When is an Art Journal Page Finished?

Is there
that I want to...
(cover up}
{take away}

What is the trick, the secret? How do you know when a page is finished? When should you leave a background alone? When should you take a break and give it some time to ponder? When should you approach it from a fresh direction? When should you add, subtract, multiply... or simplify?

There is no magic formula or potion.

Here's how I look at it. I hope this helps you frame your own response to these quandaries! My thought is that a page is finished when I no longer want to add or subtract anything. I might let a page sit for a few days or weeks or months. I might add something small and see if it adds interest. I might want the previous iteration to be a way station in the path of this particular page.

 In my experience, the more pages I do, the more willing I am to keep going and see what happens. So the less invested I am in a specific page.

I fall in love with some of my pages. I usually leave those alone. 

I'm not an art journaling minimalist. I like layers and mystery and all sorts of nooks for exploration and curiosity. Here's the deal. I create pages for my future self. But I also like it when my pages have a visual balance. It's not something that I can quantify, it's more a feeling or peace that I feel when I look at a page. It might tell a story or send a message or have hidden symbolism. It might just be full of rainbows. 

It's not that the end result is better or worse by some objective definition. It's that I no longer feel that I need to add or subtract anything. It feels more harmonic and balanced. Like I'm OK with it. 

The first iteration of this page spread is shown on the lower half of the image.

 I'd made a grid of collaged papers on the right and scribbly acrylics on the left, along with the words "mind the generation gap"  which later I thought were too cliché. Those words pushed me to go back in and change it so significantly. I liked the original collage elements and wanted to start with those and transform the page with paint, pink paint to be exact! It's not that the original page was wrong or bad. I just wanted to change it!

I worked quickly and ultimately kept 2/3 of the collage elements but completely changed the look + feel  + message. Some of the early layers peeks through, so much fun. 

Questions to ask yourself.

  1. Do I feel a desire to work further on this page?
  2. Am I so invested in the finished page that it's stopping me in my tracks?
  3. If I squint, do I see a pleasing balance of lights and darks and shapes?
  4. Do I feel like working on this today? Does the page confound me? Bore me? 
  5. If this page could be regenerated in B&W, would I still like it? 
  6. Is there some technique or idea that I could explore on this page? 
  7. Is there a launching point here - a corner of mint green that you adore - a fresh starting point?
  8. What worked well on this page? What do I want to do MORE of?
  9. Could I let it sit and leave that decision for another day?
  10. Am I scared to mess it up?
  11. Am I uncertain as to what I want to do next?
  12. Do I feel pressure to work on it?
  13. Could I just drizzle, spritz or splatter paint on top?
  14. Do I feel like taking a creative risk today? 

Do I feel like writing today? Drawing? Painting? Sketching? Stitching? Follow the path to find what you want to do.

This page spread in an altered hardback book began with spheres. I loved the planetary vibe and thought I would take this in a celestial direction, but every time I paged through this journal to see what I wanted to work on, I would stop here and wonder what to do next.

It wasn't until I was flipping through a book about 1970's Fillmore Concert posters that I put 2+2 together and turned these spheres into groovy lettering bubbles. 

The beauty of working with collage & acrylic paints? You can keep going on a page as long as you wish, covering, uncovering, layering, scraping, painting, edging, writing, scribbling, doodling, adding images, changing colors by simply painting over another color. Or adding collage elements. Or taking them away. 

More art journaling inspiration?

If you'd like to explore the process of mixed media art journaling, join me for a workshop!

Daisy Yellow Groovy Grunge Workshop

Explore the groovy world of mixed media art journaling in a hardback book, creatively combining with heavy body acrylics & those yummy collage papers that you have been collecting:) Discover a fresh, playful, loose approach to the page and open up the possibilities!!!
➸ 30+ sections including 4+ hours of video tutorials, prompts, essays & insights about the creative process.
➸ Taught via video tutorials on a private workshop website.
➸ FB discussion group where artists share work and encouragement.
➸ Students at any experience level welcome!
Workshop access thru 12/31/19.

See the workshop section for more details.

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24 Sources for Doodle, Design & Pattern Inspiration

"Some days I write an epic poem, and other days I only write two sentences. I am the policy maker for my journal, and the policy is, “Write what feels right.” Keep this in mind if you’d consider trying a journal again. It’s worth it! We need to check in with ourselves and seeing our thoughts come alive on paper is a meaningful and profound way to do it."
Samara O'Shea

Making lists, brainstorming sources for doodle, design & pattern inspiration in my 5x8" moleskine.... along with a crazy busy mandala. 🎡🗺🐲⛈🚀

Tutorial: Painting Abstract Faces

Tutorial: Painting Abstract Faces

In this tutorial, we will draw, or rather paint, a delightfully imperfect face. In the video, I'm working in a hardback book; you can start this technique on a background of dry acrylic paint if you wish. It adds interest and texture to the end result. After you paint the face you can add more color, collage elements, a list, etc. 

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12+ Ways to Get Words on Art Journal Pages

We create these deliciously decadent, chaotic, busy, layered pages with paper and paint and all of the goodies and we want to bring it all together with a snappy quote from Ray Bradbury, maybe some David Bowie lyrics or free form poetry!

How on earth do artists get words and thoughts onto the most challenging surfaces and art journal pages? This is a question echoed by art journalists around the globe!

But what if your paper is overflowing with grungy stripes or high contrast flowers or it's just super intensely dark! What to do!?!?

A ginormous list of ideas for getting words on the most difficult of art journal pages.

131106_haiku_0012 copya.jpg


How do you write on acrylic art journal backgrounds? 

