Sketchcrawl notes (2) – 11 July 09

As I left Boston Common, the State House was glistening in the sun.  It’s both majestic and approachable at the same time.  I like that.

My photo of the State House.
My photo of the State House.
A couple of details of the State House, as I listened to a nearby tour.
A couple of details of the State House, as I listened to a nearby tour.
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial
Robert Gould Shaw Memorial

The Shaw Memorial is an amazing work of art, conveying depth with clever use of detailing and perspective.  In shadow, it didn’t photograph well, but I can still remember my mother explaining the art techniques to me, every time we passed this site.

It was time for breakfast, but the nearby BK wasn’t open yet.  I opted for Dunkin’ Donuts… but their credit card machine and ovens were all broken.  I ordered a glazed donut just to have something to eat, but it’s never smart to start the day with that much sugar!

Park Street Church
Park Street Church

My next stop was the church at the corner of Park Street.  I decided to try sketching it from an unusual angle, looking directly up from the sidewalk in front of its door.

A challenging perspective!
A challenging perspective!

My next stop was the Old Granary Burial Ground.  It has wonderful history, and the light and shadow give it a very timeless quality.

Old Granary Burial Ground
Old Granary Burial Ground
My hasty sketch
My hasty sketch

Sketchcrawl notes (3) – 11 July 09

The crowds were increasing, and it was time to find more quiet places to sketch.

King's Chapel -  A Freedom Trail stop
King's Chapel - A Freedom Trail stop
My very hasty sketch of King's Chapel
My very hasty sketch of King's Chapel

King’s Chapel is a lovely old church, and it is still in use for services.  Since it was Saturday, we could visit and spend time sketching.  Suggested donation is $1 to visit, and you’ll receive an interesting brochure explaining the site’s history.

The front of the church looks old and very spiritual.
The front of the church looks old and very spiritual.
I enjoyed sketching inside the chapel, listening to others talk about its history.
I enjoyed sketching inside the chapel, listening to others talk about its history.

By the time I left the chapel and continued along the Freedom Trail, the crowds had increased dramatically.  It became more difficult to find any place to sketch without blocking foot traffic.

So, I visited a few more locations, and found respite at the Arch Street chapel.  I used to go to church there when I was little, and my mother and I were in the city for shopping or a concert.

The Madonna figure in the chapel, with red candles in front of her.
The Madonna figure in the chapel, with red candles in front of her.

After that, I returned to a couple of Freedom Trail sites, hoping the crowds had diminished.  If anything, the sidewalks were more crowded.  At times, I had to step off the curb to keep walking, as tourists stopped to take photos and blocked traffic.

But, everyone was happy.  It was a busy day, but a fun one.  During the day, I think I heard Italian more than any other language, followed by English and then Russian and German.

It was time for lunch, and McDonald’s seemed the simplest — and least crowded — option.

I continued to sketch, and added color to my earlier sketches.  I’d brought all kinds of art supplies with me, but liked watercolor pencils for adding color.

Even fast food offers an opportunity to sketch!
Even fast food offers an opportunity to sketch!

Sketchcrawl Day – 11 July 09

After lunch, the crowds were massive as I approached the USS Constitution.  So, I had to choose between switching to photos or going somewhere else to sketch comfortably.  I chose the former.

These are some of my photos from the remainder of the day.

I love the contrasts in downtown Boston!
I love the contrasts in downtown Boston!
More contrasts - Aged buildings, old lights and new architecture.
More contrasts – Aged buildings, old lights and new architecture.
Boston's Old City Hall
Boston’s Old City Hall
Haymarket - Great bargains!
Haymarket - Great bargains!
One of the Tall Ships - the Picton Castle
One of the Tall Ships - the Picton Castle

The best $1.70 of the day was spent taking the water shuttle (on the T) from Charlestown Navy Yard to Long Wharf. (The one-way fare is just $1.70.  Really.)  The view — including the Picton Castle photo shown above — was incredible, and the cool breezes were wonderful.

Tip: Get shuttle tickets early if you’re there for a Tall Ships event.  I stood in line for over an hour.  It was definitely worthwhile, but next time I’ll purchase my tickets in the morning, before the crowds arrive.

