Traveler’s Notebook as Art Journal

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

I ordered a Midori Traveler’s Notebook last year, in August. I couldn’t help myself because based on Instagram, it seemed to me that everybody had one! I was curious to know what’s so special about it. Midori Traveler’s Notebook is practically a piece of leather with a binding system for small notebooks, often referred as “inserts.” I also ordered a few blank inserts. When I received the set at the beginning of September, I wasn’t so impressed. I didn’t like the smell of the leather, and the paper in the small notebooks was so thin that writing showed through. But I knew many of those who make planner pages had changed to a Traveller’s Notebook, so had many scrapbookers and art journalers. I had to try it!

Traveler’s Notebook as a Visual Diary

I decided to start a notebook where I combine journaling and drawing. It would be a kind of visual diary where I would add random thoughts and illustrate them. I began with daily events, but once I got the hang of it, I wrote more openly about anything that came to my mind. Like in the spread below, I write about how Finnish Post is in trouble when people don’t send letters anymore and when the postbox is on the phone rather than anywhere else. I also speculate what would happen if people suddenly started writing letters again.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

In the next spread, I show the current year and the next year walking side by side on the left page. The right page is inspired by a Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama and her inspiring exhibition in Helsinki Art Museum.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Supplies for Traveler’s Notebook

I mostly use a thin-tipped black drawing pen and colored pencils. I sometimes add a little bit watercolor or water with watercolor pencils. Random collage pieces are also used, but I mainly use thin paper so that the bulkiness doesn’t affect my drawing in the next pages.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

Alternating between Words and Images – Watch the Video!

I don’t sketch but just start by drawing a small motif or writing a couple of words. While creating a page, I like to maintain a dialog between drawing and writing. A written thought leads to a visual element and vice versa. To show this technique I have created a short video where you can see me writing and drawing, and at the same time, I show some ideas about what you can put in your notebooks.

Because the video is quite small in size, here’s a close-up of the page that I am creating in the video.

Midori Traveler's Notebook spread by Peony and Parakeet. See her ideas in a video too!

And here’s the video which shows a few more pages too.

Get more ideas and enjoyment by drawing!
>> Sign up for Inspirational Drawing 2.0

Finding Balance through Journaling Practice

Romantic Geometry, an art journaling mini-course by Peony and Parakeet, teaching the basics of abstract art.

Here’s an art journaling spread that I created for December’s mini-course at Imagine Monthly Fall. The mini-course is called Romantic Geometry, and it’s about creating abstract art and traveling through the history of art and design. It’s a perfect example of what journaling has brought to my life: a sense of freedom and limitlessness. When you paint, draw or write, you are limited only by your imagination.

Everybody is an Introvert

I want to dedicate this blog post to introvert in us. They say that most people have some introvert characteristics in them. To me, very little needs to happen and I get a lot of ideas, associations, and thoughts to go through. It feels like a curse sometimes. If I don’t get enough time to be alone, I become unhappy and everything feels overwhelming. We in Finland, have the most forests in Europe. For many Finnish introverts, forests are the places to go to process the thoughts. I do like to spend time in nature with my dogs, but it’s not the same as spending time with my journals. I need to get out what’s inside me and even more: use my imagination to create something playful, no matter how childish or stupid that might feel first.

Abstract art journal spread by Peony and Parakeet.

My art journals contain a lot of painting and drawing, but I also like to write down my thoughts, especially after I have created the image. I also like the practice where I write a question, then answer it, and then find a new question related to my answer. These kinds of internal conversations fill me with positive energy. I also like to analyze what I did wrong but have found a positive way to do that. I look back, pick things where I succeeded and then make notes how I can still improve.

Everybody Needs “Me-Time”

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet browsing her art journal.

When I browse my journals, it’s easy to feel grateful and forgiving because the pages complement my life’s story. I fill them randomly, and in many sessions but try to do that as regularly as I can. When I start to journal, I often don’t feel particularly inspired, but after a while, I am fully enjoying the creative challenge. I have never been an introvert in the sense of being a quiet person. But when they say that introverts live in a world of their own, I recognize the habit through my journaling practices. My journals are like mini-worlds with limitless possibilities.

Paivi's art journals. She loves art journaling.

Everybody Needs a Place to Experiment

Behind every bigger art piece that I create, there are plenty of art journal pages where I have experimented with the ideas. This possibility of experimentation also happens with my writing. I don’t always write about myself but empathize with a fantasy character. This fall I wrote a haiku poem with the help of my husband, also an introvert.

