took me back in time, uncomfortably.  It wasn’t a real ME-me, if you get my meaning.

I do like to document the process, no matter what the process is.  However, there are times when the changes are like trying on a huge stack of clothes in a fitting room: By the time I find what fits me and looks good, I’ve pretty much forgotten the oh-dear-heaven-that’s-not-me stuff, now at the bottom of the pile.

I don’t want to save some of those half-baked journal pages any more than I’d take photos of myself in unattractive clothing in the fitting room.

They’re not me.

They don’t have significance in my life, even as process.

Keeping those pages would be making the moment more than it was.

Perhaps I should journal about those pages.

Anyway, this blog entry (linked below) is wonderfully, deliciously thought-filled.  Click to read the pages.  They’re very good and some may resonate with you as they did with me.

pinch me to see if you’re dreaming: An Ugly Art Journal

pinchmetoseeifyouaredreaming.blogspot.com10/13/11

I don’t write as often about my art journal as I used to. I think my AJ and I have been going through a difficult phase. I knew things needed to change, not because anything was ‘wrong’ but because, for me, the innate nature of

Saving Images for Your Collage Art

Saving collage photos, papers and ephemera… it’s always a challenge. But, I’ve found a system that works well for me. It might help you, too.

Step One: Sort collage elements by themes

I save my collage elements — especially magazine photos — by color, in manila folders. I start with the major color groups (red, blue, green, etc.) and then expand (lime green, turquoise, etc.) as my collection of saved images becomes too large for anything simpler.

I include all kinds of papers in my folders. So, when I want something blue, I open my “blue” folder and I’ll see my primarily blue magazine images, but also blue tissue paper, maybe some bits of blue ribbons or fabrics that I intend to use in collage, and so on.

Of course, my collages are usually more color-driven than image-driven, per se. So, organizing by color makes sense to me. (If you’re not familiar with my torn-paper collages, you’ll see many of them online at Aisling.net.)

For someone else, it might make more sense to organize by other themes, instead of (or in addition to) by colors.

Your categories might be “faces” or even more specifically, “women’s smiling faces,” etc. Or, “dark-looking castles,” “cute cottages,” “kissing,” “fast cars,” “vintage images,” or whatever.

Step Two: Store the folders in a big portfolio

All of my manila folders are stored in one large, flat old-fashioned artist’s portfolio thingie. You know, those huge black folders made from heavy cardboard, covered with a black, textured surface, and they tie at the top and sides with cotton tabs.

(Collaging the outside of that big portfolio is optional.)

You may prefer a portfolio that’s easier to carry and comes in a color. But, any good, big portfolio will work fine.

In my studio, my portfolio fits nicely on top of my chest of drawers that holds my fabric art and mixed media supplies, like my iron, fusible webbing, frequently-used fabrics like muslin, etc. (It’s a small chest of drawers that fits underneath my sewing table. So, the big collage bits folder is pretty much hidden unless I’m looking for it.)

You can also hide the folder under a bed, behind a door, between or in back of bookcases, and so on.

I’ve tried many organizing systems for my stacks of wonderful papers and collage images. This has worked the best for me.

Composition Book Artists Journals

For a newer version of this article, see ArtistsJournals.com.


Mead composition bookA composition book art journal is any journal that’s kept in a composition book. Those are generally school-type, saddle-sewn (along the crease) notebooks with cardboard covers… similar to exam/test booklets, but a little more permanent.

Composition books are inexpensive, so many people like them especially for informal journaling. It feels less intimidating to use a journal that doesn’t cost much, and is familiar from our years in school.

They’re so affordable, you can buy several. Put one in your car, one in the baby bag, one by your bed, and so on. Then, you’re ready to create a journal page when you have some free time. The journals are so inexpensive, you can rip completed pages out and bind them into your more formal artist’s journal.

(“Binding” the loose page can be as easy as taping it into your other journal. Or, you can glue it, sew it, staple it, etc.)

Composition books have lots of lined pages in them… as many as 100. They come in a variety of sizes, but the traditional ones are about 8″ x 10″ or so. The traditional ones often have a b&w cover that looks sort of marbelized.

You can also find composition books with red covers, plain manila covers, green covers, and so on. You may want to choose one with a color that reminds you of your childhood. (But, the color may not matter if you’re going to cover it with art anyway.)

Also, it’s easy to embellish the cardboard covers. I’d still use something (such as fusible interfacing) on the back so that threads don’t pull through, but you can sew through the cardboard with a crewel needle. Then, you can embroider on it, add beads & buttons, etc., in addition to other embellishments.

