Art Journaling - Making a start!

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Ok, so for quite a while now I've been intrigued by the whole art journaling phenomenon. I really liked the idea of keeping one but I had absolutely no clue where to start and to be honest I was a little scared. The more I looked into it, the more I could see the benefits and reasons for creating an art journal, it is a powerful creative tool. Most significantly I realized there is no right or wrong way to do it, it's totally personal to you. The reason I'm sharing my experience of art journaling here on my blog (which is a bit scary, stepping outside my comfort zone!) is in case anyone else 'out there' might want to start an art journal too and if I can help or inspire anyone, in any way, then it's worth sharing here.

The first thing I did was create a new board specifically for art journaling on Pinterest, so I could gather some initial inspiration of the types of art journals I liked and the styles I was drawn to. Pretty much so I could figure out what my own style is. It was inspiring to see the range and variety of styles and techniques used by different people.

Then I asked myself an important question - What do I want from my art journal? It's really important to be authentic here, the reasons for keeping an art journal will be different for everyone. For me, I wanted to explore other aspects of my creativity. So I would see my art journal as a place to practice creativity, that would include - sketching, painting, learning how to create hand-lettering, maybe I might add some hand carved stamping. If you don't draw or paint you could include photos, mementos, add some stamping, collage, whatever you like really!

The content. What do I want to put in it? Anything that inspires me. Anything that I'm interested in. So, there's probably going to be a lot of nature, flowers, birds etc in mine but it won't strictly speaking be a nature journal. I like to gather inspirational quotations so I'll probably include them, you could add poems, even lyrics from songs. I'm sure other themes and subjects will emerge in my art journal over time as it evolves. I see it as an intuitive process and I usually follow my instincts about what I want to focus on next. All the drawings and paintings in my art journal will be either from life or from photographs that I have taken, I think this is important to really capture your own authentic vision for your journal.

Making a start. I found this pretty difficult because I tend to procrastinate when I'm a bit nervous about something. So my brand new, hardback, 8x8 art journal was in the general vicinity of my desk for a few weeks there, next to my desk, on the floor next to my desk, then it actually made it on my desk but I still didn't open it! So when I did make a start I skipped the first couple of pages because I want to make the first page like a title page and look pretty special, so when I'm ready I'll go back and make that page.

I think there is quite a bit of info out there online to get you started but I usually always seek out a couple of books when I start something new. I found a really good one (geared towards people who like to sketch and paint) called Artist's Journal Workshop - creating your life in words and pictures by Cathy Johnson. There are lots of other books on the subject and I'm sure you'll find one that speaks to you. The other book I bought was Creative Lettering by Jenny Doh. This is a great place to start if you want to improve you hand-lettering skills and the book includes lots of different styles and sample alphabets that you can use in your art journal. Ok, so on to what I actually did in my art journal. Here are my first two pages, I did the one on the right first.

Yes, there is a lot going on here. On the page on the right the first thing I added was the forget-me-not like flowers, they're not actually forget-me-nots, they're Brunnera Macrophylla, very similar flowers but they're perennial and prefer shade. I have them in the garden, so I took some photos and worked from those, sketched in pencil, then colored using watercolors and I added some extra detail using Distress Markers!

I really wanted a soft look so I added some splatters of watercolor paint here and there. Then I added a text border, the spring lettering and a quotation. My handwriting isn't that fancy so I attempted a cursive style using one of the alphabets in the Creative Lettering book, I used pencil first then went over it with the fine tipped side of a Distress Marker, finally I have a use for the fine tip side!! : ) I took a few photos as I was creating the second page, I always like to see the process of how other creative people work so I thought I'd share mine.

Again I took some photos in my garden, this time I captured the apple blossoms in bud on one of our apple trees. So first I sketched it in pencil, then added a watercolor wash to the background, I'm not that patient so I dried it with my hair dryer!

Then I switched to a smaller (well used) watercolor brush and blocked in the leaves, branches and stems. I didn't have the right color pink in watercolor paints so I used some acrylic paint mixed to a milky consistency, it's a really vibrant pink (process magenta I think).

So I just kept on adding layers of paint, filling in more details. At this point, once the paint was dry I switched to my Distress Markers, I love using these over watercolor paints, they really make the colors pop. You can see I've a color chart made out, so I can see at a glance which markers I need.

I still felt there was a little something missing (that's the perfectionist in me!) so I added some highlights using some white acrylic paint.

Once that was finished, it was time to add my text. I love the look of flowing text around an image so I drew a rough pencil line to follow. Again I used a cursive style lettering, rendered in pencil first and then using Distress Marker, I have to say the muted colors of Distress Markers work really well in an art journal.

Once I was happy with it, I added some smaller text, again following the same flowing shape and I used a lighter color Distress Marker for a softer look.

There felt like there was something missing at the top right corner of the page, so I added a butterfly, one of the most common butterflies that I see here in the garden, the Small White.

Oh and I did add some more splashes and drops of pink watercolor paint to draw the eye over to the next page and create a flow. I have to say I love how this page turned out, it has a nice rhythm to it.

That was a lot more writing that I usually do here! I hope if you're interested in starting an art journal that I gave you a couple of ideas or at least something to think about! This will be a regular little feature on my blog by the way, I'll share my progress and any hints and tips that I gather along the way! For those of you not interested in art journaling don't worry I'll still be creating and posting cards and other paper-crafted projects here as usual! : ) Thanks for dropping by today for something a bit different than normal!


  1. I had to come here and comment your work... wow, your page is beautiful! This speaks to my heart so strongly, that I am getting quite sure this is a style of journaling I wish to pursue. Thank you so much for sharing your thoughts on this subject. I am looking forward to see more of your work.

  2. Thanks so much Candida, your comment made my day! : )

  3. Thank you for all the photos you took during the process. It helps someone like me to understand it better. I love your style and need to do something like this too. Yours is the first journal that has made me want to do it1

    1. I'm so glad the photos helped! Thanks for your kind comments! : )

  4. Clare, I love your pages and I think your writing is spectacular! I'm in the same position myself, busy doing altered books but afraid to write in them because I hate my handwriting. I am definitely inspired and will seek out the Creative Lettering book. Can you tell me what kind of book you bought for a journal? There are so many out there and yours looks a nice size and the paper looks good too. Really pleased I read your post today. Thanks, Margie x

    1. Thanks Margie! The hand lettering gets easier with practice, I do everything in pencil first, then when I go over it with the Distress Marker, the writing flows much better because I have a guide. I was lucky with the journal I picked, here's a link to the exact brand -
      It's 195x195mm (8x8"), hardback, 140gsm paper which takes watercolour really well. I really love it! I can't remember what online website I ordered it from though.

    2. Thanks Clare, I'm on the case! Margie

  5. OMG!! This is stunning! I absolutely love it. Wow. Wish I could paint like that!

  6. Love this...great start - keep up the good work!

  7. Thank you for all your advices. I have to tell you, your first two pages are amazing. Love it.

  8. Fantastic! Looks like actual pages in a book you would buy.


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