Learning to art journal has been on my todo list for quite a few years. I started one in 2008 and only did about three pages. I did five during 2009 and then in 2010, I art journaled every day for a whole month and finally finished the book I started in 2008.
At the end of last year, when I sat down to make my goals for 2011, one of the items on my list was to art journal once a week. I'd been watching Donna's Inspiration Wednesdays for a year and I wanted to have a similar experience. I bought a nice watercolor journal and embellished its outside with my word of the year. I was ready to go!
January started well and I did a few pages in my journal but I wasn't feeling the vibe. I didn't know how to art journal. I had no ideas. The pages felt forced and purposeless to me and I'm left-brained so purpose is important to me. I was only a few weeks into the year and I could already feel my resolve wavering.
Then, I saw this post by Julie Fei-Fan Balzer where she talked about the evolution of a week-long art journal page. I had seen similar pages before (especially by Judy Wise) but, for whatever reason, Julie's step-by-step post was what suddenly made it accessible to me. I bought my very own Large Watercolor Moleskine and started creating my own week-long pages on February 1. Here's my first page:
Besides the book, I didn't buy any supplies. I used the stamps and pens and watercolors I already had. I didn't work too hard or stress too much about every single day. I just did what felt fun that day. For me, this turned out to be exactly what I had been looking for and I have been doing it daily since February 1st.
Over time, I've worked out a system where I look for techniques or pages I love and admire and try to create my own versions of them in the book. I use that art as my backdrop and then do the journaling on top. The pages do evolve and morph throughout the week so by the end they tend to have a uniform look but if you look through my book, you'd see that each page is quite different from the next.
I have some that are watercolor:
and some that are acrylic paint:
some in sepia:
and some full of doodling:
each page is unique in its own way and they each grow on me by the end of the week. My process is very simple and takes only a few minutes each day. The most time consuming part is generally doing the background which I tend to do on the weekends and I might do one or four depending on inspiration. Here's an example of a page I did for the week of May 9th:
This is one of the simpler ones where I used different tones of acrylic paint througout the top of page and then colored the rest of it lightly with blue watercolor. I had seen this idea on a layout a long time ago (I apologize that despite searching for hours I cannot find the original layout that inspired me, so if you know which layout I am talking about please let me know in the comments so I can give proper credit.)
Then, on the first day, I added some stamping and rubons to the top and wrote the date on the bottom and then added some journaling/thoughts from that day. I also added a little more blue watercolor.
On Tuesday morning I felt like playing a bit more so I added a few more rubons and stamps throughout and then stamped the date.
Tuesday night, I added my journaling for the day and felt inspired to do some more so I stamped and colored the butterfly and then created another one so I could glue it on top. I even added the date for the next day. I also decided to add some hearts all over.
you can see the butterflies better here:
Wednesday night, I just added journaling. Thursday, I added the date, some more journaling, another little butterfly and more rubons and stamps. All of this took me maybe 15-20 minutes.
Friday night, I was tired and didn't want to journal so I colored around some of the things I'd already stamped and added a few hearts and called it a day. Saturday, I did my journaling and stamping for both days. I didn't feel like adding more rubons etc. to the top so I left it alone for now. But I did stamp the date for Sunday.
And then on Sunday night, I finished my page off by adding the last bits of journaling and rubons and doodles to the top. And here is the final page:
This was a relatively simple example because of the design of the page. But I just wanted to show you how it's a minimal amount of time each day and yet the end result is beautiful, fun, and purposeful.
I've had people ask me advice on how to do this project if they don't have a lot of stamps or supplies in general. I think the great thing about this process is that it can be as simple or complicated as you'd like. I decided early on that I didn't want to put anything bulky in my book because I didn't want a button or chipboard from one week to get in the way of writing. But that's just my rule and it's the only rule I have. I've used a wide range of supplies on my pages and I didn't buy anything new so I what I had on hand. But here are some basics I use on each page and how you can adjust them for your use:
- Date Stamps: If you don't have stamps, you can draw in the date. You can use simple stencils they sell in office supply stores. You can even get them from dollar stores.
- Watercolors: I don't like my pages to be white and often use at least a wash of color on my background. You can use anything else you might have on hand like acrylic, crayons, color stamps, etc. I've also used tissue tape as my background though it's harder to write on. You can get watercolors at the dollar store. They are cheap and work wonderfully with these books since it's watercolor paper.
- Journaling pen: I'm a huge fan of Pitt Pens and use those on my pages but there's no limit and rule here. I keep mine the same color but you can vary widely. You just need something that writes and ideally something that doesn't smear with water. (If you plan to never use water, the smearing doesn't matter.)
- Decorative Stamps: I use these often but I only use what I have on hand. If you don't have stamps, you can use everyday objects to stamp with like empty toilet paper rolls make excellent circles. You can also find simple stamps for $1 at stores and just buy 3-4 to begin with and play around. You can print images you like on paper and color and cut them out and glue to your book. You can doodle. You can glue scrapbook paper. The stamps are fun but your creativity stretches more with limited supplies and that's when the real magic happens.
- Ephemera: I often add photos and movie tickets and receipts to my pages. They make for great texture and memories and addition to my pages and allow me to bring in more of my everyday into them. Here's a page with both photos and movie tickets:
I also keep a long list of inspiration and ideas on a Pinterest board.
This project does not require a lot of product. It also doesn't take a lot of time. But here's the greatest thing about it: it has helped me find a way to actually art journal each week. Finding a way that speaks to me was the key to finally embracing art journaling in my life. This system works for me. It allows me to mix my art with my words. Because it's not about a single day, I give myself permission to make mistakes and know that it's about the sum and not each part. It gives me a structure within which I can exercise freedom and fun.
My recommendation for you is to look around to all the art journaling that inspires you and see if you can find a format that works for you. Maybe it's a particular medium. Maybe it's a certain type of message like using inspirational quotes or emotional soul searching. Maybe it's texture like watercolor paper or wood. Or maybe it's just using a new format, like it was for me. Whatever it is, once you find your way, you will suddenly feel more comfortable and enjoy the process more. Which will then let you embrace art journaling, take risks, play, and dive in fully.
Now that I found a system that works for me, these fifteen minutes of my day are often some of my most pleasurable moments and looking at my book brings much joy to my family and me so I hope that you take the time to give the gift of art journaling to yourself as well.