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Getting Started and Whether Your Pages Should Pop!

There are lots of things that go on behind-the-scenes when you blog. Bloggers learn HTML, code and re-arrange our blogs, share snappy photos, write delicious content, {all the while hoping the above mentioned content is not stolen or recklessly pinned}, respond delightfully to your comments, share ideas, visit our bloggie friends... and respond to lots of reader emails! Some folks prefer to write privately rather than comment, and some folks have very specific questions. So this is the second post in response to a fabulous reader question. The first was "Must You Finish a Journal?"

My theory {and I'm sticking to it} is that if I find the question intriguing, others may too. So I'm hoping you will join in and help this lovely reader, a beginning art journalist, on her merry way.


I am very new to Art Journaling. I'm continually fascinated by watching the work of art journalists but I feel like I have to buy all of the products that they use. I can't seem to find what I'm really good at. I like the idea of the having photos on the pages, yet some how it doesn't look as good as some I've seen.
I love pastel colors, but my pages don't pop when I use light colors. Should they pop? There are certain colors I tend to like more than others, I'm wondering would it be boring if I just use the colors I love or should I try others? Thanks for listening and hope you can advise me in some direction.❞

First, I'll break down your questions.

1. Art materials.

For art journaling I highly recommend getting messy with a core set of art materials. Acrylic paints, brushes, adhesive (matte medium or mod podge), scissors, "found" papers and your stash of unsued scrapbook papers. With a core set of art materials, you can create anything you wish. 

Next, consider making some handmade eraser stamps. Further fun stuff... photos and neocolor II crayons or water soluble colored pencils. You don't need extra super glitterly sparkle blaster spray with infrared goggles. You don't need pre-packaged bunny stickers. You don't need a metal cork-backed ruler. You don't need washi tape. You don't need raven's egg blue acrylic paint. You don't need to take a workshop. You don't need distress inks. You don't need stencils of buildings. You don't need to cut your images with scissors. But you CAN do anything you wish. 

I actually didn't start adding photos until the last year or so, many years into my art journaling extravaganza. It might be difficult to get them to "blend'' in when you are just starting out. My thought is this. Get the core materials that an artist would use. Play and experiment and learn what those materials can do.

2. Pages popping.

First, I'll touch on color, then the big picture. 

As far as color popping, I'm not sure what type of acrylic paint you are using. You might want to compare student/craft acrylics such as Folk Art with artist acrylics such as Golden Fluid Acrylics and see if you get more of your desired pop from the artist acrylics. Some art journalists use craft acrylics, some use artist acrylics. Artist acrylics are more intense and have different characteristics but they cost more. When you mix white or gesso with artist acrylics, they'll retain more of the saturated, rich color because artist acrylics are more highly pigmented. My daughter and I did side-by-side art journal pages to test craft acrylics and artist acrylics. 

But back to the big picture.

It is very easy to get caught up in what you think your pages "should" look like and in reality the point of art journaling is not to put out pretty pages but to work in your art journal. If you create pretty pages, that's a bonus, that's cool, but that's not the goal. Imperfect is OK. If your entire goal is to create pretty pages, that's kind of mixed media artwork. So decide what you want to do. I would submit that art journaling is a wonderful adjunct and learning tool for mixed media artists. Art journaling is flowy and free. It is experimental. 

And starting out can be scary. Especially when you haven't allowed yourself to just play with art materials like a kid would. They would put out all their cool stuff and make a mess and play. So go be a kid!


♥ How to Trick Your Inner Perfectionist and Become an Art Journalist
♥ Art Journaling 101
♥  Art Journaling 101 for Kids/Teens and Other Beginners
♥ The Official Guide to Daisy Yellow Creative Prompts


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Reader Comments (9)

This is such an intruiging question to me and something I deal with a lot, partially because I feel like my work doesn't look like others I see online (i've come to see this as a good thing, but it took a while for me to realize that!). I sometimes think that looking at other art journals online is not good for a beginning art journaller, it's inspiring but can also make you feel like your work isn't good enough. I'm so glad I started doing this a long time ago before there was such a big online art community.

{Tammy}: Katie, What I adore about your work is that is so completely yours, unique, quirky. I would agree that overdoing the blog-hopping, flickr + tumblr + pinterest browsing can put you in a place where you don't know what on earth to do. That's how I am with decorating. Too many options.

04.10.2012 | Unregistered Commenterkatie

Whenever I see this type of question I'm always torn as I feel the answer is truly two fold. There is of course the technical aspect: How do I achieve "A, B or C?" with an appropriate answer and then there is a deeper seeded truth, one that is hard to answer because it is not about technique but motive.

