Sunday 7 July 2013

What's In A Journal? Part 1

Welcome, welcome! Hope you're well? It's jolly toasty here...finally....and in typically British stylee, it's not just warm 'n' summery, it's the depths of Tartarus on tabasco-enema day. It also seems to have been National-Summer-School-Fete-Day where resentful teenagers made completely out of elbows destroy rock classics on over-amped guitars, six recorders and a cassio auto-samba-beat portable organ for five hours. Throw in a dozen cider-crazed Morris-Dancers and a cheese-flinger and that's the finest summer entertainment anyone could hope for! *ahem*

Aaaahhh.....makes me wanna journal the day away.....but, hey there, buddy, wait a pig-wrestlin' minute....just WHAT kind of journaling are you talkin' about? ART journaling? SMASH BOOK journaling? TEXT journaling? SCRAPBOOKING type journaling? SKETCHBOOK idea journaling? Or some weird kind of interpretive dance in a crop circle, wearing only tin-foil pants? (Well - each to their own!). I mention this as there seems to be a kind of epic debate going on between artists, writers and crafters about HOW to journal and store your memories and ideas and old cinema tickets. I think most people are open to trying something new, but seem to imagine that it has to be an 'either/or' situation, which is just not true! As far as I'm concerned, the more books, the better! So I thought I'd take you through some of my journal collection a bit and hopefully  show you some of the benefits that variety brings.

It's fair to say that I hoard books - and journals are no exception. I've picked a cross-section of ones in current use. I don't follow a chronological or linear path, nor do I finish one book before starting another (a side-effect of making my own books I think.) Anyway - here's a group pic:

Going through all of them in one post would be epic, so I'll split them up for you. The only one I'm NOT gonna show you really is that li'l orangey one with the funny piccy right in the front-middle, as that's an ACTUAL writey journal and a bit private, as these things tend to be. You'll understand... you're a nice person... Each of these has a specific purpose. The big mahoosive multi-coloured thingy's my most recent junk journal - it records events as they happen, a visual collection of eclectic ephemera that form the jigsaw that is my memory. The big boring-looking black book at the bottom's a sketch book, mainly for recording arty ideas but also works me through art-blocks when I [regularly] get them. See? Different book = different purpose.

So in THIS post I'll talk you through some ART journals. OK? First up, this is a re-purposed hardback text-book (well out of date, fact-wise). It's as scruffy as it looks...I'm in the habit of never decorating the covers and spines until I'm done. And that can take a while! This way I don't stress about making a mark or splodge. Art journaling's not about stressing.

 I mod-podged pages, four or five in a block so they'd be like working on art-board. Nice. THIS book is where I try and overcome negative emotional issues in a positive way, creating a motivational, inspiring page as a result. Often the image reflects a kind of journey, or an idea of 'moving forward':

The 'Keep on Swimming' page. This is a multi-layer exercise, a gesso base, acrylic paint layered coloured foundation and several further layers of collaged shapes and designs (waves, fishy-wishies, sea-floor and marine flora), with words and detail added with gel-pens.
If memory serves I was feeling sort of 'stuck in quicksand' - this reflected my determination not to get bogged down, but keep moving forward and let the flow of life take me somewhere better down the line. (Sorry if the pics are a bit iffy, by the way - I'm getting the hang of a new camera as my old one has been retired!)

This has an acrylic paint layered colour background with cut-paper-shape-collage hills and trees to create a patchwork look. The hills are outlined with wool and this is all made by using off-cuts from my 'bits box', which is generally in overflow mode. I added faux stitching with a white gel pen to add to the patchwork effect. This is a simple-looking page and I like it - colours and shapes all look open and make me feel happy and free.

This page came about when I'd had a looooong spell of arty block. I'd already painted the green wash background and I just picked up the first three pens I saw (black Sharpie, white Sakura gel pen and a Pentel Metallic Brush pen - yummy!) and took things back to basics, choosing to play with shape and patterns and doodling, using my garden as inspiration. I opted for panels as they're fun - less intimidating! Luckily, the selection of pens worked awesomely for me and my mood - especially that gold! Page finished: arty mojo reclaimed! Sorted.

 This is a reflection of my love of Australian Aboriginal art. It was relaxing and fun to do and helped me free up my over-stressed brain (again) It was inspired by one of my favourite li'l poems/quotes, which I keep jotted down in yet another book for reference...:
 "Only as far as I reach can I grow, 
Only as far as I seek can I go,
Only as deep as I look can I see, 
Only as much as I dream can I be."
The tree trunks are heavily textured and glazed, which I love, and the dots were done with Sakura's gorgeous Souffle gel pens, which I'd highly recommend.

I also use my art journals to test out new stuff - texture bases, mediums, know, stuff! This is one such page (which I'll finish one day.....probably):

Just playing around with colour and texture is incredibly cathartic and I would recommend it completely. Don't get hung up on a final image, just faff about and see where it takes you. This was a fun page which had acrylic paints, micro beads, textured moulding paste, Tattered Angels Glazes, ink pads and gilding wax thrown at it, pretty much randomly. It was really, REALLY good fun.

Here's another art journal, pretty much completely for testing how stuff works with other stuff. (Stop me if I'm being

This is made of heavyweight 300gsm cartridge paper with a heavily crumpled and mod-podged paper cover. It's a mess of a thing to look at but feels cuddly and is great to work in. It's roughly A5 size.

This (based on lovely flowers my mum brought for me) was done to test several different brands of black fine-line pens and their capacity to be water-resistant. Basically - none of them...but THIS was the page where I discovered the wonders of that satin acrylic lacquer that I waffle on about so often.

This was a quick, doodly page test for Sakura glitter pens to see how they work over watercolour, acrylic paint and glaze. The answer - pretty darned well, thank you!

I surprised myself by liking this one....eventually! The goal? To test my [then new] Sennelier oil pastels (blending. scratching in shapes etc) and then playing with black india ink and the effects of gold gilding wax compared with metallic paints over the top. Mainly.

This is a great paper weight to take layers and collage. This pic is another instance of selecting some random odds and ends from the 'bits box' and challenging myself to create an image which reflected the view out of my window....(why not?)

Stuff used? The standard acrylic paints that I love so much, scrapbook paper off-cuts, ephemera/cut-out images, inktense pencils and gilding wax. Oh - and some paint-dyed kitchen roll....never throw anything away!!

The main thing I feel when I use one of my art journals is a sense of freedom. There are no constraints and no expectations other than the ones I place on myself. Usually, no one sees the pages, so if they go wrong, it's no biggie... I've not wasted valuable products, wrecked a canvas or knackered a, rather I've worked through blocks and problems, discovered new techniques and increased my confidence with new media. No rules, no judgement, just fun and a feeling of having achieved something.  

I've a couple more journals that I want to show you, but as this is a long post aleady I'll leave it here and show you some more pages once we've all taken a breath and had a cuppa and a lie down in a dark room! I hope this has been helpful, or at least informative. Remember- if you want to ask questions about art or my art processes or the STUFF I use to make it (SO technical...) please comment or email me and I'll respond asap.  That's it for now - see you in Part 2!! Hugs - Shroo :)x


  1. This is a really interesting blog funny , interesting and a treat for the eyes.Like the mini masterpieces in the journals.

  2. Daisy - you're gonna be my publicist!!! Thank you for your kind comment - hope you make some awesome art of your own too! - Shroo :)x