Journals for Art Exploration

Art can sometimes be tricky to master, it’s true, but the reason for this may surprise you. The general consensus among those who “can’t draw a stick figure” is that people are either born with artistic talent or they’re not. The truth is, that belief is only correct in the rarest of cases. The one thing most successful artists share is a deep desire to express themselves creatively. Desire leads to action (drawing, painting, sculpting, etc.) and this action results in skill and success. Those who began drawing and painting very young generally are not stifled by the self doubt we tend to experience as adults, and have the freedom to create with wild abandon. If you can find a way to allow yourself that same freedom, you will be amazed at what you are capable of achieving.

One of the best aspects of having a journal to house my art is that it helps me to get past my fear of failure and judgment (whether by someone else or by my own inner critic). Rather than thinking of each project as a means to a specific end, I view my art journals as a record, a history of my creative successes and my experiments (nothing in art should be viewed as a failure- just a successful learning experience). I love that I don’t feel pressured to make “frame-worthy” art every time I start a project. I also love that I can store my journals on a shelf and pull them out to flip through them whenever I like.

The Joys of Handmade Journals (and Pitfalls of Ready-Made Journals)

I’ve purchased ready-made journals before. There are certainly a LOT to choose from. The problem is, there’s always a trade off. Do I want a heavy paper that won’t buckle and warp when I add water or do I select the lighter-weight paper that has double the number of pages for the same (but still pricey) price? And since I love to experiment with different techniques and media, how do I choose between the journal with the cold press watercolor paper or the toned paper I love to use for my drawings?

The Solution: Do It Yourself!

When I make my own journals, there are virtually no trade offs.

  • They can be made with paper of any size- which means I can design them to fit in my glove compartment or even my back pocket and always have them on hand.
  • They can be made with paper of any type: from artist grade watercolor paper to recycled paper bags, or even from a combination of different paper.
  • They are economical… period. Regardless of the paper I choose they will always be just paper and string, and a less expensive option to any manufactured journal.
  • They can be simple, functional and modular-  I start out with lightweight booklets that lie perfectly flat when open (for seamless full spread transitions across the centerfold) and, after I’ve filled them with my art, transform them into beautiful, multi-sectioned journals.
  • They can be beautiful, unique and infused with art even before you make a single mark on any of the pages. For more information on my Create Artful Journals course, check out the information below.

The Journal-Making Process

I enjoy making my own journals and find the process of building a journal to be very calming and meditative, since all the planning and thinking is done in advance. All I need to do is fold paper and weave my needle back and forth through the holes. I don’t have much experience with knitting or crocheting, but I image the feeling is very similar. If I am feeling stressed, or if I am feeling creatively blocked,  it’s a great way to ease myself into a creative state of mind.

Most of the time, when I am making a journal for myself, I stick to the basics. My favorite design is my modular journal in which I use a simple stitch to create folded paper booklets that I can grab on the go and fill whenever the mood strikes. Later, when the pages are filled, I can stitch the individual booklets together with a cover (which can be as simple as a sheet of printed paper, or my own art) and to create a completed art journal.

If I am making a journal to give as a gift, I like to spend a little more time on it. I generally incorporate my art on the cover, or allow the beautiful printed papers and colorful string in creative patterns to make the book a piece of art that stands on its own. And by the way, handmade books make awesome gifts for everyone. Men, women, children, people of any age with any interests, you name it, I can come up with a theme for a journal that is so thoughtful and personal that the recipient will be thrilled to receive it.

Online Course: Create Artful Journals

In my course Create Artful Journals, you’ll learn how to make hand-stitched books and journals that are infused with art!  I will show you how you can merge traditional 2-D art, like drawing and painting, as well as mixed media and encaustic art, with the art of the handmade book. This workshop is the perfect balance of fun-filled, expressive art projects and quietly meditative hand stitching techniques. And even better, your completed journals will not only provide a place for you to practice art techniques or showcase and preserve the things that are important to you, they make AMAZING GIFTS.

The full course includes 8 projects, each with narrated, real-time videos and printable project guides. Each project includes a demonstration of the art technique I used to create my cover, and the processes I use to create the structure of each book, from the preparation of the fill paper to the decorative bindings, embellishments and protective surface finishes. You will be amazed at the way everything comes together in the end, with custom art and design details that ensure each of your books and journals will be a one-of-a-kind work of art.

To learn more, click here.