What is motivating you to engage in this medium? I know for myself it was a sense of satisfaction in doing something I really enjoyed. Something that even if I did not have a community to share it with, I would still be doing it. I think for many this is where the true journey begins: Who am I doing this for? To share my work and be part of a larger community or for myself? I think if we stop worrying about if were doing it right by the preconceived standards we perceive in the extensive on-line network that currently exists and instead focus on what we find deeply satisfying our question is half way to being answered.

04.10.2012 | Unregistered CommenterJazmin

how interesting!
what I love most about art journaling is the fact that there are no right answers. no set rules. there is the whole world of styles, ways of seeing and doing, unique personal languages and techniques. anything goes really and that's the beauty of it!
we shouldn't let ourselves become overwhelmed by all the images we see on blogs, flickrs etc.
I admit that sometimes I do "overdose" browsing through all those wonders and start thinking that I have nothing to say. then I take a deep breath and remember my own voice and put it on my pages.
I love your advice today. one doesn't really need all the expensive materials - inspiration really is everywhere (e.g. my favorite paints are my son's watercolors - very cheap, no brand name - gorgeous tones and colors...).
and who says what colors should you use in your journal? or should they pop? are they boring? as you say - experiment experiment experiment. we shouldn't force ourselves this way or another. let's listen to our souls more.

04.11.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdruga szesnascie

okay - where did my comment go?!! I posted last night from my iPad - hmmmmm lost in the interwebs I guess ;)

terrfic answers to Marlene's great questions Tammy!!

my first response is - do what you like and love and your pages will be authentic to YOU!!

as far as photos on journal pages - I understand your hesitation. To my eye - when I use a photo on my page it looks like it's sitting on top of everything. Sometimes this can be helped by using mark making, stenciling, stamping or painting on parts of the photo to integrate. I find I am more happy with the look of my photos if I make a laser copy and apply it as a gel transfer. Most times the background - including the text from the book I've altered - shows through and I just love that look. When removing the paper from the laser copy some bits of the image flake off and that gives a worn appearance - again the background shows through and my image feels more a part of the whole page.

keep working at it Marlene - you will find your own way through experimentation and listening to your own voice!

04.11.2012 | Unregistered CommenterEmily Lagore

Tammy, a terrific post, question, and thoughts from you! I think we all get woo-ed by the awesome new tools we see on someone's blog, I know I do! (I have a list a mile long of my going-to-get-some day's).
I love it that you pointed out the difference between what might be more considered mixed media artwork and art journaling...I use my journals as a way to practice ideas and techniques and color schemes...later they can go to the larger format. Our journals are where we can scribble and doodle and practice and try out those things that we have no idea how they're going to come out...without so much pressure.
So when we're new to the whole thing, the best part to keep in mind, is that you don't have to one-up anyone, you don't have to show anyone, you don't have to have some all-important message or meaning, you don't have to have any have-to's at all.
It's all about playing and enjoying and arting.
Thanks for this post, it's a great reminder!
xoxo MotherDana

Terrific advice again Tammy and from everyone else! As a starter I've found that only play can get me going. Sometimes though my journal is pretty bleak with just bits of light showing - I wouldn't want to show those pages but they do show how I was feeling at the time. Now they're lighter and more an experiment with materials and my journal has become more of a written one than an art journal.
I guess the point I'm trying to make is that we all come to what we do best by just doing it - and I've finally become more accepting of the time element involved. The wonderful pages we see, and yes I overdose too sometimes, are created by people who have often been doing it for years to develop their style.

your recent posts have been so inspiring to me and the questions/answers are really helping me to figure out what "art" of mine do I like.

over the weekend I took your advice and decided to really play with my stuff. I spread out paint, some stencils, gesso, collage material and paper (and some misc stuff) and for the first time r eally just played. and it was so much fun. and so eye-opening.

my kitchen table was covered for 4 days and although I don't know what i am going to do with so many "art-completed pages" I love looking at them and I know a lot more now about my art than ever before.

I used masking tape with abandon and love it; I matched colors together that I haven't before and they look great; I maximized and minimalized stenciling; I pasted strips of older journal pages all over the place and played. I am still pretty hyped by the experience.

thanks for talking and sharing, it is making a difference to how I work my art. deb

04.11.2012 | Unregistered Commenterdeb

The comments are pure wonderfulness, thank you!!!

04.11.2012 | Registered Commentergypsy

Great question, fantastic answer, wonderful responses. Thank you everyone for sharing your wisdom and insight.

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