(For more about sewing on your journal pages and covers, see Sewing on Journal Pages.)

Sewing Onto Your Journal Pages

You can sew embellishments onto your paper journal pages.

You can use any page in a book like fabric (to sew on, for example) by using iron-on interfacing on the back side of the page.

Yes, just iron it on, the same as you would iron interfacing onto fabric. It won’t always stick 100%, but it will work well enough that you can sew through it.

(If you try to embroider or sew beads onto regular pages in a book, the thread tends to pull right through the paper, if the thread is tugged.)

You can do the same thing with your journal cover. A strong crewel embroidery needle will usually sew through cardboard… but you’ll probably need a thimble to push the needle through.

artists journals cover - treated as fabricYou can then embroider with embroidery floss, yarn, thin ribbon, etc. You can add buttons, beads, and so on, too.

At left, you can see one of my journal covers that I’ve embellished with sewn-on buttons. (Click on the image to see it larger.) The biggest button is part of the journal closure. When it’s not in use, a string of hemp (secured to the back cover) is wrapped around the button on the front cover to hold the journal closed.

After you’ve finished your sewing (or other embellishment), you can glue a page or fabric over the ironed-on interfacing, so your stitches are concealed. If I’m doing a lot of this in a book, I’ll buy a second copy of the same book, so the “backing” page is what it would have been, if I hadn’t covered the original with interfacing.

You’ll find iron-on interfacing at any fabric shop. It’s usually kept in a bin or on shelving next to where they cut fabric yardage for you.

You can also iron on Stitch Witchery or another fusible adhesive, and that gives you the option of sticking something wonderful on the other side… interfacing isn’t all that interesting.

For example, you could fuse an actual piece of fabric to the paper page.

Then again, after I sew beads onto the page, I like to cover the interfacing side with more paper… maybe a collage.

You can sew onto your journal pages, or turn them into fabric. It’s easy!

SketchCrawl Inc.?

The good news is, the next announced sketchcrawl is October 16th.  I may organize one around Salem, MA.  It could be cool.

Well, maybe.

Right now, I’m on the fence. The email I rec’d from SketchCrawl.com was very different from the fun, wide-open, no-rules announcements of the past.

First, there was this:

– A key thing, help us spread the word!
If you are reading this, we are sure you have a number of friends that might be interested in this as much as you are. Tell them about SketchCrawl! Let’s share this idea with the rest of the globe. No borders.

“No borders.”  I like that reminder. The idea of a global, art-based event always delights me.

So, I was in a happy mood, already thinking about where I’d like to organize a sketchcrawl in October.

Then, I reached the list of rules that weren’t on previous SketchCrawl announcements.  Here they are, cut-and-pasted from the email.

When you participate, please remember to:

-Notify us of any sketchcrawl events (as applicable)
-Link back to sketchcrawl.com
-Give credit to Enrico Casarosa as the founder
-Must be a non-profit event
-Include sketches in sketchcrawl.com/forums and Flickr pool (as applicable)
-Try and time your sketchcrawls with the World Wide dates we promote at sketchcrawl.com

Those sound reasonable enough, individually, but — in combination — they seem a little too much like corporate rules.

I did a quick check.  So far, the U.S. Trademark Database doesn’t show anything when I search for “sketchcrawl,” so the term “sketchcrawl” is still free to use without trademark-type restrictions.

However, it bothers me that I even thought to do that.

I may have to come up with a new word for these kinds of adventures.  I’m fine with giving the founder credit voluntarily, linking back to the official site, and so on, but… I dunno about this email from them.  Something in those rules feels a little hinky*.

Maybe it’s just the times, y’know?  Maybe I’m being hypersensitive. I’m seeing people staking out their own territory, trying to make money off things that were initially created to be free, fun and cool.  I don’t want to see SketchCrawls edging in that direction. It’d be like someone slapping a trademark on Earth Day.

I’m watching what’s going on, cautiously.

*”Hinky” is a reference to a term used by one of my favorite characters in the TV show, NCIS, to indicate something that’s not quite right.   (No, I don’t usually watch NCIS. I don’t like crime shows.  However, the character in the show… she’s truly cool.)

Sketchcrawl – 15 May 2010

sketchcrawl* is a full-day of sketching or drawing in a journal, or on some other art materials such as paper, canvas, etc.

It’s usually part of a stroll, alone or with a group, looking at scenery in one general location.

