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Art Journaling in Three Phases

sunflower kaleidoscope on heavy cardboard

If art journaling has no rules, what the heck is it? How can you do something when you don't know what it is? When I started art journaling, I spent a lot of time looking at art journal pages on flickr and noticed three things going on. This is a generic description but it was a way for my logical mind wrapped around it.

If you don't understand something, you can pare stuff down to the essence of what it is in order to "get" it.

background + collage/images + words*

*disclaimer: you don't need all three, and you don't need to follow any order

The reality: I don't have a dedicated art workspace... everything I take out goes back when I'm finished or we have no space to eat dinner!

So I rarely do a page from start to finish.

I'll paint/make backgrounds (which is paint, gesso, neocolors, abstract stuff, maps, pages from old books)

~or~ I'll attach stuff to the page (cutting, stitching, gluing stuff onto the pages)

~or~ I'll write something (getting words on the page).

{click here to read the full post}

PHASE No. 1: Background - this can be abstract, maybe paint or a whitewashed page from an old book or map - the backdrop to whatever else you will put on your page. If I'm in background mode, I'll do a bunch of backgrounds. Like all watercolors or all acrylics or all neocolors and acrylics, whatever I'm in the mood to do.

art journal backgrounds

PHASE No. 2: Ephemera - anything you add to the background - i.e. collage, magazine images, receipts, abstract art, stitching. If I'm in collage mode, I might get out baskets of catalogs, magazines, scissors, junky brushes, gesso and mod podge. Then I'll cut out stuff and make a few collages on the art journal backgrounds I did another day.

ephemera, journal fodder, the stuff on the page

PHASE No. 3: Journaling - any words you add intentionally to the page. If I'm in journaling mode, I'll get out my alphabet stamps, handmade stamps, handwritten lists, pitt pens, etc to write on collages or directly on backgrounds.

ways to put words on art journal pages

If I have an entire afternoon to do art, I get out a ton of art supplies and it's really quite magical! It would be nice to have a permanent artspace, and I might work differently if I had one. If you read Traci Bunkers' book The Art Journal Workshop, you can see that Traci often works a page from start to finish in one sitting. You'll find lots of funky pages on her blog. I think each page would have great flow working that way! The pages I do from start to finish are some of my favorites, but ultimately you need to create in a way that makes sense in your life and for your environment.

Check out Art Journaling 101 and the brand new Art Journaling 101 for Kids and Other Beginners.

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Reader Comments (11)

gorgeous post! I love seeing all those pages side-by-side in one big beautiful mosaic.

09.13.2011 | Unregistered Commenteriamrushmore

and for some reason I haven't been able to comment when I'm using Chrome as my browser - I had to switch back over to Firefox to leave a comment. Not sure if others are having problems.

09.13.2011 | Unregistered Commenteriamrushmore

Thanks for giving me an "ah ha" moment. Like you, I don't have a dedicated art space and the thought of dragging out all of my materials is overwhelming. Concentrating on one activity (repeated several times) is the key!

09.13.2011 | Unregistered CommenterKimG

I love to know how other's do their art! what a great post and I hope that one day soon you have a space to create of your very own. Not that the dining room isn't great but it's nice to be able to leave the mess sometimes ;-)

09.13.2011 | Unregistered CommenterDawn

I haven't spent time art journaling in a long while. I'm starting to feel the pull again. These are inspiring me to just get my hands messy!

09.15.2011 | Unregistered CommenterHeather

Great post, Tammy! I love seeing all your backgrounds, collages, and journaling clustered together like this. You make it sound so simple, and so fun...which, of course, it is!! :-) I think it's phenomenal how much inspiring art you create without a dedicated art space!!

09.15.2011 | Unregistered CommenterAndria

You have got me thinking. Even though I have a studio, I art journal at my computer desk. Kind of a non dedicated space. And I work like you do, usually in 3 layers. But I am feeling a change coming. Getting kinda bored working the 3 phase way. Thanks for helping to clarify what has gotten me antsy.

09.18.2011 | Unregistered CommenterZom

Beautiful page and great reminders that it does not need to be complicated

09.20.2011 | Unregistered CommenterCarol

What type / brand of white pen do you prefer for journaling on darker backgrounds?

Joyce, I didn't have an email address for you, but you can check out this post about white pens/markers on dark backgrounds here:

12.17.2011 | Unregistered CommenterJoyce

Your pages are beautiful. Until recently I used my dining room table and kitchen counters to do my work. I liked it because there is so much space there, but my husband did not like my stuff stacked around. I ended up cleaning out one of the spare bedrooms (all our kids are grown and I have 2 spare rooms), and making it into a semi-studio. It's very small, but all my things are shelved and stacked and hung and tucked in there. The first time my husband came back there after I finished it he said, "It's a girl cave!". I guess it is and I love itI hope you get one soon

04.14.2012 | Unregistered CommenterNancy Hale

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