Artfest 2004 Collaborative Journal – 1

These are scanned pages of a round-robin style art journal created for Artfest 2004. It is one of two similar (but unique) journals.

Participants included: Lisa Guerin, DaNelle Haynes, Tammie Moore, Rhonda Scott, Sabrina Molinar, Shannon Breen, Rose Bedrosian, Jill Haddaway, and me, Aisling D’Art.

After I scanned the art in this journal, it was on its way to Carol McGoogan, the next participant. Then it continued throughout the list.

The pages go from left to right in the table below.

Thumbnails:

Continued on the next page: Artfest 2004 Collaborative Journal – 2

How to Use Rubbings in Your Art Journals

There are many ways to use rubbings.  Play!  Let your ingenuity run wild!


click to see larger

Rubbings can illustrate your journal — do rubbings of everything as you travel. Try rubbing:

  • Brass plaques and historical markers
  • texturing on benches
  • braille plaques in many public buildings
  • chair backs
  • cobblestones
  • coins and tokens
  • doorknobs and related hardware–remember to rub your hotel room key if it’s not a card
  • floor or sidewalk art – particularly brass art/plaques embedded in some airport walls and floors
  • interesting wall texturing–created to reduce noise–in subways and other public settings
  • numbers on houses/buildings
  • part of a drain cover (manhole cover)
  • raised designs on walls
  • seat number tags, if you go to the theatre, ballet or opera
  • and, textured wallpaper, ceilings, and door & window trim.

Many food packages have an embossed quality, especially tins.

With very thin paper and soft pastels, you can do a rubbing of the texture that remains in the sand after the tide goes out. Using different colors, you can overlap the wavy lines by moving the paper.

(The paper will be fragile when it’s wet, so handle very carefully. If the sand is moist, you can put plastic wrap or a cheap plastic poncho between the sand and your paper.)

You can use them for text. Get a Dymo (raised letters imprinted on tape) label tool (less than $10 at Wal-Mart, in the stationery section) and print words on the tape. Use them for rubbings. (Save them–mounted on dominoes or other small, flat surfaces–to use again later, or to share in a class.)

If a rubbing would be backwards–for example, if you do a rubbing of a rubber stamp–you can rub with a very dark color on tracing vellum, and then display it “upside down” (looking through the vellum) with a white or very light background as contrast for the rubbing.

Small rubbings, particularly of three-dimensional art, can be ideal for use in shrines.

You can scan your rubbings and manipulate them, adding more images with your computer graphics program. On the right in the example above, I placed Edgar Allen Poe’s face over a gravestone ornament rubbing.

Or, you could put a rubbing of an historical marker in the center of a collage with photos from that site.

The ways that you use rubbings are limited only by your ingenuity. Try rubbings today, and see what great ideas you discover!

How to Collage in Your Art Journals (revised)

The following article was updated from my earlier article of the same name. As part of the 2020 site merge (including ArtistsJournals.com), I need to merge the best of both articles, but – for now – both include good information.

art journal collage

art journal collage

art journal collage

Collage is an easy way to add art to your diary or journal.

For years, I started each day with a quick collage, the same as I used to create my “morning pages”  inspired concepts in the book, The Artist’s Way: A Spiritual Path to Higher Creativity

For me, collages are a more visual version of “morning pages.”

I usually allow a half an hour for each collage, but sometimes go back several times throughout the day to add things.

The process starts with the determination that, whether it’s good art or not, there will be a collage when I’m finished!

PREPARING THE JOURNAL

Usually, I just work on the pages in a spiral-bound sketchbook, just as they are.

Sometimes I’ll gesso a few pages my journal, ahead of time. Then they are strong enough to support heavily embellished collages here & there.

I’ll leave a few pages for writing, then allow two or three pages that are left blank for collage. That forces me to avoid having an all-text journal.

In an average journal, I’ll gesso five to ten pages that I plan to use for painted, ornate or heavy collages.

GESSO

Remember that gesso is entirely optional. In fact, most people don’t use it at all.

