Why it’s Important to Keep an Art Journal

keep an art journal I love history.  Old journals, documents, newspapers… they all tell stories that otherwise would be lost and I’m fascinated by them. I suppose it shouldn’t come as a surprise that I love keeping journals, especially art journals.

Keeping a personal history is important, though I will confess that keeping a personal history was not what I thought I was doing when I began art journaling. In the beginning, I thought of it as a way to practice new techniques, and then it became a means of inspiration to create when I was paralyzed by fear.  Now in hindsight, art journaling has taken on a new meaning for me.

As I’ve been working on making my art journal a daily habit, I’veseen my progression as an artist.  My first pages were pretty terrible and unimaginative as I was trying to figure out the how’s and why’s of what I was doing. I used to be embarrassed by those pages, but as each blank sheet of paper metamorphoses into something colorful and full of texture and layers, I can see reflected in those pages the changes I am going through as a person.

There are a lot of qualities I see in other successful people that I just do not have, but I want to develop. I’m not a morning person.  I am easily distracted, and I give in to my fears way too often, sometimes without even realizing it.  I get frustrated with myself a lot because of these things, but when I look through my art journal, I can literally see my progress- and not just as an artist, but as a person.  As I flip through those pages they serve as encouragement for me on days when I’m feeling overwhelmed.  I am progressing as a person.  I am making changes and I don’t need to be frustrated with myself.  My art journal has come to serve as a reminder for me to have patience with myself and to keep working, no matter what. I still have a long way to go, but I will get there.  It may take me longer than it takes other people, but that’s ok.  I’ll get there. And when I doubt that, all I have to do is look in my art journal.

I know that I’m not alone in feeling overwhelmed by my weaknesses, or frustrated when I compare myself with other artists and come up short.  Were all human, and we all feel this way sometimes, to one degree or another.  But if you keep a record of your progress, you will be able to see how your hard work pays off and it will help you realize that you are making progress.  Even if it’s a tiny step at a time, that’s ok.  We can make our dreams come true!

These two pages are a couple of my first art journal pages ever.  They are pretty terrible, obviously, but I am grateful for them.  They are bricks in the foundation of my art, and represent the time and hard work I put into becoming a better artist.

keep an art journalkeep an art journal

These next two, plus the first one at the top, are the newest pages I’ve created.  I still see a lot of weaknesses in each page, but they also show new techniques I’ve been practicing.  A calligrapher I know on Instagram (colorsofchrist– she’s fabulous!) showed how she uses pearlex powders to create bright colored inks that stand out wonderfully against black backgrounds.  I didn’t waste any time!  I had to try it, and though I need to add a bit more powder to get the same richness of color, I loved adding bright text and splashes to my black pages.

keep an art journal

I created the background for these bottom pages with modeling paste and acrylic paint, but it was still missing something, so I decided to use my calligraphy pen to sketch a bit on the surface.  In some spots I used a lot of ink to create thick, spontaneous lines.

keep an art journal
Thank you so much for reading.  I hope I’ve helped you remember that art is a process, and that if you struggle with fear and frustration like I do, keep an art journal.  It can really help you remember your progress and motivate you to keep working.

Gesso and India Ink Journal Pages

india ink journal pages using a single stamp

I’ve been using india ink a lot in my recent projects.  It’s highly pigmented, blends well when wet, is permanent when dry, and is also transparent enough to show other ink colors over and under it.  In other words, I love this stuff!

I wanted to add text to these pages, and I wanted to use the same stamp to do it.

  • I applied a thick layer of gesso to both pages, and I stamped into it while it was still wet.
  • Once it dried, I added some splashes of purple ink and let that dry.
  • Then came red ink, covering the pages. I didn’t have to worry about the red covering the purple- remember, it’s highly transparent as well as highly pigmented.
  • When the background colors were dry, I used the same stamp I used for the gesso to stamp all over the page in white, purple and red ink.  It’s looking so awesome!
  • I used different sized lids to add circles of black india ink to the surface and splashed them with water a tiny bit.
  • I used a thin layer of gesso in the inside of the circles to highlight them a little.
  • The final touch was outlining the circles with lines and calligraphy.
  • Now these pages are ready for journaling!

