10 Ways to incorporate ICADs or ATCs in your art journal

Many of you do small format art and would like to make the “leap” into art journaling or larger format collage, etc. but not sure how to do that! I wanted to show you some ways that I bridge the gap between small format art and my art journal practice. There are SO many ways to do this — this just scratches the surface — but I hope that this helps you visualize what kinds of things you could do!

Throw extra index card art into a basket and use as collage fodder!

Index cards are quite embedded in my creative process. I recognize that this may sound ridiculous. But if a journal can be part of the process, why not small, inexpensive office supplies? Why not post-it notes? Scraps of paper? Composition journals? #2 pencils?

"Tranquillity hides in small spaces, and when found
needs to be treasured, because you know
it's a phantom that will slip away again."
Diane Ackerman

You know all about the Index-Card-a-Day Challenge, but did you know that ICADs are great tools for figuring out, exploring, and escaping the bottlenecks of perfectionism? I feel like in many ways, index card art is transient, almost ephemeral.

Throw extra index card art into a basket and use as collage fodder!

It’s really cool to incorporate ICADs elsewhere in your creative process. There are many that you will want to keep just as they are, but others you really don’t mind using as collage fodder! The good news is that they work like a charm, like any other paper element. Scraps and small format work can infuse your journal pages with extra colors + interesting contrasts + groovy typography. Plus — they make your journal even more YOU!!!

Various ways to use index cards on art journal pages. Sting lyrics hand-lettered with Golden High Flow acrylics and a brush.

Various ways to use index cards on art journal pages. Sting lyrics hand-lettered with Golden High Flow acrylics and a brush.

Ten ways to use small format art in your art journal!

I love to work in the in-between zone, painting or lettering on small papers. Some of those papers then feed into my collages, art journal pages, and altered books. Some I cut up, others I use just as they are, others are combined in some way to make something different. It’s neat to incorporate unique elements that I recognize and that mean something to me because I created them!

PS. 12+ Ways to Get Words on Art Journal Pages

1. Incorporate patterns + doodles.

Because I’m often doodling and drawing on index cards [I keep them in my purse, in the car, in the backpack, in the kitchen…] I have lots of cards with random patterns and colors. It’s a fun way to bring quirky lines into my journal pages. There are two index cards on these pages, both sideways!

Left: Finished pages. Right: First layer of acrylics and first layer of index cards painted with gouache.

Left: Finished pages. Right: First layer of acrylics and first layer of index cards painted with gouache.

2. Use as starting points.

I find that the creative wheels start spinning as long as I keep working! So I don’t stare at the blank page, I just dig in. For these pages, I started with four index cards that I had used to figure out some ideas surrounding diagonals. I thought they would make a cool art journal background, but the pages followed their own path and several iterations! At some point I tore out some of the index cards and others remain peeking through. In the photograph above, the left image is the finished page; the right image is the base layer of paint and the first layer where I adhered four ICADs.

How meta! Drawing a stitched index card collage in my moleskine.

How meta! Drawing a stitched index card collage in my moleskine.

3. Go meta! Draw that index card into your journal!

I think it’s fun to let one form of art inform another! In 2013, I was working on both Danny Gregory’s Every Day Matters sketching list [I think I made it to like 30/300+] and the prompt was “draw anything you like” which is funny in retrospect. That year I was also doing a 365 index card collage project [last year I did tiny inked abstracts for my second 365 somethings project] so why not just bring it all together, draw something that I created in another format. In drawing, I tried to capture the depth, textures, and typography of the collage. Painted with watercolor in 5x8” watercolor Moleskine journal.


4. Tip-in with washi tape.

This is called a tip-in [or flip-in] and is a great option for small format work that you want to incorporate and yet still be able to see both sides of the card. Try this with tarot cards, etc. The index card is stamped with rubber alphabet stamps. I used Japanese washi tape to attach the index card along the inside center. [I’ve got several round-up posts including Washi Tape I Love You and All About Neocolors.]

Side note #1: You know I’ve mentioned this many times - so I think you are already keeping an “idea” journal filled with papers and quirky idea generators! These have been invaluable to me; I can flip through for inspiration. This Moleskine journal is one place where I gather snippets, ticket stubs, painted papers, ephemera, typography, etc. It’s been going for several years now, because it’s ginormous.

Side note #2: Authentic washi can be torn by hand or with scissors; it is removable but doesn’t simply fall off. I like MT washi - here’s one in salmon or a floral or you can find at Etsy at Pretty Tape.


5. Use “as-is” in a collage.

I glue index cards directly into my journals, just as they are. Easy peasy! Fun + ready-to-go in rectangular format!


6. Cut into strips.

When I am working with acrylics, I use index cards for paint tests + experiments and they also make great mop-up cards when there’s excess paint on the brush. Fun to re-purpose them as colored strips for collage and also paper weaving.


7. Make a table of contents or an index.

When I work in an altered book, I create pages non-sequentially. It is cringe-worthy, the level of randomness. The pages in the book are in flux, at different phases… some are backgrounds, some feel incomplete, some are in need of text or something elusive element that I know I’ll figure out at a later date! Anyhow, at the beginning of each art journal, I tape in an index card to use as a table of contents. Then I add the title or a phrase that helps me remember a particular page. I often use codes to denote whether the pages are finished or still in work. This TOC remains in the altered book as record of the process! It’s also a place to note the size of the book {they’re all different and I don’t want to have to measure a zillion times because I keep forgetting}, the number of spreads, and the years the journal spans.


8. Test eraser stamps.

After testing, I use them as collage fodder! Here’s a video about carving stamps [eraser or lino w/linocutting tools].


9. Stitch onto a journal page.

This is technically stitched twice — first the collage itself — and then stitched into the journal [left center].


10. Incorporate hand-written or typed thoughts, lyrics, or quotations.

I love using typed words in my journal, and although I don’t have a typewriter, my daughters’ teacher used to have one! On this altered book page, I used an index card as one of several collage papers along with acrylic paints, ink, and more!

Well that’s just a quick round-up of ideas!

Hope that gives YOU some ideas for your work moving forward. If was fun to look back through my digital files and find ways that I have used index cards in my journals.

Daisy Yellow