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