Sketchcrawl Supplies

The Sketchcrawl.com website suggests a list of supplies for your sketchcrawl, http://www.sketchcrawl.com/materials/

I suggest:

  • A small notebook or sketchpad as a journal.
  • A pen or pencil, for drawing lines.
  • An eraser, if you’re sketching with a pencil.
  • Something to add color, like watercolors (and water, and a brush), or colored pens or pencils.
  • Tape, to fasten ephemera in your art journal.
  • Snacks, in case you get hungry.
  • Optional: A camera (you can use your phone), in case you want to add printed photos to your journal, later.

My advice: Keep your art supplies simple and as light (and perhaps small) as possible.

Here are some ideas for making your own mini-watercolor palette:

And here are the tiniest homemade watercolor palettes I’ve seen, in a 16-minute video:

What does a sketchcrawl journal look like?

Sketchcrawl supplies and examplesWell, in July 2009, I took part in a sketchcrawl around Boston’s Freedom Trail. (You can see some of my 2009 sketches starting at https://aisling.net/sketchcrawl-notes-1-11-july-09/)

Sketchcrawls are great practice for creating travel journals, too. The materials & techniques are the same, so why not try a sketchcrawl somewhere near your home?

Then, when I travel, I take those same sketchcrawl supplies in my purse or backpack, so I can work on my travel journals on the plane. (Just remember the four-ounce rule on liquids… no big containers of gel medium, glue, or tubes of paint.)

For me, sketching – with pencil, pen, markers, or watercolors – is a relaxing way to enjoy the scenery, wherever I am. Whether it’s a local scene or a trip abroad, art journaling helps me notice – and appreciate – more of what’s around me.


*  At one point, the owner of the Sketchcrawl site claimed that the term “sketchcrawl” was trademarked. Some of us objected to that, since we’d been using the word for a considerable time before he announced his trademark plans. Updating this page, when I checked the US Trademark database, I didn’t find “sketchcrawl” in it. Whew! I’m glad he changed his mind, as – at the time – it caused a rift in the journaling community.

Torn-Paper Collages – How-to video

Torn-paper collages are among my favorite ways to illustrate an artist’s journal.

I’ve created a YouTube video to demonstrate one technique.  You can scroll down to see it at the foot of this page,  or you can see it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nOrH0OQeo08

Here are the steps to create a torn-paper collage.

(Looking for a print version?  Choose either of these, and right-click to save the file to your hard drive:  No-frills b&w PDFExpanded color PDF.)

1. Gather supplies.

All you really need are some pictures, something to use as glue, and something to support your collage, like a piece of paper.

More details:

For pictures, words & phrases

– Magazines, newspapers,  printed materials, junk mail

I especially like fashion, travel and nature magazines for photos.  “W” magazine is great for huge, almost surreal images, as well as great words & phrases. “Town & Country” magazine offers a nice mix of fashion, travel, home & garden photos, as well as yummy ads.

If I’m going to sell the finished work, I’m careful about using magazines such as National Geographic. Though their pictures are gorgeous, they have a reputation for being difficult about copyright issues.

For words and phrases, I like health, fitness, religious and New Age magazines, as well as junk mail… including the envelopes, which are often better than whatever’s enclosed in it.

I find free magazines at public libraries and sometimes at laundromats (ask if they’re ready to get rid of some of them).

Adhesives and glues

For now, I’m using Golden Gel Medium (Soft Gel – gloss) with a sponge brush.  However, I want to try other kinds of glues and mediums.  Golden works fine, but I’m not thrilled with how they run the company, and I suspect that other, less expensive gel mediums work just as well.

When I use a sponge brush, I rinse it out completely as soon as I’m finished with it.  I can usually use the same sponge brush for a week before it starts to fall apart.

When I’m applying the gel medium, I use an old phone book underneath my work.

Support for the collage

Anything can support your collage.  I generally use a regular spiral-bound sketchbook for my daily collages.  However, for this one, I used a file folder.  I’m not sure why; it seemed like the right choice.

You could use poster board, canvas, wood, or almost any surface that will accept glue.

(Some dishes or tiles work well with collages, but others don’t.  Test different materials and adhesives to see what works for you.)

Embellishments

I like gold leaf and glitter, but that’s a personal preference.  Almost anything that you can glue to a surface can be used as an embellishment.

2. Select images and words or phrases.

Go quickly through your materials, and — without much thought — choose images, words & phrases that appeal to you.  Tear out the entire page and set it aside.

Tip: If you like more than one element on a page, separate them.  Otherwise, it’s easy to forget that you were going to use more than one item from a single page.

I often select a word or phrase early in this process.  In this case, I chose “Uncompromised” quickly.  The word “promise” is in red in it, and I realized (light bulb realization) that when I compromise, I’m breaking a promise to myself or to others.  Even if it’s just small and unspoken, it’s still a betrayal (big or little) of an ideal that I held or aspired to.