Here is an affiliate link to the ink set that I use- there’s different sets of colors, and I’m on a mission to collect them all!!


india ink journal pages

india ink journal pages over gesso

india ink journal pages

Using Stencils and Texture Paste in your Art Journal


So, I have a confession to make.  While I love to art journal and splatter ink and gesso on blank pages, I am totally intimidated by it as well.  I really struggle to find the balance between being inspired by and learning from other artists, and comparing myself to all of your amazing pages and feeling like a complete novice. Plus, I tend to over think things and analyze all the little details, trying to figure out what should come next, so that one spread ends up taking 2-3 days, which is totally unnecessary.

So, I gave myself a challenge and I’ve been practicing.  I really excel when I can set boundaries for myself and work on one or two techniques at a time.  In the past week I’ve been using the same parameters for each page in my art journal- using stencils, texture paste and india ink to create all my pages.using stencils and india ink on art journal pages

Of course, I did add other things on many of the pages, as well- paper embellishments, and a lot of stamps.  But it was fun and allowed me to work so much faster to know before hand that I was going to be using texture paste and stencils to create the main parts of my pages, and india ink to color them.

using stencils on art journal pages

using stencils and texture paste on art journal pages

I will say this- I am a fan of using a small brush to splatter ink on my pages, and then misting them with a spray bottle.  I feel a lot more in control of where the ink ends up then when I use spray inks.  Plus, the feathered effect that happens when ink splatters are hit with water is super cool.  You should definitely give it a shot!

using stencils on art journal pages

So, what should my next technique challenge be for my art journal?  I’m thinking something to do with text…  I’ll let you know!


Daily Art Journaling- Keep a Blessings Journal

Thanksgiving is only a week and a half away, so I thought this would be a good time to share some more of my art journal.  I’ve been doing daily art journaling; focusing on one good thing that has happened every day.  It’s strange- for the last week or so, I’ve been struggling to forget the bad and remember the good.  I don’t know why, but I’ve just felt a little down off and on lately.  Just another reason why this blessings journal is such a… well, a blessing.  Making sure to write down something that I’m thankful for every day has helped me to feel better.

Part of the reason I began this journal was to experiment with different techniques- to find out what works and what doesn’t.  I’ve learned a lot so far, from using alcohol ink for the first time (use the felt pads on the inking tool- the foam ones soak up too much of the ink), to figuring out that I prefer to use distress inks on plain paper as opposed to paper that’s been gessoed first.  It takes too long to dry and smears far more easily when you use it on top of a layer of gesso.

I’ve learned that not all acrylics are created equal, and that your fingers get raw if you do too many image transfers.  Still, despite the fact that not every page turns out as well as I would like, keeping a daily art journal is well worth the effort.

 daily art journaling

If you are struggling with overcoming fears concerning your art, this a perfect way to combat that.  You should make a habit of daily art journaling, so you won’t be able to spend a lot of time on them.  Some days you’ll have more time than others, but even if you have just a few minutes, you can do a quick doodle or use your favorite stamp.  Don’t be afraid of making a crappy page- you’ll have tons of individual pages by the end, so use your time and talents to try new things.

Daily art journaling means some pages won’t be great, and that’s ok…

daily art journaling for practice

  • Set a goal for the time you want to spend on your page, and then set a timer so you don’t exceed that time.  Push your limits- see what you can create in just 20, 15, 10 minutes.
  • Choose specific tools to use, and don’t use anything else on your page.
  • Go through your stash and find something you’ve been hanging onto for a long time, and design your page around it.
  • Pick a shape, and decide how to work your page using just that shape.

There are endless ways for you to stretch yourself though keeping a daily art journal.  Try it for a month and see where it takes you.  🙂

daily art journaling- keep a blessings journal

Have a very Happy Thanksgiving!

Image Transfer Techniques for your Art Journal

I’ve been experimenting and practicing doing images transfers onto my pages recently.  It’s been a lot of fun, even the failures that I’m frankly a little embarrassed to share… but you live and learn, right?

image transfer


I thought it would be fun to add some pictures of my husband and I, since he is so often the blessing I am referring to.

