Circular Journaling

Howdy everyone! I've got a sweet painting + lettering technique video for you today! This was originally a section from my 21 Secrets Workshop called Crossroads [21 Secrets Spring 2015]. Do you have some watercolor paper on hand, or a square watercolor journal? Of course you can work in any shape, but I like the look of this on square paper and it is quite meditative to smoothly turn, turn, turn while journaling. 

As your base, work in watercolor or gouache and select colors that play nicely together when the adjacent circles blend together. This is deliciously imperfect, with smudges and swipes and guesstimates of lyrics written quickly in dip pen. 

Journaling in circles with a dip pen by Tammy Garcia

Here's how it works! Start with an 8x8” square of watercolor paper. Paint a circle with one color of watercolor or gouache paint using a watercolor brush. You'll definitely want a true watercolor brush rather than a generic mixed media brush. It makes quite a tremendous difference! Then work in concentric circles around the original circle. Your paint will blend at the edges where the two colors touch...  if you work fairly quickly and your first color is still a tiny bit wet when you apply the next color. You can also gently “scrub” the paint when you add a layer to work the two colors together. If you wish, just paint around without wiggling the brush and let the edge of the brush catch in the previous color -- that's an easy peasy way to get your paint to blend.. Paint all the way to the edge of the paper.

When the paint is dry - and that will depend on your workspace, humidity, etc. - you're ready to write!

Queue up a page of lyrics on your phone or bring the memory of a song or poem into your mind and dip your pen in a permanent ink like Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay inks. In the video I'm using Bombay Black with a dip pen and a Speedball drawing nib. This was filmed 4 years ago and edited together into this format today, but unfortunately I cannot determine the exact nib I used. It is definitely a Speedball and likely a Speedball A-4 or Speedball B-4. The line is thick you'll see that I don't hold the pen at a particular angle or anything... that kind of art is too structured for me. Yet I do see hand-lettering with a dip pen as DRAWING words, and those words add visual interest and meaning to my pages. 

Start just outside the center color and write anything - lyrics, quotes, phrases or all of these mixed together nonsensically. As soon as you get to the outer edge of the paper, start again on the next line until you get back to where you started. When you approach the end of a particular line, you can choose to hyphenate the word, stop right in the middle of the word and keep going on the next line or perhaps break when you nish a word and don’t have room for the next. This is all up to you!

Journaling on gouache by Tammy Garcia #tutorial
Journaling on gouache by Tammy Garcia #tutorial
Journaling on gouache by Tammy Garcia #tutorial

Another option for journaling is to use a pencil [any type] to draw lines radiating from the outer edge of the central color of your circle. The lines should extend from the edge of the circle to the edge of the page. These are lines for writing. You can vary the distance between lines or keep them equidistant.


1. More about this concept of deeply considering words while hand-lettering, making it almost meditative... Slow Journaling.
2. A quick review of the Dr. Ph. Martin's Bombay inks, with examples of how you can use them. 
3. Rewind to Inktober when I inked 186 cards in 31 days