I use any gesso that’s cheap, from the fine art supplies section of Michael’s or any art supply store.

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. I buy cheap 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.

Now and then, I use black gesso for art journal pages on which I’ll stamp text in white, or use a white gel pen.

art journal collage

For more information about gesso, see my other article, Gesso – What it is, how to use it

PHOTOS, PICTURES, AND OTHER IMAGES

I have images stored 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. I’ll 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.

My favorite magazines for collage include the fashion magazine,  W, because it includes great images, heavy paper, and very large words and phrases that show up nicely on my pages.

I also like glossy magazines such as National Geographic, because the colors are great, the images are unusual, and–since the pages are clay-based–I can use the magazine for image transfers.

(I’ll talk about that at another time. It’s a more complicated collage and embellishment technique.)

GEL MEDIUM

I love layers in my work. For this reason, I’m very big on using colored tissue paper. 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. I often forget to rinse them, so they’ll be used just once or twice, and I stock up on the cheapo ones (10 – 15 cents each during Michael’s store sales) regularly.

WAX PAPER IS HANDY!

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 gel’d page, I’ll keep waxed paper between the pages for a week or two until the gel is fully cured.

Otherwise, the gel remains tacky enough to stick to the facing page.

For more about using wax paper when creating art, see my article,
Wax paper and art journals.

OTHER EMBELLISHMENTS

I also highlight some of my work with different types of leafing… gold, copper, etc. I adhere it with gel medium, too. Don’t get caught up in using the most/only perfect adhesive for the job; gel medium works well for almost anything.

When it won’t hold, I use Household Goop!

art journal collage
For some of my work, I think in terms of other means to attach stuff.

On a “hurting” day, a band-aid may hold an image in place. And there are grommets, paper clips, straight pins, safety pins, and so on. Think beyond tradition and rules!

Most completed journals won’t fully close

I never fret because an item means that the journal won’t close nice & flat.

Frankly, by the time I get done with the gel medium on lots of pages, the whole thing is so buckled that it hasn’t a chance of closing nice OR flat, ever again!

I may 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.

These collages are exciting to me, because 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.

TO LEARN MORE…

I hope to teach more journaling classes in the future, because I have a bazillion techniques to share.  Sometimes it’s best when people can actually SEE how this works, and experiment, hands-on.

But I love collage and I love journaling, and what I learn about myself and others in the process.

More? You’ll find additional notes on collage techniques in my Insight Shrines class handouts and in my letter to Erin about art/journaling.

Journaling Your Past – Free eBook

You can write your own life story in just 15 minutes a day.  Really.

I’m probably best-known for my personal journaling workshops and online art journals.

Journaling Your Past - free workbookI want to share one of my favorite workshops with you in this free PDF about journaling your own history.

Journaling Your Past is a free 26-page manual, and it’s like taking one of my workshops at home.  (This PDF was the foundation of my Artfest 2001 workshop of the same name.)

You’ll learn how to create a rich and rewarding journal of your personal and family history easily, in just 15 minutes a day.

Whether you’d like to record your life story for future generations, or introduce your family to the fascinating study of genealogy and family history, this is a great way to start.

This workbook includes class notes, reproducible worksheets, and tips on how to teach this class yourself.

It’s also ideal for homeschoolers, Scouts or church groups, or for family evenings at home.

This ebook is a PDF you can read with the free Adobe Acrobat Reader program.

To read or download this free ebook, click here:
Journaling Your Past by Aisling D’Art

Wax Paper and Artists Journals

Two artists' journals pages by Aisling D'Art.Wax paper is always among my basic journaling supplies, and I use it any time I need to protect pages that include glue, water media, or anything sticky.

When I travel, I pre-cut sheets of wax paper, and tuck them into the back of my journal.  Usually, I use a rubber band or a binder clip to hold them in place, so I don’t lose the sheets.

The following article is based on one that I wrote around 2005, and it’s still important for many people creating artists journals.

Wax paper can be a vital tool if you’re keeping an art journal. Wax paper can separate damp art journal pages — after they’ve been painted or collaged — so they don’t stick together. I carry wax paper with me when I travel, so I can work on several journal pages in a row, and not wait for pages to dry completely.