I think that many who haven’t fell in love with their journal yet, forget to experiment. They drool over beautiful notebooks at bookshops or pin colorful art journal pages at Pinterest. But when they begin a journal, they feel they need to make decisions and stick with those. They pick the supplies they should use, or the style they should follow, and then get bored or disappointed with how the pages look. But you can change the direction as many times as you want, explore what excites you today, and cherish all that diversity. The more I have journaled, the more I feel the calling to show how paper books can balance your life. Life is less mess when you save some time for journaling.

Classes for Art Journaling

Paivi from Peony and Parakeet with an art journal and a canvas painting.

Romantic Geometry guides you to create dynamic abstract art from simple shapes. It’s the last mini-course of Imagine Monthly for now.

I will be running a new class “Inspirational Drawing 2.0” in spring 2017. Like Imagine Monthly, it will also have a monthly format. Inspirational Drawing 2.0 is about drawing from imagination and inspiration. It’s a skill-oriented, excellent class when you want to free up your expression and add more abstract ideas to your journal. This class will be all new content. If you have attended Inspirational Drawing previously, you will still want to sign up!

Find Your Art Journaling Inspiration!

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

After stretching my limits at the last blog post, I felt the need to go back to basics. I picked my Moleskine Watercolor Notebook and made three spreads by just answering the question: what does continually inspire me?

The short answer is: I am constantly inspired by the history of decorative art. I believe that it’s important to respond to the question on a general level like this. If you only list specific artworks and other artists, there may be less room for personal interpretation. If you define yourself too tightly through others, you can find it hard to figure out what to create next and how to find your personal style.

My Art Journaling Inspiration Sources

I am constantly inspired by embroidered fabrics and wool rugs from the first half of the 20th century.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

I am constantly inspired by art glass, fabric prints, and the way these characteristics are seen in today’s street fashion, especially Japanese street fashion.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

I am constantly inspired by Russian decorative plates, European Art Nouveau and the way they combine drama with natural colors and shapes.

Art journaling inspiration by Peony and ParakeetArt journaling inspiration by Peony and Parakeet

Even if I don’t have the ability to paint decorative plates or the looks to wear Japanese street fashion, I can use them as a constant source of inspiration. I can let them show in art journals and other artworks, often in a way that is less literal but still obvious for myself.

The history of decorative art fills my mind with values that I can resonate with. They are understanding nuances, focusing on details, telling stories that last time, uplifting people with beauty and spirituality and integrating production with technology. It may not be the whole big picture of the subject, but it is how I look at it. That in turn, inspires me to create art, to blog and to deliver new techniques and workshops.

Let art journaling make you happy – fill your pages with subjects that truly inspire you!

Monthly art journaling inspiration: Sign up for Imagine Monthly!

Art Journaling for Organized Person

Art Journal Inspiration for an Organized Person, by Peony and Parakeet

I wonder how many people have given up art journaling because they are not mess makers. Who says your art journal has to be a mess? Just draw a simple structure for a page and then have fun coloring and writing what ever comes to your mind! Don’t be afraid of starting art journaling, this page layout gets you going!

Art Journaling for an organized person, a sample page layout, by Peony and Parakeet

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Art Journal Doesn’t Have to Be Perfect

Every time I buy a new blank sketchbook, I get the feeling that I should not make a mess on it. But then, my art journals are meant for maintaining artistic inspiration, and messy making is part of that too. I often create pages in many phases and my art journals are never perfect in a way that they would have high-quality art all over. But I think that the imperfections make the books more approachable and more inspiring.

On this video, I show pages of my two Moleskine sketchbooks. If you are new to art journaling or would like to introduce this wonderful hobby to your friend or relative, share the video!

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Why Keep a Sketchbook?

Sketchbook pages by Peony and Parakeet

This is a photo collage of the art journal pages that I have made. My art journals are also my sketchbooks: some of their pages document new ideas instead of expressing my current thoughts and feelings. When I draw sketches, I often pick a subject that I want to explore more closely. This time, I wanted to examine landscape paintings and mid-century modern ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

My sketchbook pages also contain text. If I find an inspiring article or book, I write down the most useful quotes. This time, I found an interesting article about landscape paintings in the latest “Taide” magazine. It is a Finnish art magazine that I regularly read when visiting a local library.