  • Originally I grabbed one of the extra photos I had lying around from our wedding announcements.
  • I had already gessoed my page, and now I wanted to try and transfer the image from the photo to the paper.  I brushed gel medium in a small square and then added the photo on top, going over and over it with my fingers to make sure I got out any bubbles and that it was as tight against the page as possible.
  • I waited maybe a minute and then peeled back the photo- peel being the perfect word here, because the whole thing came off like a sticker.  No part of the image had adhered to the page.  I put the photo back down and went over and over it again with my hand, my fingers, and any tool I could find.  I waited a little longer this time and tried again-  nothing.  My first attempt at transferring an image was a total bust.  But, I had learned something- don’t use glossy photos if you want to transfer an image.
  • So, I began again.  This time, I printed the photos I wanted on plain paper, cut them to size, and did the same thing I had done with the photos, making sure I didn’t get any gel medium on the back of the paper.
  • This time turned out much better, as you can see.  I peeled the paper off bit by bit until I had to use a little water to rub off the excess with my fingers.  The paper stuck more in some places than others, and I rubbed a little harder in some areas than others, hence some of the less colorful spots, but I loved the results, and I definitely have a better idea of what I’m doing when it comes to image transfer.  🙂
gel medium image transfer

I tried again with my next pages, though I did things a little differently.  First I crumpled the page, and then I watermark stamped all along it.  You can’t really see it in this picture, unfortunately-  I need a better camera.  My birthday is coming up soon, though… 🙂

I used a few of Tim Holtz’ distress inks to add color, and I love how they mixed with each other and the wrinkles on the page.  Then I worked again on transferring some images- this time, some sheet music.

image transfer technique

There are some things I need to remember.  For example, I used gesso on the page with our pictures, but I didn’t on the wrinkled pages, and that made a huge difference, not only to the images but also to the overall result of each page.  The wrinkled page is much less solid- more fragile, if that makes sense. So if you’re ever wondering if gesso is an essential ingredient on your art journal pages, remember this- Yes.  It is.

I must confess, I did try this technique on vellum while working on my mixed media journal, and while the image did transfer, rubbing off the excess paper was really tricky because the vellum was so smooth.  I kept rubbing off whole sections of my image, which was fairly annoying.  So, I probably won’t use vellum with this technique in the future, unless I find something awesome some other artist has done- which, frankly, is entirely possible.

This technique is totally worth a shot if you’ve never done it before, and are looking for something to add more texture and dimension to your journal/scrapbook page/artwork.  Don’t be afraid to get messy!

Keeping up with my Blessings Journal

keeping a blessings journalIt’s been almost a month since I began this journal, and the blank pages are being consumed, day by day, week by week.  I’ve noticed that by keeping track of at least one blessing every day, it’s becoming easier and easier to identify the good things that happen.  I’ve been a little stressed recently- jobs, money, and trying to keep up with everything while remaining cheerful everyday takes it’s toll, and it’s such a relief to spend a few moments every day reflecting on the good that has happened.

In the October 2007 General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, Pres. Henry B. Eyring spoke about keeping a journal. “As I would cast my mind over the day, I would see evidence of what God had done for one of us that I had not recognized in the busy moments of the day.  I realized that trying to remember had allowed God to show me what he had done.”  This is exactly what I have noticed as I’ve begun dotting down at least one blessing a day.  The Lord does bless us by bringing those things he has done to our remembrance.

keeping a blessings journal every day

Of course, Pres. Eyring wasn’t really speaking of keeping an art journal, but developing my talents while I keep track of my blessings seems even more appropriate.  If we can each take a minute each day to write down those things that have blessed us, it will be well worth the little time it takes.  Remembering is so important, and ink is far more lasting and accurate than memory.

As for the art portion of my journal, I’m having such a great time coming up with ideas and researching techniques for all my pages.  A friend suggested I get addicted to art video tutorials on youtube, and I can say with certainty that I have followed her suggestion.  There are so many amazingly talented people out there!  Thanks for sharing all your ideas.

For these last pages I used pages from an old pocket dictionary and modge podged them down.  I painted over them with white and cream acrylic paints, then I drew and painted the hearts.  Once they were dry, I used charcoal around each one.  I scratched some of the paint off inside the hearts, which I wasn’t expecting, but I love the way it made the hearts look more distressed.  Then I simply added my journaling to the sides.  I love how these layouts turned out, and the fact that each page is leading me to more blessings as well as ideas.  Happy Crafting!