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'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 clichรฉ. 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. What if I turn the page upside down? Does anything call my attention?
  5. Do I feel like working on this today? Does the page confound me? Bore me? 
  6. If this page could be regenerated in B&W, would I still like it? 
  7. Is there some technique or idea that I could explore on this page? 
  8. Is there a launching point here? A corner of mint green that you adore? Could that be fodder for a fresh starting point elsewhere?
  9. What worked well on this page? What do I want to do MORE of?
  10. Could I let it sit and leave that decision for another day?
  11. Am I scared to mess it up?
  12. Am I uncertain as to what I want to do next?
  13. Do I feel pressure to work on it?
  14. Could I just drizzle, spritz or splatter paint on top?
  15. Do I feel like taking a creative risk today? 


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.