Photo of wax paper.Wax paper has many great features:

  • Wax paper is inexpensive.
  • It’s slightly porous (so the pages dry underneath). In other words, the air can get through.
  • It’s super-easy to use.
  • Wax paper is environmentally friendly.
  • You can often use the same sheet two or three times before throwing it away.

You’ll find wax paper at the grocery store, in the aisle with foil and plastic (cling) wrap. In the States, the leading brand is Reynolds’ Cut-Rite wax paper. That’s it in the photo. The package is about the same size as a roll of foil or plastic (cling) wrap.

Sometimes it’s half-hidden on the bottom shelf. In other areas, wax paper is a popular product for use with microwave ovens, so you’ll find wax paper more prominently displayed.

Regular wax paper is generally not recyclable. The wax surface (often made with petroleum products) is considered a “mixed” paper product.  I have not yet tried any of the recyclable wax papers (like “If You Care” brand wax paper) with my artists journals.

When I’m separating journal pages with wax paper, I try to let each page dry so it’s only damp, not wet. (Sometimes I have no choice.  If the page is really sticky and I can’t wait for it to dry at all, I have to hope for the best.)

Then, I place the journal so the pages are as flat as possible.

After that, I cut or tear the wax paper so each piece is slightly larger than the journal page it will protect. An extra half-inch on each side is usually enough.

The key to success is not to allow much weight or pressure on damp pages. In other words, the wax paper should practically float on the damp page. Don’t press it onto the page.

WAX PAPER AND GESSO

Generally, I gesso five or six pages at a time. I’ve successfully gesso’d up to eight pages at a time. However, I’m usually working with spiral-bound sketchbooks. They’re generally my favorite journals.

If I was working with a regular, bound journal, I’d watch carefully to see how much the binding “pulls” the pages back together. I might have to work with just two pages at a time.

(Big binder clips can come in handy if the binding on the journal is really tight. Clip the dry pages together — in separate bunches, if necessary — and that should take some of the pressure off binding, keeping the damp pages apart.)

Remember, wax paper is not 100% reliable when you want to keep wet pages apart.  If your journal page is the most perfect thing you’ve ever created, and you’d be devastated if it was damaged… well, stop journaling until that page has dried completely.

From my experience, wax paper sticks about 10 – 15% of the time. I may collage over those pages later, since the surface of the page is already a bit distressed. Or, I may leave them “as-is” to reflect the creative process.

It all depends upon how they look when the page is dry, and I take a fresh look at it.

I’ve used wax paper when I’ve gesso’d in airplanes (very dry air) and — at the other extreme — in sultry, humid Houston.

I have slightly better success with wax paper when the air is dry and the pages dry more quickly.

If you try wax paper and don’t have much success with it, try gently crushing the wax paper — before you use it — so it holds the pages slightly apart.

Note: It’s important to gently crush the wax paper; if you fold it enough that the wax falls off at the crease, that line (or point) may stick to wet paint, gel medium, or gesso.

WAX PAPER AND PAINT

When I want to separate wet, painted journal pages, I’m far more careful with the pages.

Then, I will separate two pages at the most: The one that I’ve just painted, and the one that I’m currently working on. Because wax paper isn’t 100% non-stick, I don’t want to risk damage.

Remember: Less weight or pressure on the wax paper means less risk of sticking.  Also, the drier the pages, the better.

Paint is designed to be sticky and adhere to paper.  If it’s so wet that the moisture actually penetrates the wax paper, the results may be disappointing.

Weigh your options carefully.  If your painted journal page is the best thing you’ve ever created, maybe it’s more important to preserve that, as-is, than rush into the next journal page.  (If you’re in a class and this happens, have a second or third journal with you.  Then, you can keep working while the first journal page dries, and not miss any valuable class time.)

WAX PAPER AND GEL MEDIUM OR GLUE

Wax paper is best for separating pages with small amounts of wet gel medium or glue on them. However, most gel medium won’t stick to wax paper.

In storage, I also use wax paper to protect every page of my collaged art journals. Then, even during sultry summer heat, the gel medium doesn’t re-soften and stick to the page opposite it.