1) White gel pen*

My go-to tool for getting words on challenging, dark, patterned, textured or otherwise challenging art journal or mixed media pages is to write them with a white gel pen. Here's a video to show you two of my favs. I wrote the Tolstoy quotation with a Sanford Uni-Ball Gel UM-153 gel pen and the Eagles lyrics with a Sakura Gelly Roll. Oh! And here's my Guide to Gelly Rolls, to get a feel for all of the different types. 

2) Alphabet stamps & hand-carved stamps

There is something so magically meditative and methodical about writing your thoughts, words, lyrics, etc. letter-by-letter with alphabet stamps/number stamps. Results are always playful because the letters never quite line up! You can also make your own letters, symbols, icons, motifs, doodles and words by carving the shapes into pencil erasers or linocutting material with an x-acto knife or lino-cutting tools. Here's a stamp carving tutorial.

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow Novel Approach Workshop. Lettering in Uniball pen. 

The Prism Page from the Daisy Yellow Novel Approach Workshop. Lettering in Uniball pen. 

3) Dark gel pen & PITT pen*

My top two pens for writing on acrylic paint? The Uniball UM-153, which is a metal-nibbed gel pen and the Faber-Castell Pitt Artist Pens which is a fiber-nibbed marker with permanent india ink.  In the PITT pen range, the M nib & brush nib & big brush nibs all provide thick lines. Consider dark gray, black, navy & sepia for light backgrounds. Lighter colors won't show up on dark backgrounds; they are not opaque. 

4) Neon or Metallic pen*

Sakura Gelly Rolls are quite handy for both dark and light backgrounds. For dark backgrounds {including black gesso and black acrylics}, try neon moonlight, metallic silver and gold. For light backgrounds, try the medium nib, moonlight and darker metallic versions. 

5) Dip pen & India ink

Draw your words with a dip pen nib with india ink, i.e.  Dr. Ph Martin's Bombay White ink or J. Herbin inks. Here's a quick review of Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay inks

You can see the video for this page here. 

You can see the video for this page here. 

6) Acrylic paint

This is one of the best ways to get words on a page which isn't completely dry. You can paint words onto the background {directly on collage, directly on acrylic paint, etc.} with fluid acrylic paint or Golden High Flow acrylic paint. Use a small brush or a dip pen! Write words with a small brush or dip pen with fluid acrylic paint or

7) White correction tape

Roll out the tape and write directly on the surface of the tape! 

8) Paper & index cards

Write your thoughts or words on loose paper and adhere or staple to your journal page. You can glue a swatch of lined paper or part of an index card as a target for future journaling. 

9) Stencil

Use an alphabet or number stencil with ink, pencil or acrylic paint. 

10) Found Words

Cut words from magazines and glue to your page. 

11) Block-Out Poetry

Start with a page from a magazine or book and basically block-out the stuff that you don't want to read. You can do this with acrylic paint or markers. The inverse, if you will. Of course Austin Kleon is an ace at creating block-out poetry with magic markers. 

12) Found Poetry

Go on a word treasure hunt for interesting phrases and words. One of the best things about art journaling is the ability to incorporate random words and images and not need to make any sense whatsoever! You can transform the content with a series of phrases that combined make a sort of free verse. Make it flow or make it ridiculous, your call! You certainly *can* utilize the principles of graphic design in your work, or you can play and just go with the flow. 

13) Washi tape & staples

Attach your grocery lists, your bucket lists, your book store notes, your action items, your checklists to your journal page with washi tape or staples.

14) Paint markers

Sharpie water-based Poster Paint Markers work extremely well even on the most challenging uneven, rough surfaces.

15) Rapidograph technical pen*

Fill your rapidograph with india ink or Golden high flow acrylics and off you go. There's a bit of a learning curve, so do some research before jumping in.

16) An ordinary #2 pencil or charcoal pencil

Sometimes when nothing else works, a pencil does the trick!

*Before you write on your pages with a pen or marker, you'll want to ensure that the page is truly dry.

While a thin layer of acrylic paint dries quickly, paper with layers upon layers {paint & collage} can take hours to days {if not weeks} to dry through and through. Definitely not minutes! When the paint starts to dry, a film forms on the surface, and it seems like it is dry but inside the paint is actually not dry. The moisture gets absorbed into the paper as well. 

The good news is that you can use a brush dipped in acrylic paint or opaque ink to paint words on a background that is dry-to-the-touch, but not dry deep down. If you try to write with a pen/marker on the surface and the paint below is still wet, the pen can get some of that gunk into the tip or it will smush down into the paint below the thin dry surface. The surface that "seems" to be dry. The surface that you see and touch. The surface that destroys your amazing pen!

PS.  I'm not a scientist but I have played + experimented + painted with acrylics for many years and I'll paint on anything, including paper, cardboard, books, index cards, canvas and wood! Here is the precise algebraic formula for drying time!

Ⓓ = 𝓛^3×[1.5÷(2-ℍ)+1/℉+℗(♫÷Ͽ)]
Ⓓ=Drying time
𝓛=Layers of paint
℉= Temperature in Fahrenheit
♫ = Time signature of background music
℗ = Elapsed level of patience
Ͽ = Daylight Savings Time adjustment factor

Paradise: Using a Large Stencil to Create an Art Journal Background

Paradise: Using a Large Stencil to Create an Art Journal Background

In this video, I create an abstract, textured background using a large floral stencil. I use the stencil several times to add texture and layering, and I even tear the paper to add a bit of distress and destruction! A peek into what can happen when creating an art journal page, when you let the page flow without planning ahead.

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