Carrying Sketchbook and Pencils

I always take my art journal with me, when going to the library. Usually, I pick a Moleskine Sketchbook, thin-tipped drawing pens and some colored pencils. Cretacolor Aqua Monolith pencils are excellent for traveling (see this post for more information).

Cretacolor Aqua Monolith colored pencils

Drawing Sketches from Paintings

I also found a book about a Swedish painter Peter Frie who specializes in simplified landscape paintings. Some of his paintings are constructed so that the landscape only fills a part of the canvas. I found this concept really interesting and applicable for art journal pages too.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

When I draw sketches, I don’t copy the paintings accurately. I focus on the construction and the details that I find especially interesting. I also add explanations to them so that I can remember later why I included those bright spots or other details to the sketch.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

Now you may ask: why wouldn’t I just take a photo or be even more practical, browse Pinterest and pin images? It’s what many do, and it’s much quicker than create hand-drawn and hand-colored sketches. I believe that when you draw, you will get deeper on the subject. You have to:
… decide what’s most important, and what can be left out
… find out the main structural elements and their relations
… recreate the image in your personal drawing style
And while doing all that you will learn new shapes, ways, and structures so that you can later use them more freely in your artwork.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

Random Page Order Increases Inspiration

I create pages in random order to my art journals, and I just love how new pages go with the old ones. The drawing on the left is a new one, and an older page on the right looks like another version of the same location!

An art journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

It is also interesting to create spreads that deal with two very different subjects: the page on the right is about landscapes and the page on the left shows sketches about motifs from mid-century modern ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

I found the idea of dividing the page fascinating, so I created a new one with watercolors, adding ideas from the ceramics in their sections.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

Then I created a couple of pages that combine the ideas from landscapes and ceramics.

A sketchbook page spread by Peony and Parakeet

When you see inspiring things but find it difficult to remember them later when creating, it is helpful to keep a sketchbook! To fully process inspiration, we need to use both our heads and hands!

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Art Deco Journal Covers

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet
My sisters will get empty handmade journals from me for Christmas. They both like writing and literature so I hope they will put the journals in use. My idea is to include some photos, decorative papers, scrap pictures and such – so that the journal is like a handmade version of Smash book more than a basic blank book. I have also chosen the themes for the journals. The older sister will get an art deco themed book and the younger sister will get flowers and fairies. Here’s a snapshot of the latter.

Handmade smash book like journal covered with Elsa Beskow's illustration, by Peony and Parakeet

I had an old Elsa Beskow’s children’s book which I used for the cover image. There are plenty of pretty papers too! My other sister would not have this, it is much too cute for her. She likes something more artistic.

I chose art deco as I have been thinking a lot about that style lately. I love the muted, sliding color transitions combined with black and white. And I have been more and more into using graphic, sharp shapes.

Art Deco Journal Covers

I will show you how I made the covers for the art deco themed journal. First, I picked some Sticky Canvas by Claudine Helmuth Studio. It is a canvas sheet that is like a huge sticker. You can attach it without glue after you have finished it. You do not need sticky canvas for this project. You can use a drawing paper or thin fabric instead.

1) Background Colors

I started with watercolors, then used some Dylusions ink sprays. As the canvas got all wet, it got wrinkled. I emphasized the wrinkles by brushing Distress ink pads against the canvas.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 1

Now I got the muted, soft color transitions. Next task was to add contrasts and sharpness to it.

2) Background Motifs

I cut art deco styled shapes from old cardboard boxes and arranged them on the canvas.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 2

Then I sprayed with the black Dylusions ink spray over the shapes.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 2 after spraying

3) Finishing the Covers

I cut two thick cardboard pieces for covers. Then I covered them with the sticky canvas. I had a couple of handmade decorated papers which I wanted to use too.

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet, step 3, adding decorated papers

I added decorated papers to the covers. Colored pencils were used to highlight the muted tones. The holes were punched with Zutter Bind-It-All. It is amazing how thick it can cut!

Art Deco style handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet

The front and back covers are shown on the left, and the inside covers on the right.

Handmade journal covers by Peony and Parakeet

Now I just have to add pages, draw some art deco style ornaments to them and find a photo of my sister where she looks a bit like a beauty of that era!

Art Deco appeared first time in 1920-40s, just after Art Nouveau.  
Leave a comment, what do you like in Art Deco or have you noticed it at all? Have you ever made anything Art Deco?