That’s a concept worth examining, as I work on daily priorities.

Remember that you can use a word or phrase from a sentence.  I chose “you deserve” from a laxative ad!

When you feel pleased with your collection of pages, or when you have a stack of about ten pages, pause and begin working with them.

3. Tear the images in the approximate size, and then to the exact size.

If a page is really large, it can be more difficult to tear out the precise element that I want.  So, I tear the page around the general area of the element, and then tear more exactly.

When I’m making the final tear, I try to tear it all in one go, not inching along, a little at a time.  A smooth tear usually looks nicer, unless you have a specific reason for a very jagged edge.

Also, when you tear the magazine page, there will be a white edge in one direction of the tear.  (The yellow arrow points to it.) I like to work with either all white-edged images, or keep all of my images without white edges.

4. Apply adhesive to the back of the image.

This is going to be a little messy… or even a lot messy.  Revel in it!

With something underneath the image — so you can smear or practically lather the gel medium (or whatever glue) — apply the adhesive to the back of the image.

If the adhesive is too thick, it can be lumpy underneath the image.  If the adhesive is applied in a really thin layer, it can dry too quickly.  However, as long as some of it sticks to the collage, that can be enough.

If you’re using gel medium, remember that it sort of melts with extreme heat.

You can use an iron (there are special irons made for this, too) — with some sort of release paper between the collage and the iron, so the iron doesn’t get all gooey from the melting medium — and the heat softens & reactivates the gel.

So, even dried gel medium can be reactivated and it’ll suddenly adhere the entire image to whatever’s underneath it.

I only do this when the collage is nearly completed — before I apply any glitter or gold leaf — if there’s clearly a problem where part of the collage didn’t adhere correctly.

Keep in mind that your lower layers (and at least some of their edges) will be covered by later additions to the collage.

5. Place the image where you want it to be, in your collage.

Try to place it exactly where you want it to be, or at least fairly close.  If you lift, stretch, or drag a piece of magazine paper, it can stretch and look a little odd in your final work.

If your collage element seems to bubble, it’s okay to pat it flat, but don’t try to smooth it.  (I learned that from collage artist Claudine Hellmuth.)

If you brush it or rub it with your fingers to smooth it, it’ll stretch the paper and the finished result might be disappointing.

Bubbled paper seems to shrink back to shape was the adhesive dries, or at least some papers will do that.  So, if you’re going to put something over the bubbled piece, let the bubbled part dry, first.  It might flatten out on its own.

6. Keep working.  Build up more layers.  Tear more images as you work, if you need more images.

I usually tear out the first three or four images that I’m going to work with, and then start building the collage.

When I’m happy with them, or if I decide to add another image that I haven’t torn out yet, I pause and tear out what I’ll need next.

If I have a massive pile of torn paper — good stuff and paper that I may (or may not) use — it can become confusing.

7. Continue to build your collage.

Remember that the first layers are the background.  As you add layers, they’ll be on top. (It’s amazingly easy to forget this, sometimes.)

The focal point (or points) of your collage should probably be on top. The leading areas tend to attract the attention of the viewer.

However, it’s okay to tuck little surprises in the lower layers, for the viewer to “discover” as he or she explores the collage.

Also, don’t despair if your collage looks messy.  Some will be more messy than others.  It’s okay.

Here’s a close-up of one area on this morning’s collage.

Here’s what you need to know if you make a “mistake.”

1. Milky areas will probably dry clear.

2. If the paper looks translucent in some areas (like right above the letter T in the photo above), they’ll probably turn opaque when the adhesive dries.

3. Anything that looks weird when the collage is nearly finished, can be covered with embellishments (glitter, gold leaf, threads, pieces of mica, paint, etc.) or you can cover it with another image or phrase.

It’s okay to change your mind.

For this collage, I’d selected a great image of a model looking in one direction.  However, I discovered an even better photo on the back of it: Mulawi children in colorful, traditional clothing.

So, allow for serendipity as you work.

8. Keep building your collage until you’re happy with it.

It’s okay to take your time.  It’s also okay to rush through this in a flurry of creativity.

You can start the collage, walk away from it, and finish it later in the day, or the next day, or the next week!

Tip: When you think to yourself, “I think this is nearly finished,” it’s probably finished.  Stop!  Take a break, and then take a fresh look at it.

It’s better to stop too early than take the work too far.

9. Consider adding embellishments.

I love embellishments, but you don’t have to add any at all.  Every artist has his or her own style.