Think of it this way: We use an iron to “melt” gel medium for image transfers. Likewise, gel medium can become sticky if you store your journals in a hot attic, garage, or other really warm area.

Unlike gel medium, glue can be hit-or-miss with wax paper. It can vary with how wet the glue is, and if the glue contains alcohol or any kind of solvent.  (Alcohol and solvents will dissolve the wax on the wax paper, so it’s useless.)

You can test this ahead of time. Put a blob of the glue on a piece of paper, and place a piece of wax paper on top of it. Press gently, enough so contact occurs.

Then, wait a minute or two and see if the wax paper sticks to the glue. If it does, wax paper won’t protect your journal pages where that glue is wet and exposed.

You may be safe with sheets of foil as separators. Or, consider thin sheets of teflon-coated plastic, sold in kitchen supply shops; they were invented to safeguard very sticky cookies, meringues, and so on.

Plastic wrap (cling film) isn’t usually helpful. It tends to stick to paint, gel medium and glue, and some glues will completely melt it.  If you have to choose between plastic wrap and nothing between the damp pages, opt for nothing.  Really.  Some plastic wraps — especially the more expensive kinds — are practically guaranteed to stick to your damp pages, prevent them from drying (ever), and not peel off (ever).

SUMMARY

Wax paper is a valuable tool when you’re working with damp pages in your art journal or illustrated diary.

Wax paper isn’t foolproof, but it’s still one of the best and least expensive ways to keep damp pages from sticking to each other.

You’ll have the best luck when you’re working with gel medium. Gesso and glue have a higher “failure” rate with wax paper.

However, in art there are no “failures,” just challenges and opportunities to create new and different art, and to make the most of life’s surprises.

The good news is, wax paper will prevent most damp pages from sticking together.  And, for most of my own journaling, that’s good enough.

How to Collage in Your Art Journal

This is from a letter to the old — now closed — ArtistsJournals2 list at Yahoo!Groups.  I wrote it around 2002. Some of the information (and the terminology) has changed.  We started calling them “artists journals.”  Then, people began calling them just “art journals.”  Then, I started saying art/journals.  As of 2012, we’re back to calling them artists journals again.

Whatever you call them, they’re illustrated diaries or journals, and they’re important.

Here’s my early article:

I’ve been doing these quick collages for months now, though not consciously doing them daily. Now, I’m starting each day with a collage, the same as I used to to morning pages. I allow myself a half an hour for the collage process, and often go back several times throughout the day to add 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!

What I do, as in my Artfest journal, is to gesso throughout my journal so the pages are strong enough to support collages here & there. I’ll leave a few pages for writing, then two or three pages that are 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.

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 only the 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.

I have images stored 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. 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. I often forget to rinse them, so they’ll be used just once or twice, and I stock up on the cheapo ones (10 cents each on Michael’s sale) regularly.

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 gel’d page, I’ll keep waxed paper between the pages for a week or two until the gel is fully cured. Otherwise, the gel remains tacky enough to stick to the facing page.

I also highlight some of my work with different types of leafing… gold, copper, etc. I adhere it with gel medium, too. Don’t get caught up in using the most/only perfect adhesive for the job; gel medium works well for almost anything. When it won’t hold, I use Household Goop!

For some of my work, I think in terms of other means to attach stuff. 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 means that the journal won’t close nice & flat. Frankly, by the time I get done with the gel medium on lots of pages, the whole thing is so buckled that it hasn’t a chance of closing nice OR flat, ever again! *grin* 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.

These collages are exciting to me, because 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.

I hope to teach more journaling classes in the future, because I have a bazillion techniques to share, and sometimes it works best in a class where people can actually SEE how this works, and experiment, hands-on. But I love collage and I love journaling, and what I learn about myself and others in the process.

More? You’ll find additional notes on collage techniques in my Insight Shrines class handouts (in PDF format), and my letter to Erin about art/journaling.

In the near future, you’ll be able to see at least one of my journals, and “page” through it. And, from time to time, I’ll display my actual art/journal pages here, as I create them.