Visual Chronicles and Fast Art Journaling

In the newsletter sent 5th November, I mistakenly sent a wrong link, here’s the link to the latest video

An art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

In Finland, the weather got colder last week and I got a terrible flu. It is so frustrating to be able to do nothing but sleep. Being healthy feels so important then!

If there’s anything positive in lying down and doing nothing, it’s the creative break. It is weird how much processing time some things require. In 2006, I saw a new book in It was called Visual Chronicles. It was nothing like I had seen before and I felt strangely drawn to it. I was mesmerized by the concept of creating relaxed pages combining text, paint, simple illustrations and photos. Art journaling was a new word in my vocabulary.

Visual Chronicles, an art journaling book by Linda Woods and Karen Dining

I took the book everywhere. While reading it, I tried to understand what it is actually about. I picked a blank book and tried to fill its pages. It was so disappointing to see how horrible my pages looked and furthermore, I did not have good time when I created them. I browsed the book over and over again. I could not get it!

But I did not give up. During the time I bought more books and made more experiments. I also noticed that there seemed to be other people doing the same thing. I took some online courses and finally… My first art journal was finished in 2010! (See the journal and my first blog post about art journaling)

Four years of agony! And now when I read Visual Chronicles, everything that I had learned stands there so clearly! However, there was still one thing that had been bothering me from 2006. The pages in the book are very simple and still I find most of them visually appealing. But if I tried to do the same, the end result was nothing alike.

After sleeping two full nights and the day between, I finally figured it out! It is the stamped journaling that makes the pages stand out in the book! I had never tried to stamp the words as I have always hated handling the alphabet stamps. But I do own two sets and had many pages waiting for journaling!

Using alphabet stamps in art journaling

Now I am hooked!

My mind is like a paradise, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Sometimes my mind is like a paradise”

My life, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“My life, my problems”

Small changes, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Small changes, big impact”

Swim like a bird, an art Journal page spread by Peony and Parakeet

“Swim like a bird”

Visual Chronicles by Linda Woods and Karen Dinino is still one of my favorite art journaling books. It does not take art journaling too seriously. Linda and Karen also have a blog which is written with the same humorous attitude. “If you are alive you have succeeded” is one of their recent advices. While still recovering, it feels very relevant at the moment!

Tips for fast art journal pages:
1) Divide the making of the page into three phases: a) doodling with a black pen b) coloring the doodles c) adding the text
2) Use colored pencils for easy coloring. A Moleskine Notebook and the colored pencils work really well together.
3) Add the text by grouping stamped words with the doodles. Use big and small stamps to create contrasts.
4) Let your personal history of art journaling get recorded into your journals! If I could turn back time, I would not toss those first pages.
5) Buy the book: Visual Chronicles

Start Art Journaling!

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create this kind of page with only few basic supplies!With this post, I want to introduce more people to art journaling. I will create this art journal page step by step using a simple concept and few basic supplies. You only need watercolors, colored pencils, and a thin black marker pen.

I have created this page on a Moleskine notebook (size: 5 x 8 1/4 inches, 13 x 21 cm). Your journal can be larger or smaller. This page is created on the actual page of a journal. But you can also use a separate paper and attach it later, so you do not even need a journal to get started!


You can make an art journal from almost any notebook or old book. You can also bind one yourself. If you paint on the pages, thick pages are better than thin ones. For watercolors, absorbent paper is better than waxy one. But if you use water sparingly, even pages with a waxy surface can handle some watercolor.

Art journals by Peony and Parakeet. An art journal page by Poeny and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

I am currently working on three various sized journals. In addition to the Moleskine notebook, I have a black Smash book and a Dylusions journal. The paper in Moleskine notebooks is less absorbent than in the other two, but it still works with watercolors.

General Inspiration

An art journal can consist of any visual material. You can create a collage of cut-out images or printed photos. Or you can paint or draw, or do it all! The pages often have some writing too. You can cut words from magazines, write them on a computer and print them or journal by hand. As art journaling is a form of self-expression, I think that pages are at their best when you create everything by hand.

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet

I do not believe in waiting for the inspiration. Once I have made the page, I usually realize what things have affected on it. Like when walking in the garden, I realized that my marigolds had had something to do with the page! So, do not wait until you have something to say or draw, just start creating! With these step by step instructions, you do not need a single idea before you begin!