Embellishments can include things like:

  • Glitter, tinsel, gold leaf (or copper leaf, etc.), feathers, or ribbon.
  • Tissue paper (it may remain translucent if you use gel medium over and underneath that layer).
  • Thread, glued on or stitched on.
  • Beads, mica, sand, pieces of glass.
  • Paint, oil pastels, stencils, rubber stamp art.

You can even embed something that plays a tune or says something (like in greeting cards) in your collage, for people to press.

The possibilities are unlimited.

10. (Optional) Finish with a coat of gel medium.

After the collage is fully dry, you can seal it with a thin coat of gel medium.  It’s not necessary, but it will give the collage a uniform level of gloss (or a uniformly matte finish, if you used a matte gel medium).

This will also protect the collage from dust and damage, if you want to leave it “as is” instead of displaying it under glass.

Tip: If you’re using this in an artist’s journal — such as a spiral-bound sketchpad — place a piece of wax paper between the collage and the facing page.  That will prevent the pages from sticking together if the journal is stored where the heat might soften the gel medium.

My finished collage

Though I could probably explain all of the elements, it’s true that “a picture is worth a thousand words.”

Basically, this is about re-evaluating compromises… things that I decided were okay, short-term, as a step to a more important goal.  for me, it’s easy for those to become long-term issues.

For me, the image of the happy children in colorful clothing is important.  It’s how joyous and self-expressive we all can be.

And yes, we all deserve to live deliciously, savoring every moment!

Here’s the YouTube video.  It’s only four minutes, so it’s a bit of a whirlwind.

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.

A debt of gratitude, from journalists

Anne FrankI didn’t realize that the person who’d protected Anne Frank — and, later, her personal journal — had lived so long.

Anne Frank was an icon to many of us, and a shining example of the importance of diaries.  She helped a generation understand what had happened prior to and during World War II.  Instead of it being “something that happened in another country,” there was a face and a life & dreams that we could identify with.

That was important.

From Levine Breaking News’ headlines:

ANNE FRANK PROTECTOR DIES AT 100: Miep Gies, who ensured the diary of Anne Frank did not fall into the hands of Nazis after the teen’s arrest, has died. She was 100. Gies was among a team of Dutch citizens who hid the Frank family of four and four others in a secret annex in Amsterdam, Netherlands, during World War II, according to her official Web site, which announced her death Monday. She worked as a secretary for Anne Frank’s father, Otto, in the front side of the same Prinsengracht building.

As a child, I was tremendously inspired by Anne Frank’s diary.

Many of us — and the journaling and historical communities, in general — owe Miep Gies a debt of gratitude.  What she did was courageous and tremendously forward-thinking.

Additional info & photos: Mail Online newspaper article

Sketchcrawl notes (1) – 11 July 09

My sketchcrawl day started at about 8:30 a.m. when I arrived at Alewife MBTA station.  I’d been on the road for nearly two hours, so it was a relief to park the car and begin the day’s adventures.

My first sketch was on the train.  I decided to take photos at each sketch location — when possible — to document the day in sketches and photos.

Also, like my travel journals, I kept my receipts in my sketchbook, as well.  You can see one of them, below, on the page facing my first sketch.

(The flash increased the contrast.)
(The flash increased the contrast.)
Sketch with felt-tip pens
Sketch with felt-tip pens

I wasn’t entirely happy with the b&w effect of monochrome felt tip pens.  So, when I arrived at the sketchcrawl meetup location (Visitors Ctr at Boston Common), I switched to pencil… and almost immediately regretted it.  I didn’t finish that sketch.

2-visitorsctr
Start of a pencil sketch at Bsn Visitors Ctr

After that, I returned to felt tip pen.  For the line drawing, I was using the waterproof Pigma Micron pen, 08.  However, even though it’s technically waterproof, I let the ink dry thoroughly before adding any color.

Man in Colonial garb on his way to work.
Man in Colonial garb on his way to work.

The next two sketches — on one page — were drawn from the same location as the previous sketch.  Mostly, I was using up time in case any late arrivals for the sketchcrawl showed up.

Man on park bench; people waiting in line.
Man on park bench; people waiting in line.

After that, I walked up towards the State House, following the Freedom Trail route.  Along the way, I paused to sketch a man walking along a tree-covered path. (The photo was taken after the sketch, when the man was out of sight and a woman in yellow was strolling the same path.)

Next, I stopped at the top of the hill, where a man was setting up his beverage stand.

Beverage stand at top of hill
Beverage stand at top of hill
Cool and shady path across Boston Common.
Cool and shady path across Boston Common.
My two sketches
My two sketches