Step by Step Tutorial for an Art Journal Page

1) Choose the page and draw the first shape

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When I begin an art journal page, I usually feel quite stiff. The routines of everyday life can block our creativity. So it is no wonder that when you hold that brand new journal, you feel intimidated to start. Pick the page randomly as the first pages are the most usual causes of the blank page syndrome. Then take your thin marker and begin to draw. Slowly. Then a bit faster.

My imagination at this point was close to zero. I drew a rectangular and was able to mess it up so that I needed many lines to hide those clumsy strokes. Now I could have easily given up, no inspiration, nothing, just ruined one perfect blank page. But I knew better and went on.

2) Paint the shape with watercolors

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

To get my creativity flowing, change the marker to the watercolors. Constant interruptions are something that our rational side hates. That’s why it is important to be impatient, work quickly and continuously change the way of working. Paint the shape with watercolors and do not care how ugly it looks!

Painting the square did not make me feel especially creative. And with all the color choices I had, I chose a very conservative blue. Some would say that all the hope is lost, but I promised myself to continue to the next step.

3) Doodle around with colored pencils and finish with a large shape

Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Start doodling with colored pencils. Believe me; you want to stay focused and work close to the shape. The rational thing to do would be doodling all over. Just stick to the area around the shape!

At this stage, I began to feel a bit anxious. It would have been so much fun to fill the page. But I followed my rules and remembered to change the color so that the process of coloring got interrupted. You can see that I began very traditionally, just with strokes. Then I changed the color and moved to drawing circles. After that, I picked another pencil and colored the circles.

The whole process so far has been pretty dull: First a square, then strokes, then circles. I felt a bit sarcastic at the moment: “What next? Triangles?” You can choose your doodles freely but end this phase with a bold movement: draw a large shape. Then abandon the colored pencils for a while.

4) Paint a new large shape with watercolors

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Watercolor the large shape drawn in the previous step. Then clean your brush by dragging it around the shape.

You can see that when choosing the colors, I did not repeatedly use the same colors so that they would have spread evenly. Instead of that, I created two color areas: blue and orange. They both contain various hues of color. The blue area varies from gray-blue to blue-green, and the orange area includes warm red. This way there are two elements on the page: blue rectangle and orange circle.

They say in poetry: two is a conversation. Even at this early point, the page looks like an image. It makes you think: who are they?

5) Doodle with the marker

Doodling by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Fuzzy watercolors and soft color drawings look beautiful when they are partnered with a thin marker. Like in photos where something is blurry, and something is sharp, your page will look more appealing when you create the same effects.

Doodle around and over the shapes that you created in the previous steps. Don’t be afraid of crossing the shapes. In art journaling, a lot of time and energy can be spent in layering, but it requires nothing more than drawing over something beautiful to create even more beauty!

6), 7), 8) Colored pencils, watercolors, doodling

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

At this point of repetition, I began to feel pretty inspired. After coloring some doodles with colored pencils and painting some blank areas with watercolors, I felt inspired enough to write something that I thought that I am experiencing. I wrote: “When I decide that I have to be under control, I will be out of control. Then I make an agreement with myself: let’s be both!” 

9), 10), 11) Watercolors, colored pencils, doodling

Creating an art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

Now we are in the final round of making the page. Because these are the steps where you fine-tune your artwork, use a thin brush and very little water with watercolors. When adding details with the marker, change the orientation of the work once in a while. Many times it is easier to focus on the details if you turn the page upside down.

In poetry, they say that if two is a conversation, then three is a dance. I emphasized the upper left area to create a third element. It made the page more dynamic. Namely, at that point, I was feeling super dynamic and inspired!

12) Finished?

Unfinished art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When you assume that your page is finished, it is time to take a pause and examine the work.

When I examined mine, I saw that my rational side is there in the form of a computer screen and my creative side in the form of an orange flower. I decided to add a little hand decorated paper piece under the computer screen to make it look more like a computer. Then I added another tiny blue piece besides the orange flower to make the orange pop.

Cutting hand decorated papers. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

When you use your own hand drawn papers for collage, they will integrate beautifully. (New to hand decorated papers? See the basic instructions.)

An art journal page by Peony and Parakeet. Read instructions to create an art journal page with only few basic supplies!

The finished piece now expresses my love for the internet and computers. If that subject was given to me at the beginning, would you think that I could have created that image? Never! I would have stared the blank page and after a while, be as bored as my beagle is at the moment! Getting started even if you don’t feel like to and still finding the happiness of self-expression along the way – that is the magic of art journaling!

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